Saturday, 31 December 2011

Deep Space Nine Series One

Emissary written by Michael Piller and directed by David Carson

Result: Exciting, unpredictable with a highly engaging new cast of characters and a welcome touch of dirt to the Star Trek universe, Emissary barely gets a step wrong. Visually the story is a feast for the eyes with some atmospheric new sets, exciting action sequences and a remains a masterpiece of editing for the astonishing sequences set inside the wormhole. I remember when I first watched Emissary and I was completely blown away by the scale of the story, the rawness of the emotion and the idiosyncratic look of the piece. I had never seen anything like it on television before and it felt like someone had taken all my complaints about Star Trek and ironed them out into a much darker, classier show. This show gets to have its cake (a fixed location with consequences) and eat it (exploration of a new quadrant) and once the Defiant is introduced it even has it's own unique ship. This is a show that isn’t afraid to pull a mirror on humanity’s weaknesses, that handles religion and space opera with equal aplomb and allows its characters to be both strong and unique but also deeply flawed. Emissary kick starts seven incredible years of mythos building and outstanding character drama: 10/10

Full Review Here:

Past Prologue written by Katharyn Powers and directed by Winrich Kolbe

Result: Highlighting Kira’s character proves that she is one to watch and considering the little screen time she has had the character is already developing significantly. Past Prologue is a strong episode on two counts, for introducing Garak and for exploring meatier themes than they would only occasionally dare to touch on TNG. Andrew Robinson is a delight as the Cardassian tailor, like no character we have ever seen before and it came as a surprise that it took an entire year before we saw such a successful character again. The uneasy alliance between the Bajorans and the Federation is encapsulated in Kira and Sisko and their tasty conflict makes for a refreshing change from the usual touchy feely relationships that the franchise is keen to promote. Whilst there are a fair few stumbles in the first season of DS9 this gripping little thriller shows no signs of a show in its infancy. Engaging political drama would turn out to be one of the series strengths: 8/10

Full Review Here:

A Man Alone written by Gerald Sanford & Michael Piller and directed by Paul Lynch

Result: A murder mystery without any mystery, A Man Alone is a tired episode three which only comes alive when focusing on the developing dynamics between the characters. Odo is so clearly the target of Ibudan’s murder and the effortless way hatred is stirred up against him forces the plot to ignore the idea that there could be any other suspects and the wrap up is as contrived as it comes with a twist that hasn’t even been hinted at. Fortunately there are an abundance of scenes that see character pairings come together (Jake & Nog, Sisko & Dax, Odo & Quark) and an enjoyable subplot that follows Keiko finding her place on the station that are agreeable to watch. DS9 has a higher hit rate than most in providing an enjoyable b plots when the main storyline fails to engage (especially in seasons two and three) but that still doesn’t excuse the bulk of the episode falling below par. You expect a few stumbles when a show begins and this one is average but not too offensive given the character treasure that can be unearthed: 5/10

Full Review Here:

Babel written by Michael McGreevey & Naren Shankar and directed by Paul Lynch

Result: Imagine if the crew had been wiped out by the aphasic virus? What an embarrassing way to end the series that would have been. Babel proves again that DS9 has better luck at dishing out these naff Star Trek premises because its core of characters is strong enough to provide some entertainment when the plot fails to do so. You’ve got Odo panicking when the Station is his responsibility, Quark causing a whole lot of trouble but redeeming himself by coming through when a crisis needs him to and Kira providing her own unique solution to curing the virus by infecting the man who created it. Now we’ve done the standard Trek virus and the murder mystery plots, can we get on with something more interesting? Disposable but fairly watchable especially in the thrilling final ten minutes: 5/10

Full Review Here:

Captive Pursuit written by Jill Sherman Donner & Michael Piller and directed by Corey Allen

