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Deep Space Nine at 25 – The Most Timeless of (Star) Treks

This may be the last time we’re all together. But no matter what the future holds, no matter how far we travel, a part of us – a very important part – will always remain here, on Deep Space Nine.

– Benjamin Sisko, What You Leave Behind

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine turned twenty-five this week.

Deep Space Nine is an important addition to the Star Trek canon in a number of respects. It was the only Star Trek series to air as a secondary series, its entire seven-season run coinciding with the broadcast of other weekly Star Trek series; its first two seasons overlapping with the final two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager. It was also the last Star Trek series to air in syndication. It was arguably marked the point at which the viewing public lost interest in Star Trek during the nineties, the first Star Trek spin-off to lose its audience over its run.

However, Deep Space Nine was also memorable in other respects. It was the first Star Trek series not to take place on a ship named “Enterprise”, and the first not to take place on a ship at all. It was the first Star Trek series to embrace the possibilities of serialisation. It was the Star Trek cast with both the most diverse core cast and the widest ensemble, with an impressive collection of recurring actors and characters fleshing out the world. It was also arguably the only Star Trek series to truly embrace multiculturalism, with several episodes focusing exclusively on Klingon or Ferengi characters.

Still, the most enduring aspect of Deep Space Nine is how enduring it feels. At twenty-five years old, Deep Space Nine still feels fresh and relevant. It is a series that has a lot to say about the current moment, but it also had a lot to say about the moment before that. Deep Space Nine was undoubtedly a product of its time, but never feels as consciously wedded to its cultural context as the other Star Trek series. Ironically for the only Star Trek series to really engage with the idea of time, and the importance of forward movement through time for its character, Deep Space Nine is strangely timeless.

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Star Trek: Voyager – Year of Hell, Part I (Review)

Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II might just be the perfect episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.

Taken together, these episodes perfectly demonstrate the raw potential and strength of the third Star Trek spin-off. They are a boldly ambitious story of a ship that finds itself in hostile territory surrounded by a hostile force with superior firepower, all while playing into the recurring themes and fascinations of the wider series. Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II are effectively a story that finds history itself under threat, while emphasising Brannon Braga’s interpretation of Janeway by setting her against a similarly obsessive opponent.

Things fall apart.

Things fall apart.

The result is one of the most thrilling and engaging stories of Voyager‘s seven-season run, among the most satisfying of the series’ impressive “blockbuster” two-parters. Although the show is still being broadcast in the standard nineties 4:3 aspect ratio, it feels like a widescreen story. Part of that is due to the fact that the two-parter unfolds over three quarters of an entire year, part of that is the expanded room for storytelling, part of that is the fact that history itself hangs in the balance, part of that is the fact that Voyager itself feels at stake.

Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II do an excellent job capturing the essence of Voyager.

The Voyager cast Christmas party took a heavier toll than usual.

The Voyager cast Christmas party took a heavier toll than usual.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Return to Grace (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.

More than any other character in the ensemble, Gul Dukat is an embodiment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

There are plenty of other great characters on Deep Space Nine. More than the characters on any other Star Trek show, the lead and supporting characters on Deep Space Nine are afforded the chance to change and grow over the course of the run. In fact, Return to Grace even introduces the character of Damar in a fairly thankless supporting role; over the remaining three-and-a-half seasons of the show, Damar will grow into a well-developed and multi-faceted character in his own right.

He looks like Dukat that got the cream...

He looks like Dukat that got the cream…

Nevertheless, it is Dukat who exemplifies the approach to character and storytelling that make Deep Space Nine such an interesting show. Large swathes of the character’s arc feel improvised and unpredictable. It would be next to impossible to chart Dukat’s character arc from Emissary to What You Leave Behind in a way that makes sense. As with a lot of Deep Space Nine, it seems like the production team just threw the character into the air, allowing the story to take him where it may.

