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  • DS9 rewatch

    Well, given Netflix has ALL the Trek at the moment, I am giving DS9 a re-watch.

    Five episodes in and the first thing that strikes me is that I always remembered DS9 having better production values and acting than B5, but I must admit that the acting is more wooden than I remember it (Sisko is initially quite stiff and at turns VERY DRAMATIC!! ). Their extras are perhaps a slight cut above the average B5 episode, but there's not that much in it. B5 always had more of a 'street level' kind of vibe to it anyway.

    The sets are definitely nicer than B5, but again, not by much. Must be remembered that DS9 probably had 4-5x the budget of B5, and I still marvel at what was possible and how creatively B5 used it's meagre budget. Apples and Oranges, but it's interesting to compare.

    So far I'm enjoying it, and it's very much 'of it's time', they are clearly making a transition from TNG but including a few carried over characters and I notice they definitely make an effort to make the link, e.g. The Duras Sisters featuring, and Q, etc... There were perhaps some worries that it wouldn't take without that red thread to connect DS9 and TNG.

    So far the episodes are very stand alone, but entertaining enough.
    Last edited by Ubik; 12-30-2016, 10:01 AM.
    Captain John Sheridan: I really *hate* it when you do that.

    Kosh: Good!

  • #2
    DS9 may have had more money put into its sets, but what I really notice each time is how much better B5's lighting and cinematography are. B5 has a lot of texture, whereas DS9 even at its best looks grey and dull in that old televisiony way. (TNG's aesthetic works a lot better in its own context.)
    Jonas Kyratzes | Lands of Dream

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    • #3
      Exact figures aren’t easy to come by and things changed over the life of both shows – and I’m writing this from memory as I haven’t looked at that stuff in years. So any numbers I’m about to spit out should be applied with some salt as different sources come out with different figures, and my memory ain’t what it was.

      You’re probably right about the 3 or 4 times difference in the budgets when it came to the pilot movies and pilot episodes, (DS9’s was reportedly around 12 million, while I’ve seen 3.5 million used for B5’s). But that level of difference didn’t carry over to the episodes though. DS9 was still getting a fair bit more at something like 1.2 to 1.5 million (depending what you read) and B5 was around the 850,000 mark at the start. But whatever the exact figures were it’s safe to say DS9 had more, and not quite so safe to presume it was most likely a little under double, per (average) episode.

      One of the big things that allowed B5 to get away with less money was down to the tech used to produce the show. Those behind creating B5 were blazing the trail, using what was coming out of the desktop revolution, while Trek – at that point – was still firmly entrenched in using optical. The desktop produced CGI on B5 is one of the better known examples, but on DS9 things like the special FX and roto work (phaser blasts and the like) was still composited in the edit bays using video technology rather than digital – at least to begin with (and that wasn’t cheap). I’ve also got half a memory that the way the show was edited and put together was pretty different as well. Then there’s the fact (and it’s a big one) that for the first two years B5 wasn’t a union show, and that saved a fair wack – as did setting up the sound stages and shooting away from the studio lot. There was other cost saving associated with the way B5 was funded, and the guaranteed full seasons (once a season was picked up), but I’ll be buggered if I can remember what they are off hand.

      Another big thing was . . . . well, John Copeland, and his approach to making episodic television which he got all the departments to sign up to. jms writing episodes well in advance of shooting was another aspect of that as well
      Last edited by Triple F; 12-31-2016, 03:14 AM.

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      • #4
        I'm guessing John Iacovelli had a lot to do with it as well. The B5 sets functioned like theatrical sets do - all that matters is they look good to the audience, even if they're made out of ridiculous materials.

        They were also designed to be flexible, easy to shoot in, easy to re-use, which the DS9 sets really weren't.

        The craftsmanship on the DS9 sets is evident, and the design is actually really cool, but in the end they don't function half as well.

