Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

Friday, February 27, 2015 14:41

Leonard Nimoy Dies At 83

Leonard Nimoy died this morning in his home. He was 83 years old and is survived by his wife, two children, and six grandchildren.

A few days before his passing, Nimoy shared his final public statement on twitter: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP [live long and prosper]”.

In honor of Nimoy, here’s my review of a classic Star Trek episode.

The Galileo Seven:

Spock commands a stranded away team after their shuttlecraft crashes on a planet with hostile giants.

Air date: 1/5/1967
Teleplay by Oliver Crawford and S. Bar-David
Story by Oliver Crawford
Directed by Robert Gist

Inspired by the 1939 disaster film Five Came Back and taking advantage of a new licensing deal with AMT, Star Trek gives us our first Mr. Spock character study, placing the Vulcan in command of an A story about him and his crew of six others trapped on a planet. Meanwhile, Kirk attempts to find the shuttle and its crew in the B story but is constantly reminded the Enterprise is needed elsewhere by High Commissioner Ferris, the authority figure of the week. It’s a classic Star Trek plot and a breakthrough episode for Leonard Nimoy, who was already finding his character before but finally gets to establish him here.

It all begins with the launch of a shuttlecraft, a setting introduced to the show courtesy of AMT (originally called Aluminum Model Toys) which agreed to build a miniature shuttle model, a lifesize exterior set, and even the interior set in exchange for merchandising rights. With this triple play, the writers are able to have the characters interact with the setting any way they want, and it provides Spock, McCoy and company with a great setting for rich character interplay as the story moves from inside to outside (the planet set) and back again. The basic idea behind the drama is that Spock assumes his step by step logical approach is the best way to command, but the others don’t trust his judgement. In the end, he’s not only fighting an external battle with the others to reaffirm his command but an internal battle with himself as he begins to question his own actions. (In fact, the real issue isn’t even about logic versus emotion but what it takes to make decisions and be a leader.) The beauty of the script is that it doesn’t provide easy answers or predictable outcomes to prove who’s right but continues to throw out curveballs throughout the episode, making us wonder throughout the episode just who does have the best idea. (There are times it’s easy to agree with Spock, but there are other times it’s just as easy to agree with someone else.)

But it’s Leonard Nimoy, for once getting an episode without “you know who” by his side, who makes the whole thing work. With a script that allows his character to make mistakes and learn from them, Nimoy plays up Spock’s stubbornness and self assured nature on the surface, layering it with a subtext of soul searching and self doubt. It’s this ability to create a facade while simultaneously letting us in that Nimoy does so well, and what makes Spock work. By the end of the episode, Spock’s character arc has played out under the surface, as if his Vulcan half is trying to disguise it from us, saying “Nothing to see here” while we see through it and admire him all the more for his humanity.

Meanwhile, Kirk orders searches for the shuttle from the bridge of the Enterprise, a B story that’s there partly to give William Shatner something to do and partly to serve as a ticking clock counting down to zero, personified by Ferris. When the mission does end, Kirk’s relief can come across as bizarre if you think about it. (Why doesn’t he wonder who has made it and who’s been left behind? And why doesn’t he ask if the missing crewman are still alive on the planet? And, come to think of it, if the Enterprise is so desperately needed elsewhere, why is he leaving at the leisurely speed of warp 1?)

But really, this isn’t a Kirk episode, and these are just issues for nitpickers. This is about Mr. Spock’s journey; the same Mr. Spock who always loses to Kirk in chess, because Spock’s logic ultimately loses to Kirk’s intuition. Here, it’s Spock who finds both to win his own game of chess by himself against the great unknown.

(All this said, I do wish the episode had a little more in it in defense of Spock’s logical approach. Mr. Boma’s assertion that they should hold funeral services seems rather boneheaded when time is of the essence and there are killer giants on the surface of the planet. In the end, the writers leave it to the audience to say, “Man, that Boma’s a jerk.” But it would be nice if McCoy or Scotty were to defend Spock a little more here.)

Remastered Version (2007): For this episode, CBS Digital lets their hair down and creates some new effects unlike anything seen before. The truth is that while the original effects were passable in 1966 (indeed, they are reused in subsequent episodes), they barely give enough visual information to make out what’s happening. The quasar is a blob. The planet within is a poorly colored version of the planet from “The Man Trap”, and the shuttles look like toys. (In fact, the trail the shuttle leaves near the end, a key story point, is barely visible.) For the new version, the quasar is distinct, the planet is properly shrouded, and the shuttles get the star treatment, complete with a new shuttle bay (and a much more visible trail). They even update the ship’s chronometer to match “The Naked Time” and “The Corbomite Maneuver”. In the end, with the new effects better telling the story, CBS turns an already great episode into a better one.

DS9 Reviews Part 45

Thursday, February 26, 2015 20:50

Welcome to another installment of my reviews for all 715 episodes of Star Trek. Today I continue with Deep Space Nine, season seven. I’m rating these episodes on a scale of 1 to 10 with the following meaning:

1. Abysmal, 2. Terrible, 3. Bad, 4. Poor, 5. Mediocre,
6. Fair, 7. Good, 8. Great, 9. Superb, 10. Perfect

In addition, I’ll be rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) the historical importance (HI) of the episodes – looking at how much they tie into other Star Trek episodes or lay down important precedents.

Penumbra: 6

When Worf goes missing, Dax takes matters into her own hands. Meanwhile, Sisko begins making plans for his future.

