REVIEW: WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND: LOOKING BACK AT DEEP SPACE NINE

What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine (2018)

Starring

Max Grodénchik (Rocketeer)
Andrew Robinson (Hellraiser)
Armin Shimerman (Buffy: TVS)
Nana Visitor (Dark Angel)
Colm Meaney (Layer Cake)
Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator)
Aron Eisenberg (Puppet Master III)
Rene Auberjonois (Boston Legal)
Alexander Siddig (Gotham)
Casey Biggs (Broken Arrow)
Terry Farrell (Hellraiser III)
Penny Johnson Jerald (The Orville)
Avery Brooks (American Hsitory X)
Chase Masterson (Yesterday Was a Lie)
Michael Dorn (Arrow)
Wallace Shawn (Young Sheldon)
Marc Alaimo (Total Recall)
Bill Mumy (Lost In Space)
J.G. Hertzler (Zorro)
Robert O’Reilly (The Mask)
Cirroc Lofton (Beethoven)
Nicole de Boer (Cube)

What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine (2018)Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the fourth television series in the Star Trek franchise. It ran for seven seasons and a hundred and seventy-six episodes in syndication. The finale, “What You Leave Behind”, aired on June 2nd, 1999. DS9 was markedly different from Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. The show setting was a recovered enemy space station near the planet Bajor. A grieving Starfleet commander, Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), assigned to help the Bajorans recover from a devastating occupation; discovers a wormhole to a distant region of the galaxy, the Gamma Quadrant. What followed was a thrilling, slow-burn escalation to the epic, Dominion War; a conflict against powerful Gamma Quadrant adversaries that threatened the United Federation of Planets.What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine is a wonderful retrospective and coda to the beloved series. The documentary is produced and directed by Ira Steven Behr, DS9’s showrunner/executive producer, and filmmaker/Star Trek enthusiast David Zappone; who produced The Captains and For the Love of Spock. Originally crowdfunded to celebrate DS9’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Behr was astonished by the legions of fans that contributed money. It changed the scale of the documentary, and provided an opportunity to pursue fandom’s dream scenario; a look at the story for a possible season eight of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.ds9-cast-1200x786What We Left Behind reunites the original cast, writers, filmmakers, and studio executives for interviews. DS9, though it ran for seven seasons, was pilloried by critics at the time. The show was too dark, political, and not adventurous enough. The sci-fi mainstream decried a Star Trek series that was serialized, not episodic. They wanted each week to be a new adventure on a different planet, mimicking the format of the incredibly popular Star Trek: The Next Generation. DS9 had elaborate storylines that stretched over multiple seasons and embraced controversy. From racial and ethnic issues, religious strife, to television’s first lesbian kiss, it was a Star Trek series that obliterated boundaries. Ira Steven Behr has frank discussions with the Paramount studio executive who didn’t understand his vision for the show. Luckily, his persistence and a cult following allowed DS9 to continue its risque path; albeit with some major changes forced by the suits.what-we-left-behind-looking-back-at-star-trek-deep-space-nine-still-1-1160x480Without delving too deep into the details of the interviews, two pivotal events are explored. The first was the addition of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s bad-ass Klingon, Lt. Commander Worf (Michael Dorn), in season four. The cast, Behr, Rick Berman (overall Star Trek TV producer), and several Paramount execs discuss bringing the popular character to the struggling show. What was already a tight-knit crew had doubts, but welcomed Dorn into the fold. The