        Then again, I suspect that if DS9's set were lit and shot like B5's (proper shadows and strong light sources, not that diffuse look; loads of colours; a more fluid camera), they'd look spectacular.
        Jonas Kyratzes | Lands of Dream

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        • #5
          Yeah, I’d imagine that would a sizeable bit of it as well. The skill set brought in by the likes of Iacovelli, and his theatre experience, also got that whole side of things moving like a well oiled machine. Didn’t he say something about (due to his involvement with both) that B5 became almost a bridge for folks who were wanting to cross over to television from theatre, and how he lost some when they got a bit of experience under their belt as he couldn’t provide the money offered by other TV shows.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Jonas View Post
            DS9 may have had more money put into its sets, but what I really notice each time is how much better B5's lighting and cinematography are. B5 has a lot of texture, whereas DS9 even at its best looks grey and dull in that old televisiony way. (TNG's aesthetic works a lot better in its own context.)
            I've noticed this a lot whilst watching DS9 today, I found myself reaching for the contrast controls on my monitor only to discover they were already maxed out! Yes, DS9 is shot very 'dark' and is very muted when they're on the station itself. I wonder if that was a conscious decision to make it look a bit more 'frontier' like.
            Captain John Sheridan: I really *hate* it when you do that.

            Kosh: Good!

            Comment


            • #7
              So far, this is a smarter show than I remember.

              There are thin threads of larger plots (Odo's origin) and the wormhole entities / orbs. These are only touched on tangentially, but here's less of a 'hard reset' like early TNG, whereby the events of one episode don't carry over to the next. Of course, big events like Picard acting being assimilated remain relevant, and I noticed this did change somewhat in S6 and 7, but it remained very minimal in terms of a proper arc.

              Just watched S1E18 'Duet' which deals with the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, war crimes, forced labour camps and survivor's guilt. Some obvious parallels to Auschwitz and WWII. A nicely written episode which adds some depth to Kira.

              I remember disliking the 'soap'-ish nature of DS9 when I watched in my teens. The endless talking and lack of action frustrated me somewhat. It's better than I remember it being.
              Last edited by Ubik; 01-02-2017, 05:10 AM.
              Captain John Sheridan: I really *hate* it when you do that.

              Kosh: Good!

              Comment


              • #8
                I gave up on DS9 partway through the run. I actually really liked the political story lines with the Cardassians in the beginning, but then grew less enchanted with the Dominion (do I remember that correctly) War.

                I stayed with it longer than I stayed with Voyager or Enterprise, though. :-)
                "That was the law, as set down by Valen. Three castes: worker, religious, warrior."

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                • #9
                  DS9 is odd. In some ways, the initial setup - Bajor wanting to join the Federation, lingering issues from the occupation, etc. - is much more interesting than what comes later. But the actual storytelling quality later on is much better, so all the Dominion War stuff, while less intellectually complex than it pretends to be, is more enjoyable.

                  [philosophical rant incoming]

                  The big problem I see with DS9, and what distinguishes it from B5, is the central question it asks. B5 asks: have we abandoned our principles? DS9 asks: should be abandon our principles? B5 is and remains radical in that questions the system; DS9 is a kind of proto-BSG, anticipating that show's "what if every horrible reactionary idea ever was true after all?"

                  The other thing about DS9 is that it fundamentally alters the basic idea of the Federation; instead of representing what we could be, it represents what we currently are, i.e. the Federation is a Western liberal democracy, not a post-scarcity humanist utopia. That's particularly apparent in episodes dealing with "political" problems that such a society simply wouldn't face - because some problems do have technological solutions, which the writers don't seem to be capable of understanding beyond the most basic level of fixing crap on the station. That technophobia is another way in which it anticipates the all-out Luddite lunacy of BSG. ("Bajor doesn't have enough replicators!" "Why don't we just give them more? We're a galaxy-spanning post-scarcity society that values life." "BUT IS TECHNOLOGY GOOD?" Yeah, deep.)

                  People keep saying that DS9 is great because it questions things, but the things it's questioning are hope, progress, our ability to solve problems, the idea of a better society. Whereas TNG's vision of the Federation is truly challenging, because it highlights the problems of our society through sheer contrast. (When it's well-written, of course. DS9 contains much better writing, better characters, better everything except, you know, core philosophical ideas.)

