This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999)

"Commence Station Log, Deep Space Nine. Commander Benjamin Sisko, Stardate 46388.2. At the request of the Bajoran Provisional Government, Starfleet has agreed to establish a Federation presence in this system following the withdrawal of the Cardassian occupational forces. The first contingent of officers, including my Chief of Operations, Miles O'Brien, arrived two days ago on the Enterprise."
-Cmdr. (later Capt.) Benjamin Sisko.

This blog can be quite the challenge to write for sometimes. Some of what I've reviewed is actually well-known among some people, if not the general public.
So, I was debating for a while about whether or not to write about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which is, in some ways, the last great installment of the Trek saga.
Debuting during the middle of the sixth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it takes some of what was established in that show and takes it in a different direction.
Unlike the first two Trek series or the following two, this series takes place not on a starship, but a space station. The title location is a station which was once run by the Federation's enemies, the Cardassians (introduced during TNG's fourth season), and which is orbiting the planet Bajor (the Bajorans were introduced in TNG's fifth year).
Starfleet has selected Cmdr. Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) to command the abandoned station once the Cardassians leave the Bajoran system. Sisko certainly has his work cut out for him as he has to work with Maj. Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) who has spent her life fighting Cardassians and is skeptical about Federation involvement in the rebuilding of her world. His chief of security, the shapeshifter Odo (Rene Auberjonois), who worked for the Cardassians while secretly helping the Bajorans, is also iffy about a Starfleet presence, although not nearly as much as the continued presence of Ferengi bartender Quark (Armin Shimerman), who has a shady history of gambling and theft but whom Sisko blackmails into staying and helping rebuild.
Among Sisko's Starfleet personnel is Chief Miles O'Brien (Colm Meaney), whom fans already knew from his appearances on TNG, science officer Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell), whom Sisko was previously acquainted with due to the symbiotic nature of her race, the Trill, and rookie Dr. Julian Bashir (Siddig El Fadil, later Alexander Siddig), who views the situation as a great new adventure.
One great dramatic twist in the show's premiere episode "Emissary," is that Sisko has harsh feelings toward Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). In TNG's classic "The Best of Both Worlds" two-parter, Picard is kidnapped by the Borg as part of their plot to conquer the Federation. They then proceed to turn him into one of them and use his knowledge to eradicate an armada of Starfleet ships.
The beginning of "Emissary" shows a flashback to that battle where Sisko, his wife Jennifer (Felicia M. Bell) and their son Jake (Cirroc Lofton) were on the U.S.S. Saratoga. Although Sisko and Jake managed to escape, Jennifer perished while saving Jake during the battle. This loss left Sisko without a purpose during the following three years.
However, during the events of "Emissary," Sisko makes contact with entities whom the Bajorans refer to as their Prophets. They are discovered to be the guardians of a wormhole, which would allow instant passage to the Gamma Quadrant, a distant part of the galaxy. Cardassians led by the station's former ruler Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo) attempt to sabotage the team's efforts to claim the wormhole on behalf of the Federation and Bajor, but Sisko triumphs after convincing the aliens that they mean no harm and they, in turn, help him come to terms with the loss of his wife and, thus, begin life anew.
For the show's first two years, the stories revolved around exploring the space on the other side of the wormhole as well as political machinations between Bajor, the Federation and the Cardassians.
But the show took a new direction at the end of its second year with the episode "The Jem'Hadar." That installment introduced a new foe called the Dominion, which originated from the Gamma Quadrant and forcefully demanded that the Federation and Bajor leave their space.
This led to more serialized stories from the series from its third season on with such twists as the discovery that Odo's own people are the leaders of the Dominion, the station acquiring a small but powerful warship, the U.S.S. Defiant, and Sisko's promotion to Captain at the season's end. That season also brought tension between the Federation and other established powers such as the Klingons.
Indeed, DS9's fourth season begins with TNG regular Worf (Michael Dorn) joining the show. The idea for including Worf was to boost ratings for the show, but, fortunately, the character proved a nice fit for the series, even though he never got the interesting storylines that he got on TNG (If I had to pick Worf's finest moment, it would probably be the climax of the fourth season TNG episode "Reunion," when he avenges the death of his lover K'Ehleyr).
I must also make special mention of the fifth season episode "Trials and Tribble-ations," a wonderful nod to the show that started it all in which the crew travels back in time to stop a Klingon from killing Kirk during the events of the classic original series episode "The Trouble With Tribbles."
Unlike the following two Trek series, Voyager and Enterprise, DS9 succeeded because it chose to establish its own tone rather than simply rehashing which other Trek series had done before. In this case, the show had the most concentrated story arcs of all the Trek shows (to the extent that it was called Deep Space 90210 in some circles).
TNG's first season is regarded as that show's weakest, and, indeed, many of those early episodes are, for all intents and purposes, rehashes of original Trek episodes. However, DS9's weakest season proved to be its final one. Its sixth season ended with the death of Dax and the symbiont being transferred to new host Ezri (Nicole de Boer) at the start of Season 7.
But what made that season the show's worst was the all-too-hasty manner in which the war between the Federation and the Dominion wrapped up. The conflict began with the Season 5 finale "Call to Arms" and provided some great television, perhaps the best moment being the Season 6 episode "In the Pale Moonlight," in which Sisko finds himself resorting to drastic measures to enlist the Romulans in fighting the Dominion.
But the finale did not give the dramatic fireworks two years of buildup promised. For instance, Odo basically guarantees that his people stand down after he heals one of the Dominion's leaders. For some reason, the war simply ends then and there, prompting one to ask why Odo simply didn't ask such a favor beforehand and, presumably, save many lives.
The final season also basically turned Dukat from a complex character into a generic bad guy. In his own look at the character, SFDebris suggested that it may have been better for Dukat to have his final appearance in the sixth season episode "Waltz," where Sisko and Dukat find themselves in a battle of wills while stranded on a distant planet.
Another thing I disliked about the season was how Sisko leaves the proceedings after a final confrontation with Dukat. He apparently joins with the Prophets, becoming one of them. It was also established at the beginning of the season that his real mother was a Prophet herself. He also doesn't seem to express much disdain over the fact that he is being forced to abandon Jake and his pregnant new wife Casidy Yates (Penny Johnson).
Some have hand-waved these weak points away by telling people to read the DS9 books which chronicle what happens after the finale, titled "What You Leave Behind." With that logic, though, Trek fans should be fine with the rotten death Kirk suffered in Star Trek: Generations (1994), since there are books which have Kirk coming back.
Despite a weak final season, DS9 proved a great addition to the Trek universe. One might ask, then, why it did not enter pop culture the way the original Trek series and TNG had done. I've heard many reasons for this including its space station setting, its serialized nature and even, unbelievably, the fact that its lead actor was black (the latter I read in an issue of the now-defunct Star Trek Communicator magazine).
I actually have my own theory on this matter. One of the people who would ensure that DS9 would churn out great TV was Ira Steven Behr, who began his association with Trek by being a producer on TNG from 1989-1990. He left that show due to his dissatisfaction with the direction TNG was going. But he was brought back into the Trek fold when DS9 was launched.
Once DS9 got going, though, it seemed that Behr took every opportunity to knock TNG whenever he promoted DS9. It was almost as if he was saying "TNG sucks! Watch DS9 instead!" Not liking TNG is one thing but basically criticizing the show that made your own possible is hardly the way to get people to embrace it.
Nevertheless, DS9's willingness to create its own identity should allow it to stand proudly alongside the previous two Trek series.

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