18 September 2012

Dream House

Dream House A Mishmash of Wasted Talent.
By Kristin Battestella

Despite the digital cable’s one star warning, I settled in for a creepy night with this recent 2011 thriller. Unfortunately, the real life romance sparked on-set for stars Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz really is the claim to fame here.

Editor Will Atenten (Craig) and his artist wife Libby (Weisz) have quit their jobs and purchased the country house of their dreams at last!  As they settle in, local teens harass the couple and their young daughters for being unaware of the home’s murderous history.  Friendly neighbor Ann Patterson (Naomi Watts) tries to be sympathetic to Will, but he slowly suspects his new home and family life are not what they appear to be…

Much acclaimed director Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, The Field) ends up hampered by the multiple personality script and PG-13 rating enforced by the studio here. The location and accents are never explained, nor is whether the narrative is all just part of the ‘novel being written by the main character’ cliché. Dream House isn’t meant to be a full on scary horror movie, but it drops the ball on the mystery and suspense thriller vibes. Everything looks either too daytime normal with an unrealistically idyllic, no money worries happy family or evening can’t see dark and confusing everything thrown at the fan attempt. There’s not a lot of atmosphere to build suspense, and nothing happens for the first twenty minutes. This slow start is costly time in a 90-minute movie, and a too early twist halfway thru Dream House changes the entire purpose of the picture completely.  The surprise is nothing shocking; Dream House is a lot like Shutter Island.  You can see the snafu coming almost from the cold opening, and the viewers are left with nothing to care about except the famous players. I came into the film unaware of its history, but it’s no surprise that the stars disowned the end result and all subsequent promotions.  From just a ho-hum picture about a family in a hew house to a crime history and a man on the case, the hints to something deeper and what could have been are there. Unfortunately, there’s not enough depth to make any of it worthwhile.
Current James Bond Daniel Craig and beautiful Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) make a lovely couple onscreen and off, but Dream House doesn’t lend their chemistry much to do. Both seem a little too soft spoken, even mumbly or shy, and the confusing plot doesn’t help clarify their intentions. Thankfully, they do match each other wonderfully- unlike most thriller movies today with couples too young to be believable or an old man with a hottie wife.  Craig and Weisz are the right age and maturity, and their caring of young co- stars Claire and Taylor Geare feels genuine. They aren’t bad; I doubt any such skilled thespians could be so. However, the players just have so little to do in Dream House. You can see Craig’s effort at a conflicted father with layers and feeling for his family, but the mishmashed editing and presentation on Will’s state of mind confuses the onesided Libby further.  Audiences are once again left wanting more of Craig while wondering how someone like Weisz would stoop to the do nothing perfect artist mom in a run of the mill pseudo haunted house show. Sigh. With all the focus on Craigweisz, Best Actress nominee Naomi Watts (21 Grams, The Ring) is somewhat unexpectedly decent as the pretty and mysterious neighbor who knows the history of what’s gone down- supposedly. Of course, she’s not given much else, and Marton Csokas (Lord of the Rings) is equally strapped as her jerky ex-husband Jack. Any well-versed mystery thriller viewer will see his lame part in Dream House coming a mile away.

Fans of the cast or the Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz real life romance can have a good time with this film, and folks looking for something bad to watch for a drinking game or late night party can find something silly to enjoy. Unfortunately, there’s precious little here to appreciate otherwise.  The players didn’t drop the ball, but somewhere along the line, someone really did a number to this Dream House.

13 September 2012

Deep Space Nine Season 4

Deep Space Nine Season 4 Adds More Changes and Improvements
By Kristin Battestella

The conclusion of Star Trek: The Next Generation seems to be its successor Deep Space Nine’s gain as Year 4 ups the ante with renewed attention, changes, and characters, creating almost a burden of riches.

Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) asks transferred Lieutenant Commander Worf (Michael Dorn) to remain on Deep Space Nine after the Klingons move towards war against the Federation and invade Cardassia. Major Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) struggles with her own personal Cardassian revelations and Bajoran politics- and she must carry Miles O’Brien’s (Colm Meaney) baby to term after a shuttle accident. Odo (Rene Aubernojois) deals with Changeling subterfuge, and Captain Sisko returns to Starfleet Security on Earth to uncover possible infiltration by The Founders.

