Sunday, November 29, 2015

Deep Space Sunday

When my house family offered to share Netflix with me, I initially discounted the offer, since I did not watch much TV. I'd rather participate in interactive or creative entertainment.
However, I had a nostaglia for Star Trek. I've re-viewed every episode of The Original Series as they became available on YouTube. I found Next Generation adequate but not worth chasing down; Voyager better than nothing but not much; and Enterprise unwatchable. Part of the problem may be the episodic nature of those series made building actual plots unlikely.
Deep Space Nine, however, had a seven-season story arc. I decided to rewatch the whole thing, and just finished up tonight.
The series holds up, for the most part, thanks to acting and writing. The special effects are sufficient for the story, and there are makeup problems now that we watch on very detailed screens (Nog and most of the Cardassians have visible blends between their prostheses and skin), but that doesn't detract from the thing overall.
The most important thing that the long story arc does for the series is that it lets the characters start our flawed and grow or heal. The episodic series don't do much of that; they may kill off a character, or let a child mature, but the actual adults in the episodic series can't change. Not only does that make every story more shallow, it makes the characters themselves more shallow: they have ideosyncracies rather than flaws.
In contrast, DS9 starts with a cast of broken characters: Sisko angrily mourns his dead wife and Kira is barely able to hold it together after a life of guerilla war. Over the arc of the series they heal, so that an episode from the seventh season is clearly distinguishable from one in the first season as much by the way they talk as by the number of pips on their collar (...they earn promotions, another thing not really allowed in episodic series.)
The Outsider character is often a problem in the various Star Treks. Spock set a very high standard by living in two words. Data, OTOH, despite the awesome acting of Brent Spiner, was merely annoying in his childishness, and occasionally embarrassing (e.g. the need to make him vulnerable has him disclose to Dr. Crusher that he has on "Off" switch in his back -  a stupid concept in itself, but in any event something that should have obvious to Starfleet long ago.) Voyager tried having a whole bunch of outsiders; both The Doctor and Seven of Nine were particularly fun to play with, but their outsider status didn't actually do much more than give individual stories some plot points.
Odo, OTOH, can fairly be viewed as the central character of the series, because the entirety of the Federation-Dominion war rests upon the misunderstanding of Solid by the Founders. Odo's learning how to be, well not human, but humanoid, is the key to resolving that conflict.
The one major character than consistently disappointed was Jadzia Dax. Make no mistake, she was easy on the eyes, and in interviews the actress came off as a nice person, but the character suffered by starting off near-perfect and having nothing to do but need a rescue or chase romance. In the first few seasons in particular, if Dax was in a situation, she was the one needing rescue. Cops arrest her for a murder in a past life, she twists her ankle in the thoroughly aweful "Move Along Home",  she has to be rescued in various other episodes; the nearest thing she does to rescuing anyone else is to join some Klingons in a revenge killing, and even then she dithers over whether or not to do it. The contrast with Kira is clear; one time the two of them are off in a spacecraft to do something dangerous; Kira kicks ass as a fighting pilot, Dax complains because working on the engine she bumped her head. It's especially embarassing in that we were told Jadzia was some kind of super genius with three PhD's even before being joined to Dax and gaining huge past experience, AND she's the station Science Officer to boot, but when there's a McGuffin to be made to save the day, it's O'Brien who says, "We need a magnetic diferential detectometer" and Jadzia Dax who says, "Gee what's that!"  It's not the actress' fault that her line was so stupid.
I am given to understand that lots of fans don't like Ezri Dax (the character that replaced Jadzia.) She certainly is less perfect; her insecurity is annoying. But the initial over-insecurity makes sense given her background, and she grows up over the course of a season, especially through a couple of strong character-growth adventures involving Worth and a madman. There was once dreadful episode about going home to help her mom that is better left forgotten, but otherwise the character had interesting flaws and grew out of them - what else do you want?
Finishing DS9 confirmed my feeling that ...no offense, TOS and TNG ... it is simply the best Star Trek.
I believe that will do it for Netflix however; I now understand the pleasures of binge watching, and I'm not going to indulge again - I've got too much of my own stuff to write. However I am glad to have gone back to the Federation for one last visit.

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