decision turned out to be exactly as hoped; a shot in the arm that revitalized DS9. The same cannot be said for the killing of Worf’s wife and series regular from the start, Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell). What We Left Behind takes a frank look at the turmoil caused by firing her. Terry Farrell’s treatment and decision to leave was a blow to all. Behr also shows the professionalism and resilience of the core players. Nicole de Boer’s Lt. Ezri Dax, who replaced Terry Farrell, was a key character during the final season. Seeing the players and producers discuss this tumultuous time is riveting. They developed lifelong bonds from their time on DS9. The show profoundly impacted them on a personal level. Defining the acting careers for many of the cast members.1266412299-What-We-Left-Behind-Looking-Back-At-StarIn true DS9 fashion, What We Left Behind gets political. The doc explores the casting of Avery Brooks as Star Trek’s first black captain and series lead. We see how Brooks, who unfortunately is only interviewed through archival footage, steered the path of DS9. Captain Sisko was a father foremost. DS9 had an incredible story arc with his son, Jake Sisko (Cirroc Lofton), growing up on the space station. Brooks wanted the show to portray a positive black male role model as a parent and leader. DS9 was filmed during the LA riots of 1992. Anyone who watched DS9 knows how thoughtfully the series tackled such heady issues. Fandom will also be quite surprised what Behr has to say about the relationship between Garak (Andrew J. Robinson) and Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig).what-we-left-behind-terry-farrell-nana-visitorWhat We Left Behind does not forget the talented production designers, effects teams, and make-up artists that made DS9 so realistic. Some of the funnier scenes have Armin Shimerman, who played Quark the Ferengi bartender, and René Auberjonois, who played the shape-shifting security chief Odo, cursing the other cast members, particularly Colm Meaney (Chief O’Brien). They had to sit for hours in make-up, and then work in the uncomfortable prosthetics; while the “human” actors had mere touch-ups. It’s all in good humor, but illustrates the physical toll of playing DS9’s alien characters.armin-shimmerman-what-we-left-behind-star-trek-deep-space-nine-1170189-1280x0The most thrilling aspect of What We Left Behind is the plotting for a potential season eight. Behr gathered the original writers, including Robert Hewitt Wolfe, for a storyboard session. The breakdown is accompanied by CGI animation and pre-vis sketches. Prepare to be blown off your couches. Set twenty years after Captain Sisko defeated the Dominion and vanished into the wormhole, the season eight storyline is jaw-dropping. It’s loaded with surprises that will melt the minds of every DS9 fan. Behr and the writers acknowledge this is pure fantasy, but does it have to be? CBS and Paramount allows fan made Star Trek, as long as it’s not for profit. I would shell out in a heartbeat to have a crowdfunded, CGI adaptation of DS9 season eight. Voiced by the original cast of course. Behr raised the money for What We Left Behind in a weekend. I’m pretty sure fandom can make that happen… What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine is a must see for fans, and anyone who appreciates great science fiction. DS9 is the perfect series for the binge-watching, streaming audiences of today. It’s remarkable that a show which ended two decades ago, and was misunderstood by the masses, has found a new generation of ardent supporters. I think Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is not only the best Star Trek series, but arguably, the best sci-fi series. Seasons five through seven were masterful, exhilarating and engrossing television. We need to see season eight. What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is available now on DVD/Blu-Ray from Shout! Factory.