The Powers behind Deep Space Nine make plenty of changes this year, some good, and some one step forward two steps back. Visually the credits look nicer, but the titles are still dang slow, and the stinky new music sounds like two compositions playing at once.  Everyone is also suddenly promoted, finally.  It’s as if Deep Space Nine is being taken seriously by its own team at last. Even if the writers don’t exactly know where the show should be going, it feels as though they now realize it has to go somewhere. These Klingon efforts, however, go on too long, detouring DS9 into a deeper hole. The series’ core wormhole exploration and Gamma Quadrant troubles are further pushed aside, and there are just too many threads on which to chew.  With all this extra new and improved, every episode should be packed with presence, but no. Shows continue to meander with too many one-off episodes and a lot of trial and error. Again, with the shoehorned Klingon angst, it’s as if the audience is asked to wait again while Deep Space Nine finds its footing.  Each piece of great we get is nice and good, sometimes even real greatness, but at this point, the seemingly by the seat of their pants production seems unfair to the viewer, or at the very least, dang frustrating.

But shave his head to go along with the goatee, and Benjamin Sisko gets even tougher and more badass! Brooks is excellent thru the Starfleet thick of “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost.”  The prophet twists in “Accession” and the personal dilemmas in the mirror crossover “Shattered Mirror” and the Maqui consequences in “For the Cause” add wonderful depth and tension as well. Of course, it seems like Cirroc Lofton’s Jake Sisko is even more barely there than usual- he’s almost completely gone after “The Muse.” Does he have some sort of seasonal quota, one teen SF and one Trek greatness as in “The Visitor”?  “The Visitor” feels like the first real Star Trek episode DS9 has done in awhile, if at all. It’s simply a superb and bittersweet family science fiction tale, and yet the order of episodes just tosses away this dynamite one-off Trek show for Klingon back peddling. If you must do isolated ‘filler’ tales, “The Visitor” is how to do it exceptionally.  Guest Tony Todd (Candyman) is delightful as the older Jake indeed, so I’m a little peeved his recurring Kurn character was not used for Worf’s introduction in the otherwise solid “The Way of the Warrior.” Adding insult to injury, Kurn is subsequently written out in the dumbest way possible. You are on a space station with a dozen recurring characters, you’ve just added more Klingon angst, and so the only logical thing to do is un-brother Worf in “Sons of Mogh”? Michael Dorn is still delightful as Worf, but forcing him into somewhat meaningless Klingon adventure with Dax in “Sword of Kahless” is a misuse. “Rules of Engagement” is also a finely filmed testimonial with courtroom flashbacks; however, Worf feels squeezed into similar storylines and doesn’t have much of a place on Deep Space Nine as yet.

Thankfully, Rene Aubernojois is once again dynamite as Odo in “Crossfire” and the season finale “Broken Link.” Consistency simply put! Likewise, Armin Shimerman’s Quark is a load of fun along with his fellow Ferengi Max Grodenchik as Rom and Aron Eisenberg as Nog in the utterly classic science fiction tale “Little Green Men” and the labor dispute humor of “Bar Association” with Chase Masterson as the equally goofy Leeta.  Romances, however, don’t seem to work on Deep Space Nine, especially for the new look Major Kira and the hampered development of Duncan Regehr’s Shakaar. Instead, Nana Visitor does her best in the awkward relationship with Kira’s Cardassian enemy Dukat in “Indiscretions” and “Return to Grace.” Outstanding guests like Andrew Robinson as Garak, Marc Alaimo as Dukat, and Cyia Batten and Tracy Middendorf as Ziyal shine in further Cardassian explorations and continue to lift DS9.  Jeffrey Combs is also a dream as both the slimey Founders’ Vorta middleman Weyoun and the shady Ferengi Commerce rep Brunt, and Penny Johnson provides great strength and division for Sisko as Kasidy Yates. Sadly, “The Muse” seems like a poor way for Luwaxana Troi to depart Deep Space Nine, and the secondary regulars don’t fair well in the crowd. Chief O’Brien must be traumatized yet again in “Hard Time,” and absentee wife Keiko (Rosalind Chao) must share her baby with Kira in “Body Parts.” It’s a smart way to incorporate Visitor’s real life pregnancy for Season 5, but the move does more for Kira than the O’Briens- whose main purpose again seems to be for buddying Julian Bashir.  His holosuite romp “Our Man Bashir” is an exceptionally well made Bond Spoof, but the episode is about those spy motifs themselves, not Bashir.  He has medical dilemmas in “Hippocratic Oath” and “The Quickening” but it is all sub par SF medicine and weak Dominion ties amid the Klingon domination this year. 

