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Deep Space Nine What We Left Behind, we will always have here.

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Old August 8 2010, 02:24 PM   #1
Cepstrum
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Two things that amaze me about DS9

As I've mentioned before, I'm not partial to DS9. I like it, TNG, and VOY equally. I'm glad they made all three.

But I do very much like DS9, and here are two things that amaze me:

1. For some reason, IMO the SFX of DS9 have aged the best. The sets look quite convincing, the styles look timeless, and even in 2010, I find the space battles to be nearly flawless. I know they used a lot of recycled footage, but I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't read about it.

In contrast, VOY's space scenes looked fairly poor until about the fourth or fifth season. And they had a bigger budget and didn't have to show huge space battles: usually it was just Voyager and the ship of the week. But the space scenes from the early seasons look, IMO, pretty fake.

2. I cannot believe that DS9 did not have a pre-planned story and that the team of writers used as hoc methods of writing the arcs, etc. They didn't plan in advance most of the show (AFAIK), but it has the appearance of a show based on a story/novel written ahead of time by a single author.


Do those two things impress anyone else as much as they do me?

Note: they're not the principal reasons *why* I like DS9. I could talk a lot about the many things I appreciate about the show. (I imagine there have already been many such threads discussing what we like about the show. Rather, these two things just amaze me. Especially the miniseries/arcs in seasons six and seven: I read that a different writer or team was responsible for each part, and they had to work closely to ensure one story didn't mess up the next one. I don't see how they could do all this without knowing what's going to happen in advance (such as with Dukat).
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Old August 8 2010, 02:57 PM   #2
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Re: Two things that amaze me about DS9

Oh man, the hard work they put into those two arcs really paid off, too. It must have been quite difficult indeed, getting all those folks together and then splitting them up, and then having to collaborate on every scene, damn near every line.

I've read numerous times throughout the years that the people involved in those arcs all concur it was rough, but all concur it was worth it. Only a couple of episodes seemed to leave anyone in the production team with a sense of longing for something more polished. I know 'Extreme Measures' is the one that, I think it was Ira Steven Behr, said was the only episode in the whole of 'The Final Chapter' he really thinks could have been a fair bit better.
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Old August 8 2010, 03:13 PM   #3
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Re: Two things that amaze me about DS9

Jeff O'Connor wrote: View Post
Oh man, the hard work they put into those two arcs really paid off, too. It must have been quite difficult indeed, getting all those folks together and then splitting them up, and then having to collaborate on every scene, damn near every line.

I've read numerous times throughout the years that the people involved in those arcs all concur it was rough, but all concur it was worth it. Only a couple of episodes seemed to leave anyone in the production team with a sense of longing for something more polished. I know 'Extreme Measures' is the one that, I think it was Ira Steven Behr, said was the only episode in the whole of 'The Final Chapter' he really thinks could have been a fair bit better.
I agree about Extreme Measures. But wasn't part of the problem budget related? ie, they couldn't afford to use the sets they wanted?

But you're right about the colossal writing effort. I recall hearing that Extreme Measures was going to feature Kira and Odo but a previous story had put them on Cardassia so they had to use Miles and Julian.

So I wonder how it turned out so well. Who was chiefly responsible? Behr? I assume someone in the writing staff had the ultimate say; otherwise, deciding by consensus would take too long.




Does anyone agree that the SFX of DS9 looked better than Voyager's (at least for seasons 1--3)? Maybe VOY was using primitive CGI that turned out poorly. But I thought they used models initially. Consider the scene of Voyager in the Badlands. Sure, it was '95, but it looked really fake. There were other later examples that looked just as bad, but I don't recall any space scenes in DS9 looking poor. And, of course, VOY did eventually create excellent imagery, and even its opening scene, which was obviously done around '94--'95, looked great.
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Old August 8 2010, 04:05 PM   #4
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Re: Two things that amaze me about DS9

I can't speak to VOY much, only seen 5-6 early eps, but DS9 does look good to me. It's a creative sweet spot - the new uniforms at the time matched the show perfectly, and the overall styling, camera work, and lighting, all inherits the best of TNG while taking it to a new level.
DS9 has a great overall texture to it, right down to the coffee mugs.
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Old August 8 2010, 09:24 PM   #5
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Re: Two things that amaze me about DS9

DS9 and VOY used traditional models for most of their SFX in their early seasons. It was around 1996 that they started to transition over to CGI.

