Wednesday, September 4, 2013
To boldly sit around....
So I am at the end of a long project. I have been asked, told and even cajoled into this, but after powering through all 7 seasons I can state I have given Deep Space Nine as much of a chance as I possibly could, and still. I don't really care for it.
It's not as horrible as most of TV, I mean it's not Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, or ABC's Workin' it, but Considering the pedigree of Star Trek, DS9 simply wasn't that compelling or engrossing as classic Star Trek, or even Next Generation. Plus I would be remiss if I did not bring up the fact that the show was a parallel development of the (in my opinion) far superior Babylon-5. THe story of that goes something like this J Michael Stryzinski apparently had shopped the idea of a show set in a space station called possibly Star Trek: Babylon-5, it was intended to be a darker take on the traditional Star Trek tropes, set on a diplomatic station in neutral space. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenbury, and true to Roddenbury's vision of an evolved humanity, he rejected the concept. Gene didn't want a Star Trek with infighting, and mistrust. so the notes layed in his desk, and Stryzinski was free to make his own sci fi show without the much lauded Star Trek name and universe behind it. Though at this time Roddenbury may have been sitting on top of the world as far as his show goes, his health was deteriorating, and soon he would pass, leaving the Star Trek legacy to Rick Berman, who had to come up with a new show, while finishing up TNG and preparing for the expected deluge of TNG movies. Stryzinski's notes laid out a new a new and exciting idea, a darker Star Trek, dealing with an intergalactic war, a neutral space station and of course a captain who ends up being a mesiah.
While Paramount launched it's next chapter in the Star Trek saga, Warner Bros put Babylon-5 out very quickly afterward and it looked like this new sci-fi show was just one of a host of Star Trek rip offs vying for a piece of that sweet advertising revenue. With the pedigree of the Star Trek brand name, DS9 would go on to be loved despite it's faults, and Babylon-5 would be seen as a cheap knock off. And that is what really pisses me off. I hear all sorts of people give DS9 a by, and will state B5 is clearly the inferior despite having never given Babylon-5 more than a cursory look. I had watched both originally giving up on DS9 some time after the dominion showed up. and I have often heard "Then you REALLY didn't give it enough of a chance." So now thanks to netflix I have powered through every episode, from discovering the wormhole, to the end of the dominion war. now B-5 haters, it's your turn. Here is what I found watching DS9.
First off, there are a ton more parallels than I had originally thought. Both commanders were veterans of the worst conflict their governments had seen until that time (Sinclair, the battle of the line, and Sisko, the battle of Wolf 359). Both become mesiah figures (Sisko almost immediately becomes the Emissary, and Sinclair, slowly finds out that he is Valen, the most revered figure of the Minbari people. Both face alien threats that become a major war. In Deep Space Nine it is the Dominion who are mentioned a couple of times in passing as a major player in the delta quadrant and then just show up proudly declaring that they are the new enemy race of the series, and then buggering off for a while until they need to push the war story line. In Babylon-5 the shadows, almost never fully reveal themselves until it is too late. this slow simmering approach makes them seem far more menacing, as we know almost nothing about them, who they are, what they want until war is thrust upon us and even before we know any solid facts about them, they are manipulating other governments into conflicts that have major ramifications to the rest of the galaxy. Also a once proud but defeated race who aligns with said mysterious power for a shot at recapturing former glory only to cost them their very souls. Both shows even have a small ship built with bleeding edge technology designed specifically to end the threat of war.
But for all it's parallels. I can't help feeling that Babylon-5 had a far superior presentation. Maybe it's because they didn't have 30 years of previous backstory and baggage, but I think there was more to it. For me one of the biggest example is comparing the story arcs of Babylon-5's episodes Severed Dreams, to Deep Space Nine's Paradise Lost. In both stories we see the xenophobia force the federation/alliance into declaring martial law. The theme of giving up our freedoms for safety was a powerful and important message in both. And in both episodes 1 twisted man would do anything to take the reins of power under martial law. In Paradise Lost, we see the reoccurring theme of everytime the main characters have to rail against the government, much like in the TNG episode Conspiracy parts 1&2, and in the film Star Trek: Insurrection the crew goes rogue, the authority is proven wrong and eventually sees the error of his ways (or is under the control of evil aliens which we stop (or both)) and by episodes end the crew is exonerated of any misdeeds or at worst given a slap on the wrist. In Severed Dreams we see the kind of thing that Star Trek simply has never had the balls to do. an all out civil war, with lasting ramifications for the main characters. John Sherridan isn't given a by, or told after the episode all is forgiven, no it sets up a long period of the station seceding from the Earth Alliance who looks upon the crews new connections with the Minbari government as proof of treasonous anti Earth/anti human stance. It sets up one of the most amazing parts of the end of the originally planned series.
But Babylon 5 aside, DS9 had other things that bothered me as well. First was their lack of continuity at times. Take the Breen they show up in one episode as the people who have a bunch of cardassian and bajoran prisoners and are trreated like stormtrooperesque chumps complete with Kira and Dukat knocking out a pair of them and wearing their outfits to gain access. Then in Season 6 and 7 the Breen become the next borg, a threat that seems to be far scarier than the original Cardassian/Dominion alliance. Huh? Yeah I don't get it either. Then there is Dax...
Strangely enough, the character I ended up liking most was probably Nog. It was interesting to see his transformation from what one would imagine to be a typical Ferengi child (constantly stealing, up to no good etc.) to him coming to the realization that he like his father does not embody that which his race is known for, and decides to better himself by joining starfleet. Same with his father Rom, becoming a technician working for the Bajoran government. Nog feels more like an everyman, something Star Trek can use more of. One of my biggest gripes with Star Trek is the amount of uniquely awesome characters they feel have to be in the crew. Dax is an extreme case but even Bashir, is a genetic superman, Sisko was born to save Bajor (literally) Odo, is a lost changeling from a distant culture that is the main enemy, and even Quark has way more connections to the grand Nagus than any barkeep on the outskirts of the galaxy would normally have. I like the idea of seeing the normal people in these extraordinary times. I would have love to see more of that in Star Trek and less of a need to make everyone the youngest commander, or first of his kind, I know Nog was the first Ferengi in Starfleet, but it is more downplayed than the first Klingon, or Spock's vulcan/ human heritage.
Also with seven seasons DS9 did way too many filler episodes. the Jem Hadar Show up, announce they are the new villains, and intend to invade the alpha quadrant toot sweet. then we putz around with some filler episodes. Yes many such episodes build character, but when you have this over arching war looming over everything, they also help to downplay the seriousness of the war. Imagine if in the middle of Game of Thrones they had a light comical episode after the Red Wedding. Say Sansa cannot find her mother's broach and sends to comical gold cloaks searching the castle for it. It would probably piss off the fans of the show to go from an epic tragedy to a light goofy comedy. Of course with 7 seasons they had plenty of time to fill but I still think that for the war to be a real impact, it should have been far more pervasive into the show, instead of conveniently forgotten from time to time.
To be clear this show isn't the worst thing I have ever watched, hell it's not even the worst Star Trek I have seen (Voyager, I am looking right at you!) I liked much of the added Ferengi bits, and the added depth of the Klingons, but in all honesty this show felt like it was trying to be too many different things, at times it tries so hard to ignore the legacy of Star Trek, and other times it shoves it's pedigree in your face, like some intellectual who insists on mentioning his alma mater every chance he gets. It amazes me how many trek fans act as if this is the pinnacle of Trek, It was O.K., not great, not epic. merely O.K. That's why I feel fine about watching it on Netflix rather than wasting my hard earned Latinum