Air date: 4/5/1999
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Steve Posey

“I talked to Benjamin this morning. He said that according to the Koraga’s crew, Worf was the last one to leave the bridge. No one knows if he made it to the escape pod.” – Dax

DS9 starts up what it calls “the final chapter”, a nine part finale, with this Ezri/Worf romance episode that’s great for fans of the Daz/Worf relationship but a bit of a snoozer for everyone else.

Ezri and Worf get the A story, but it seems more like a Jadzia thing than an Ezri one. (If Terry Farrell was still with the show at this point, they could do the same plot.) It’s an “Out of the frying pan, into the fire” adventure away from the station, giving the two a chance to bicker and quarrel, and ending with… well, as it always does in this sort of thing. Joining the series so late, it’s a challenging for Nicole de Boer to establish Ezri as a beloved character even with the best of scripts, but having to deal with old Jadzia stuff doesn’t even give her a chance. Unfortunately, Michael Dorn is dealing with the opposite end of the spectrum. He’s played Worf in so many Star Trek episodes (holding the Star Trek record for most hours on screen) that it seems as though the writers have run out ideas for him, and they’re trying to return to the well once too often (or more).

The station-based B story, on the other hand, shows more promise, though it’s more abstract. Sisko and Kasidy decide to get married, but Sisko’s status as Emissary complicates the situation. It’s a lot of fun to see Sisko so excited about his future beyond Deep Space Nine and undeniable that some interesting things are going to happen no matter how it all turns out.

Meanwhile, there’s some exposition from Cardassia, where The Dominion, Damar, and Dukat begin to set some new schemes in motion.

As the opener of a multi-part finale, it’s easy to give the episode a pass; it’s not meant to pay anything off, it’s meant to set stories in motion. But with old Jadzia/Worf issues forming its spine, as an episode on its own it’s underwhelming.

HI: 7

‘Til Death Do Us Part: 6

Sisko agonizes over whether to marry Kasidy.

Air date: 4/12/1999
Written by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

“If you do this, you will know only sorrow.” – the Prophets

Providing the characters with an episode to discuss their issues with each other and come to decisions, “’Til Death” doesn’t do much to advance the storylines but lays the foundation for the episodes to come.

Sisko gets the weightiest matter, with his heart telling him to marry Kasidy and the prophets saying otherwise. The subject matter plays to Brooks’s strengths, with Sisko having an internal struggle; unsure what the right choice is to make… or if there even is one.

Meanwhile, Worf and Ezri spend the episode in a Breen holding cell, giving them plenty of opportunity to continue their bickering in a repetitive plot line that doesn’t really go anywhere but circles. The idea works for Waiting for Godot because the circular nature of the story includes subtle variations to sustain interest. Here, however, it’s just a stall that draws attention to the fact that these two characters have no chemistry together.

As for the “evil forces”, the Dominion continues to plot (giving Jeffrey Combs an opportunity to steal a scene) but isn’t yet in position to press the Federation. The most perverse (and interesting) plotline, however, sees Dukat, disguised as a Bajoran, courting Kai Winn and winning her heart (appropriately enough) through falsehoods. Proving the DS9 writers are a sick, twisted bunch (which is great, by the way), the sequence of scenes between the two just gets creepier and creepier as it moves along. Still, DS9 gets ahead of itself with this particular thread, starting up the Dukat/Winn stuff (by their admission) too soon, leading to some stalling in later episodes. Looking back, “Penumbra” and “’Til Death” would be better if they were combined into one fast moving episode focusing on Sisko, with the Dukat/Winn situation postponed for later. As is, “’Til Death” is sort of like sitting in a waiting room.

HI: 7

Strange Bedfellows: 7.5

While the Dominion and the Breen negotiate an alliance, Ezri and Worf are sentenced to death.

Air date: 4/19/1999
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Rene Auberjonois

“The alliance between the Breen Confederacy and the Dominion will end the destructive war that has torn this quadrant apart. With the Breen at our side, the Federation will not be able to stand against us.” – Changeling leader

With a focus on the antagonists, this piece of the nine-part “Final Chapter” is an exciting look at one character turning to the “dark side”, another experiencing a rebirth, and another experiencing a quick death.

In the roles of Anakin Skywalker and Chancellor Palpatine we have Kai Winn and Dukat, with Winn struggling to reject the power evil offers. (And really, does it get any more evil than the two of them getting it on?) With Winn’s history and the Marc Alaimo’s consistently strong performances, it would be easy for the writers to turn this into a “Dukat moment”, where the Cardassian wins her heart just as easily as he wins his followers (if temporarily) that appear in “Covenant”. But instead, Ron Moore wisely uses Dukat as merely a supporting player and sets the episode on Louise Fletcher’s shoulders, giving her an internal struggle which ties together all the sympathetic and not so nice things we’ve learned about her over the years.

At the same time, the writers (with Behr, Beimler, and Echevarria finishing the script after Moore’s wife unexpectedly went into labor a month early) also effectively mine the history between Weyoun and Damar from previous seasons, giving the two some terrific scenes to drive the other half of the plot. (There’s also the climax of the Worf/Dax storyline that begins as a comedy runner before finally getting the point.)

It’s all exposition for future episodes, of course, and the writers don’t really need a full episode to show us how all these characters, most notably Winn and Damar, have arrived at their decisions. (Indeed, originally this episode was to include Sisko’s wedding, but it was shifted into the previous episode late in the game.) But in this case, there’s something more exciting about seeing the decisions drawn out. The fun isn’t seeing what choices the characters make; it’s seeing how they arrive at them. And the episode is another of many that shows how even the secondary characters of DS9 are important enough to be treated respectfully by the writers.

