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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – When It Rains… (Review)

One of the interesting aspects of the final arc of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is watching the series grapple with challenges that face a lot of later serialised television shows.

The massive ten-episode conclusion to Deep Space Nine is effectively equivalent to a full season of a highly serialised prestige television show like Game of Thrones, Westworld or The Leftovers. Of course, there are any number of obvious differences, from the need to structure episodes around commercial breaks or the dependency on clunky exposition or the fact that these ten episodes were following a production run of sixteen early episodes in the same production season.

Dukat does not react well to criticism of his role in this epic ten-episode arc.

Nevertheless, these ten episodes grapple with a lot of the difficulties in mapping out a single extended story across a large number of episodes. Deep Space Nine had launched its six season with an impressive six-episode arc that hung together almost perfectly, give or take Sons and Daughters. However, there were unique challenges in attempting that same narrative trick with ten episodes at the end of a production season.

A lot of these problems are pacing related. As with a lot of serialised shows, these ten episodes occasionally struggle to give each episode a unique identity. Strange Bedfellows is an episode that seems stuck between the sets of dramatic reveals either side of it, the weddings and alliances of ‘Til Death Do Us Part or the terror and revelation of The Changing Face of Evil. There is certainly an element of that to When It Rains…, which seems to spend most of its runtime lining up two major plot threads for resolution in the superlative Tacking Into the Wind.

A tailor-made solution.

However, there is also a sense that certain plot and character threads in this sprawling ten episode arc have not been properly mapped out and paced, that the writers have failed to shrewdly allocate their narrative real estate. The writers had enough of an idea where they were going with this arc that they were able to seed most of the important threads leading up to What You Leave Behind with Penumbra. However, the individual story threads were not all equally paced. Some could be sustained for nine more episodes. Others fizzled after four or five.

Not all of the narrative threads running through this extended arc of Deep Space Nine are equally impressive. Some of these story threads are clumsy and mistaken, running out of what little steam they had less than half-way through the extended run. So it is with the bizarre alliance between Dukat and Winn in service of the Pah-Wraiths.

The darkness in men’s hearts.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Shakaar (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

There are really two versions of Shakaar.

There is the episode that Shakaar very clearly wants to be. It’s intended to offer Kira a bit of closure, following on from the events of Life Support. It’s very clearly meant to explore Kira’s grieving process and to allow her to come to terms with the loss she suffered. After all, the episode opens establishing that Kira still mourns Bareil, while the episode closes with Kira extinguishing the memorial candle she lit for him. (Which does invite the audience to wonder if it was burning the whole time she was on Bajor.)

Carrying a torch...

Carrying a torch…

As such, it makes sense to offer Kira an opportunity to get back to her roots – to suggest that Kira might secretly want to return to the relative simplicity of a rebel fighter resisting an oppressive government; fighting a war is a lot less complex than navigating the peace. Kira’s reunion with the Shakaar Resistance Cell is meant to offer her a way to escape into something comfortable, to avoid moving forward; because moving forward is tough and painful. Shakaar should be about Kira learning that she has to push forward. It should be a companion piece to Progress.

The episode can’t quite manage this. Instead, we end up with an episode about how Kira gets swept off her feet by a dashing hunk of a man – an episode that leaves the viewer with the unfortunate implication that Kira only needed to find another weirdly paternal man to help her get past the death of the man she loved. Shakaar is an episode with a host of interesting ideas, but isn’t quite sure how to best bring those ideas to the screen.

You Winn some, you lose some...

You Winn some, you lose some…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Life Support (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Life Support is the first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to air after Star Trek: Voyager went on the air. It’s amazing how quickly Deep Space Nine settled back into the role of “the other Star Trek show on television.” A lot of attention was focused on launching Voyager, with the show put in the awkward position of launching (and, in the years ahead, supporting) the new television network UPN. As a result, Voyager got a lot of press and a higher profile.

Deep Space Nine fell back into familiar routines. Life Support is far from an exceptional piece of Deep Space Nine. In fact, it’s a deeply flawed piece of television. However, it feels free of the identity crisis that dominated the first half of the third season. This is Deep Space Nine free of the expectations of being “the only Star Trek on television”, and allowed the freedom to just keep doing whatever it wants to do.

It doesn’t do any of the things that it wants to do particularly well, but it does them in its inimitable way.

Dead air...

Dead air…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – In the Hands of the Prophets (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.

Both Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation allowed their first seasons to run an episode too long. The City on the Edge of Forever, the penultimate episode of the first ever season of Star Trek, is a genuine classic. I don’t envy any story that has to follow it, especially not something as mediocre as Operation — Annihilate! While Conspiracy, the second-to-last episode of the first season of The Next Generation, is hardly a classic in the same league, it does up the stakes on the show’s first year, and tie up a dangling plot thread. The Neutral Zone, on the other hand, is a bland return to form, with a particularly insufferable b-plot.

So the excellence of Duet might offer the viewer cause to worry. A penultimate first-season episode which is significantly above average? One would be forgiven for wondering if the first season might have been best served to wrap itself up at that point, going out in a high, safe in the knowledge that it had contributed one classic episode to the Star Trek mythos and with the potential to offer quite a few more. Quit while you’re winning, and don’t tempt fate with another superfluous episode.

In the Hands of the Prophets, however, puts those fears to rest. Serving as a companion piece to Duet, it’s another one of those “only on Deep Space Nine stories, closing out the first season with a reminder of what makes the show unique. In the Hands of the Prophets is another classic piece of Deep Space Nine. It might not pack quite the punch that Duet did, but it’s a compelling piece of drama which demonstrates just how much Deep Space Nine has to offer the Star Trek mythos.

Beyond belief...

Beyond belief…

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