Unfortunately, Jadzia Dax has been retreated into further undercooked development. DS9’s only Science Officer does nothing scientific and has become a glorified receptionist. Dax reports when ships come into the station, and that sentence is usually followed by an ill-timed humorous comment or some sort of chick joke- oh, my dress uniform and the like.  The character wanders between the hot chick with which every man on the Deep Space Nine is in love or the funny old person who might say something wise, and ultimately, both incarnations never do anything significant.  It’s not necessarily Terry Farrell’s fault; the character troubles are not from the actors, but the confused writing, as proved in “Rejoined.” Farrell shows she can act when given material, but “Rejoined” comes off so wrong in its Trill for Trill’s sake sexual exploitations. I don’t think the writers intended the show to amount to the first Star Trek girl on girl kiss for the titillation, but that absolutely ends up being what the episode is about, once again using a character for nothing more than her species problems, and then making that a play on play of sexuality.  It’s the culmination of everything that’s wrong with the character. Jadzia is meant to be the hot dream girl and the fun, even geeky best friend of every young man’s fantasy. Honestly, would they have done a same sex Trill former love episode had our character been Curzon Dax? I think not. The show isn’t meant to be about lesbianism in the 24th century, but the shock and awe use of it in “Rejoined” is loud and clear. Maybe the lady action works for popularity and the ratings, but its misuse cheapens the hefty and dark side of Trek that Deep Space Nine has illuminated so well.   

After steady improvements over the flaws of its first two seasons and numerous strong changes in Year 3- some of them quite glorious introductions- Deep Space Nine manages to loose its way a touch in Season 4. Though the quality shines above the fluff and a lot of goodness happens, like a puzzle without a picture, DS9 still doesn’t have a consistent vision week to week. Fortunately, Next Generation lovers who dismissed Deep Space Nine’s early weak seasons can return fresh with Worf’s transfer, and previous Trek fans or longtime science fiction audiences can continue fresh here thanks to the step up in Klingon angst and Changeling intrigue.  

09 September 2012

Fall Horror 2012

More Horror and Macabre This Fall!
By Kristin Battestella

Turn the clocks back, rake the leaves, bake some apple pie, and carve the pumpkins! Oh, it isn’t really Fall? Who cares! We can make do with some good ole fashion scary movies! 

The Dunwhich Horror – Producer Roger Corman (House of Usher), director Daniel Haller (Die, Monster, Die!), and Oscar winning writer Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) smartly build an H.P. Lovecraft inspired plot for the creepish Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap), innocent Sandra Dee (A Summer Place), and crusty old Best Supporting Actor Ed Begley (Sweet Bird of Youth) in this 1970 AIP oddity.  Although the flashback exposition could have created a longer labor opening and it’s all more low budget looking than even more low budget AIP fair, the Necronomicon plot and ancient sinister feeling amid the then contemporary setting move swiftly for 90 minutes.  The eerie town history, Corman-esque dreams and visions, assorted color slides, and jaded camera angles more than set the scene- letting the audience know that something Cthulhu is afoot. The suggestion and innuendo before full outright kinky are also pleasing, even if some sequences may seem hokey today or not as juicy as other seventies horror pictures. The viewer knows what virgin sacrifices and naughty rituals are brewing; we needn’t be inundated with the modern meaningless slice and dice. Perhaps it’s all too easy and a little predictable now, but this is an entertaining chase nonetheless.  

