Advertisements
    Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

  • Advertisements

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.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Non-Review Review: Entebbe

Entebbe is an ambitious, and very messy, hostage drama.

The events that took place in Entebbe Airport in Uganda during June and July 1976 are fascinating. The crisis been adapted for the screen on several occasions already. Anthony Hopkins, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Dreyfuss starred in Victory at Entebbe later that same year. The following year, Irvin Kershner directed Raid on Entebbe with Charles Bronson and Yaphet Kotto. That same year, Israel produced its own take on the tale in Operation Thunderbolt, which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

A Brühl-tal experience…

The events leading up to the daring recovery mission are deeply fascinating, with any number of interesting angles on the larger story. It is tempting to look at the events in terms of the tenure of General Idi Amin, who made Uganda a base of operations for these terrorists, much like Last of King of Scotland did. It is possible to look at the Israeli soldiers who trained to mount the rescue mission, knowing the dangers into which they were venturing. It might be reasonable to treat the events as a formative experience for the (then) young state of Israel.

Entebbe attempts to tell the story through all these different prisms at the same time, to offer a holistic perspective on the events that captures the surreal nature of events and the absurd stakes for all of the players caught up in this perilous game. Entebbe bites off a lot more than it can chew, never quite managing to balance the competing demands of the objects of its focus. Entebbe is an intriguing film, but one that feels fractured and unfocused.

Merc task force.

Continue reading

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Darkness and the Light (Review)

The Darkness and the Light is the first television credit for writer Bryan Fuller.

There is no way around that. It puts a lot of emphasis on this fifth season episode, drawing a lot attention to the story. Fuller didn’t even write the script, instead pitching a story that would be developed by Ronald D. Moore. However, later in the fifth season, Fuller would pitch the story for Empok Nor. After that, he would be recruited on to the writing staff on Star Trek: Voyager. Then Fuller would begin developing his own shows. Dead Like Me. Wonderfalls. Pushing Daisies. Hannibal. American Gods. Star Trek: Discovery.

Face-off.

Face-off.

That naturally casts a shadow over his first television pitch, the premise sold to the writing staff of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Even watching Fuller’s idea filtered through the lens of Ronald D. Moore, there is a strong urge to read too much into this forty-five-minute piece of television. How much of it represents Bryan Fuller’s vision of Star Trek? How have its themes and ideas resonated across the rest of the writer’s work? What insight might it offer into the producer’s vision for the future of the franchise?

A lesser episode would crumple under that weight. It helps that The Darkness and the Light is an ambitious and exciting piece of television, a triumph of concept and execution that stands as one of the most distinctive and memorable episodes in the fifty-year history of the franchise.

A time to heal.

A time to heal.

Continue reading

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – For the Cause (Review)

This February and March (and a little bit of April), 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 for the latest review.

For the Cause essentially refocuses the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, rallying the season’s strength as the finalé approaches.

After a bunch of lackluster episodes, from Rules of Engagement through to Shattered Mirror and The Muse, the show finds its voice once again. For the Cause is not just a great episode of television, it is an episode uniquely tailored to this particular show. For the Cause would not work on any of the other for Star Trek shows, so precisely is it calibrated to what makes Deep Space Nine unique. It is a story about trust and betrayal, but also one that chips away at the romance of Starfleet and the Federation.

Pinning his colours to the mast...

Pinning his colours to the mast…

What is particularly interesting about the stretch of episodes running from here through to Broken Link is the sense that Deep Space Nine is getting back to basics. The fourth season is somewhat overshadowed by the addition of Worf to the cast and the emphasis placed on the Klingons in The Way of the Warrior. Although the production team do a great job working within the studio mandate, this shift in focus has meant that many more traditional elements of Deep Space Nine have been shunted into the background.

The final stretch of the fourth season finds the show returning to ideas that were threaded through earlier seasons and were shifted slightly out of focus with the return of the Klingons. For the Cause brings the Maquis back to the fore. To the Death, The Quickening and Broken Link focus on the Dominion threat. Body Parts returns to Ferengi politics. To be fair, the Maquis were the only element that totally faded from view over the fourth season, so it makes sense to return to them first.

A stunning betrayal...

