Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Star Trek Deep Space 9

I've just finished watching the seven seasons of Star Trek DS9. I've decided to do it since I've only seen it on TV when I was younger and never from start to finish. Frankly, when I think about it, watching anything on TV, waiting for it to start at specific hours and then having no possibility to pause, stop or fast forward (not to mention the idiotic commercials), seems insane. But I digress.

What I found most interesting in this Star Trek series is that it showed so many pieces of technology that are now available. However, they were doing it wrong :) Let's take the "pad". They were using something looking like IPads. However, they were using multiple pads, one for each of the things they were reading or working on! Or they had these very complex communication systems: a badge that acted as a communicator, holographic video calls, screens everywhere. Yet whenever something was happening, they were calling the other person to come to them: "Captain, I think you'll want to see this". You can't really expect technical perspective from TV designer people, but they were so bloody close!

Another interesting thing, and that goes for the entire Star Trek franchise, is how they split the human mentality into clich├ęs, made entire races out of them, then explored each one in particular. That is different from making the heroes be envomittingly good and the bad people nauseatingly evil. They took the mercantile personality, pushed it to an extreme, then built the Ferengi species around it. I still don't get how they did it without the Hollywood higherups shouting racism, since the race was clearly modelled after Jews. The Klingons were fierce warriors, honourable and brave. The Romulans were sneaky. The Kardasians were imperial invaders. And so on and so on.

But then, they explored each of these human traits and readded depth from the places where they took it. What happens with Ferengis when their lives are at stake or when their friends are in peril? What do Klingons do when imperial leaders become more and more political and corrupt? What do the worst enemies when they are forced to fight or work together and find themselves in the very situations they has previously forced the other to be? As far as I know, this is the only show that did this. The few other multispecies sci fi series, like Babylon 5, centered on the story more than on the characters.

As for what differentiates DS9 from the other Star Trek series, it's the grit. I suppose that is why it didn't have that much success with the audience, as it was a decent show with some deep (pardon the pun) ideas. It did had its sillyness: the entire Bajoran faith thing, with the alien Prophets intervening whenever the script went nowhere, the episodes about the crew getting to the past or locked in some holodeck fantasy or being mentally manipulated, all so that they get to act in present day situations that had nothing to do with the show. The silliest thing yet, I believe, are the fights. The ridiculous fighting style of the Federation "elites" and the ships that either resist dozens of hits or die from a single one.

I believe that there is much to be learned from Star Trek, from a television and scifi perspective, and DS9 specifically. We lack a space opera with real war scenes and actual grit.