Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary

This month thirty years ago, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the second Star Trek spinoff (not counting the 1970s animated series) premiered on independent TV stations. Right from its pilot episode “Emissary” viewers saw that this was a decidedly different Star Trek show. Its main character was not a white starship captain, it did not take place onboard a starship, and its ensemble cast of characters was very diverse for its time. More than that the stories were more grounded and tackled headier topics like religion and politics, while the characters were not clean-cut explorers who got along well with everyone. Instead they exhibited shades of grey and were quite flawed.

Many fans at that time were put off by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because it did not follow the typical Star Trek formula and was deemed to be too dark in tone. They wanted the loftier or swashbuckling tone of earlier Star Trek shows that took place on starships that met new aliens every week. With Deep Space Nine, the setting was stationary, pardon the pun, as it took place on an alien space station that was run by the human-centric Starfleet.

While Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a success, it did not reach the level of adoration that earlier Star Treks had. Before it had time to build an audience, Star Trek: Voyager was launched a couple of years after Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and conusmed a lot of attention away as it returned to the trusted formula of a starship crew exploring space with a twist. However, in recent years, many have discovered for themselves what they initially missed or disregarded and saw its groundbreaking merits.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine starred Avery Brooks as Commander Ben Sisko, an emotionally fragile and jaded Starfleet officer, who was mourning the death of his wife. He is assigned to command the Deep Space Nine space station orbitting the war-torn planet Bajor that wants to be part of the United Federation of Planets. After their arrival, Sisko and his young son meet an eclectic group of characters including Sisko’s second-in-command Major Kira Nerys, a strong-willed former freedom fighter, Quark, a greedy alien bar owner, Odo, a gruff shape-shifting alien security chief, and more. In the pilot episode, Sisko was seriously considering leaving Starfleet, but soon discovers a nearby stable wormhole that transforms Bajor and Deep Space Nine into a major gateway destination in the known galaxy. After an encounter with non-corporeal aliens in the wormhole, Sisko gains a deeper understanding of his life and moves on past his wife’s death with a renewed vigor as an officer. At the same time, he becomes a religious figure to the people of Bajor, who see his wormhole discovery as part of a prophecy about their salvation. This development, naturally, causes discomfort for Sisko, who is has his hands full keeping the peace, raising his son and running the station.

Thanks to its newfound importance, Bajor and the station becomes the centerpoint for intrigue and machinations from various parties throughout the galaxy and is so valued that before long a war breaks out for control of Deep Space Nine and the wormhole. When war breaks out, which was a first for Star Trek, its brutal horrors test our characters in relatable ways never seen before in a Star Trek show.

One thing that the show accomplished was that it embraced the now-common story arcs that continue from one episode to the next. Previous Star Trek shows followed an episodic formula with standalone stories. But by ditching that format, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gave its characters and situations room to breath and develop. One example was the war arc that took place over several seasons, and culminated in an epic final season that was a fully engrossing and rewarding viewing experience.

Thankfully, the show has found a second life as more and more fans have discovered it and appreciated it. Even though there have been numerous Star Trek shows since, many consider Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to be the best Star Trek show of all time and they have a point. It stands out today because it did not follow the conventional Star Trek formula. It took risks and struck storytelling gold. It’s unfortunate that we have not had any followups or reunions with the show, but it is rumored that the new season of Star Trek: Picard will feature some kind of reunion related to Deep Space Nine, so we’ll find out soon. it is comforting to know that with the current slate of numerous Star Trek shows, not only has Star Trek: Deep Space Nine withstood the test of time but it has propered.

José Soto

The DCEU: How It Should Have Launched

Whether we’re excited for what James Gunn and Peter Safran have planned for their relaunched films based on DC Comics properties or lamenting the demise of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), it is clear by now that the DCEU has lost its way.

There are many reasons why the DCEU ultimately faltered and a common factor that many point to has to do with the schedule of its early films and who they were centered on. Many fans have griped that there never was a proper sequel to Man of Steel or that Batman never had a solo film, while other announced films have yet to materialize.

So, could the DCEU have succeeded early on? It is possible and there are many avenues the films could have taken. Some have suggested that the DCEU films should have taken a gradual approach in introducing the heroes before releasing Justice League in the same way Marvel Studios led up to the release of The Avengers. There were many reasons why Warner Bros. did not take this approach with their reps publicly stating they did not want to copy the formula used by Marvel Studios. But if they did try to emulate the formula, how would the DCEU have turned out? Let’s look further.

