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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Afterimage (Review)

Afterimage is a necessary episode, in part because Ezri Dax is a necessary character.

Adding a new character to a show in the middle of its run is always a challenge. The addition of Seven of Nine to Star Trek: Voyager had generated considerable tension, both around what the show wanted to be and in terms of the cast working on the series. It can be difficult to strike a balance, to figure out how much attention to devote to this new arrival, to give them some focus without stealing focus from the surrounding cast. It is a tightrope for the writers to walk, one compounded by the relative novelty of this late addition, the new toy in the writers’ toy box.

Make it sew.

This problem is compounded when the new addition arrives at the start of the final season. In any final season, space is at a premium. The production team are racing towards the finish line, trying to service all the dangling plot threads and complete all the important plot arcs. Every beat is important, every story vital. Final seasons are about providing closure, about wrapping things up. Introducing a new character in the midst of all that is a daunting responsibility, a challenge with very high stakes.

The writers at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine were working at something of a disadvantage and to a deadline. However, they did have some handicaps. Most notably, the production team had already successfully integrated a new character into the ensemble, when Worf joined the cast in The Way of the Warrior. More than that, there was some luxury in the fact that Ezri Dax would not be an entirely new character. She would be a logical extension of the premise that was built in Jadzia Dax. She was at least partially familiar, and her concept had been properly seeded.

On airlock down.

Still, introducing Ezri Dax into the final season of Deep Space Nine would prove difficult. The production team would often struggle to strike a balance between writing stories that extended (and concluded) the arcs of other major characters while also writing episodes that introduced and established the character of Ezri. It could often seem like Ezri’s journey was just beginning, right as everybody else’s was coming to a close. The final season of a seven-year show is seldom the perfect place for a new beginning.

As such, Afterimage is more an episode driven by necessity than by desire, a story that has to be told because of factors that were outside the control of the production team. The result is solid, if not exceptional. It is an episode that works best at establishing a new character and new dynamics, suffering just a little bit from clumsy storytelling in the process.

Holo pleasures.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – A Time to Stand (Review)

And so Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has changed once again.

A Time to Stand represents a new beginning for Deep Space Nine, kicking off an ambitious six-episode arc that effectively sets up both the status quo and the tone for the final two years of the series. To be fair, this version of the show is very clearly the model to which the fourth and fifth seasons had been building. It is not quite a second (or third, or fourth) pilot in the style of The Search, Part I and The Search, Part II or The Way of the Warrior, but it is very clear that Deep Space Nine is entering a new stage of its evolution at the start of its penultimate sequence.

Touching reunion.

Touching reunion.

More than that, this opening six-episode arc very clearly serves to set up and establish themes and ideas that will play out across the series’ remaining episodes; Kira suggests she will support Odo’s decision to return home in Behind the Lines, Damar’s alcoholism and the shame it hides is introduced in Behind the Lines, Sisko talks about the house that he plans to build on Bajor in Favour the Bold, the Prophets promise that a price will be exacted from Sisko in Sacrifice of Angels.

Although the formal declaration of war came at the end of Call to Arms, the sixth season premiere truly ushers in the era of the Dominion War.

New frontier.

New frontier.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – … Nor the Battle to the Strong (Review)

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”

– Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929)

Far a field.

Far afield.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Ship (Review)

It seems we’re approaching an impasse.

We’ve already arrived.

– Kilana and Sisko sum up the fifth season

Under siege.

Under siege.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Apocalypse Rising (Review)

Apocalypse Rising stands quite apart from the other Star Trek: Deep Space Nine season premieres.

Most obviously, it the only single-part season premiere across the entire seven seasons of Deep Space Nine. Emissary and Way of the Warrior were two-hour television movies. The Homecoming fed into the franchise’s first official three-part story. The Search, Part I and The Search, Part II were obviously a two-part episode, while Image in the Sand and Shadows and Symbols provided a two-part introduction to the seventh season. A Time to Stand segued directly into Rocks and Shoals while also setting up a six-episode arc.

The times, they are a-changeling...