For Rene Auberjonois, helming his eighth and last Star Trek episode, it’s a heck of way to finish off his time in the director’s chair.

HI: 7

The Changing Face of Evil: 8.5

As the Breen ally with the Dominion and attack the Federation, Kai Winn begins to read forbidden texts about the Pah-wraiths.

Air date: 4/26/1999
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Mike Vejar

“Abandon ship. You heard me. Everyone get to the escape pods now!” – Sisko

Living up to its title, the fourth part of “The Final Chapter” is a game-changer that puts a cap of sorts on the first block of episodes of the nine part finale (four episodes written together and coincidentally usually appearing on one DVD disc) while also leaving a cliffhanger for the remaining episodes to follow up upon.

Full of bold strokes and political intrigue, “Changing Face” finally brings several plot lines to their breaking points, balancing its big war story with small, personal moments. With fast-paced scenes that give each character (not named Jake) at least one moment to shine, each of the regulars get a chance to contribute, including an exciting battle with unexpected consequences stuck right in the middle. But the real substance of the episode lies with Kai Winn and Dukat on Bajor and Damar and Weyoun on Cardassia. “Strange Bedfellows” shows us Winn and Damar coming to decisions. This one shows us the consequences. The beauty of it lies in the reactions, whether it be Winn coming to terms with herself, or Weyoun coming to terms with the new Damar. (Combs’s icy look is priceless.)

Being stuck in the middle of a giant multi parter, “Changing Face” is easy to overlook when reflecting upon the season and the series as a whole, but stands up with some of DS9’s best work and gives “The Final Chapter” the kick in the pants it needs.

HI: 8

DS9 Reviews Part 44

Saturday, February 14, 2015 23:48
Comments closed

Welcome to another installment of my reviews for all 715 episodes of Star Trek. Today I continue with Deep Space Nine, season seven. I’m rating these episodes on a scale of 1 to 10 with the following meaning:

1. Abysmal, 2. Terrible, 3. Bad, 4. Poor, 5. Mediocre,
6. Fair, 7. Good, 8. Great, 9. Superb, 10. Perfect

In addition, I’ll be rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) the historical importance (HI) of the episodes – looking at how much they tie into other Star Trek episodes or lay down important precedents.

Field of Fire: 5

After several crew members are murdered, Ezri summons the memories and personality of Joran Dax to help her find the murderer.

Air date: 2/8/1999
Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Tony Dow

“You want to find out who killed Ilario, don’t you? Then what are you waiting for? Perform the Rite of Emergence and just ask for my help, and then we can get to work.” – Joran

This Ezri Dax episode, written by the former writing partner of Ira Steven Behr, is a dark murder mystery with an emphasis on Joran, a former host of Dax introduced in third season’s “Equilibrium”.

Its premise, somewhat in the spirit of Showtime’s Dexter series, is that no one can understand a serial killer like a serial killer, necessitating sweet Ezri summoning a part of her she generally buries. It’s quite a recharacterization of Joran, who in “Equilibrium” is presented as a troubled musician with a violent temper who killed someone out of anger, as well as Dax, who in the same episode accepts Joran into her life. Joran here, played by a much older different actor (Leigh J. McCloskey), is presented as a thrill seeking murderer who wants to manipulate Ezri into killing strangers for sport.

The investigation itself plays out slowly to build the suspense, though Wolfe does layer it with an interesting new weapon concept that allows director Tony Dow (“Wally” from Leave it to Beaver) to create some interesting x-ray visuals for its scope (I’m not really sure, however, why Odo needs to wear goggles to see a demonstration of it, considering the shapeshifter doesn’t even have real eyes.) In the end, Joran proves rather useless, though it’s Ezri (and Wolfe) who insult a whole planet, insisting that anyone who doesn’t like seeing people smile must be from there, leading to a final confrontation and some answers.

It’s all a rather dreary mess that does Nicole de Boer no favors.

HI: 2

Chimera: 7

Odo meets another of the hundred Changelings who were sent out to explore the galaxy.

Air date: 2/15/1999
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Steve Posey

“I don’t want to see you make the same mistakes I made. You’re wasting your time trying to be a humanoid. You’re limiting yourself. Let’s leave here, Odo. Let’s find the others. A hundred were sent away, and they’re out there somewhere. If we can find even a few of them, we can form a new Link. Think of it, Odo. We can exist the way we were meant to. As changelings.” – Laas

Taking its title from Greek mythology, this quiet, character-based Odo episode uses a long lost Changeling as a figurative mirror for Odo to look into and reflect upon himself. (In a non-figurative sense, the new Changeling is a real jerk.) As Odo begins soul-searching, he once again starts to waffle about what he really wants, which is really the point of the story. (It is a bit odd to see him go on about “Changelings” getting no respect, when he’s always been given respect by both sets of humanoids he’s worked for on the station; but it is true that no one has cared as much as him about other Changelings. Probably because of how the Founders act!)

Guest star “Garman Hertzler” (J.G. Hertzler) is fine as Odo’s new pal (using a completely different voice than his usual General Martok gravel), but this one is really carried by Auberjonois, who teams up with Echevarria to point Odo in the direction he needs to be to finish the series. In fact, Odo could really use a counselor here, and yet it’s one of the few episodes the season without Ezri!