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell – Peter Cushing returns for this 1974 finale in the Hammer Frankenstein series along with Shane Briant (Captain Kronos- Vampire Hunter), Madeline Smith (The Vampire Lovers), David Prowse (Vader, people, Vader) and oft director Terence Fisher in his last helming hurrah.  Though Smith’s role is diminished as the typical silent angel, Briant seems to be grooming for a seventies spinoff with a doe eyed look and shades of the young Cushing. However, the Baron is simply irreplaceable, entering amid a weird prison hose down with such horror class. And he does his own stunts! How does PC keep the glory thru all these crimes, aliases, and franchise inconsistencies? The burned hands are back, some plotlines feel like a bit of a retread, and man, that’s a bad wig.  After six films, things play out as expected- minus a good, sinister build. Slow, step-by-step experiments take up too much time. Where’s the music or crackling mad scientist machinery and flair? The titular monster design is also iffy, though the overall décor looks the part. It’s colorful, with a creepy madhouse prison and some gore, but there’s less gothic ambiance compared to earlier entries. It’s all a step down to end the franchise, yes. However, Cushing completists and fans of the series can delight in the final act here. The Baron’s still twisted, dining and living without a care as to the brain nearby!

From a Whisper to a Scream – The great, freaky heartbeat intro and weird shower and bridal montage set the tone for this 1987 anthology, and a very creepy mood and spooky house establish the execution and evil town bookends well. Of course, there isn’t enough of horror host Vincent Price and he does look somewhat frail. Nonetheless, Big V’s delivery is still raspy robust, and he commands an element of uncanny class with his young reporter guest, the late Susan Tyrrell (Cry-Baby). Perhaps tame today, Clu Gulager (Return of the Living Dead) leads the sexy and gory first segment with kinks and twists. Tale Two offers greedy Terry Kiser (Weekend at Bernie’s) with a gruesome and bizarre backwater witchdoctor vibe, and the third story is a would be demented county fair with sexy sauce, voodoo dolls, plenty of blood, and lots of titular screaming. If anyone has ever thought about eating glass, this is a good deterrent!  The final Civil War tale serves up some very disturbing little kids, and they’re not afraid to whack a soldier in the mouth with a femur-or worse. It sounds crazy, perhaps even stupid and ripped off from other cult children films, but Lordy! Besides the evil town implication, the stories here are a little uneven in theme and design with little cohesion. Each is slow to start with poor pacing until the kickers and the style is almost too eighties dated to enjoy the bloody- almost. Thankfully, the good scares and twists make this one worth a look.

Murders in the Rue Morgue – This 1971 AIP adaptation departs from the Edgar Allan Poe source with a Phantom of the Opera theatrical-before-horror spin, fun carnival music, bright outdoor scenery, and vaudeville color.  Unfortunately, the French signals are mixed, the ape effects poor, and there isn’t a lot of gothic mood. Oscar winner Jason Robards (All the President’s Men and Julia) also feels too old for the role, with a dry, phoned in performance; and the can-can temptations are tame today. The 98 minute extended version also takes a little too long to find the meat of its tale and feels uneven with slow play within a play sequences. Thankfully, there are good looking ladies- Christine Kaufmann (The Last Days of Pompeii), Lili Palmer (But Not For Me), and Maria Perschy (Freud)- fine costumes, and lush Victorian décor.  The frenetic intercutting of song and dance with crime works in tandem with first-rate dream sequences, eerie timing, and askew filming angles. The flashbacks create a murder mystery theme and kinship to the Poe inspirations, too. It’s not all as good as it should be, and outside of a few beheadings, it’s not that scary. Nevertheless, the joy here is in the period thriller rather than any expected gothic horror, and quiet horror viewers and turn of the century mystery audiences will delight.

04 September 2012

Classic Cartoon Greatness!

