|A runabout heads for the wormhole.|
You can see right away that they're breaking the rules. It's almost as if, in this pilot episode of Deep Space Nine, Berman and Piller are trying to emphasize what different things they're doing which diverge from the usual path of a Gene Roddenberry universe. This isn't a parallel world. It's an unexplored growth of the same world. At times this treatment can be heavyhanded; at others, it works extremely well. Of course, any pilot is really struggling to figure out its identity; I'm pretty sure even Buffy didn't really solidify until the second half of the second season.
Warning: this may be a tad longer than the usual post. There's a lot going on here, and the episode's a two-parter (which the Gods of Netflix have joined into one 90-minute episode.)
I missed ST:DS9 the first time around. My television had captioning, but it was faulty on the night of the pilot, so most of the words were gobbledeygook, although I enjoyed the wormhole, which had the eerie golden light of the Andromeda Galaxy. Then I went away to school and my dorm's television was co-opted by football fans. It was exciting to see familiar faces from ST:TNG - but also jarring to see the different tone and theme of the show.
The first few scenes place us perpendicular to an existing story: the Wolf 359 battle between the Federation and the Borg is historic in the Trek universe, and the scenes edited from the original ST:TNG episodes are tasteful and provide a nice launching background to the beginning. Here, we see it from Sisko's perspective on the U.S.S. Saratoga. But the change in perspective is far more than that: the sense of loss, of making difficult choices, wife or son, here and there. Even Sisko's initial expression, which seems like a frustrated attempt to maintain inner tranquility despite overwhelming and seemingly inevitable loss, is alien for the Trek Universe in some ways.
In the more mainstream, sometimes overwhelmingly optimistic Next Generation, a seemingly dead or dying character can be resurrected by the transporter. Honestly, I was expecting a transporter solution for Jennifer's death – get her out of the rubble, maybe even directly into medical - which just shows how intent Berman and the crew were on stamping their own print on Star Trek. There's no chance, no hope, no helpful suggestions around the Captain's Table, no time. So: this sets the scene. Jennifer's not going to be resuscitated, clearly. We're beginning the series with a sense of immense loss, and the first episode of a new series is about the emotional journey of a starship captain.
|From TrekCore.com. Sisko gazes in frustration as he leaves his wife.|
The meeting between Sisko and Picard was well done. It emphasizes a theme of the show, which Rick Berman apparently discussed even prior to the premiere, that actions have consequences. Picard never really faced that many consequences for what happened with the Borg, did he? But for all intents and purposes he colluded with the enemy and led a charge which killed so many, so many... I kind of wish, seeing the depth of his acting here, that this issue had been allowed to grow and fester in ST:TNG. Picard shows so much here–his own frustration with being questioned, unable to build the rapport he's famous for, with being hated, unable to excuse or explain his own actions.
|Picard, looking discombobulated for once.|
About 30 minutes in, we get a hint at the real plot of the show: not just resuscitating the station and re-structuring Bajor, not just getting it into the Federation, but also finding a mystical temple in the sky which has deposited random glistening orbs in the atmosphere that teach people powerful lessons. Sisko has a lot on his plate.
Love the first meeting between Bashir and Nerys. Incredible depth there, and kind of a blip on the radar for social justice speech, isn't it? What is the Federation's role on Bajor? An outsider colonist type, taking over, or a supportive ally? I've often thought the Prime Directive was important but easily ignored by a starship which hops away in the night. Well, this Station can barely hop across a room, so we'll finally see that Directive in the crucible where it belongs.
First Sisko gets a message, then Dax. Is there more than one Emissary? The Enterprise leaves and Gul Dukat arrives. I know enough about the show to know he's a major Bad Guy, or at least a Very Uncertain Guy Way Worse Than Quark. And he knows about Kai Opaka, and the orbs. And the Enterprise has been called far away. Danger! Some CSI work by Clever Odo. But still at this point not much about our man of mush except that he was found in the Denorios Belt, just like the mystical glowing orbs. This episode is full of action, and the action serves to introduce us to most of the major players.
