Wednesday, October 26, 2011

the cheesiest movie about a space station

Several weeks ago I sat down to watch a 1980s sci-fi movie on netflix called Arena. The plot revolved around aliens and humans living and working on a space station that also hosted an intergalactic blood sport. The human protagonist seeks to become the first human champion in over 5 decades against difficult odds made worse by cheating. At the time I made a joke that the 1990s space station sci-fi dramas (Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5) raided the cast of this movie to fill their own ranks (Ivanova from B5, Quark and Gul Dukat from DS9). And then DS9 showed up on netflix streaming a few weeks later.

Surprise, surprise. I'm a geek. You may have gleaned that from the comic book, anime, and video game related posts. I'm also a sci-fi geek and back in the day I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation. And then in 1993 came Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. A black captain?! It worked in Blazing Saddles.

Even though I watched the show religiously for a number of years, I never managed to see the end. Unfortunately, where I lived the scheduling and order of episodes was erratic. I definitely saw Worf join the crew and date Dax. Siddig el Fadil became Alexander Siddig. And then my grasp of the plot gets messy around the time the Shapeshifters invade the Alpha Quadrant with their army of drug-addicted lizard people. I think the Cardassians join them and the Klingons ally themselves with the Federation. Something about a top secret Federation ship illegally modified with Klingon cloaking technology. I'm pretty sure there was a one-eyed Klingon POW at some point. And yeah, it's all pretty hazy.

But thanks to technology, this week I've restarted watching DS9 from the very beginning. And without commercial interruption! So here's some thoughts.

I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed Sisko in command. His story of losing his wife and moving to the frontier with his son makes for compelling drama. And the navigating of factional politics (the Federation, various Bajoran interests, the Cardassians, and the various parties wanting to get in on the wormhole) made for fascinating, complex plotlines. Much like the early seasons of Babylon 5 before they went and ruined it by hurrying up the war with the Shadows.

I think this show was the first time I ever had a crush on an Asian woman. It wasn't so much a crush as I found the relationship between Chief Engineer Miles O'Brien (Colm Meaney) and his wife Keiko (Rosalind Chao). Even though she had previously appeared on ST:TNG in the same role (Worf delivered baby Molly - seriously), I found her appearances on DS9 to be much more interesting. I think it was the first time on television I had even seen a conjugal relationship treated seriously. It wasn't one of Picard's flings or the Riker-Troi will they/won't they Who's the Boss vibe. Miles and Keiko fought, made up, and worked to make things work raising a family on the outskirts of Federation territory. I suppose it doesn't hurt that she's fairly attractive, too.

One huge advantage of a space show set on a space station rather than a starship is that you can get rooted in stories that plant seeds that take several shows, sometimes even seasons, to blossom. With a starship, you have to keep moving which often brings a monster/disaster of the week storytelling mentality with a rotating cast of guest stars each week. Being station allows a stable cast of supporting characters to develop. And this led me to be more involved in the various plots, relationships, intrigues, dealings, double-dealings, and cloak-and-dagger.

I'll try to update on a fairly regular basis with my ongoing (re)impressions of the show. I just finished episode 3 where Garak, the only remaining Cardassian on the station, is introduced as a spy working to communicate with the Federation through Dr. Bashir. He helps break up a plot my Bajoran terrorists to destroy the wormhole with the help of Klingon sisters Lursa and B'etor Duras, last seen on ST:TNG failing in a coup attempt of the Klingon High Council.

Yes, I really did watch these shows. A lot.

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