Monday, October 01, 2007

Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges

One of the main acquisitions for Virgin 1, the new TV channel starting tonight, is Star Trek. Virgin's press office says they've bought it all, every last drop, and other people are noting that the original Trek is still running merrily on Sci-Fi. But whether or not they've got everything, they've got most of it and Virgin 1 has decided to start the lot off with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

You'd think they'd do The Next Generation, because that was the most successful, or Voyager because nobody watched that and so it still feels new.

But they've gone for DS9 and while you can bet it's a dollars-and-cents decision, somehow, it'd be nice to think that it's an editorial one. Because Deep Space Nine is the finest of the Trek outings and I have not always thought so.

Flashback: 1993. DS9 is about to start on UK television and I write about the pilot episode for The Independent newspaper. I actually slag it off a bit, saying the acting is poor and some of the dialogue creaky. And I say it because I mean it, and because I mean it, I don't continue with the show. Must've caught the odd episode, but nothing consistent.

Until about 1999 or 2000 when I pick up a cheap copy of both The Next Generation and DS9 Companion CD-ROMS: two discs full of who cares? But alongside that, almost like padding, each CD contained every script for its series. Every TNG, every DS9 script. I'm a script writer, there's nothing like reading scripts to learn, and if you're arguing that Trek isn't The West Wing, well, yes, but the ability to see an entire show's writing from pilot to finale was irresistible.

I tell you now, in case you ever decide to do this too, the scripts to The Next Generation are a chore to read. I don't know why. But somehow they don't feel like stories, they're more like puzzles and the solutions are usually to do with realigning the EM transmitters or something. I read them all, 178 of them, and learnt nothing very much.

You're ahead of me again, aren't you? Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's scripts, all 176 of them, are vastly better. Some are dreadful, some are brilliant, but the whole seven years read like a novel, I was utterly absorbed in them, couldn't put them down. I became a fan because of the scripts. And because I watch in the UK, even though the show was finished in the States and this complete colllection really did have all the scripts, by the time I happened to read them, BBC2 still had about ten episodes to go.

I held off reading those scripts and instead DS9 became my evening break at BBC Ceefax: Wednesday nights, around 6:00pm, often just me in the ents newsroom, it was great.

So great that I bought the DVDs. All of them.

And gingerly started playing that pilot episode, that film I'd called creaky and with bad acting.

And guess what?

It was rubbish. The acting was extremely poor, the situations and some of the dialogue banal and strangely up itself. If I watched it tomorrow on Virgin 1, I would not go buy the scripts or the DVDs. But I would be missing out.

Can't tell you when it gets good; I have a great fondness for that pilot now because of all that happens to do with it over the seven years. And it's hugely better than the Next Generation pilot.

So if you haven't seen Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I hope you love it. And if you want those scripts, you'll have to search but it's worth it. Look up "Star Trek Deep Space Nine companion" on Amazon or wherever; there is a book of that title which is exceptional, and the scripts are on the CD-ROM of that name. Amazon insists the CD-ROM is only for Windows but it worked fine on my Macs.

William

PS. The subject heading of this translates as "In time of war, the law goes silent". It's an episode title, and a theme, from DS9. Can't see Captain Kirk dealing with political shades of grey, can you?

9 comments:

E and J said...

Here's a question for you William. When did Sky last show DS9?

Every single other season of DS9 was shown at the weekend, except maybe for the original series. They would have a couple of Next Gen, followed by Voyager and Enterprise but I can't remember seeing DS9 since they first ran it.

Well that's my guess as to why they're showing that anyway. Plus it was a damn good series :)

As to when the shows got good, someone I used to work with said it's all about beards. Next gen became good when Riker grew his beard. DS9 when Sisko grew his. If only Janeway could have grown one then maybe Voyager would have been good...

William Gallagher said...

The most recent showing I can find of DS9 on Sky One is in May 2005: I thought it was much longer ago than that.

And the beard scenariois intriguing... What if I grew one, what would happen?

William

Piers said...

Only one way to find out...

William Gallagher said...

You're right: I'll break out the Photoshop.

W

Nigel said...

Hey (all good messages start with hey), this could be your most commented-on item. FWIW, I do not think a beard would suit you.

Think of all the mass-murderers you know.

Piers said...

How many mass-murderers do you know?

William Gallagher said...

Four.

Um, sorry, you were asking Nigel, weren't you? Best forget I said anything.

w

Paul Dunlop said...

Very true William. DS9 is indeed the under appreciated child of the star trek franchise. And it just so happens the episode title in question is one of my favourites. In fact, that whole season is probably one of the best in the series. Glad to see someone else appreciating this fantastic show for what it's worth!

Now, where are the deals on the box sets? Hehe. Been trying to find them cheap for years, never seems to happen.

William Gallagher said...

Amazon's got each season for about £18 now, that seems a teeth-grinding price to people like me who paid above £50 apiece a few years ago. Mind you, it was retailing at over £80 a season then, I thought I was doing well.

Unusual that any show's last season can be good, isn't it? But, bizarrely, guess what I started watching a few weeks ago? That was even before I knew Virgin 1 was running it - and I've got to admit that several times this week when I've been home around eight o'clock, I have strayed to that channel.

I think the show's best was from the sixth season, though, In the Pale Moonlight. Don't like the title, it's a Batman quote and feels cheapening to me, but Star Trek with the Captain doing genuinely nasty things, that was electrifying. I read somewhere that Star Trek characters are boy scouts and I think that's startlingly accurate, but not then.

Must be his beard.