By the end of the episode we learn that the wormhole, itself oddly stable, might bring stability. Both the Captain and the station take a journey, and when the journey's over they both realize they're where they need to be. It's an effective circle. The opportunity to speed march through Sisko's life really helps me connect with his character. Although his speech to the aliens really does remind me of Picard. Maybe because that's the Federation ideal. The ability to sell the Federation to aliens has been the standard opening Crucial Test for Kirk and Picard, too.
This was a good opening pilot with some exciting moments. I can see this show blossoming into something powerful. Intrigued at least enough to stick with it for a few more episodes. The interplay between many of the characters feels 'right'—and in one episode, we've set up so many possible storylines to pursue, it'll take a few seasons just to hit them all. One in particular: what's going to happen to the Bajoran religion now that they find out their Prophets are aliens with no concept of linear time? And another: since Sisko basically did a whole season of character development in one episode, explaining and getting over the pain of his life AND finding a new home all at once, how are they going to keep up the emotional pace for the character? This feels like Trek for me though, and kind of more exciting than the movies they've been spewing out lately. I'll keep watching.
Bits and Pieces
Did anyone else feel a little disappointed by the slimness of the station? It felt like a dock, or something that attached to something else once. Perhaps it'll grow on me. Babylon 5 felt huge. This feels tiny.
Spontaneous reaction: What the HECK is Cirroc Lofton wearing? Are they trying to draw a parallel to Wesley, who clearly had a designer of no small individuality on the Next Generation? The fashion on this show disturbs me. Generally, few people look like their costumes fit, or look good in their costumes. A Jake-vs-Wesley comparison below: the children of this generation suffer.
|Wesley Crusher, wearing something that looks like a combination of a turtleneck, afghan and jumper. In 1960's orange.|
Star Trek is a kind vision of the future - unless you're a young person attempting to be fashionable. But it IS nice to see Miles O'Brien; he was one of my favorite initial ST:TNG characters. Note again how the costumes echo the not-so-subliminal theme: the same, but different, with colors reversed.
Kira seems a bit off; is the actress trying too hard? But again her openly shown emotions and reations provide another contrast to ST:TNG, where everyone seems to walk around placidly and speak in pleasant tones, even when Borg ships are descending from hell. Or maybe it's just being forced to wear that pyramidic hair.
In some ways, what ST:DS9 seems to be to me is multicultural Trek. It's kind of exciting, and something I didn't notice at 13, despite being Puerto Rican and Middle Eastern in heritage myself. You notice? I mean, for the first fifteen minutes, not many of the main characters really look white. Maybe Dax; she's quite light-skinned except for the spots. Odo and Kira don't "read" as white to me at all; Kira gives me a strong Latina vibe, maybe Middle Eastern, and except for the extremely weird hair; Bashir also reads as vaguely Middle Eastern, and so do the Bajorans in general; Odo is a blob of jelly...
Although whether he chooses to have that particular pigmentation is up in the air.
(Update: So much for my "reading": Nana Visitor identifies as White, while Siddig El-Fadil is Sudanese and probably is closer to Middle Eastern... although apparently, according to my Wiki reading, the actors have kids together later on. I only think all this is important because it represents a shift further in the multicultural Roddenberry vision.) Compare this to the Cardassians and the Borg, who read as Superwhite! Compare it also to the first Trek cast, which seemed to have token people of color - an important change, but still a limited one.
I'm sort of weirded out by the way Sisko seems to be melting into light, leaving only bits of his face, like a Monty Python version of God. I kept expecting to find him unprotected in the wormhole or local space environment, gasping for breath.
One thing I'll add. For an older show, some of the CGI here is pretty nice. Other parts seem iffy. I'm watching this on Netflix, which only seems to have standard definition, so that might be making a difference. Sometimes, I think, small touches in the right places are far more effective than overwhelmingly done CGI work.
Four and a half out of five glowing wormhole wisdom-bringing products, with one half deducted for questionable hair and fashion choices.