HI: 4

Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang: 8

When holographic mobsters assume control of Vic Fontaine’s lounge, Bashir, O’Brien, and others plot to run Vic’s rival out of business and restore the program to normal.

Air date: 2/22/1999
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Mike Vejar

“I just talked to Felix. I know what’s been affecting Vic’s programme. It’s a jack in the box.” – Dr. Bashir

Star Trek does Ocean’s Eleven two years before the George Clooney film (which would mean more if the episode didn’t happen 39 years after the Rat Pack original) in this ensemble caper episode that gives the DS9 cast another chance to cut loose and have some fun.

With a flimsy premise that’s another variation of the old malfunctioning holodeck idea, even the writers know the audience is going to have to suspend its belief more than usual. (They do help themselves by establishing that only a holographic character is at risk, which is easier to swallow than a real person… though the episode’s promotional spot is artfully edited to make it sound like everyone is in danger.) But like “Our Man, Bashir” and “Take Me Out to the Holosuite”, the plot itself is secondary; what this one is really about is a chance to get the cast into some new clothes and to do something left of center for the franchise.

Veteran character actor Robert Miano stars as Frankie Eyes, the episode’s heavy, which would seem like an opportunity for hamminess, though Miano (apparently taking this a little too seriously) plays it straight. With Mike Starr as his right hand man Cicci, and 89 year old Marc Lawrence as his boss, Mr. Zeemo, however, there’s plenty of scene stealing performances. (In fact, the replacement accountant, played by a “Bobby Reilly”, is pretty good in his own right. Maybe they should turn him into a Klingon leader or something.)

Perhaps the most notable character in the whole deal, however, is Sisko. Used initially as an audience surrogate for those who dislike Vic Fontaine, he’s ultimately won over and steals the show at the end with a special coda stuck in by the writers to show off his talents and send a message to the fans about the last few episodes of the series.

It’s all tied together by Jay Chattaway’s score, a throwback to the 60s with classics like “Night Train” thrown in that perfectly matches the old style cinematography.

All in all, it’s not something DS9 would want to do every week (especially since it’s one of the most expensive episodes of the season), but for a breather before the big war stuff that’s upcoming, it’s a lot of fun.

HI: 1

Inter Arma Enim Silent Legas: 7.5

Attending a medical conference on Romulus, Dr. Bashir becomes embroiled in an elaborate scheme devised by the mysterious Section 31.

Air date: 3/1/1999
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by David Livingston

“Let’s make a deal, Doctor; I’ll spare you the end-justifies-the-means speech, and you spare me the we-must-do-what’s-right speech. You and I are not going to see eye to eye on this subject. so I suggest we stop discussing it. This mission is reconnaissance.” – Sloan

With a title that’s Latin for, “In the presence of arms, the laws grow silent”, this Bashir spy episode is a sequel of sorts to season six’s “Inquisition”, bringing back special guest star William Sadler as Sloan. In a way, it’s vintage Ron Moore, with a storyline that’s meticulously laid out and sci fi that’s made understandable and relatable. In another way, it feels like Chris Carter’s X-Files, insinuating a lot going on offstage and playing up the paranoia. Either way, it feels like we’re in the hands of a good storyteller who knows what’s he’s doing.

Like Thompson and Weddle’s “Inquisition”, Moore is sure to give Sadler a meaty part, finding a way for Sloan to accompany Bashir on the mission. He also uses Barry Jenner well as Admiral Ross, giving him his first one on one scenes with Alexander Fadil. Meanwhile, Adrienne Barbeau replaces Megan Cole as Romulan Senator Cretak, redefining the part in a more sympathetic light. With new characters introduced (most notably, Romulan Senator Koval, generically played by John Fleck) and much of the episode taking place on Romulus, there’s always a sense of tension in the air, with the multitude of characters scheming behind the scenes leaving Bashir unsure whom to trust. As the plot spirals out of control and gets really crazy, it’s tempting to believe it’s all another elaborate mindgame by Section 31, but to the episode’s credit, it doesn’t take this easy way out and delivers a satisfying conclusion instead.

Supervising Producer David Livingston, directing his last of seventeen DS9 episodes, does a great job of fleshing it all out, even borrowing Voyager’s sets as a stand-in for her sister ship, the Bellerophon, showing off the advantage to having a sister show.

As with “Inquisition”, the end result proves entertaining enough to warrant a sequel. And sure enough, William Sadler returns to reprise Sloan for the final time in “Extreme Measures” later in the seventh season. Truth be told, however, “Inter Arma” is probably his best episode.

HI: 3

DS9 Reviews Part 43

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 20:41
Comments closed

Welcome to another installment of my reviews for all 715 episodes of Star Trek. Today I continue with Deep Space Nine, season seven. I’m rating these episodes on a scale of 1 to 10 with the following meaning:

1. Abysmal, 2. Terrible, 3. Bad, 4. Poor, 5. Mediocre,
6. Fair, 7. Good, 8. Great, 9. Superb, 10. Perfect

In addition, I’ll be rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) the historical importance (HI) of the episodes – looking at how much they tie into other Star Trek episodes or lay down important precedents.

Covenant: 7.5

Air date: 11/23/1998
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by John Kretchmer

Kira is abducted by a Bajoran cult led by Dukat.