The thing that makes DS9's SFX stand out so much, however, is the way they were used. Almost every time when you saw something spectacular on screen, it carried significant dramatic weight. Yeah, watching ships get blowed up real good in Sacrifice Of Angels is fun and all, but when you understand the stakes of that battle, it only ramps up the tension of such scenes. And for that, you need great storytelling so the audience is fully invested in such stakes.

It's why VOY's SFX, though often good on a technical merit, are seldom as memorable. After watching the ship get out of numerous tight spots over the years, it's hard to suspend your disbelief it's ever in any real danger - which is also why Year Of Hell's SFX do stand out, because all bets are off in this alternate timeline.
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Old August 8 2010, 10:21 PM   #6
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Re: Two things that amaze me about DS9

I haven't seen Voyager in too long to comment on a comparison, but I do have a certain fondness for DS9's effects to be sure. I think Sykonee got it, though: at least in part it has a lot to do with the dramatic impact.
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Old August 9 2010, 06:19 PM   #7
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Re: Two things that amaze me about DS9

^^^
Those are valid points. Still, when they began using CGI, I think maybe VOY made some mistake, for the early battles and space scenes didn't look convincing. Did they rely on it more than DS9? The only way I can describe the difference in appearance is that between daytime soap operas and prime time dramas. The former look like they're shot with basic home video cameras, whereas the latter look more like film. Maybe the frame rate of Voyager's early exterior action was too high, which made it look more like video than film. Or something. But if you compare a Voyager scene from the first few seasons to any exterior shot in DS9, the difference is striking. Just look at Voyager's trek through the Badlands, for example. *Something* is not right.
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Old August 9 2010, 06:41 PM   #8
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Re: Two things that amaze me about DS9

Cepstrum wrote: View Post
2. I cannot believe that DS9 did not have a pre-planned story and that the team of writers used as hoc methods of writing the arcs, etc. They didn't plan in advance most of the show (AFAIK), but it has the appearance of a show based on a story/novel written ahead of time by a single author.
No they didn't usually plan in advance, but when stuff like the 6-episode arc in season six came along or the arc at the end of the series, the writers did break down the story together to make sure it flowed well and that everyone writing scripts would come up with episodes that synchronized together. The Deep Space Nine Companion has a lot of interesting details on this process if you can find the book somewhere.

Cepstrum wrote: View Post
So I wonder how it turned out so well. Who was chiefly responsible? Behr? I assume someone in the writing staff had the ultimate say; otherwise, deciding by consensus would take too long.
Yes, Ira Steven Behr was the one in charge of the writing staff after Michael Piller stepped down to Creative Consultant on the show.
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Old August 9 2010, 09:56 PM   #9
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Re: Two things that amaze me about DS9

Cepstrum wrote: View Post

2. I cannot believe that DS9 did not have a pre-planned story and that the team of writers used as hoc methods of writing the arcs, etc. They didn't plan in advance most of the show (AFAIK), but it has the appearance of a show based on a story/novel written ahead of time by a single author.

A lot of people complained about the extremely long story arcs in DS9 because if one is only a casual viewer of the show you're lost if you miss even a couple of episodes.

I think that's a valid complaint when the series was on television weekly, but now that you can rent or buy the series and watch them at your leisure it's mute.

Story arcs build character development for me as a viewer more so than single episodes in a bottle.

And as you say it forces the writers to do their home work to stay consistent with the rest of the series.
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Old August 9 2010, 10:39 PM   #10
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Re: Two things that amaze me about DS9

Cepstrum wrote: View Post
1. For some reason, IMO the SFX of DS9 have aged the best. The sets look quite convincing, the styles look timeless, and even in 2010, I find the space battles to be nearly flawless. I know they used a lot of recycled footage, but I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't read about it.
I actually find the space battles in seasons 1-5 look very dated. The ships themselves look great, they're fantastically detailed models, the lighting is great and the way they fly around the place is well done, but the explosions look wrong. A ship will be hit with a phaser blast and an explosion will hang in space somehow. Where did the oxygen for the explosion come from? Why hasn't the vacuum dissipated it almost immediately?

