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Showing posts from January, 2008

Remainder by Tom McCarthy

Near the top of the vague and amorphous list of ways in which I'd like to improve as a reviewer is the desire to get better at writing about really good books. It's not just that, as Anton Ego tells us, negative reviews are fun to write; they're also easier. The problems in a book--not just bad books but good-yet-flawed ones as well--are like cracks in a rock face. They're points of access, places from which to start an examination, one which will ultimately comprise both weaknesses and strengths. A genuinely successful novel doesn't lend itself to deconstruction so easily. Its surface is smooth. My least favorite reviews are almost always of books I adored, and not just for a single quality--for beautiful writing or an exciting plot or well-drawn characters--but for a uniform excellence which left me with nothing to grab onto. I end up flailing about, trying to find something more substantial to say than 'this book is really good; read it.' Neverth…

Back Through the Wormhole, Part IV: Looking for Ron Moore in All the Wrong Places

It's impossible to come back to Deep Space Nine in 2007 and not be on the lookout for Ronald D. Moore, for his influence on the series and its influence on his later work. Deep Space Nine is where Moore made his bones, rising from staff writer to executive producer. It is also, of all the series he's been involved with, the one closest in topic, tone, and theme to Battlestar Galactica. Just in case there are some of you who have never visited this blog before, I consider Galactica to be one of the most frustrating, because initially so promising, failures in the television landscape of the last decade. Searching for Moore's name in Deep Space Nine's credits is therefore an education--a reminder that he was once capable of extremely good writing, as well as an opportunity to ponder the reasons for Deep Space Nine's success in many of the same arenas in which Galactica would later fail.

Because of the collaborative nature of television writing rooms, as well as th…

The Lives of Others

I'm obviously rather late to this party, and probably everything that could have been said about this stunning, intense, impeccably well-made film has already been said. Nevertheless, here goes: I'm obviously supposed to read The Lives of Others as a story about the redemptive power of art. While surveilling a bohemian couple, the playwright Georg and the actress Christa-Maria, gray, blank Stasi agent Wiesler becomes exposed to art, poetry, and music, and through that exposure is moved to protect the lovers, and conceal evidence of Georg's seditious activities. There's even a scene in which Georg quotes Lenin being moved by Beethoven's Apassionata, and asks whether a man who truly listened and understood a piece of music that beautiful could really be evil--while all the time Wiesler is listening and being moved by the music Georg is playing. According to IMDb and Wikipedia, this scene was the crux and genesis of the film, the first image that came to writer/di…

Back Through the Wormhole, Part III: The Menagerie

A work of fiction passes Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For test if it features two women having a conversation about something other than a man. Deep Space Nine passes the Bechdel test, but not before it passes, several times over, its SFnal corollary by featuring two aliens having a conversation about something other than a human, the Federation, or Starfleet.

Deep Space Nine, as I've already said, has a main and recurring cast list in the high thirties (and that's not even counting important but low yield characters such as Dr. Mora or Sloan). Other series have featured cast lists as large and even larger (the potential Slayers alone put Buffy's at close to 50), but unlike Farscape, Buffy, or Angel, Deep Space Nine didn't cluster its characters around a single person or group. Instead, it allowed them to form overlapping hubs. Sisko and Kira, for example, felt great respect and affection for one another, but they were never good friends, and they tende…

The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Brief Thoughts

Taking a brief break from Deep Space Nine, but continuing with this month's TV theme, a few observations about the Terminator spin-off series, The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Two episodes in, I'm cautiously optimistic--not in love yet, but willing to see more. I'm not yet sold on any of the leads, and though I can imagine reasons internal to the story for the slight but noticeable softening of Sarah Connor's personality, I can't help but suspect that the real reason is that a character as scary and uncompromising as Linda Hamilton's Sarah still can't make it onto a TV screen. (Lending credence to this theory is new SF blog io9, which compares Sunday's pilot to the unaired one that made the rounds online several months ago and argues that in the original version Sarah was a great deal more kickass.) There's also no denying that the show is getting an artificial boost both from the absence of other original, scripted television (though next week sees…

Back Through the Wormhole, Part II: The Two DS9s

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the first three seasons of Deep Space Nine sucked.

OK, so that's an overstatement. But there is a consensus among the show's fans that its early seasons were missing a certain component, and that Deep Space Nine didn't come into its own and earn the title of best Star Trek series until its fourth season, and until the addition of Worf, the Defiant, the Dominion and their quest for galactic domination, and arc-driven storytelling. I'm here to tell you that this is... well, not wrong, precisely, but certainly a vast oversimplification. Firstly, just in terms of chronology: the Dominion is first introduced in the second season finale "The Jem'Hadar," and the identity of the Founders is revealed in the third season premiere, "The Search." The Defiant is introduced in that same episode, and though Worf does join the show in the fourth season premiere, "The Way of the Warrior," it's a full t…