Result: Something unknown, mysterious and exciting comes through the wormhole – this is more like it! Captive Pursuit is a fine piece of writing which offers an intriguing mystery and an exciting resolution with plenty opportunities for action and a touching spotlight on O’Brien. The first half of the episode slowly builds up the relationship between O’Brien and Tosk before the rest of his people arrive to hunt him down and the pyrotechnics begin. Corey Allen provides some fine action sequences that really have some punch and yet still keeps the focus on the central relationship. The story climaxes in a very sweet ending that sees O’Brien defy authority and help his friend to escape. I really love that the poignant conclusion works through nothing more than retrained performances and that Tosk manages to remain an alien character throughout (had this been TNG he would have been happily humanised by the conclusion). Well paced with some dynamic sequences and DS9’s own brand of exceptional character work, Captive Pursuit gets two thumbs up from me: 9/10

Full Review Here:

Q-Less written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Paul Lynch

Result: It’s not in the league of best Q episodes (those honours go to Q Who, Deja Q, Tapestry and Death Wish) and it certainly isn’t amongst the worst (Hide & Q, Q-Pid, The Q and the Grey and Q2), Q-Less is a disposable but occasionally very funny and enjoyable episode. John de Lancie is a delight as ever and has a hoot and a half poking fun at all the foibles of the newly staffed station and it's nice to finally see Jennifer Hatrick in a halfway decent episode that doesn’t involve Sherwood Forest or ridiculously characterised Ferengi’s. What I really enjoy about this episode is how it reaffirms this show as being the black sheep of the family with characters allowed to be sleazy and sex obsessed and revel in naked avarice. Its so refreshing after all the pompous do gooders on TNG to see some real people propping up the 24th Century. The main plot echoes Encounter at Farpoint in all the worst ways and really should have been dropped in favour of more throwaway antics because the stress here is on continuing and improving TNG continuity which to it's credit it manages to do very well: 7/10

Full Review Here:

Dax written by D.C Fontana and directed by David Carson
Result: How wonderful to see the character dynamics on this show coming together so effectively and quickly and even if Dax didn’t have a rock solid plot at its heart (which it does) it would be bolstered by some fantastic individual moments. Kira is feisty and fun, Odo blackmails Quark, Sisko builds a firm friendship with Dax, Bashir shows some depth and Odo proves what he is made of plus you also get some fascinating insight into Trill society. Both Tandro and (the wonderful) Judge Renora stand out and despite very few scenes even Enina Tandro makes a great impression. The story has a real drive to it and paints a strong picture of Klystron society and the major players in its most dramatic days without ever actually showing us the events. With outstanding performances all round, superb dialogue and characterisation and an ending that hits all the right notes this is one of the strongest Trek courtroom episodes and another huge win for director David Carson: 9/10

Full Review Here:

The Passenger written by Morgan Grendel, Robert Hewitt Wolfe & Michael Piller and directed by Paul Lynch

Result: Such a ridiculously predictable episode I am surprised they bothered to dress it up as a mystery. The Passenger features the oddest performance ever seen in a Deep Space Nine episode in Siddig El Fadil’s take on Ray O’Vantika which is more likely to provoke laughter than chills. Paul Lynch tries to make this as dark as possible but the script is fighting him lacking the scares of a horror or the intensity of a good psychological thriller. Ruining things further is the inclusion of Primmon who annoys from the outset and is so ineffective he only hangs around for two episodes. Odd that the first Bashir episode should be such a flop because pretty much every other episode to highlight the character (Our Man Bashir, Dr Bashir, I Presume?, Inquisition, Inta Arma Silent Leges) would turn out to be absolute gems. Easily the weakest episode so far and exactly the sort of camp old nonsense that was dropped when the series found its stride: 4/10

Full Review Here:

Move Along Home written by Frederick Rappaport, Lisa Rich & Jeanne Carrigan-Fauci (three writers – really?) and directed by David Carson

