Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Star Trek Deep Space Nine (Season 2b)

 Season 2a  Season 3a

The second half of the second season of “Deep Space Nine” is really good. The writers continue to tackle important issues, but remember to build compelling stories around them. Some of their plots aim far too high for even Sci-fi suspension of disbelief; but they create enough fun that we are willing to give them some benefit of the doubt. They also continue to take advantage of their unique (for Trek) circumstances and let the political intrigue build and use recurring characters to great effect.

Episode 14. “Whispers”

This is one of those more “Twilight Zone-y” storylines that Trek occasionally tries to tell, with mixed results. It also may be the most successfully executed one they have told. It is precisely because you know where they are going every step of the way that they really surprise you with the way things work out.

Episode 15. “Paradise”

One thing that DS9 is becoming very good at is telling this sort of story. It gets every possible perspective on an issue riled up because it manages to expose every side’s weaknesses and flaws. In the end you don’t know whether to cheer for the side that wins or the side that losses. Either way, if you let yourself, you have a lot to think about.

In this case we have the case of someone tricking a group of people into living by their own personal philosophy and beliefs. It is a fairly basic presentation of the way a religion can be created and used to control a society. It shows the evil nature of such a religious system; one that is forced upon people against their will and that deceives them at the same time. However, in this case some of its goals and ideals are actually positive and some choose to follow those ideals without the religious trappings once they are exposed.

Episode 16. “Shadowplay”

This story should have been a lot darker than it was. We have a man lost in escapism, but instead of returning to reality, as he knows he should, he has our heroes convincing him that his imaginary diversions have a right to life. A lot of video game addicts probably stood up and cheered when they saw this episode.

Episode 17. “Playing God”

This episode asks us to buy the conceit that a totally new universe, yes universe, is born in ours. It doesn’t make sense, but they have to save our universe without destroying the new one. One begins to think that Trek is in danger of fighting for the rights of the common cold.

Episode 18. “Profit and Loss”

We get “Casablanca” ala Trek.

Episode 19. “Blood Oath”

Dax is one character that the writers are having trouble centering good stories around so far. They haven’t found the right formula yet.

Episodes 20, 21. “The Maquis”

This was a passable two-parter that was really laying the groundwork for a new series in the Trek universe. It is an exploration of what could be seen as rebels forced to fight for their rights using any means possible, or people who want to change political circumstances using a violent means that could be described as terrorism.

Episode 22. “The Wire”

The Cardassians and the situation between them and the Federation are great stand-ins for the Soviets and the now resolved Cold War. It is not particularly subtle, but the science fiction distance helps us to better consider the healing that had been occurring at the time of this airing. We also get to know the fascinating character of Elim Garak a bit more.

Episode 23. “Crossover”

Once again we delve into the idea of alternate universes, only here we run into one of the major reasons why such stories are terribly frustrating. Supposedly, our characters cross over into an alternate that Kirk had visited a hundred years or so before. And yet we are asked to believe that 100 years on, most all of our characters are congregated at the station. How likely is it that that particular universe would track ours so closely after so much time? One of the alternates that split off from ours at a choice point within the past weeks or months maybe, but then there wouldn’t be much change would there?

Episode 24. “The Collaborator”

This is an ambitious episode, delving into politics, betrayal, and religion. Unfortunately it is a bit of a mess. However, it may prove to be an interesting start to something more in the future. For now we see that the Bajoran religion is somewhat similar to a mystical form of Catholicism. The political inner workings of the “church” are somewhat less than divine and in an interesting twist we see that the new “pope” is a fundamentalist fanatic and enemy of the Federation from season 1.

Episode 25. “Tribunal”

The Cardassian idea of justice and their justice system as seen in this episode is almost cartoonish in its extremity, but somehow the episode keeps us emotionally involved. And, as extreme as it may be there is never a shortage of people who would embrace some of the evils seen here out of their own personal sense of “justice.”

Episode 26. “The Jem Hadar”

Deep Space Nine ended its second season, and set out temporarily as the only Trek on TV, with a bold and brilliant move. Instead of the now traditional “to be continued” two-part season ender leaving us to wonder how things would be resolved at the start of the next season, we get an introduction—a hint of bigger things to come not just in an episode in a few months, but for the rest of the series’ foreseeable future.

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