Cartoon Greats Because I Just Can’t Help Myself!
By Kristin Battestella

I’m a firm believer that one should never lose the touch of childhood spark that delights and inspires our hopes, creativity, and imagination.  Fortunately, there’s a better way to capture youth glory than trying to squeeze into that itty-bitty kiddie pool.  Here’s a list of animated treats for young, old, and young at heart. 

GI Joe: A Real American Hero – Forget that second season devoted to Serpentor and Sgt. Slaughter! The original 1983 “MASS Device” miniseries, “The Weather Dominator” 5 show follow up,  and the first full-length, 55 episode season with Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Flint, Lady Jaye, Shipwreck, and the rest of the Joes is where it’s at!  You know you know the words to that great, catchy theme music. You know you remember episodes like “Excalibur,” “The Traitor,” and “There’s No Place Like Springfield.”  And you know you know that knowing is half the battle!  Even if Cobra, Destro, the Baroness, and Zartan are always so dang incompetent, they still live to torment the Joes another day. Everyone always parachutes out just in time and no one ever dies.  How cool is that, Tomax? Very cool, Xamot!

Jem and the Holograms – I must confess, the 1985 music here may be hokey, but it is still damn catchy!  These proto girl power Hannah Montana before Hannah Montana was Hannah Montana stories excel in sound and fantasy for little girls then and now.  Of course, in today’s technologically wise ways Jem, Synergy, and all that hologram magic could never possibly fly- the cell phone interference alone! Thankfully, the totally nutty, punk, and bad girl ways of The Misfits are a lot of fun.  Indecisive boy toy Rio and the potential romance between he, Jem, and her true personality Jerrica are, however, really annoying- as are some of the moral of the story girls at the Starlight House orphanage and the lack of proper DVD releases here.  Later Season 2 episodes in which Jem saves the President and finds Shangra-la are also questionable, and my gosh, the fashions are so bad!   Yes, I had the dolls and the keytar playset-I can’t believe those are coming back! The cassettes are still under my bed at my parent’s house, too.  What’s your point? 

She-Ra: Princess of Power – I actually don’t recall seeing all of this 1985 He-Man spinoff back in the day- thanks to my ten-inch black and white television’s fuzzy reception of Philly 57! All the goods of Adorra’s twin brother are here in an obviously female reversal for girls.  The older and cheap animation style may be tough for those unaccustomed to it, but the non-violent problem solving, great rebellion story, and moral messages are still delightful for the 10 and under demographic. Some of the episodes are routine and formulaic fair, relying on guest appearances by He-Man a little too much.  However, the duo is best together, especially in the introductory crossover “The Secret of the Sword.”  Yes, the voice work is unnecessarily high pitched, Madame Razz and the Twiggets get on my nerves, and the mix of magic and evil intergalactic Horde science doesn’t always make sense, but who cares?  The music and opening credits are weak and dated, too; yet I must confess, I like looking for Loo-kee!  Naturally, not all She-Ra episodes are currently streaming, shows are often listed out of order, and the DVDs are always available from Netflix or vice versa depending on their mood it seems. Typical!  Although, I confess, they did offer The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special- and I watched!

X-Men – I was literally counting down the days until the 92-96 mutant brigade came to Netflix.  My taped off TV VHS were getting a little too jumpy!  The right team, time, and developments taken are taken here with multi part storylines such as “Night of the Sentinels” and “Till Death Do Us Part.”  The solid 13 episode Season 1 builds tremendously to Season 3’s 5 part Phoenix tale and the Dark Phoenix 3 part arc thru Year 4. Plots here don’t always rely on Magneto for antagonism or the ensemble’s tug and pull.  Mutant persecution and fear, alienation, species superiority, and allegorical action standout with touching topics and mature issues- great wit and catches phrases from Wolverine, Rogue, and Gambit lighten serious debates and dialogue, keeping these meaty 76 episodes watchable for audiences beyond the Y7 label. Yes, Jean Grey gets on my nerves, and Jubilee is the cartoon Wesley Crusher. Continuity is not always there, Season 5 design changes become an issue, and episodes like “Mojovision” are juvenile now.  However, serial and long-term consequences, character deaths and romance, previouslies, and great music tie everything together. It makes one speculate why there hasn’t been a live action X-Men series- the depth and complexity here does wonders for the comic fan, older audience, and new youth viewers.