“You believe the Prophets are the true Gods of Bajor. I believe the Pah-wraiths are. Let’s just leave it at that.” – Vedek

Dukat is back for another Kira episode about the two at odds. Turns out that the Cardassian has done a pretty good job of making a copy of all he’s lost. Taking over Deep Space Nine’s abandoned sister station, Empok Nor, he’s become the head of a cult of Bajorans that worships the Pah-wraiths. In a way, it’s better than his time as head of Deep Space Nine; he has no superiors, and the Bajorans love him. The only thing missing from his fantasy life is Kira, whom he fetches (or abducts, depending upon your choice of words) to begin the episode. And with that, we’re off and rolling.

Like he does in TNG’s “Birthright Part 2″, Rene Echevarria sketches out the characters and layers them into the battle of wills between the protagonist and cult leader. But whereas Birthright is more like a prison escape story, this episode draws from the Heaven’s Gate Cult (which ironically borrowed from Star Trek, with members, including Nichelle Nichol’s brother, wearing “Away Team” patches when they committed suicide in 1997). Kira sees the group descending into madness but is powerless to stop it.

Mark Alaimo, of course, chews the scenery and is great as Dukat; but it’s Norman Parker with an outstanding performance as Vedek Fala who really anchors the episode.

Unfortunately, Echevarria’s exploration of cult life (and death) must fit inside the hour (with time for commercials too), limiting his plot points and forcing a quick conclusion. But even if the ideas are oversimplified, the issues of the cult mind that are addressed here make for interesting television.

HI: 3

It’s Only a Paper Moon : 7.5

After being injured in battle, Nog seeks shelter in a holosuite within the fictional world of Vic Fontaine.

Air date: 12/28/1998
Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore
Story by David Mack & John J. Ordover
Directed by Anson Williams

“Can I stay with you?” – Nog

With a title referring to an old jazz standard (originally a 1933 Broadway number) about a fake backdrop, this Nog and Vic Fontaine episode is direct followup to “The Siege of AR-558″ with Nog’s mental recovery (lagging behind his physical recovery) taking place in Vic’s fictitious holosuite world.

It’s a fun use of Vic the hologram, giving the lounge singer his own little story about what’s it’s like to finally live a full life as opposed to having his world turned on and off each day (something more fully explored with the Doctor in Voyager). But the meat and potatoes of the episode lies with Nog, allowing Aron Eisenberg to carry the show for the first time with a story that Star Trek hasn’t really done before. The idea of post-traumatic stress disorder immediately brings the military to mind, but physical stress can cause mental stress in all walks of life and is something even civilians identify with. When someone becomes ill or injured and can’t work, or a student misses significant time at school, or someone suffers a great loss, it’s not always easy to jump back on the horse and carry on, even with no threat to life. An injury, absence, or traumatic event can crush the spirit, and emotional recovery can be as painful as physical therapy. Feelings of inadequacy and anger surface, and facing everyday life once again becomes a daunting task. Fictional universes are a tempting escape because they offer a place of interest that’s disconnected from the real world, with no reminders of real problems or tragedies past and present. So people lose themselves in worlds online, or in music and books, or even films and television shows. (And yes, there’s more than a bit of irony for just such a kind of entertainment providing a forum to explore the issue.) This sort of escapism is even more extreme than Barclay’s “Walter Mitty” fantasies, because instead of being an occasional diversion or being woven from reality, it’s a complete bail-out, with all connections to the real world cast away. The end result is like the ending of Shane, the 1953 Western on television that Nog questions: there are no real consequences. There is no real life.

Aron Eisenberg handles it all like a pro, and James Darren works well with him. But it’s Nicole de Boer who sneaks in the back door and gives the episode a lift as Counselor Ezri Dax. Unlike “Afterimage” where Garak’s problem seems manufactured by the writers for her benefit, Nog’s problem brings Dax into the fold more organically and even opens the door for her to counsel Vic, albeit more subtly (which is all the better). This time, (with apologies to Echevarria), the writer gets her dialogue right and create a believable therapist as a result.

All that said, while this is Aron Eisenberg’s magna opus, it is just an hour of Nog moping and “Moon” isn’t going to crack any top ten lists. (And sadly, while Nog indicates he likes The Searchers, he doesn’t mention how much John Wayne’s sidekick looks like a young Captain Pike.)

HI: 5

Prodigal Daughter: 6

Ezri returns to her home to ask her family’s help in finding Chief O’Brien, who disappeared while searching for the widow of a dead friend.

Air date: 1/4/1999
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Victor Lobl

“I’m not suggesting anything, but you have to face the possibility that somebody in your family may have been involved in her death.” – O’Brien

This Ezri Dax family character study tucks in a followup to sixth season’s “Honor Among Thieves”, with Dax and O’Brien visiting Ezri’s home planet. Most of the story revolves around Ezri and her family, playing out like a soap opera, with internal friction and self righteous characters giving each other speeches. The plot itself becomes almost secondary, and it’s certainly not necessary to know anything about “Honor Among Thieves” to understand it.

Leigh Taylor-Young heads the fine guest cast, playing Ezri’s mother, and she establishes from the outset that her character needs to be in control of everything. That includes her son, Norvo (Kevin Rahm) who is constantly made to feel in adequate and doesn’t know achieve his dreams. It also includes, to a lesser extent, her other son, Janel, who shows more promise running the family business. But when O’Brien makes it clear that someone is hiding something, the episode turns into a “whodunnit”. (Well, truth be told it’s more of a “who cares?” for those of us wanting to get back to Deep Space Nine and more familiar characters.)