The first film of the DCEU, Man of Steel, is released in 2013 as it happened in real life. Except, this time the film would have more Easter eggs to a greater DCEU instead of a quick glimpse of a satellite belonging to Bruce Wayne. The film would have a post-credits scene which would show a news montage about the Kryptonian invasion of Earth and the revelation of Superman. As the talking heads would debate about an alien being walking among us, the images would pull back to show they are coming from a TV screen or monitor and we would see that this scene is taking place in the Batcave or in S.T.A.R. Labs.

2015

Instead of waiting until 2016 to release the next DCEU film, Warner Bros. would release two films in 2015. A proper sequel to Man of Steel called Man of Tomorrow, which would be a solo Superman film, and a solo Batman film called The Caped Crusader.

Man of Tomorrow would have been very similar to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice except that Lex Luthor would have been recast and Batman/Bruce Wayne would only make brief appearances. He never would have fought or even met Superman. That opening in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice where Bruce Wayne personally witnesses the destruction in Metropolis from Superman’s fight with the Kryptonians would swap out Wayne with Luthor. This gives Luthor more of a reason to hate Superman because he saw firsthand the danger of this superpowered alien. The rest of the film would have explored the ramifications of Superman’s presence in the world with Luthor trying to discredit him. The film could have had references to other DC heroes who at this time are operating in the shadows or have not become superheroes yet.

Like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Man of Tomorrow would have concluded with Superman confronting by himself a genetic monstrosity that Luthor created but instead of Doomsday it would have been an evil Superman clone, who we would know was a malevolent version of Bizarro. The film would include two post-credits scenes. One would show that Luthor had created another genetic opponent for Superman that was locked up. This creature would have been revealed to be Doomsday. The other scene would take place in another world and reveal that the recent superhuman activities have caught the attention of Darkseid.

The Caped Crusader film would be a proper solo film for Batman and it would have shown Batman to be coming out of semi-retirement. It also would have shown that Batman is largely considered to be an urban myth but by the end of the film, Batman would be revealed to be an actual person who fights crime. The Joker would not appear in the film or even be hinted at. Instead the villain would be Deathstroke as The Caped Crusader would have been based on Ben Affleck’s script for the scrapped Batman solo film where Deathstroke blamed Batman for the death of his son and tried to get revenge on Batman. As with Man of Tomorrow, the Batman film would have had references to the greater DCEU and possibly featured Superman in a cameo, probably as part of a newscast. It possibly could have introduced Diana Prince as a mysterious and potential love interest for Wayne. The film also would have post-credits scenes that set up a sequel and have Prince revealed to be Wonder Woman.

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Top Ten Films & TV Shows Of 2022

2022 is done and it is time to briefly look back at the best genre films and television shows that came out in 2022. Of course, every reader’s preference and ranking will be different and everyone will have their opinions about these lists and are entitled to them. Drop a comment if you agree with the rankings or have different ones.

TV Shows

It is clear that we are in the middle of a Golden Age of genre TV shows given there so many high-quality shows that came out in just one year. Many of the streamed or aired TV shows are genuine classics with the top three shows being virtually tied for first place and their ranks can be interchanged.

10. The Peripheral

Loosely based on William Gibson’s book, this was one sci-fi show worth watching. Chloë Moretz Grace stars as a VR gamer in the near future caught up in a mind-bending conspiracy involving time travel and alternate realities.

9. The Sandman

This turned out to be a remarkably faithful adaptation of the classic DC/Vertigo dark fantasy comic book. More like a traditional episodic show with standalone stories, The Sandman was inventive, colorful, disturbing and brilliant.

8. Peacemaker

James Gunn sojourn into the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) took a hysterical turn with the first (and possibly final) DCEU TV show. It took one of the least likeable anti-heroes from The Suicide Squad and turned him into a relatable and emotionally complex character.

7. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Director James Gunn delivered an awesome, heartfelt and funny holiday special starring the Guardians of the Galaxy. In between the gooey holiday scenes were moments of pure laughter as the alien Guardians went to Earth to kidnap the actor Kevin Bacon to present as a Christmas present. The songs were great, too.

6. The Boys

With the introduction of Soldier Boy, The Boys took a turn at satirizing the Marvel Comics heroes with his clear similarities to Captain America. Meanwhile, the series continued to be outrageously violent with gross-out humor and in-your-face commentary about our times.