The bigger problem is the way in which ships exploded. Watch this video at the 2:24 mark:


There's a K'tinga class cruiser with explosions around it, suddenly it completely disappears and is replaced with a firework. Where did the hull go? Now watch from the 2:29 mark and keep your eyes on the Vor'cha ship in the back left. This time we do see the hull after the explosion, but it doesn't look natural, it's like a firework going off in an air-fix model. (That's because it probably was.)

In seasons 6 & 7, when they switched over to CGI for the modelling during battle sequences, there's a big improvement in explosion effects because you get to see the ships break up, most notably with the Setak and Majestic in Sacrifice of Angels (and again in WYLB ). The downside to this is that the CGI ship models don't look as good as the physical models, they look quite cartoony in some shots.

None of this detracts from my enjoyment of DS9, however.

Cepstrum wrote: View Post
I agree about Extreme Measures. But wasn't part of the problem budget related? ie, they couldn't afford to use the sets they wanted?
That was part of the problem, they had to create the concept of going inside Sloan's head so that they could use the DS9 and Defiant sets. Whether that would have fixed all the problems, I don't know. Part of the problem with that episode was that they dropped the rest of the arc to focus on a Bashir and O'Brien adventure, if the episode still did that in the original version it would suffer from a lot of the same problems.
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Old August 10 2010, 01:32 AM   #11
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Re: Two things that amaze me about DS9

JoeD80 wrote: View Post
Cepstrum wrote: View Post
So I wonder how it turned out so well. Who was chiefly responsible? Behr? I assume someone in the writing staff had the ultimate say; otherwise, deciding by consensus would take too long.
Yes, Ira Steven Behr was the one in charge of the writing staff after Michael Piller stepped down to Creative Consultant on the show.
I have mixed feelings about ISB, since he is also directly responsible for things like the relentless obsession with the Ferengi comedy episodes, the complete fubaring of the Mirror Universe post-Crossover, and Dukat's character "development" in lseason 7.
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Old August 10 2010, 04:22 AM   #12
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Re: Two things that amaze me about DS9

DevilEyes wrote: View Post
I have mixed feelings about ISB, since he is also directly responsible for things like the relentless obsession with the Ferengi comedy episodes, the complete fubaring of the Mirror Universe post-Crossover, and Dukat's character "development" in lseason 7.
Behr's good did outweigh his bad, but boy when he was bad, he was bad!
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Old August 10 2010, 04:46 AM   #13
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Re: Two things that amaze me about DS9

Cepstrum wrote: View Post
1. For some reason, IMO the SFX of DS9 have aged the best. The sets look quite convincing, the styles look timeless, and even in 2010, I find the space battles to be nearly flawless. I know they used a lot of recycled footage, but I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't read about it.
The DS9 set itself is gorgeous, especially the promenade (as opposed to ops, which is good but not on the same level). I'm also a big fan of the bridge of the Defiant.

As for space battles, these always require a lot of suspension of disbelief, which I am more than willing to provide, generally speaking. DS9's battles hold up quite well, but I agree with earlier posts in this thread that this is largely because of the dramatic weight of episodes such as Call to Arms and Sacrifice of Angels.

By contrast, the third mirror universe episode (Shattered Mirror?) has a big showcase battle for the Defiant that I had entirely forgotten about until recently. It did not feel momentous, so it was not memorable.


Cepstrum wrote: View Post
2. I cannot believe that DS9 did not have a pre-planned story and that the team of writers used as hoc methods of writing the arcs, etc. They didn't plan in advance most of the show (AFAIK), but it has the appearance of a show based on a story/novel written ahead of time by a single author.
I can believe it, though I agree DS9 can be pretty amazing in the way you are suggesting. One of the fascinating aspects of DS9, I find, is the hybrid nature of the show: standalone episodes, character portraits, mini-arcs, serial storylines, etc. Some plot threads come together so well by the end that they seem perfectly organic and natural, perhaps even better than they would have been if they had been planned out in advance. Others, not so much.

An example of the sublime variety is Kira's involvement with the Cardassian resistance in the final chapter. There is so much depth there, so many interesting resonances that tie back into the early years of the show. It's perfect.

Odo's character arc as "one of the hundred" is also quite seamless. Same with characters like Nog and Garak.

Some other storylines suffer from a sense that strings are being pulled and characters artificially manipulated to suit the needs of the story. Dukat's post-Waltz appearances are the most glaring example. The Pagh-Wraith storyline never comes together in a satisfying manner.