Shooting began with a rushed script and ended with a result that’s considered the weakest episode of the seventh season by the cast and crew. It’s actually not that bad; it’s just underwhelming. What they should have done was beef up O’Brien’s part with the Orion Syndicate and turn the whole thing into a two parter. But they would have had to plan ahead better for that, and the truth is they were just trying to get something out there to meet their airdate.

HI: 2

The Emperor’s New Cloak: 6

When Grand Nagus Zek is kidnapped in the “mirror universe”, Quark and Rom attempt a rescue operation.

Air date: 2/1/1999
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by LeVar Burton

“You’re probably wondering how I got here well, you’re going to have to keep on wondering, because I don’t have time to tell you. You see, I’m in a bit of trouble. I’m being held prisoner by the Alliance and I’m going to need you to help me regain my freedom.” – Grand Nagus Zek, in a message to Quark

It’s once more unto the mirror universe with this Ferengi comedy featuring Quark and Rom. We might as well throw out the rating system and intelligent analysis because it’s clear from the outset that the plot (such as there is) is just an excuse for the cast to cut loose and have some fun (and to get Nicole de Boer in a leather costume).

With Zek, Vic Fontaine, Brunt, Garak, and most of the regulars getting their moments to play against expectations, the story emphasizes the comedy of its preposterous nature, completely self aware that the alternate universe makes no sense. (In fact, it uses the cloaking device as a MacGuffin under the theory that the mirror universe doesn’t have the technology, despite previous episodes establishing that it does.)

No matter, it’s all in good fun, and director Burton (doing his second episode in a row with mirror universe characters) ensures that no moment is played too seriously. But it is a bit of a shame that DS9, throughout the course of the series, increasingly sees this setting as only a backdrop for silliness.

The mirror universe comes back into play in a more serious way with Enterprise’s two parter “In a Mirror, Darkly”. As for “Emperor’s New Cloak”, it’s the last DS9 episode to visit the alternate reality and is dedicated to Jerome Bixby, the writer of the original “Mirror, Mirror” episode, who died in April of 1998.

HI: 3

DS9 Reviews Part 42

Sunday, January 25, 2015 23:48
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Welcome to another installment of my reviews for all 715 episodes of Star Trek. Today I continue with Deep Space Nine, season seven. I’m rating these episodes on a scale of 1 to 10 with the following meaning:

1. Abysmal, 2. Terrible, 3. Bad, 4. Poor, 5. Mediocre,
6. Fair, 7. Good, 8. Great, 9. Superb, 10. Perfect

In addition, I’ll be rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) the historical importance (HI) of the episodes – looking at how much they tie into other Star Trek episodes or lay down important precedents.

Chrysalis: 6.5

Jack, Lauren, Patrick, and Sarina, the genetically-engineered Humans, return to the station, asking Bashir to help rouse Sarina from her cataleptic state.

Air date: 10/26/1998
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Jonathan West

“So what’s a genetically enhanced girl supposed to do when she wakes up from a long sleep? Point to one of those specks of light out there, pack a bag, and go make a life for herself?” – Sarina

This Bashir episode, a sequel to sixth season’s “Statistical Improbabilities”, is a character based story reminiscent of “Flowers for Algernon” that’s predictable but sweet. The “Jack Pack” returns (with a hilarious first scene that shows how easy it is to impersonate an admiral), although Faith C. Salie had to audition all over again for Sarina, the nonspeaking member of genetically enhanced group she played the first time around who this time speaks, sings, and drives the story forward. Fortunately, she proved herself up to the task to the producers (because God knows DS9 has no reluctance to recast), and she returns to give an impressive performance. Her innocence is refreshing and her rebirth leaves a lot of territory to be mined by the writers. How will she integrate into society? How will she adapt to social situations? How will she deal with people who lie, cheat, and bully? Will Counselor Dax help her? The writers, however, choose not to dig very deep and keep the story somewhat simple, uneventful, and forgettable. It’s a bit of a shame, because the actress, despite debuting in “Statistical Improbabilities” as little more than an extra, seems capable of being much more than being a plot device for lonely Dr. Bashir.

HI: 3

Treachery, Faith and the Great River: 8

Odo finds himself caught in the middle between two Weyouns.

Teleplay by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
Story by Philip Kim
Directed by Steve Posey

“I don’t think the universe is ready for two Weyouns.” – Odo

More or less a Jeffrey Combs vehicle, this variation of the “evil twin” idea features two new Weyouns (Combs), with one, of course, being evil and the other being good (which makes him a dangerous rebel in the eyes of the Dominion).

Good Weyoun gets the A story with Odo, a variation of the old “Sheriff taking the prisoner from point A to Point B” tale, which, as usual, allows for a lot of conversation. Auberjonois and Combs work well together, and after some character-building banter, the writers give them something of particular interest to talk about that will factor into the future of the season. (There’s also a nice effects sequence with their shuttle that’s reminiscent of the Millennium Falcon’s trip through the asteroid belt.)

Meanwhile, the other Weyoun works with Damar (Casey Biggs) to stop Odo from reaching the Federation with his prisoner. Combs and Biggs are also particularly good together, better than Combs and Alaimo (which is probably the chief reason Damar has displaced his former leader). Biggs has an at ease style that works well with Combs’s paranoid persona. As the two interact, Damar introduces Weyoun to a form of trickery new to the Dominion, and it’s fun to see Weyoun head down the slippery slope and wonder where he’ll land.