Understandably, I don’t expect adults who didn’t watch these shows then to like them now.  These cartoons are largely too juvenile and simple minded to fly with the wiser audiences of today.  However, the children’s demographic could use some animation education with these classics.  Though tame now in action and intricacy, the hand drawn designs here get all the fun across- unlike the shock and awe or desensitizingly bland CGI dominated cartoons (and more) of today.  Enjoy these delightfully family friendly treats again for a nostalgic evening with friends or in education with the next generation.

In addition to future rewatches of Inspector Gadget, Thundercats, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, I was tempted to list more Honorable Mentions cartoons both famous and obscure- Denver The Last Dinosaur, anyone? Forget the remakes; there are just so many great cartoons we don’t see anymore.  What’s your favorite? 

01 September 2012

Deep Space Nine Season 3

Deep Space Nine Season 3 Begins to Find Focus
By Kristin Battestella

Finally in its Third Year, Deep Space Nine’s continued improvements have separated the spinoff from its traditional happy go lucky Star Trek predecessors.

DS9 Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) and his Security Constable Odo (Rene Auberjonois) use the newly arrived USS Defiant to search the Gamma Quadrant for Odo’s shapeshifting species.  Unfortunately, The Founders turn out to be the enemy, plunging Major Kira (Nana Visitor), Bajor, and everyone on the station into fear of a Dominion attack.  Wormhole dilemmas, time travel troubles, Cardassian treaties, and Maqui tension only add to the Jem’Hadar threats.

Had this been Deep Space Nine’s debut season, oh me oh my! Strong multi part story telling from “The Search” 2 part opener, “Improbable Cause,” and “The Die is Cast” narrow Deep Space Nine’s previously busy and unfocused internal Bajoran politics and instead focus on Gamma Quadrant dilemmas and lovely Cardassian ambiguity and intrigue. “Past Tense I and II” make a few wonderfully eerie- even unsettling- statements, too. We are dealing with some of that predicted economic crisis and protest whirlwind today, aren’t we? The Ferengi centric “House of Quark” and “Family Business” keep some of the humor and lightheartedness in DS9 as well. Who knew the profit obsessed little trolls could be the perfect parallel with their- gasp- non profit oriented social change? The mirror universe episode “Through the Looking Glass” also has a lot of decidedly un-Trek possibilities, and self contained shows like “Civil Defense” put our players in a mini crisis before the big crisis.  The blended brooding and foreshadowing of bigger things to come happens at a pleasing pace- elements linger and build rather than being forgotten from one episode to the next.  However, even with these vast improvements, Deep Space Nine is still rather undefined at this point in the series. Plugged in Maqui angst is used as needed, and all the plotlines are again unnecessarily stretched over too many filler episodes per season.  There’s internally good suspicion in “The Adversary” finale, but with so much foreboding left hanging, it feels a bit flat.  The Dominion and The Founders are built up too much, seemingly insurmountable, almost mythical in the undefeatable-ness. Fortunately, there’s enough here to create hope and interest in Season 4.  

Well, Sisko grows a goatee and what do you know, the character gets better! “Destiny” combines the Bajoran prophecies and intergalactic angst nicely, and Sisko has some fun in the Mirror Universe, too. Finally promoted in “The Adversary,” Captain Sisko does well in a crisis, indeed. It’s ironic how Brooks also shines as the twisted and murderous former Dax host in “Facets.” He certainly has the range to take Sisko to the next level.  I like Cirroc Lofton as Jake a lot, I do- especially compared to the usually annoying Trek kids- but he simply doesn’t appear enough to warrant regular status.  Though it’s great to see family and history DS9 style for “Explorers,” Aron Eisenberg as Nog is far more interesting in the teen explorations and Ferengi familial tug and pull with Starfleet aspirations. Some characters and their roles are still unacceptably undefined here in Season 3. I swear the writers would rather Colm Meaney’s Chief O’Brien be single just so they can by default strengthen Siddig El Fadil’s Doctor Bashir with his friendship. Why was Keiko O’Brien not a useful character? Short botanist missions to Bajor, through the wormhole alien plant adventures, space station hydroponics gone awry- there were plenty of possibilities for Rosalind Chao, and I don’t understand her awkward appearances and weakly excused disappearances.  Fortunately, O’Brien does lay on the heavy wonderfully in “Visionary,” and even Bashir grows some thanks to “Distant Voices” and the “Past Tense” events.  