REVIEW: THE MASK

 

CAST

Jim Carrey (Liar Liar)
Cameron Diaz (Sex Tape)
Peter Riegert (Local Hero)
Amy Yasbeck (Wings)
Richard Jeni (Open Mic)
Peter Greene (Pulp Fiction)
Reg E. Cathey (Fantastic Four)
Kevin Grevioux (Underworld)
Robert O’Reilly (Star Trek: DS9)
Jeremy Roberts (Veronica Mars)
Ben Stein (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

Stanley Ipkiss is a shy and unlucky bank clerk working at the local Edge City bank. He is frequently picked on by everyone around him like the Bank President’s son Mr. Dickey, his ruthless landlady Mrs. Peenman, and the mechanics Irv and Burt Ripley who ripped him off. The only exception of this is his Jack Russell Terrier Milo and his co-worker and best friend Charlie Schumaker. Meanwhile, gangster Dorian Tyrell operates a nightclub called the Coco Bongo while plotting to overthrow his boss Niko. One day, Tyrell sends his singer girlfriend Tina Carlyle into Stanley’s bank to record its layout, in preparation to rob the bank.
mask-the-1994-001-jim-carreyStanley is attracted to Tina, and she seems to reciprocate. After being denied entrance to the Coco Bongo, he finds a wooden mask near the city’s harbor. Placing it on his face transforms him into a zoot-suited, green-faced, bizarre trickster known as the Mask, who is able to cartoonishly alter himself and his surroundings at will. After surprising his landlady, Stanley scares off a street gang that attempts to rob him by turning a balloon into a Tommy gun, and he then exacts revenge on the auto mechanics.The next morning, Stanley encounters detective Lieutenant Kellaway and newspaper reporter Peggy Brandt investigating the Mask’s activity of the previous night. Stanley even stands up to Mr. Dickey. To attend Tina’s performance and, despite being sought by the local police, he again becomes the Mask to raid the bank, inadvertently foiling Tyrell’s plan in the process. At the Coco Bongo, Stanley ogles Tina, transforms the band members and puts them under his control, having them play the 1943 fast-paced jazz piece “Hey Pachuco!” and eventually dances exuberantly with Tina, whom he ends up kissing. Following a confrontation with Tyrell, Stanley flees leaving behind a scrap of cloth from his suit that transforms back into his pajamas as Tyrell is taken away by the arrival of the police.
Kellaway implicates Stanley in the bank-robbery based on his pajamas, but Stanley flees and later consults an expert on masks named Arthur Neuman, who tells him that the object is a depiction of Loki, the Norse god of darkness and mischief. Stanley attempts to show Arthur his Mask persona, but it only works as an ordinary mask. That night, Stanley transforms into the Mask and meets Tina at the local Landfill Park, but the meeting is interrupted by Kellaway, who attempts to arrest him. Stanley tricks a large group of police officers into joining him in a mass-performance of the Desi Arnaz song “Cuban Pete”. Stanley takes off the mask and flees with Peggy, but she betrays him to Tyrell for a $50,000 bounty. Tyrell tries on the mask and becomes a malevolent green-faced being. Forced to reveal the location of the stolen money, Stanley is kept hostage in one of the mob’s cars while Tyrell’s henchmen reclaim the money. Stanley is later given to Kellaway, along with a rubber green mask, to be detained.MV5BNzQ5OGQ3MGItNTQwZS00MjJkLWI2ZTAtZjBmNGE3YWE5NzNmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTAyNDQ2NjI@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_When Tina visits Stanley in his cell, he urges her to flee the city. Tina thanks Stanley for treating her with respect and tells him that she knew that he was the Mask all along. She attempts to leave the city, but is captured by Tyrell’s enforcer Orlando and taken to a charity ball at the Coco Bongo hosted by Niko and attended by the city’s elite, including the mayor Mitchell Tilton. Upon arrival, the masked Tyrell kills Niko, and prepares to destroy both the club and Tina. Milo helps Stanley escape, and Stanley brings Kellaway as a cover and hostage in a desperate attempt to stop Tyrell.
After the brief, initial success of securing the assistance of Charlie, Stanley is spotted by Orlando and captured. Tina tricks Tyrell into taking off the mask, which is recovered and donned by Milo, turning the dog into a cartoonish pitbull who defeats Tyrell’s men, while Stanley fights Tyrell himself. After recovering the mask, Stanley uses its abilities to save Tina by swallowing Tyrell’s bomb and flushing Tyrell down the drain of the club’s ornamental fountain. The police arrive and arrest Tyrell’s remaining henchmen, while Kellaway attempts to arrest Stanley once again. Tilton arrives and debunks Kellaway’s statements, announcing to everyone that Tyrell was The Mask all throughout, and orders Kellaway to release Stanley. He then goes on to tell Stanley that he is a hero and thanks him for saving lives, and all charges against Stanley are dropped. Tilton then tells Kellaway that they will have a talk in his office in the morning.
film__3014-the-mask--hi_res-ed83f754As the sun rises the following day, Stanley, Tina, Milo, and Charlie take the mask back down to the harbor. Tina throws the mask into the water, and she and Stanley celebrate their victory as they kiss. Charlie attempts to retrieve the mask for himself, only to find Milo swimming away with it.This is Jim Carrey on top form: restrained but manic as Stanley Ipkiss, and totally unstoppable as The Mask. The plot is fairly simple, and all the better for it. The bad guys are disposable but their presence is felt nonetheless. And Cameron Diaz is undeniably smoldering in her debut role. The one liners are zany, and for fans of cartoon humour this is a must