The C story is a comedy runner with Nog and Chief O’Brien that’s really just a redo of Nog’s scavenger hunts in “Progress” and “In the Cards”. Despite that, the story works fine because it’s mostly about O’Brien’s reactions to Nog’s offscreen actions (with Colm Meany having the best facial expressions), and it’s short enough to avoid overstaying its welcome.

All three stories are nicely interwoven, giving the episode a nice balance between the comedy and drama. As they build toward their resolutions, savvy viewers will probably guess how each thread will end, but that’s because there’s only one way each can end. Nonetheless, “Treachery, Faith and the Great River” is a clever title for a fun hour of television.

HI: 5

Once More Unto the Breach: 8

The old Klingon warrior Kor finds his efforts to play a part in the Dominion war stymied by General Martok.

Air date: 11/9/1998
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Allan Kroeker

“Know this Worf, Kor is your responsibility. I want nothing to do with him.” – General Martok

This Klingon episode featuring Worf and Martok is most notable for being the last appearance of Kor (John Colicos), Star Trek’s first Klingon, whose roots go back to the original series episode “Errand of Mercy”. (He also appears in the animated series, voiced by James Doohan.) Taking place largely aboard a Klingon Bird of Prey, the substance of “Once More” is hardly anything new for Klingons; we get the petty bickering, mess hall insults, a battle, and the required variation of “a good day to die”. But working its way through all the old clichés, the plot is a thing of beauty that’s well written by Ron Moore and nicely performed by the cast.

Like “Soldiers of the Empire”, the point of the episode is to set up an underdog for an elusive victory. But this time it’s more personal, because it’s not about a ship, it’s about Kor. John Colicos, in his third DS9 episode, does a magnificent job closing the door on the famous Dahar Master before his own passing in March of 2000. Meanwhile, J.G. Hertzler nearly steals the show, playing Martok with such gravitas you’d swear he’s the one who once went toe to toe with Captain Kirk. Like in “Soldiers”, Martok serves as a bit of an antagonist, but whereas there his motivation there is unclear, here he gets a well written back story that allows us to understand where he’s coming from.

But it’s Neil Vipond as Derok, Martok’s servant, who proves the biggest surprise. Vipond doesn’t have a lot of screentime early, and it’s easy to dismiss him as unimportant, but he does the most with the least, setting up his importance later with a subtlety that’s easy to miss the first time around.

Throw in Michael Dorn, bringing his umpteen years of experience as Worf to the table, and you get a Klingon episode that, in the spirit of Henry V, goes once more into the breach and savors the fruit of victory.

HI: 5

The Siege of AR-558: 8

During a supply run to a small planet, Sisko and some of his people help Starfleet defend a subspace relay (AR-558) from the Dominion.

Air date: 11/16/1998
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

“There’s only one order, lieutenant. We hold.” – Sisko

In the spirit of Zulu (1964), Platoon (1986) and Saving Private Ryan (1998), DS9 presents this ground-based battle story featuring Sisko, some of his people and several guest stars. Similar to “Nor the Battle to the Strong” (and, like that, taking place largely in the cave set), it’s gritty, depressing, and sometimes doesn’t make a lot of sense. In other words, it’s a lot like war.

Directed by Vietnam Veteran Winrich Kolbe, the story takes place on a small planet where a demoralized group is defending a MacGuffin. Sisko takes over as the military leader, often voicing his thoughts to Quark who has tagged along to please the Nagus (and because the writers want him there as a civilian surrogate). Nog, Bashir, and Dax are also included (also chosen by the writers because of their lack of battle experience) and as the story moves along, the regulars become entangled with the guest stars. Bill Mumy (who played Will Robinson on Lost in Space as a child and Lennier on Babylon 5 as an adult), guest stars as Kellin, a good natured crewman, while Patrick Kilpatrick plays Reese, a tough guy, and Raymond Cruz plays Vargas, an officer suffering deep psychological trauma. They’re all one time appearances, but its clear these aren’t people who will suddenly be okay at the end of the hour, and these aren’t situations that will suddenly be forgotten next week. While DS9 will move on to tell other stories, the trauma of what is essential a mini war movie is something that lives on far past its screen time. It’s the sort of Star Trek episode only Deep Space Nine could do, because of all the captains only Sisko would get his hands so dirty.

Scored by Paul Baillargeon, the music serves the episode like Adagio for Strings serves Platoon, a melancholy overlay that enhances the action through its disconnection. It’s a fitting choice, because the episode itself, like Adagio for Strings, is not intended to be enjoyable. In the end, the various elements come together to create what the writers are really shooting for: poignancy.

DS9 Reviews Part 41

Thursday, January 15, 2015 20:56
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Welcome to another installment of my reviews for all 715 episodes of Star Trek. Today I begin Deep Space Nine, season seven. I’m rating these episodes on a scale of 1 to 10 with the following meaning:

1. Abysmal, 2. Terrible, 3. Bad, 4. Poor, 5. Mediocre,
6. Fair, 7. Good, 8. Great, 9. Superb, 10. Perfect

In addition, I’ll be rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) the historical importance (HI) of the episodes – looking at how much they tie into other Star Trek episodes or lay down important precedents.

Image in the Sand: 8.5

Sisko tries to regain contact with the Prophets.

Air date: 9/28/1998
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Les Landau

“I came back here to clear my head. To try to figure out what to do next. Maybe learning the truth about my mother is the first step of this journey.” – Sisko

Featuring one of Star Trek’s longest teasers (clocking in at over eight minutes), “Image” breaks the tradition of loud, action oriented season openers and instead gives viewers an introspective, character-based hour with four separate storylines and no resolution.