5. Obi-Wan Kenobi

Ewan McGregor reprised the role he made his own in the Star Wars prequels. The series served as both a sequel to those films and a prequel to the original Star Wars. Despite some flaws, McGregor elevated the show with his brilliant performance as a fallen Jedi who has to rediscover his faith.

4. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Despite some Star Trek shows that faltered in 2022, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds breathed new life in the franchise. This was due to smart scripts that emulated the original Star Trek, a charming cast, and a back-to-basics approach with its storytelling that favored standalone episodes.

3. Andor

Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) in Lucasfilm’s ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

This Star Wars show was the ultimate slow burn as the prequel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story centered on the anti-hero Rebel agent, Cassian Andor. Separate arcs thoroughly examined Andor’s personal growth and the people around him. It also realistically depicted of how a rebellion grows in an authoritarian society.

2. House of the Dragon

Many who were disappointed by the final season of Game of Thrones were pleasantly surprised by this fascinating prequel that focused on the dragon-worshiping Targaryen royal family. Despite its prequel limitations, the show quickly captivated audiences who were drawn back to the fantasy world of George R.R. Martin.

1. Stranger Things 4

The fourth season of Stranger Things managed to reinvigorate the series with fascinating origin stories and situations, and new and memorable characters. At the same time, this season focused on the core characters that were so beloved and who were allowed to grow as they faced terrifying new threats from the Upside Down dimension.

Honorable Mentions:

Doom Patrol; For All Mankind; Halo; The Handmaid’s Tale; Love, Death + Robots; Moon Knight; The Orville; Raised By Wolves; Severance; She-Hulk: Attorney At Law; Snowpiercer, Star Trek: Picard; Star Trek: Prodigy; Superman & Lois; Tales of the Jedi; Titans; Werewolf By Night; The Umbrella Academy; Undone

Films

Surprisingly, the genre offerings for 2022 were not as plentiful as in previous years. Superhero films still dominate the release schedule though many other genre films (horror, animated, sci-fi, fantasy) have made their presence felt as well in a solid year for genre films.

10. Sonic the Hedgehog 2

The sequel film delivered the best family film of the year. It was also an exciting, colorful and largely faithful live-action adaptation of the classic Sega video game hero and his expanded roster of friends and foes.

9. The Black Phone

This film by Scott Derrickson proved why he is one of the best visionary horror directors today with The Black Phone. He cleverly combined classic horror elements from serial killers to psychic phenomenon to ghosts.

8. Nope

Director Jordan Peele’s latest genre offering was an intriguing and original take on the U.F.O. phenomenon. Nope had its fair share of suspense, horror and the contemplative character studies Peele is known for, as well as elements of a neo-Western.

7. Prey

The Predator franchise was unexpectedly revived with the latest film that took the franchise in a new and fresh direction. Placing the film centuries ago, Prey amped up the thrills as the human characters had to rely on their wits and skills instead of technology against the inhuman Predator hunting them.

6. Everything Everywhere All at Once

Michelle Yeoh turned in a fantastic performance as several variations of the same character in this film that gave us a true multiverse of madness. The film truly went out there with its sometimes bizarre depictions of colliding parallel universes.

5. Jurassic World: Dominion

The conclusion to the second Jurassic Park film trilogy ended on a high note full of dinosaurs rampaging in modern-day society. However, the film’s true high note was when it had the main heroes from both trilogies meeting and teaming up to save the world from extinction.

4 Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Director Ryan Coogler pulled off the impossible with a sequel that does not feature the star or main character from the original film. This film was full of depth as it explored grief and loss, while expanding the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with the introduction of one of Marvel’s best anti-heroes, Namor.

3. The Batman

We actually got to see the Dark Knight Detective do some actual detective work in this grounded and gritty version of Batman. The dark and brooding film delivered intense action, intrigue and a horrifying version of the Riddler that rivaled classic cinematic serial killers.

2. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

While the year’s top MCU film did not exactly deliver a multiverse of madness, it was a fun deep dive into the MCU with chilling horror elements and wild visuals. Sam Raimi was an inspired choice of a director who utilized his horror and comic book film background to full effect.

1. Avatar: The Way of Water

The sequel to Avatar, the biggest box office hit of all time, surprised many who dismissed it for being an empty special effects-heavy sequel. However, director James Cameron’s breathtaking vision of an alien world and its solid world building and characters helped propel Avatar: The Way of Water into a must-see event.