Result: Move Along Home doesn’t quite come off but it exemplifies DS9’s willingness to experiment with some pretty quirky episodes. Visually the story is quite distinctive but none of the tests that the crew are put through would test a five year old so the risk that is suggested is never really felt. Once again the alien characters on this show impress with Odo and Quark providing some great moments and Avery Brooks continues to lighten up as Sisko. The last act descends into a mundanely shot trek through some standard cave sets but you have to admire the sheer cheek of the ‘its only a game’ punchline that proves that nobody was ever in any danger in the first place. It’s a really odd piece, sporadically very good, occasionally risible and incomparable with anything else this series has delivered. Again this is precisely the sort of thing they dropped when the series expanded its mythology: 6/10

Full Review Here:

The Nagus written by Ira Steven Behr and directed by David Livingston

Result: Proof if it was needed that episodes set solely on DS9 shit all over the bottle shows on TNG or Voyager, The Nagus is a delightfully funny and universe expanding piece that is bolstered by many superb performances. The chemistry between the Ferengi actors on Deep Space Nine is so delightful and I love spending time with them. Focussing an episode entirely on Ferengi culture might fill you with dread given how badly they have been treated in TNG but fear not since this is a gorgeously funny Godfather parody that introduces us to one of the greatest ever Star Trek characters – Wallace Shawn’s Grand Nagus Zek. He’s lecherous, greedy, slightly psychotic and utterly lovable. We’ve never seen anything like this before and it confirms that Deep Space Nine is forging its own unique path through the Star Trek universe: 9/10

Full Review Here:

Vortex written by Sam Rolfe and directed by Winrich Kolbe

Result: When it comes to atmosphere, DS9 is in a league of its own. Vortex has a gorgeous script with a humdinger of a line every few seconds and I have had to restrain myself from quoting half the episode. To have a Star Trek episode as unpredictable as this one is a very rare thing and the way it offers gasps of hope to Odo is almost cruel. It’s a blissfully executed piece which has been atmospherically lit to provide an evocative feast for the eyes and the director shows a flair for both action sequences and the tastier character driven moments of dialogue. The episode builds to the catch-your-breath moment when Odo is out cold and you are unsure whether Kroden will help him or use the chance to escape which in turn leads to a stirring decision by Odo to release them. A phaser fight, wonderful Odo and Quark scenes, a space battle, meaty ideas and a touching ending between Odo and his ‘cousin’ – Vortex practically is another awesome episode: 9/10

Full Review Here:

Battle Lines written by Hilary J. Bader, Richard Danus & Evan Carlos Somers and directed by Paul Lynch

Result: The death of a semi-regular character, graphic fight scenes, an impossible situation and the redemption of a violent terrorist, Battle Lines is a very strong episode that picks up many of the season's threads and does some impossibly cruel things with them. It’s the first of three extraordinary Kira episodes that see her character take an incredible journey through the first season (this, Progress and Duet) and Nana Visitor once again proves why she is such an incredible asset to this show. Once again the episode has the atmosphere to bolster the drama and this is by far one of the most impressive studio planetary surfaces. DS9 has delivered three knockouts in a row but this is still a Star Trek series - surely this cannot continue. The closing shot of the Kai listening to the sounds of battle getting closer is a wonderfully ambiguous note to leave her character on: 9/10
Full Review Here:

The Storyteller written by Kurt Michael-Bensmiller & Ira Steven Behr and directed by David Livingston

Result: I really don’t understand why Voyager and TNG don’t highlight their subplots in the same way that DS9 does because it is the delightful Nog/Jake mischief that saves The Storyteller from being a dud. There is some fun watching the odd couple O’Brien and Bashir dancing around each other but the main plot of the episode belongs in a fairytale book and not a Star Trek episode. It's neither entirely comic or satisfyingly dramatic and falls between several stools and as the middle of three Bajoran episodes in a row it falls way short of the greatness of the two surrounding it. However with the negotiation subplot on the station this episode remains amiable enough and the Jake and Nog interaction continues to be one of this series’ most delightful surprises: 6/10

Full Review Here:

The Forsaken written by Don Carlos Dunaway & Michael Piller and directed by Les Landau