A stunning betrayal…

Continue reading

The X-Files – Jump the Shark (Review)

This December, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the ninth season of The X-Files.

As The X-Files trundles towards its finalé, there is a sense that the production team do not understand “closure.”

There is, of course, a cheap gag to be made here. Long-time fans of the show might joke that the show never understood the concept of “closure”, as demonstrated by the fact that the show’s mythology frequently resembled a precariously-balanced tower of Jenga bricks gently swaying in a light breeze. This is perhaps a bit unfair; episodes like Requiem and Existence had done a good job of bringing the television show to a point where it might end, only for the show to be picked up for another season.

Shot down in their prime... time slot.

Shot down in their prime… time slot.

The end of the ninth season differs from the ends of the seventh or eighth because the production team know that the show is going to end. There will be no last-minute reprieve, no green-light give mere days before the last episode is actually broadcast. This is, in many ways, the end of The X-Files. With that in mind, the final episodes of the ninth season begin tidying away dangling plot threads and narrative loose ends in the hopes of satisfying the audience. The show seems to be running through a checklist. Lone Gunmen now. William next. Luke Doggett after that.

The problem, of course, is that none of these concepts are really calling for definitive “closure.” There is no reason for the show to draw a line under these supporting characters or plot arcs. It is possible for fans to imagine life beyond a television show for many characters without engaging in ruthless pruning. The Lone Gunmen do not need an epic send-off. In fact, the idea of an epic send-off seems to represent a misunderstanding of the characters themselves.

"Chris Carter said we're invited to the wrap party..."

“Chris Carter said we’re invited to the wrap party…”

Continue reading

Harsh Realm – Camera Obscura (Review)

This November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the seventh season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Harsh Realm.

And so, with Camera Obscura, it seems that Harsh Realm comes to an end

The show had been developed as a television series for the new millennium; all involved had great plans for it. Fox had made no secret of the fact that they planned for Harsh Realm to take pride of place in their schedule going forward. The assumption was that it would replace The X-Files after that juggernaut was retired. There was a lot of hype around the development, a lot of excitement about the new show from producer Chris Carter. Harsh Realm was to be the first of many new shows developed by the producer as part of a highly lucrative contract with Fox.

Burning down the House (of God)...

Burning down the House (of God)…

Sadly, it did not work out that way. Harsh Realm had premiered to low ratings. Fox shuffled it off the schedule after only three episodes, which seemed a knee-jerk response given the talent involved in the show’s production. The six remaining episodes were locked away from the light of day, relegated to premiering on FX at the tail end of that season of television. For all that everybody involved had hoped that Harsh Realm would be a breakout hit, it ended up little more than a footnote.

Here, it dies. After nine episodes aired across two channels over seven months, the curtain comes down on Harsh Realm. It ends not with a bang, but a whimper.

Time for reflection...

Time for reflection…

Continue reading

Star Trek: Enterprise – Season 3 (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 August, we’re doing the third season. Check back daily for the latest review.

The third season of Star Trek: Enterprise is a mess.

It is very clearly the work of a production team still figuring out how to plot long-form stories and struggling with the logistical difficulties of mapping out a single narrative across what was originally planned as a twenty-six episode season. There are extended periods where narrative momentum stalls; there are key moments where it seems like the show has no idea where it wants to go next. It seems like the production team never sat down in the gap before production began to figure out what story they wanted to tell, and ended up improvising.

ent-e2f1

However, it is also a bold and ambitious piece of television. It demonstrates an energy and excitement that had been lacking from the Star Trek franchise since Star Trek: Deep Space Nine went off the air. It is a season of television that doesn’t always work, but that is to be expected when the production team are trying something new. The failures of the first two seasons of the show often stemmed from a lack of ambition on the part of the production team; the failures in the third season are rooted in a surplus of ambition. It is hard to find them too objectionable.

The Xindi arc doesn’t always work as well as it might, but it works more than often enough to excuse the clumsy missteps along the way. There is something compelling and dynamic about a Star Trek show that is willing to push itself so far outside its own comfort zone. There is a spirit of adventure to the third season of Enterprise that had been sorely lacking from the first two seasons of the show. The biggest disappointment is that it took the show this long to find that confidence and that adventurousness.

ent-thexindi25 Continue reading