                  Of course, I'm saying that as someone who's watched DS9 two or three times, and who can get emotional listening to the theme tune. It has moments of greatness. It has a pretty great cast, especially in some of the "secondary" parts. I just wish it had a political/philosophical vision like B5 does. It's not even that I agree with JMS on everything. But in many ways B5 is more of a successor to TOS and TNG than DS9 is.
                  Jonas Kyratzes | Lands of Dream

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Jonas View Post
                    DS9 is odd. In some ways, the initial setup - Bajor wanting to join the Federation, lingering issues from the occupation, etc. - is much more interesting than what comes later. But the actual storytelling quality later on is much better, so all the Dominion War stuff, while less intellectually complex than it pretends to be, is more enjoyable.
                    Yes, absolutely. It poses some really interesting questions and has more than a few parallels to WWII, especially concerning a lingering legacy of war crimes and people coming to terms with the loss of life and brutality of occupation.

                    Originally posted by Jonas View Post

                    [philosophical rant incoming]

                    The big problem I see with DS9, and what distinguishes it from B5, is the central question it asks. B5 asks: have we abandoned our principles? DS9 asks: should be abandon our principles? B5 is and remains radical in that questions the system; DS9 is a kind of proto-BSG, anticipating that show's "what if every horrible reactionary idea ever was true after all?"

                    The other thing about DS9 is that it fundamentally alters the basic idea of the Federation; instead of representing what we could be, it represents what we currently are, i.e. the Federation is a Western liberal democracy, not a post-scarcity humanist utopia. That's particularly apparent in episodes dealing with "political" problems that such a society simply wouldn't face - because some problems do have technological solutions, which the writers don't seem to be capable of understanding beyond the most basic level of fixing crap on the station. That technophobia is another way in which it anticipates the all-out Luddite lunacy of BSG. ("Bajor doesn't have enough replicators!" "Why don't we just give them more? We're a galaxy-spanning post-scarcity society that values life." "BUT IS TECHNOLOGY GOOD?" Yeah, deep.)

                    People keep saying that DS9 is great because it questions things, but the things it's questioning are hope, progress, our ability to solve problems, the idea of a better society. Whereas TNG's vision of the Federation is truly challenging, because it highlights the problems of our society through sheer contrast. (When it's well-written, of course. DS9 contains much better writing, better characters, better everything except, you know, core philosophical ideas.)

                    Of course, I'm saying that as someone who's watched DS9 two or three times, and who can get emotional listening to the theme tune. It has moments of greatness. It has a pretty great cast, especially in some of the "secondary" parts. I just wish it had a political/philosophical vision like B5 does. It's not even that I agree with JMS on everything. But in many ways B5 is more of a successor to TOS and TNG than DS9 is.
                    I suppose a lot of this is to push the 'frontier' vibe of the show. It does definitely depart from the more hopeful Trek view for something more fractured and potentially slightly more ‘edgy’. Stuff is broken, stuff doesn’t work… life is hard from time to time… Plus, the introduction of antagonists like The Dominion and The Marquis are used to add excitement. I just hit S3 and it does ramp up very nicely; there’s more to chew on other than ‘problem of the week’. I think it still stands up better than much of TNG. The political set up makes for diplomatic situations and woes that aren't so easily solved.

                    But yes, point taken that some problems on Bajor would be more easily solved by some replicators. But those bajorans, they like farming and stuff. Hahaha…
                    Last edited by Ubik; 01-09-2017, 04:08 AM.
                    Captain John Sheridan: I really *hate* it when you do that.

                    Kosh: Good!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      SF author Daniel Keys Moran's happy fun times with DS9 and Paramount

                      http://www.kithrup.com/dkm/dkmnonfic/inj-1.html

                      From: Daniel Keys Moran
                      Date: Tue, 07 Mar 1995 05:31:00 UTC

                      I want to take the time to let those of you, particularly writers, thinking of dealing with the STAR TREK franchise, know about my recent experience.

                      A couple years ago, when DS9 was young (4-5 episodes old), my friend Lynn Barker and I went down there to pitch. I took two stories with me, "Injustice," and "The Stopping Point." The individuals present at the pitch were Robert Wolfe, and Evan Somers.

                      When I finished pitching my two episodes, they were very impressed. Robert Wolf told me that "Injustice" and "Stopping Point" were the two best stories they had seen out of some 200 pitch meetings to that time. "Stopping Point" they felt needed some work; "Injustice," however, they went so far as to say, "This is going to go." (This was hardly a contract, and I didn't take it as one; neither of them had the authority to do that, and they were clear that "Injustice" would have to be approved by Michael Piller.)