Result: Not content with having a gorgeous A story that sees Mrs Troi set her sights on Odo, The Forsaken also chooses to torture Bashir in an amusing B story and even feature a C story that uses technobabble in a really fun way. I’m not sure how they manage to pack it all in but none of these narratives feels undersold and they weave around each other effortlessly. Every scene is imbued with character that skips through everything from romantic comedy to intimate drama and the performances are sublime. Because it has so much going on it doesn’t quite have the focus of the best episodes of the season but it is still ridiculously entertaining and has some really moving scenes between Odo and Lwaxana. Both Vortex and The Forsaken offer tantalising glimpses into a softer Odo without diminishing the character in the slightest and have provided some of the most touching moments of the season: 8/10

Full Review Here:

Dramatis Personae written by Joe Menosky and directed by Cliff Bole

Result: Dramatis Personae is basically all the ill feeling amongst the crew of DS9 turned up the nth degree. To someone who watches the odd episode you might not even distinguish between their behaviour here (Kira beating up Quark and arguing with Sisko, O’Brien’s strong opinions about everything, Bashir playing the field) and the last time you watched but anyone who has watched the entire season will have seen subtle changes in their behaviour as the regulars have started to gel. This used to be my least favourite episode of the season because none of the characterisation on display is particularly subtle but the regulars certainly all give it their all and it results in an episode that is at least entertaining camp trash. If you ever wanted to see Kira flirt with Dax, Sisko kick the crap out of someone, Odo walk a fine line between two camps, O’Brien putting his tactical skills to good use and a cat and mouse hunt between the crew then this is the episode for you. Personally I prefer the more thoughtful brand of DS9 and this is nothing but a bad TNG episode played with a little more spice. This is the case for all the Joe Menosky inspired DS9 episodes…he is definitely pitching for the wrong show. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he found a home on Voyager: 5/10

Full Review Here:

Duet written by Peter Allan Fields and directed by James L. Conway

Result: The most effective psychological drama in Star Trek bar none. Haris Yulin, character actor extraordinaire takes on a truly challenging part that could so easily have been nothing but a ranting villain and he embodies the role with such realism and terror you forget all about the make up and simply concentrate on the riveting drama between him and Kira. The script is a beautifully crafted thing literally stuffed with memorable dialogue (I had to carefully cherry pick my favourites above but pretty much the entire script sparkles) and featuring a mystery that will leave you desperate to know the truth by the climax. Add to this precise and subtle direction that teases the drama from the situation more exceptional work done with Kira and a conclusion that rips out your heart and stamps on it repeatedly and you have a rare thing. An episode that fires on all cylinders all the time. Exceptional in every single way whilst hardly spending a penny: 10/10

Full Review Here:

In the Hands of the Prophets written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by David Livingston

Result: In the Hands of the Prophets starts out really well and just gets better and better and better. You have two equally interesting plots that run separately and blissfully come together in a powerful and dramatic climax. There is room for political manoeuvring, a murder mystery, character development, two outstanding action sequences and the introduction of two perfectly pitched and performed new guest characters in Winn and Bariel. It brings the season to a climactic end on a real high, showing the bold new direction that the show is beginning to take and leaves you with nothing but positive feelings about leaping into the second year. Star Trek has never been like this before and it is better than ever: 9/10


Thomas Marcus said...

I decided to try watching DS9 so I got the boxset. I'm not really that hooked on it to be honested. I find Sisko to be a bit weirdly acted and he just comes across a bit odd to me. I ended up watching the second and third episodes the wrong way round so I think I'm going to start from the start again soon. I've got to say though-I think Enterprise is the best Star Trek Series , and I'm not joking.

Joe Ford said...

DS9 is a show that continually evolves throughout its seven seasons. Have you only watched three episodes? Whilst I think the pilot is fantastics you have no where near reached the best stuff yet. Get to seasons four and five and then tell me you still think Enterprise is better. You might, but I genuinely think that come its latter seasons DS9 is the most innovative thing that the Trek franchise ever achieved.

Ed Azad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.