With Return to Grace, it seems that the story takes Dukat into the role of “space pirate.”

The freight stuff...

The freight stuff…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Visitor (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.

To my father, who is coming home.

Daddy's home...

Daddy’s home…

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Star Trek: Enterprise – Carpenter Street (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.

This is the point at which it becomes all but impossible to argue that the production team knew what they were doing this season.

The third season of Star Trek: Enterprise holds together reasonably well, if the viewer pulls back to a big enough distance. The broad arcs are discernible and logical – there is a clear start point and a reasonable trajectory, even if the first half of the season tends to get a bit lost. It really pulls itself together during the second half of the season, with one or two exceptions, building towards a finalé that satisfies both the demands of a year-long arc and the franchise surrounding it. It is not perfect, but it is not bad for a first attempt.

Hey kids! It's Leland Orser!

Hey kids! It’s Leland Orser!

Of course, it is also quite clear that the production team really had no idea what they were doing – or even what they were trying to do. The fact that it comes together in the second half of the season all but concedes that it doesn’t hold together in the first half. The first half of the third season is populated with standalone episodes that tend to either fit thematically (North Star, Similitude) or tonally (Impulse, Exile) with the general direction of the show, but a rather limited sense of progress or advancement.

Carpenter Street is the point at which any real sense of trust between the audience and the production team snaps like a twig. It is a story that features the characters time travelling to modern-day Earth in the middle of a gigantic story arc about how they are more isolated than they ever have been before. It throws away any sense of internal logic or consistency, never really exploring how an alien species that can travel back to Detroit in 2004 should have a problem with Earth in 2153. And, crucially, it is not fun enough to excuse those issues.

Hey kid! It's Jeffrey Dean Morgan! (Really!)

Hey kid! It’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan!
(Really!)

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The X-Files – How the Ghosts Stole Christmas (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

Building off episodes like Triangle and Dreamland, How the Ghosts Stole Christmas continues to develop and expand upon the sixth season’s fascination with issues of time and love.

With the closing of the X-files in The End, it seems like The X-Files has abandoned any real focus on the procedural element of the series. Instead of being a show about two people employed to investigate weird phenomenon together, it seems that The X-Files has evolved into a series about two people who investigate weird phenomena in their spare time. It seems likely that Mulder would have invited Scully on his Christmas Eve stake out even if they were working on the X-files together, but the fact that this is a recreational activity certainly recontextualises it.

Semi-title drop!

Semi-title drop!

The first half of the sixth season of The X-Files is perhaps the most invested that the show has ever been in the nature of the relationship between Mulder and Scully. After all, the seventh season shies away from questions concerning a Mulder and Scully romance; the eighth season keeps William’s parentage a mystery until the last possible moment. The opening stretch of the sixth season is really the only point in the show’s run where the series has an extended conversation about what the two mean to one another and how they express that.

How the Ghosts Stole Christmas is essentially an episode about Mulder and Scully receiving paranormal couples’ counseling that goes horribly wrong.

"Merry Christmas, everybody!"

“Merry Christmas, everybody!”

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Q-Squared 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.

Q-Squared is probably Peter David’s most ambitious Star Trek: The Next Generation novel. “Q-Squared is almost my challenge to the reader to keep up with me,” he boasted in Voyages of the Imagination. Essentially a meditation on reality and free will within that construct, Q-Squared is a breathtakingly confident endeavour. It’s an interesting reflection on the potentiality embraced by The Next Generation, the broadening of the franchise’s perspective to embrace the best of all possible worlds.

Q-Squared hit stands in early July 1994, just over a month after All Good Things… brought the curtain down on The Next Generation for one last time. It’s tempting to look at the two stories as companion pieces. All Good Things… is an exploration of the time that the crew spent together – jumping backwards and forwards to trace our heroes over the course of their lives. In contrast, Q-Squared jumps sideways – looking at what might have been, or what could have been.

tng-q-squared

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