Honorable Mentions:

Barbarian; Beavis and Butthead Do the Universe; Black Crab; Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers; DC League of Super Pets; Lighthyear; Moonfall; Puss in Boots: The Last Wish; Smile; Strange World; Thor: Love and Thunder; Turning Red

Beyond Avatar: The Way Of Water

Despite what many naysayers predicted, Avatar: The Way of Water has proven to be a box office hit, which means that future films will be produced.

At this point, the third Avatar film is already done and will be released in two years. There are reports that the fourth film has been partially filmed, but that could just be effects shots that would be unfinished if the film never comes to be.

Given that director James Cameron envisioned five films to tell his Avatar story, where would the story go? There will be spoilers below for both Avatar films released to date.

One of the best features of Avatar: The Way of Water is that unlike the previous film, it actually opened up the worldbuilding in the franchise and dropped tantalizing hints of where the story will go.

The Kiri Connection

The film introduced many new characters and gave new and interesting developments for established characters. The most interesting new character was Kiri, the adopted daughter of Jake Sully and Neytiri. It was revealed that she is the daughter of Grace Augustine, who was killed in the first Avatar, but there are questions as to who is her father. More importantly, Kiri was shown to have a deep, spiritual connection to Eywa, a life force that is connected to all living creatures on Pandora, the alien moon in Avatar where the characters live. Her connection to Eywa was quite evident as she used it to defend herself against humans hunting her and her siblings, and when she was able to get bioluminescent fish creatures to help find her adopted mother and sister, who were in danger of drowning.

It has been theorized that Kiri does not have a father and is a product of an immaculate conception, which has many echoes of not only the Star Wars prequels but Christian religion. Another theory has it that Kiri is actually the personification of Eywa, who has taken physical form to better understand Pandora and the Na’vi. In either case, Kiri is being set up to be a conduit or a savior of the moon against the human invaders, and this will be the needed advantage the Na’vi people will need against the humans.

In our history, whenever a technologically advanced culture first encountered a native culture that was not as technologically advanced, the results were grim for the native culture, as it was overwhelmed. The Na’vi face a similar fate in the overall story of Avatar, and the Eywa connection will probably be the only way they could fight back against the humans. We’ve seen this already in Avatar, when out of nowhere armies of native animals viciously attacked human forces trying to destroy a Na’vi stronghold, and we saw it again to a lesser extent in the sequel when Kiri used her connection to Eywa to protect her.

Not only is Kiri the key to saving Pandora, but possibly Earth itself. It was mentioned in Avatar: The Way of Water that Earth was dying, which was why humans showed up in greater numbers to begin colonizing the moon. The title of the third film is for now, Avatar: The Seed Bearer, this could be referring to Kiri. If she turns out to be a manifestation of Eywa, she could provide the means to somehow saving Earth from ecological devastation.

James Cameron has said that at some point in either the fourth or fifth planned film, part of the story will take place on Earth. This is where Kiri and Earth’s salvation could come into play.

Other Points of Views

The director elaborated that Neytiri will visit Earth and be exposed to other aspects of humanity. She will learn that not all humans are evil. This is a bit odd given her romantic relationship with Jake Sully, who was once human, and that he has close ties with sympathetic humans on Pandora, who have aided the Na’vi. Then again the fact that her son was killed by humans could have hardened her against humans. A clue for this development was when she grabbed Quaritch’s human son Spider and threatened to kill him. For a moment in that scene, it really looked like she meant to do it, given her earlier rampage against human soldiers who killed her son.

On Earth, Neytiri will probably find human allies who are ready to join the struggle against human invaders on Pandora. It is possible the franchise could conclude with epic battles taking place on Pandora and even on Earth as Na’vi and human allies fight the invading humans who are bent on world conquest. One of those possible allies could be Quaritch himself.

When Quaritch was first introduced in Avatar, he was a one-note villain who only saw the Na’vi as savages or pests to be eliminated. He was killed at the end of the film. In the sequel he was resurrected in a way when an avatar body (a clone grown out human and Na’vi DNA) was created in his image and implanted with his memories. Throughout Avatar: The Way of Water Quaritch is out hunting Jake Sully, but in a Na’vi body. This allowed him to better blend in and survive the deadly environment of Pandora. In the film, Quaritch makes great efforts to adopt the Na’vi way of life to better understand his prey. This could eventually make him sympathetic to the Na’vi even though Cameron said he would be the villain in the next two films. We saw him soften from his tough-as-nails militaristic demeanor in Avatar: The Way of Water. He forms a fragile bond with the son of the original Quaritch to the point that he gives in to Neytiri when she threatens his son.

