Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Star Trek: Beyond What's Left Behind 1x03 - 'Tactics and Assumptions'

WRITTEN BY: Andrew Swearingen
PREMIERE DATE: 28/09/2005

An unidentified alien vessel emerges from the wormhole and attacks DS9, which the crew later realise was a cover for stealing cargo ship supplies. Kira orders Lance take the Defiant through the wormhole, find the bandit vessel, and recover the supplies. The mission, however, doesn't prove easy and forces Lance to question his ability to command. Meanwhile, on the station, troubled chief engineer Ja'Kel doesn't react well to Kira's announcement she is naming the flagship of a new fleet of Bajoran vessels after Damar, a the Cardassian hero......

So, after a very disappointing pilot episode that far from did justice to the potential for a continuation of the Deep Space Nine saga, does the follow up episode mark a sudden upturn in quality? Simply, the answer is yes, but not by much. In all honesty, it wouldn't be difficult to outperform the pilot, but to anyone not a fan of DS9 in particular, this episode would do very little to convince them Beyond What's Left Behind is an exciting new chapter to that critically acclaimed show. It's a start, however, of what i'm convinced...of what I know, being a senior member of the series staff, are much better things to come.

Okay, what's good about 'T & A', as it's become known in the BWLB production circles (forget it's sexual abbreviation connotations for a moment), and what's bad about it? Let's get the bad out of the way first, and move on from there. Let's get the first issue out of the way: presentation. From the point of view of a reader, it leaves a great deal to be desired. The spelling is largely accurate, as is the traditional screenplay format, but there is no visible sign of editing. Typos litter this episode like the plague, and distinctly undermine enjoyment of the reading experience. Another little annoyance is no page break between each act, something which plagued the pilot episode too. It simply looks unprofessional, especially when compared to a great deal of other online series out there. Now, I happen to know the lack of editing of both these scripts has been down to personal problems with the creator and his editor. And of course, for that, these errors can be forgiven. But if they continue plaguing each episode, it will turn people off in droves. Get the presentation right, and even a lacklustre written show will attain interest. Get it wrong, it can signal the death knell before a show has been given a chance to display what it's capable of. BWLB could fall into that trap if not careful.

These niggles aside, there were elements relating to story and character I felt were poorly handled by (first-time) writer Andrew Swearingen. Essentially, this was an episode that had enormous potential for tension. Making the centrepiece of action on the classically claustrophobic Defiant, in pursuit of a mysterious and dangerous alien ship, could have given us a taut cat & mouse thriller in the vein of a traditional submarine movie. It's been done before in Trek, most brilliantly in the second movie, but there would have been no harm seeing it again. Sadly, this chance is wasted. That tension isn't racked up nearly enough, and the fact the crew overcome the odds at the end through, essentially, blind dumb luck was a real cop out for me; there is also a series problem with the realisation of one character in particular during this episode: Coro. Now, sure, he's new and since he had little more than a cameo in the pilot, we don't know him yet. But would a Xindi tactical officer, taught for years on Vulcan, really tell his commanding officer to "shut up"? Or cry at the end for the aliens to "eat this you little scum"? Answer: no. He comes off sounding like a reject from a bad sci-fi B-movie, not a Starfleet officer. I hope not to see him speak like this again, as it doesn't fit his character; and nor do some of Ja'Kel's actions ring true to me here. We know more about him, given what we learned about him during the pilot, but I find it hard to believe any Bajoran who served on DS9 during the events of that show would still be so outright prejudiced to the Cardassians. Surely a man as educated as Ja'Kel would have outgrown this, as many Bajorans I think were starting to toward the end of DS9. Of course tension and resentment will still exist between these races, given their tragic history, but right now Ja'Kel's hostility seems somewhat forced to accomodate the Section-31 storyline that is rapidly becoming slightly irritating. Including Maple here, however briefly, was a mistake. He didn't need to be there.

However, despite these problems, there were elements about the episode I liked. I thought that featuring Lance as the main character, aside from Ja'Kel, to undergo character development was a wise move. Though perhaps we didn't quite see the intensity of Lance's conflict within himself over whether he had the ability to lead during the scenes on the Defiant as much as we should have, it did allow us at times to see Lance as more than the cocky, undisciplined prick he's so far been presented as; the subplot concerning Jake and the announcement of the new line of Bajoran ships was enjoyable. There was a tendency on DS9 to underuse Jake, with some episodes where he didn't even appear at all. Hopefully, this is being addressed on BWLB. It would be nice for Jake to play a larger role in this new saga, especially given the absence of his father. I also thought that naming the Bajoran flagship the Damar was entirely appropriate, and a nice nod to events of old, and at that growth in Bajoran attitudes I earlier mentioned. Talking of nods, there are blink and you miss them winks to creator Jeremy Burnham & affiliate online series Star Trek: Endeavour. Completely pointless, but enjoyable nonetheless. Ultimately, then, a fair effort but nowhere near the standard that this show has the potential to attain. Improvement still needed, but at least this is better than the pilot. Small mercies, eh?

WRITING: 0.5/2
GRAMMAR: 0.5/2
STYLE: 1/2
DEPTH: 1/2



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