In the case of characters like Bashir, there is a little of both. His gradual maturation works quite nicely, especially as paired with the whole espionage angle, which starts as an innocent pastime and ends up becoming quite sinister. On the other hand, the genetic engineering retcon ended up being a bit of a dead end imo.

So, there are times when you can see the cracks and times when it all comes together seamlessly. DS9 is one long experiment, basically: it keeps re-inventing itself right up until the end.

Last edited by flemm; August 10 2010 at 05:23 AM.
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Old August 10 2010, 05:33 AM   #14
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Re: Two things that amaze me about DS9

flemm wrote: View Post
Cepstrum wrote: View Post
1. For some reason, IMO the SFX of DS9 have aged the best. The sets look quite convincing, the styles look timeless, and even in 2010, I find the space battles to be nearly flawless. I know they used a lot of recycled footage, but I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't read about it.
The DS9 set itself is gorgeous, especially the promenade (as opposed to ops, which is good but not on the same level). I'm also a big fan of the bridge of the Defiant.

As for space battles, these always require a lot of suspension of disbelief, which I am more than willing to provide, generally speaking. DS9's battles hold up quite well, but I agree with earlier posts in this thread that this is largely because of the dramatic weight of episodes such as Call to Arms and Sacrifice of Angels.

By contrast, the third mirror universe episode (Shattered Mirror?) has a big showcase battle for the Defiant that I had entirely forgotten about until recently. It did not feel momentous, so it was not memorable.
That one was very memorable for me, but for a rather silly reason. Afterwards, all I could think was: "Holy shit! This is like watching Han Solo's Millennium Falcon and Luke Skywalker's X-Wing Fighter attack a Star Destroyer! This is Trek, right?"
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Old August 10 2010, 02:41 PM   #15
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Re: Two things that amaze me about DS9

TheGodBen wrote: View Post
Cepstrum wrote: View Post
1. For some reason, IMO the SFX of DS9 have aged the best. The sets look quite convincing, the styles look timeless, and even in 2010, I find the space battles to be nearly flawless. I know they used a lot of recycled footage, but I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't read about it.
I actually find the space battles in seasons 1-5 look very dated. The ships themselves look great, they're fantastically detailed models, the lighting is great and the way they fly around the place is well done, but the explosions look wrong. A ship will be hit with a phaser blast and an explosion will hang in space somehow. Where did the oxygen for the explosion come from? Why hasn't the vacuum dissipated it almost immediately?

The bigger problem is the way in which ships exploded. Watch this video at the 2:24 mark:


There's a K'tinga class cruiser with explosions around it, suddenly it completely disappears and is replaced with a firework. Where did the hull go? Now watch from the 2:29 mark and keep your eyes on the Vor'cha ship in the back left. This time we do see the hull after the explosion, but it doesn't look natural, it's like a firework going off in an air-fix model. (That's because it probably was.)

In seasons 6 & 7, when they switched over to CGI for the modelling during battle sequences, there's a big improvement in explosion effects because you get to see the ships break up, most notably with the Setak and Majestic in Sacrifice of Angels (and again in WYLB ). The downside to this is that the CGI ship models don't look as good as the physical models, they look quite cartoony in some shots.

None of this detracts from my enjoyment of DS9, however.

Cepstrum wrote: View Post
I agree about Extreme Measures. But wasn't part of the problem budget related? ie, they couldn't afford to use the sets they wanted?
That was part of the problem, they had to create the concept of going inside Sloan's head so that they could use the DS9 and Defiant sets. Whether that would have fixed all the problems, I don't know. Part of the problem with that episode was that they dropped the rest of the arc to focus on a Bashir and O'Brien adventure, if the episode still did that in the original version it would suffer from a lot of the same problems.
I wasn't going to mention that, but I agree that ship explosions in most all sci-fi, DS9 included, looked pretty poor. CGI artists have finally corrected that, though. It must be very difficult to make convincing explosions using small models.

The original SW movies sometimes did a pretty good job but not always. They seemed to sometimes make convincing destruction of the smaller fighters — though at times they'd just entirely explode —, but the big ships, planets, and Death Star destructions did not look convincing. (I am thinking of all the capital ship explosions at the end of Return of the Jedi, such as when the Death Star shot Rebel ships or worse, when the giant Star Destroyer collided with the DS in a big flame-out.)

It's probably just really hard doing it with models.
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