The centerpiece, naturally, is the show’s leading man, with Avery Brooks stepping back into the same Sisko we closed season six with: a lost man who has come home to search for a direction. With a little help from (and a connection between) the Prophets and his family, he finds one. The idea behind it is bold but makes quite a bit of sense: with the Prophets existing outside of time, Sisko’s connection to them should not be bound to the present but should also include the past and the future. In the short term, by crafting this dynamic in an abstract way, the writers create mystery and intrigue. In the longterm, they subconsciously make the entire tapestry of his life more understandable and his story more powerful. It’s heady stuff, but it comes across well here and (pardon the human idea) in the future, with Brooks eschewing his usual dramatic acting and internalizing just about everything instead. His plot threat ends here with the introduction of a new character; and it’s curious that it doesn’t have any connection to the other events of the episode; but that makes it all the more of a pleasant surprise as it plays out as a poignant and underplayed moment itself.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 17:25
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Well, I saw the film, and I enjoyed it. There are characters who don’t appear in LOTR that don’t really have resolutions to their stories, so I regretted that a little, but maybe the extended edition will touch on that. Also, I feel the film lacks the punch of Revenge of the Sith and Return of the King, which really are great finales, but “Battle” doesn’t disappoint. Lots of it is straight from the book, and it’s quite fun to see pure Tolkien on the big screen. I’d say the characters the film focuses on in order are: Thorin, Bilbo, Bard, Gandalf, Azog and Thranduil, with the rest (including Legolas, Tauriel, and Bolg) getting less screen-time. The story is a bit drawn out, but there aren’t too many slow spots. Billy Boyd’s closing number is very pretty and a nice way to end this second journey.

Still, I miss that high from seeing The Return of the King for the first time and kind of wish this was more in the ballpark. At least I have LOTR on Blu-ray so I can reminisce. And when I watch both trilogies back to back, it will all end with ROTK.

DS9 Reviews Part 40

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 20:06
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Welcome to another installment of my reviews for all 715 episodes of Star Trek. Today I continue with Deep Space Nine, season six, finishing the season. I’m rating these episodes on a scale of 1 to 10 with the following meaning:

1. Abysmal, 2. Terrible, 3. Bad, 4. Poor, 5. Mediocre,
6. Fair, 7. Good, 8. Great, 9. Superb, 10. Perfect

In addition, I’ll be rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) the historical importance (HI) of the episodes – looking at how much they tie into other Star Trek episodes or lay down important precedents.

Time’s Orphan: 4

An accident sends the O’Briens’ daughter back through a time portal three hundred years into the past into an uninhabited world. Beamed back too late, Molly returns to the present eighteen years old with no immediate recollection of her life or her family.

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DS9 Reviews Part 39

Friday, December 5, 2014 14:05
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Welcome to another installment of my reviews for all 715 episodes of Star Trek. Today I continue with Deep Space Nine, season six, finishing the season. I’m rating these episodes on a scale of 1 to 10 with the following meaning:

1. Abysmal, 2. Terrible, 3. Bad, 4. Poor, 5. Mediocre,
6. Fair, 7. Good, 8. Great, 9. Superb, 10. Perfect

In addition, I’ll be rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) the historical importance (HI) of the episodes – looking at how much they tie into other Star Trek episodes or lay down important precedents.

His Way: 7

Odo consults Vic Fontaine, a holographic lounge singer, about his relationship with Kira.

Air date: 4/20/1998
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Allan Kroeker

“Look, pally, you want to win the girl, we’ve got to thaw you out a little.” – Vic

Late in the series, DS9 fearlessly introduces yet another recurring character in this Odo episode taking its title from Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”. James Darren, an old friend of the Rat Pack, steps into the shoes of Vic Fontaine, a self-aware holographic lounge singer with an intuitive understanding of relationships. Like Joe Piscopo teaching Data about comedy in TNG’s “Outrageous Okona”, Vic takes Odo under his wing and shows him how to cut loose and win Kira’s heart. Auberjonois hams it up, and Visitor gets to perform a sexy song (which she does quite well), creating the light-hearted story needed to follow up the drama of “Inquisition” and “Moonlight”. It’s one of Star Trek’s better romantic comedies, and – with full length musical performances – it’s the only Star Trek episode to ever get an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Music Direction.

Darren himself, playing Fontaine after Rene Goulet, Tom Jones, Jerry Vale, and Frank Sinatra Jr. declined the part, proves a breath of fresh air in the series and returns for seven more episodes, starting with the sixth season finale, “Tears of the Prophets”.

HI: 5

The Reckoning: 6.5

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DS9 Reviews Part 38

Thursday, December 4, 2014 14:01
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Welcome to another installment of my reviews for all 715 episodes of Star Trek. Today I continue with Deep Space Nine, season six. I’m rating these episodes on a scale of 1 to 10 with the following meaning:

1. Abysmal, 2. Terrible, 3. Bad, 4. Poor, 5. Mediocre,
6. Fair, 7. Good, 8. Great, 9. Superb, 10. Perfect

In addition, I’ll be rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) the historical importance (HI) of the episodes – looking at how much they tie into other Star Trek episodes or lay down important precedents.

Change of Heart: 6

Dax and Worf bicker over where to spend their honeymoon, finally settling on a dangerous trip through a jungle to rescue a Cardassian defector.

Air date: 3/2/1998
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by David Livingston

“How are you enjoying your honeymoon? Are you suffering enough?” – Dax

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