Thursday, September 01, 2005

Deep Space Fix

I managed to get my hands on a complete set of the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine so I can finally watch the whole thing in order. I've seen many of the episodes already, but never chronologically from the pilot episode, 'Emissary' to the finale, 'In the Hands of the Prophets'.

For many fans, including myself, DS9 is pretty much as good as Trek has ever been - past or present. Kind of ironic since I was very skeptical of the show when I'd first heard of it. Sounded a little too much like another show on a space station, Babylon 5, and the lack of a wandering starship pretty much guaranteed, in my mind, that the writers would soon run out of interesting ideas and situations to put the new cast through. Needless to say, I was wrong. The show's first season was one of the strongest freshman years I'd ever seen for a Trek franchise and managed to keep things relatively fresh and interesting while going through the often tedious process of introducing characters, settings and storylines.

I may not do this every time I watch a batch of episodes but I'm going to occasionally post some thoughts on the show as I go through season 1. I won't be trying to do an analysis of each ep - there are others who do that and probably do it much better than I ever could - just posting some thoughts for posterity's sake.

Emissary (1x01 & 1x02): The pilot episode, which has been split into two parts, was originally aired as a two-hour intro to the third Trek franchise. What was immediately different about this show was the tone - much darker and more serious than previous outings in the universe that Gene built. Sisko was not your typical Federation officer and he was not placed in your typical Star Trek situation. Instead of captaining a starship across the great unknown he was in charge of a space station orbitting the newly liberated Bajoran homeworld. His purpose there was to help ease the transition for the Bajorans from an occupied people to a free and self-sufficient society. Instead of flying from planet to planet and telling people how they were living their lives wrong, these characters had to deal with maintaining a balance of power in the quadrant, guiding a planet whose society was steeped in religious beliefs into the Federation, and a political situation that often led to incindiary confrontations.

In this episode we get a nice solid introduction to the main cast of characters with mostly new faces but a few familiar ones as well. Chief among them is Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard who is there - storywise - to make sure everything is being set up smoothly and is there - practically - to pass the baton, as it were. Picard has never been my favourite ST character but I have to say he worked brilliantly in this episode opposite a barely contained Sisko (Picard as Locutus was responsible for the death of Sisko's wife, Jennifer, at the battle of Wolf 359). The tension between these two men played nicely and their scene at the end of the show made for a nice, if not predictable, bookend to the season opener.

The other characters, whom you probably know, didn't get a great deal of screen time, but they all came off as interesting with something to contribute and I looked forward to seeing how they would develop as we get further into the season.

Overall, the strongest Pilot episode of any Trek that I've seen (followed closely by Enterprise's 'Broken Bow') before and since and a nice kick-off for what promises to be an interesting ride.

Past Prologue (1x04): We were introduced to Sisko in the last episode and 'Past Prologue' provides us with a little insight into DS9's pistol of a second-in-command, Kira Nerys.

Any new series will take the first few episodes of their first season to spotlight their main cast of characters, finding stories that manage to show you some deeper character moments and flesh out who that person is a little. Some do it without tipping their hand and some are so transparent it's not even funny. Thankfully, DS9 manages to do the former with this episode.

What stands out in 'Past Prologue' for me is the incredible lack of technobabble. Instead of tying up the main story in an unintelligable problem that can only be solved by an even less clear explanation, this episode is firmly rooted in the characters and how their loyalties lie. This episode is more about politics and friendship than anti-matter converters and the cast is allowed to find the emotional core of the story and get it across to the audience. Heck, the Duras sisters appear in this episode and I found myself enjoying their presence instead of just turning the channel like I usually do.

I also can't talk about this episode without mentioning the great scene where Sisko is forced to put Kira in her place for not following the chain-of-command and going over his head with some concerns she had surrounding one of the Commander's decisions. It's not something you see everyday on Star Trek. Well, not unless Ronny Cox is guest-starring anyways.

A strong second (third?) episode that satisfied on many levels and had me putting a great deal of faith in where the writers were taking the show and the cast.

That's it for today, or at least for now. I'll probably be posting more episode commentary later so if it intersts you, make sure you check back.

I'm outta here...


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