                      They asked me to leave a copy of "Injustice" with them; I wouldn't, since D.C. Fontana had warned me not to. I went home from the pitch, and there was a message waiting for me from Evan Somers. I called Paramount; Evan asked me to read "Injustice" to him again, while he typed it up. I hesitated, but went ahead -- they seemed so sure it was a sale.
                      Hilarity (by which I mean a travesty) ensues.

                      http://www.kithrup.com/dkm/dkmnonfic/inj-2.html

                      From: Daniel Keys Moran
                      Date: Sat, 06 Jan 1996 04:05:53 -0500

                      Well, this is going to surprise some of you, and appall others ...

                      About a month ago, my agent's assistant called me and left me a message telling me that Paramount was trying to reach me in regards to something pitched over there, years and years ago. I couldn't imagine what it was -- The Long Run screenplay? Street Angel? (The most non-commercial piece of anything I ever put down on paper -- movie about four homeless people robbing a bank to pay for the burial of another homeless man who had died of AIDS.) My James Camber novels, perhaps? A three-novel outline for those had been floating around --
                      The funny (bizarre, in a way the TV industry excels at) resolution.

                      P.S. http://www.kithrup.com/dkm/dkmnonfic/
                      DKM also made available the original pitches (in the fiction archive) of the story idea mentioned above. This ultimately became the episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine titled Hard Time.

                      Review of Hard Time.

                      Production information for Hard Time.
                      http://www.kithrup.com/dkm/dkmfic/ht-1.html
                      http://www.kithrup.com/dkm/dkmfic/ht-2.html

                      The review, and production information, links are dead, sadly. But by googling other reviews can be found. It was a powerful episode. IIRC the new Outer Limits had a similar episode with the actor who played Niles Crane on Frasier, David Hyde Pierce, and it too had a large effect on me. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0667983/combined

                      http://www.jammersreviews.com/st-ds9/s4/hardtime.php

                      http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/star-tr...enthard--92260

                      Edit: Hah, I just spotted this: "Babylon 5, on the other hand, is pretty cool ..." The very last sentence here: http://www.kithrup.com/dkm/dkmnonfic/inj-1.html
                      Last edited by Babel-17; 01-09-2017, 12:34 PM.

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                      • #12
                        That's pretty bloody awful treatment of a writer. I'm sure this happens more than we'd like to think! I guess ideas get recycled all the time. I've seen very similar episodes across multiple shows, and sometimes it's just two people coming up with the same general concept.

                        I think both B5 and DS9 have had their low points in terms of how certain individuals were treated. I imagine staff writers probably had a better time on B5 though, but equally I still can't believe the whole thing with Netter Digital pushing out Ron and Foundation Imaging. I'm sure if JMS had been aware of the full picture, it'd never have happened.

                        Anyhow, show politics aside, I'm still enjoying the DS9 re-watch, so feel free to chip in on discussing the show itself.
                        Last edited by Ubik; 01-10-2017, 02:56 AM.
                        Captain John Sheridan: I really *hate* it when you do that.

                        Kosh: Good!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I like the character Garak, the tailor/spy. He exuded that knowing air of "nobody here is quite like they seem". It's like he was watching the show along with you.

                          And Wallace Shawn as Grand Nagus Zek was always a welcome sight.

                          Funny enough I started watching it on Netflix a couple of months ago but I stalled out. I liked it, it's good, but the pacing was a bit slow for me to start binging on it. I switched to watching enterprise and that just flys along. Some shows I reserve for watching on a tablet at the gym mostly, Enterprise is one of them. It helps the treadmill feel less tedious.

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                          • #14
                            The actors who play the Cardassians are generally superb. I wish the writers didn't throw subtlety out the window later on, especially in terms of Gul Dukat, because the Cardassians really are the most interesting part of late DS9.
                            Jonas Kyratzes | Lands of Dream

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                            • #15
                              I was fond of the aide to the Founder

                              The one from the species that got "uplifted". He really sold the part he played. I can still remember how he described his people, before the Founders breathed sentience into them.

                              The Cardassians made for good heavies because they were smart, had clever plans, and could often be reasoned with. That sometimes made the plots enjoyably unpredictable. And their grudges usually had some basis in fact. It's not like they had a quota of evil they had to fill.

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