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February 11, 2007

The Genius of DS9

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Star Trek CastOK yes it's a Star Trek post. It's not going to turn into one of those Picard vs Kirk posts (Picard by the way). I just had to express how brilliant this series is.

I haven't seen it since I saw the final episode back when it aired on Sky One. If you didn't have Cable or Sky you'd have to rely on terristrial TV... and anyone who spent their youth as a Trek fan yet lacked access to Sky 1 would find themselves relying on BBC2. And the problem with BBC2 was we'd frequently encounter this message:

"We're sorry to all our regular viewers/Star Trek fans, but this week's episode has been cancelled. Now we bring you snooker."

Yes... Snooker. The Non-Spectator Sport. It was the bane of my youth. How happy I was when I had access to cable! The deliciousness of Sky One. All those Trek repeats! Buffy followed by Angel!  New episodes of DS9 and Voyager up the wazoo. Those were good times. Good times.

Anyhow, I haven't watched it in many years and then a post a wrote a post a month ago that rekindled my passion for the show.  I went out to the Silk Market and obtained for a very reasonable price what appear to be all 7 seasons on DVD. I'm now half-way through season five. And I can only say that age has bettered the series.Worfs1

Unlike The Next Generation (henceforth TNG!) and Voyager (VOY) Deep Space Nine (DS9) has aged very well. Look back to the first series of TNG and while the first episode(s) will give you a jolt of nostalgia followed by a Patrick Stewart-induced (what an actor), you'll laugh your head off at the ludicrous eighties make-up and the frequently boring plots (saved by the acting). Voyager has remained the same as it always was, as irrelevent as it always was.

But watching DS9 at the same time as Season 6 of 24, it made me think how wonderfully DS9 addressed both issues of the time and issues of the day in what is often a more tactful, humourous and balanced way than TV shows of today (ie like 24).  Let's see what's covered:

1) Torture - Garak attempts to torture Odo.

2) Occupation and Resistance - Bajor and Cardassians.

3) Complex international politics - The interplay between the Federation, Klingons, Cardassians, Bajorans, Romulans and the Dominion.

4) Racism, Race-relations, interracial marriage and friendships - this theme occurs frequently eg Sisko as "Emissary", Jake and Nog, Rom and Leeta, Dax and Worf etc.

5) Creationism vs Science in schools - Vedek Winn vs Keiko O'Brien.

6) Freedom vs Security - When the founders start showing themselves on earth.

7) Paranoia and Betrayal - Ben and Yates, Garak.

8) War and the fine line between necessity and war crimes - Biological warfare committed against the founders.

9) Terrorism vs Freedom Fighting - this theme is often explored in episodes delving into Bajoran/Cardassian relations.

10) Religion vs Scepticism - the whole Prophets arc is beautiful. Aside from the moments in the wormhole where "linear' is used far too many times, I love the way Sisko balances his skepticism with at least partial belief (for example when Sisko has the vision concerning Bajor entering the Federation.

I've gone through some of the general themes and would love to hear more from you guys about which themes you consider particularly relevent in today's world. But since 2001 I think DS9 has become even more modern than it once was. Despite the odd crappy episode ("Filler" nonsense that plagues every series, like the episode on Risa - bleh) we see a strong series of episodes. We see continuinity in nearly every episode and, moreUSS Defiant importantly, we see constant growth.

Growth? In what way? Well like TNG, the first couple of seasons are interesting and exploratory. Like a baby on its first footsteps. The acting is generally good, but sometimes the actors are struggling to find the niche of their character. In the first season Siddig al-Fadil is clearly a bit over-the-top. It fits in well with his character I guess ( a brilliant doctor seeking to impress). But the acting flaws are present in all of the characters. But it makes their growth all the more impressive. By season three they are all truly comfortable with themselves and they compliment one-another. The acting continues to develop along with the make-up, specifial effects, plot and uniforms!

TNG was good. The acting was superb - practically everyone on the bridge except for Marine "Eye-candy" Sirtis was consistently wonderful. DS9 was brilliant and the acting matched the plots (with the exception of late addition Ezri Dax who made me want to punch her every time she spoke). VOY was like a stagnant pond. No real growth. Ensign Kim of season 1 was the same Kim of season 7. The only real change in VOY was the inclusion (and ruination) of the Borg.

DS9 knew what the audience desired and delivered it. We had great acting. Great plots. Consistency (of a kind - DS9idiots like me will notice how Sisko claims his father is dead before his father somehow works its way into the plot). Some fantastic CGI warfare. Lovable characters. Extraordinary scripting.  I don't know if it won any awards but by hell did it deserve to.

So if you're a Star Trek fan, dust off your old videos or invest in the DVD collection and watch DS9 once again, juxtaposing your nostalgia with moments of "Wow I wish Bush, Blair and the Israelis would watch this!" If you're not a Trek fan then give this a go. It's really worth it. And it reaches its peak when Sisko shaves off the 'fro and dons his magnificent goatee and everyone wears the Dominion War Uniforms. 

Oh and sorry Holly, but Voyager is a bit rubbish :P. 

January 16, 2007

The Rise of Alexander Siddig

Alright. I admit it. When I was younger I was a bit of a geek. A bit of a super-geek. NCC-1701 D kind of geeky. And I have to say, I still fondly remember my love of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space 9. In fact, DS9 was far and away the best Star Trek series  in terms of acting talent, plots and effects (sorry Holly :P). Bashir

 Now my favourite character in DS9 was Julian Bashir, brought to life by Alexander Siddig . As a slight aside, it claims that he has been credited as Siddig al-Fadel several times in the past but changed his screen name to Alexander Siddig because no-one could pronounce al-Fadel - I can sympathise ;).  But I distinctly remember that for the first season of DS9 he was credited as something like Siddig bin Siddig.

 Anyhow, I'm glad that his talent is being recognised post-Trek and he's landing some decent, if a little bit pigeon-holed, roles.  In fact I think he's probably the most successful DS9 actor to date. Colm Meany has had a couple of parts. Avery Brooks will be well-remembered for his part in American History X. And Odo cropped up as a gentle pastor in The Patriot. But Siddig has been popping up everywhere of late, probably due to Hollywood's need for more Arabs in film. He's been in the UK series Spooks, Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, Syriana and if you're watching 24 as eagerly as Chris Doidge has been, then you'll notice him popping up as a Terrorist-turned-Statesman.

 I hope he continues to get parts. He's got the talent and it deserves to be seen more and more. 


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