Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Past Prologue" Progresses Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Remarkably Well!

The Good: CHARACTER!, Acting, Storyline - excellent plot!
The Bad: Minor make-up problems, "early series" feel.
The Basics: A must for anyone covering the essential Deep Space Nine, good viewing for those looking for something relevant and well written.

In an ideal world, with ideal television, Neilsen ratings would not rule. Also, any series that lasts longer than four years, in an ideal world, would go back and - as the series winds down - reshoot the first five to ten episodes. There's always a difficulty in those first few episodes that gets overcome as the actors become comfortable with their characters. Occasionally (i.e. NYPD Blue) that discomfort fits the plot or setting well. It's more difficult when you have a series like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine which is serialized and is essentially one long story - it becomes harder to justify the actor's difficulties and write them off to character.

"Past Prologue" is one of the last Deep Space Nine episodes where that difficulty exists and it is revealed quite potently in a quick comparison of the actors on hand - Gwynyth Walsh and Barbara March (B'Etor and Lursa, the Duras sisters), for example, feel much more comfortable on screen than most of the other characters, which is an irony considering this is their characters' first and only time on the station!

"Past Prologue" is a pretty sharp character study and it sets up the series' viewers for a far better and more important episode down the line.

Ostensibly, "Past Prologue" begins as your typical A-plot, B-line story, but it brings the two together. The B-Plot becomes more important in the long run. The B-Plot introduces Cardassian tailor and exile Garak, a slick man who may or may not be a spy. Indeed, opening the episode with him introducing himself to Bashir is easily one of the funniest scenes - and best executed - in the series. It's an irony; the scene is one of the most pure introductions ever and yet it doesn't feel like a "Here I am, I'm a new character, get used to me" scene. Garak (expertly played with dripping intrigue by Andrew J. Robinson) inserts himself into Bashir's life and quickly embroils him in a plot with the Duras Sisters, Klingon political renegades who show up on the station (the second crossover from Star Trek The Next Generation - the first being Picard in "Emissary").

The A-Plot is where the title comes from. Major Kira's loyalties are tested when a man from her past, a terrorist of the most extremely violent sect on Bajor, appears on the station and requests amnesty. As Kira works through political channels to get Tahna Los (the terrorist) legitimate amnesty, she is forced to look at herself and see how she has adapted to the changes of political events surrounding her homeworld.

The advantage of "Past Prologue" is it comes at the right time. Kira's fundamentalism is pure and she represents a genuine security threat because she's somewhat emotionally unstable. That is, through this point, she has been a passionate individual out for her planet's best interests and so there is no guarantee of how she'll resolve this first test.

The level of character exhibited in this episode is so much sharper than anything else on television at the time this was first aired. In her sorting everything out, there is a wonderful scene between Kira and Odo that establishes a deep seated bond of trust between the two.

To say "Past Prologue" is only a set up episode in the larger plots is unfair. It provides an early test for our characters - who often do disagree - on how they will react when they are directly at odds. Moreover, despite minor production flaws, Jeffrey Nordling (Tahna Los) gives a performance that is phenomenal, just on the right side of over-the-top!

"Past Prologue" manages to be a fairly solid episode and is a must for those watching only the essential Deep Space Nine episodes. It originally aired as the second episode.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete First Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the first season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2001, 2008, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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