Some of Odo’s personal explorations in “Heart of Stone”, are a bit silly against trumped up tensions in “The Abandoned,” but Rene Auberjonois’ comes to play any time, any place. Even if some didn’t want Odo to meet his people and much less have them be villains, his story is delightful even when effects, plotting, and the rest of Deep Space Nine are lacking. Likewise, I’m glad Major Kira’s going nowhere relationship with Philip Anglim’s Vedek Bariel is resolved in “Life Support.”  We’re treated to more of Kira’s Bajoran roots via some healthy aversion and the titular guest Duncan Regehr (V: The Series) in “Shakaar,” and there’s still plenty of questioning of herself in “Second Skin.” The Bajoran apprehensions have upped the ante, but my goodness gracious Louise Fletcher as Kai Winn is so love to hate that her appearances aren’t even enjoyable.  Winn’s cruel spiritual and political manipulation is just too irritating and change-the-channel worthy to be entertaining angst or fine drama.  

By contrast, I want to like Jadzia, she seems to be smart and fun. Unfortunately, we still don’t know that much about her personality against the previous Dax hosts. “Equilibrium” and “Facets,” though fine episodes, are once again used to explore Trill inner workings instead, and “Meridian” is just a completely dumb romantic waste. Besides, isn’t it wrong to identify an individual solely by her species?  In some ways, we don’t know any more about Jadzia then we do about that lovable and fun to spot barfly Morn.  Sometimes, we get more depth and explorations from the generally perfect or exceptional guest stars.  We know more about Andrew Robinson’s Garak, and yet all we know about the sometime tailor or spy is that we know nothing.  It’s fascinating, and Robinson should be a $$^%& regular!!  Wallace Shawn is also lots of fun as Zek in “Profit Motive,” mixing the expected Ferengi charm with wise words and change. Humanizing and dare I say it even heartwarming elements from Marc Alaimo as Gul Dukat are also superb.  Despite “Defiant” being a Thomas Riker/Jonathan Frakes vehicle, the multifaceted layering and subterfuge amid Cardassia shines brighter.

More ships and space battles have also improved the effects and action on Deep Space Nine this season. Though I don’t like the notion of action being called in to spice things up or replace story telling, seeing hefty felt battles is new, special, and enticing in Trek TV.  Having more aliens we already know and love like Klingons and Romulans is nicer than weird Mos Eisely random aliens that don’t always work.  Why are there no long-standing Federation representatives on DS9 anyway? What do the Vulcans and Andorians think of The Dominion? Where are the rest of the hundreds of Alpha Quadrant species looking out for their planet’s interests beyond the wormhole? Why did they create dang Betazoids if they aren’t used? Sometimes closer to home Star Trek prospects are overlooked just for the sake of something wham bam. It’s a shame that Majel Barrett only visits in “Fascination” for the usual telepathic making everyone get sexy mishap. We need the lighthearted now and again, sure, but Luwaxana Troi deserves more- and Deep Space Nine needs to focus even deeper on what it intends for itself amid Trekdom.

Here in Year 3, Deep Space Nine makes huge, even tremendous strides in setting itself apart as a series whilst also taking Star Trek forward as a franchise.  One need not choose any one version of Trek over the other. However, I can see why some who didn’t like previous Trek incarnations love DS9 for its darker interpretation. The show truly begins to find itself and take shape this season. Unfortunately, this spinoff is still unnecessarily taking its dang time with its own M.O., and there’s still more fine-tuning to go. Nevertheless, new viewers or returning Star Trek fans can begin with Deep Space Nine here before the series’ major heavy begins.