REVIEW: THE FLASH (1990)

CAST

John Wesley Shipp (Dawsons Creek)
Amanda Pays (The Knife)
Alex Desert (Swingers)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST
Paula Marshall (Veronica Mars)
Michael Nader (All My Children)
Tim Thomerson (Trancers)
Priscilla Pointer (Carrie)
Lycia Naff (Total Recall)
Richard Belzer (Law & Order)
M. Emmet Walsh (Blade Runner)
Vito D’Ambrosio (Arrow)
Biff Manard (Zone Troopers)
Mike Genovese (Point Break)
Sven-Ole throsen (Mallrats)
Joyce Hyser (This Is Spinal Tap)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Elizabeth Gracen (Highlander: The Series)
Ian Buchanan (Panic Room)
Jonathan Brandis (Seaquest)
Remy Ryan (Robocop 3)
Adam West (60s Batman)
Mark Dacascos (Crying Freeman)
Ian Abercrombie (Birds of Prey)
Clifton Collins Jr (Westworld)
Gloria Reuben (Timecop)
Robert Shayne (Adventures of Superman)
Angela Bassett (Green Lantern)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Timothy Stack (My Name is Earl)
Yvette Nipar (Robocop: The Series)
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
Robert Z’Dar (Maniac Cop)
Robert O’Reilly (Star Trek: DS9)
Richard Burgi (Firefly)
Michael Champion (Toy Soldiers)
Jeffrey Combs (Gotham)
Francois Chau (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2)
David Cassidy (Instant Karma)
Carolyn Seymour (Congo)
Claire Stansfield (Xena)
 The series is a mash-up of the Barry Allen and Wally West eras of the comics. The show’s producers, Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, wisely chose to use the Barry Allen version of the character (played by John Wesley Shipp). This was probably due to the greater story possibilities that Allen’s job as a police forensic scientist could offer. It didn’t matter that Barry had been killed off in the comics five years prior to the show. The character of Dr. Tina McGee (played by the savoury Amanda Pays) comes from the Wally West comics. She is a scientist who helps Barry understand and cope with his new powers of super speed.  The solid performances of the core cast make this show work despite its cartoony conventions. Barry Allen is an easy character to like because we can appreciate and empathize with his underdog-makes-good nature. Barry has always been inferior to his Dad and his overachieving older brother Jay. When he gains his extraordinary powers we can’t help but think that it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy.

Also noteworthy is the impish chemistry between Shipp and Pays. Their characters have an intimate, yet platonic relationship that is almost as charming as Pays’ accent. Alex Désert is underused as Barry’s friend and coworker, Julio Mendez. Désert’s easy-going, friendly presence provides a necessary counterpoint to Barry’s no-nonsense ‘get-the-job-done’ attitude. It’s too bad that he didn’t have more to do than set Barry up on blind dates and make wisecracks. The show was produced in the wake of the massive success of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film. The mood and tone of that movie is a huge influence on the first few episodes of The Flash, especially the Pilot episode, “The Origin of a Super Hero.” That episode begins with an establishing shot of Central City that is a blatant copy of the opening scene in Batman where we first see Gotham. We also see the same ‘evil steam’ shooting up from the sewers and citizens scurrying to get indoors, away from all the immoral activity that abounds on the mean streets of Gotham . . .er. . . Central City. Later on, the confrontation between Flash and the bad guy is also an obvious lift from Batman, complete with the “You made me!” line.As the series progresses, it stops trying to ape the manner and feel of Batman and takes on more of a 1940s film-noir motif – only a lot more colourful. The ‘Tim Burton Effect’ still lingers though. One such pastiche, which ironically is not in the Pilot episode, is the use of period props such as 1950s automobiles. Burton can get away with such an aesthetic because his films often take place in an ambiguous timeline where stylistically, anything goes. In The Flash, the out-of-time props are an unnecessary distraction. They’re especially irrelevant during the episode titled “Ghost in the Machine” where The Ghost, a villain from the 1950s, comes out of a deep freeze to again wreak havoc on Central City in 1990. It’s hard to buy into The Ghost’s future shock when people are still wearing trilbies and driving around in Ford Fairlanes.
The show didn’t have great villains but like most genre entertainment, thinking is the real enemy. The Trickster, played by Mark Hamill, is definitely the show’s greatest and most memorable antagonist, even if he is just a check-in-the-box inclusion of a Joker-like homicidal clown. Hamill is great, playing the character as an obsessed, erotomaniacal master-of-disguise while the script, unfortunately, wants him to be a poor man’s Joker. Ironically, he would later go on to recycle his Trickster performance as the voice of the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series. Even Captain Cold works reasonably well within the context of the series, reinvented here as an albino mercenary with an ice gun. Actor Michael Champion plays the role relatively straight and plausible, as if shooting people up with frost is an everyday occurrence. He even gets to deliver the line, ‘The Iceman Cometh,’ six years before Arnold Schwarzenegger would as Mr. Freeze in Batman and Robin.