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A Breathtaking Return To Pandora With Avatar: The Way Of Water

Never bet against filmmaker James Cameron, or yes, it was well worth the wait for Avatar: The Way of Water.

Some like to rant about the visionary director and his reported massive ego, as well as his previous film Avatar. Others openly derided the long wait for its sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, with claims that the sequel was unwanted or that it would not be on par with Cameron’s earlier works. But James Cameron demonstrated again with Avatar: The Way of Water why he is one of our best filmmakers.

Avatar: The Way of Water takes place about a decade and a half after the events of the first Avatar film. Former human marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) has fully integrated into his second life as a chief of a Na’vi tribe on the habitable moon Pandora. He lives a quiet life with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and their four children until the humans that he helped drive off the moon in the last film have returned.

Instead of coming to mine the moon for minerals, humans have arrived en masse to turn Pandora into a new home for humans fleeing a dying Earth. Among the returning humans is Quaritch (Stephan Lang), who was actually killed in the last film, but his DNA was used to clone a new hybrid Avatar body, which was also imprinted with his memories. This was done so he could blend in with the Na’vi people and move freely on Pandora. His mission is to hunt down Sully, who is leading a successful guerilla campaign against the human colonists.

Sully soon realizes that his family is imperiled so he steps down as chief of his tribe and leaves his forest home with his family. Their travels lead them to an island tribe of Na’vi along the seashore, who grant them shelter under the provision the Sullys adapt to their aquatic lifestyle. The film’s narrative shifts to the Sully children as they struggle to learn the culture of their new home, particularly Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), who suffers from middle-child syndrome, and Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), the Sullys’ adopted daughter, who has a mystical connection with Eywa, Pandora’s life force that is connected to all of Pandora’s living creatures.

Meanwhile, as Jake and his family adapt to their new home, Quaritch becomes obsessed with hunting down his foe with the unwilling help of his prisoner Spider (Jack Champion), a teenage human who has adopted the Na’vi way of life.

As these stories go, the paths of Jake and Quaritch soon collide with an epic Cameron-style flourish. Certainly, James Cameron is in his watery element when it comes to framing the film’s spectacular confrontations in the final act. Combine the action scenes on the sea with awe-inspiring underwater cinematography, and it becomes clear that the director was born for aquatic filming!

To say that Avatar: The Way of Water is epic or breathtaking is a serious understatement. The film’s visuals simply overwhelm our visual senses as Pandora comes to crystalline life. At times it is so easy to get so involved and engrossed with what the big screen unfurls. It was like watching a National Geographic nature special, but with alien flora and fauna. The film’s visual effects were so revolutionary that I had to remind myself at times that these were imaginary animals and characters. Clearly, the effects set a new bar that will be impossible to overcome for a long time and help explain why it took so long for this film to be made. Seriously, just give the film the Oscar for best visual effects at this point without bothering to list other! On a final note, yes, Avatar: The Way of Water must be seen on a big screen, in 3D if possible, as a home viewing will lessen the visual experience.

As breathtaking as the return to Pandora was, the experience would have felt empty if not for the film’s story. There are some themes and story beats that are familiar like the adaptation to new cultures, or its pro-environmental messages. However, there are interesting twists and turns that keep the overall story fresh. Admittedly, some plot developments are predictable, yet the characters are much more engaging than in the previous film. For example, Quaritch has more depth than the two-dimensional villain he was in the first Avatar, being that he is in a unique situation that he is no longer human. Meanwhile, Jake Sully struggles between his roles as a warrior and a father to his children, while dealing with the human threat. But there are some characters that do get lost in the vast story and wind up in the background without leaving much of an impression.

The film also sets up intriguing arcs that will be resolved in future films such as with Kiri and her spiritual connection to Eywa. Then there are many questions about how the Na’vi will survive, let along be able to stop human colonization. The outcome may be dire for the Pandora natives given our own real-life history of when indigenous people first encountered invading forces with superior technology.

These questions alone made me enthusiastic for James Cameron’s upcoming sequels: Avatar: The Seed Bearer, Avatar: The Tulkin Rider, and Avatar: The Quest for Eywa.  Some reports have it that the fifth film will take place on Earth, as the Na’vi will visit the planet. Hopefully, all planned films won’t take so long to be released. Remember that Avatar: The Way of Water was delayed many times, so with some luck, the sequels will be released during this decade as planned, and they will deliver the same jaw-dropping experience as Avatar: The Way of Water.

José Soto