The times, they are a-changeling…

This is not to suggest that Apocalypse Rising is a more typical Star Trek season premiere. It is not a continuation of Broken Link in the same way that The Best of Both Worlds, Part II is a direct continuation of The Best of Both Worlds, Part I or that Basics, Part II is a direct follow-on from Basics, Part I. While Apocalypse Rising does resolve a cliffhanger left dangling by Broken Link, that cliffhanger was only really set up in the final two minutes of the episode. Indeed, the cliffhanger dangling from Broken Link recalls the endings of The Jem’Hadar or The Adversary.

Apocalypse Rising is also notable for being the first season premiere that is not positioned as a jumping on point, that is not intended to either expand the scope of the show or recruit new viewers. One of the luxuries of avoiding the traditional cliffhanger structures to bridge seasons was the freedom to begin each season with a relatively clean slate and introduce new elements. The Search, Part I and The Search, Part II introduced the Defiant and retooled the show to focus on the Dominion. The Way of the Warrior brought Worf over and shifted emphasis to the Klingons.

Klingon to the status quo...

Klingon to the status quo

While Apocalypse Rising does represent a slight shift in the tone of the show, it is not a radical new departure. More than that, it leans rather heavily on the show’s established mythology and in some ways indicates a desire to get the show back on track following an extended detour into war with the Klingons during the fourth season. Apocalypse Rising confirms what was made clear during the fourth season of the show, that Deep Space Nine has eventually evolved into its final form. Apocalypse Rising is a show so comfortable with itself that there’s no need to reinvent.

Although a little cramped and rushed in places, Apocalypse Rising represents a strong start to a stellar season. It is an efficient and effective piece of television, one that demonstrates the clarity of focus driving the season that will follow.

Drinking games...

Drinking games…

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Non-Review Review: Triple 9

Triple 9 looks great.

Although it set in modern day Atlanta, director John Hillcoat seems to frame Triple 9 as a grim companion piece to The Road. Hillcoat captures the horrors of urban decay, creating a world that seems to teeter on the edge of the abyss. The camera pans through abandoned tenement buildings and lingers on graffiti; bodies are found in shopping trolleys while tinted windows serve to conceal immediate dangers. As filmed by Hillcoat and filtered through the lens of cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis, Atlanta seems to be composed of slums and overpasses.

Traffic stop...

Traffic stop…

From the impressive opening heist set piece, Hillcoat saturates the film with red, as if our heroes are only glimpsed through the light of hellfire. That red comes from multiple sources; a red dye pack that explodes at the worst possible moment, the boots worn by one of the characters, the lights from a police car, the fire from a distant (and somewhat anticlimactic) explosion. Triple 9 is oppressive and grim, with Hillcoat threatening to bring the world collapsing down upon his protagonists.

The problem with Triple 9 has nothing to do with Hillcoat’s aesthetic. Instead, the film suffers from a generic and unfocused script populated by characters who lack agency and identity. The main figures in Triple 9 often feel like pieces of paper caught in a breeze, moving in any given direction at the whim of the plot rather than through any essential quality of their own. Things happen not because they are organic (or even inevitable), but because they are convenient. There are points at which it seems like maybe the characters are not in hell; maybe the audience are.

Married to the mob...

Married to the mob…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Hippocratic Oath (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.

Hippocratic Oath represents a return to normality for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The Way of the Warrior was a feature-length war epic tasked with introducing a new regular character and a new status quo, while The Visitor was an intimate character study that stood quite apart from the show around it. With Hippocratic Oath, the show gets back to business as usual. It even has a classic a-story/b-story split with Bashir and O’Brien’s Gamma Quadrant hijinx juxtaposed with Worf learning his place on the station (and the show).

This is not to suggest that Hippocratic Oath is a bland hour of Star Trek. Indeed, it is a tightly-constructed story that hits on some of the show’s core themes and most interesting dynamics. One of the problems with the third season of Deep Space Nine was the fact that it had a strong start but no idea on how to build from that. Hippocratic Oath seems to serve very much as a “business as usual” episode of the fourth season, helping to set a baseline of quality of the show going forward.

Awkward bromantic moment...

Awkward bromantic moment…

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