Michael Nader’s stone-faced overacting as outlaw motorcycle gang leader, Nicholas Pike is way too over-the-top to be taken seriously. Casting soap opera or sitcom actors as villains is always a bad idea. The difference between Hamill and Nader’s performances is that Hamill is trying to be humourous, Nader isn’t. David Cassidy and his widow’s peak are unfortunately a non-presence as Mirror Master in “Done with Mirrors.” He comes off as more of a Bizarro-Keith Partridge than a threatening adversary. One of the highlights of the series is “Fast Forward” where Flash is accidentally propelled 10 years into a bleak future where his powers are unstable. He’s got to find a way to get back to his own time and set things right. Every super hero / sci-fi show has to have its ‘evil parallel universe’ or ‘undesirable future’ story and The Flash is no exception. This episode reminds me of the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon where Spidey would be sucked into some twisted alternate dimension that he would have to fight his way out of. The scene where Flash is “falling” into the psychedelic void is a direct homage to that show. It really is an entertaining story if you can plow through the painful first act of Nader’s scenery chewing and hamming it up.One episode that is way more endearing than it probably has any right to be is “Twin Streaks” where an obligatory mad scientist type tries to clone Flash and ends up creating a sort of Bizarro-Flash in a story that vaguely resembles Bride of Frankenstein. The laughs, intentional or not, are effortless. Bizarro-Flash or Pollux as he’s called, wears a blue Flash costume. It would have been a nice wink-nudge to the fans if they had given him a yellow suit as a reference to Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. Zoom was mentioned in another episode, after all. One of the show’s major clunkers is “Be My Baby” where Barry has to care for an infant that was left on his doorstep. It’s nothing but recycled humour from 3 Men and a Baby and countless sitcoms. This episode reads like an attempt to inject some feel-good, warm fuzzy moments into the show. I actually felt sorry for the then-unknown Bryan Cranston, who had the thankless job of playing the bad guy on this one. If the show’s producers truly wanted to feature more heartwarming stories they could have done an episode or episodes that focused on the heroic endeavors that Flash has performed for the medical community. There was one story from Mike Baron’s run on the comic where Wally West was charged with transporting a human heart across the US to a transplant patient. Story lines such as these could have been an untapped goldmine of drama and suspense as long as they didn’t get too sappy with it. It also would have been a welcome break from the hit-or-miss villain of the week.

Shirley Walker’s score music is tailor made to suit the flavour of each individual episode. “Beat the Clock”, a story about a jazz musician falsely accused of killing his wife, appropriately has a lonely sounding Chicago jazz score while “Watching the Detectives” features music that evokes old private-eye films of the 1940s to compliment that episode’s subject matter. The Flash’s opening theme song is composed by Danny Elfman and sounds like a recycled version of his Batman theme. The Flash is a keen show that had the potential to be much greater than it was. Its adherence to the original source material and the earnest portrayal of the characters by the core cast give the series its irresistible allure. This is essential viewing for comic book and sci-fi fans and it definitely deserves a spot on your DVD shelf.