Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 5, Episode 24 – “Empok Nor” – A Return to a Past War

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     “Empok Nor” is a great episode and definitely one of my favorites in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” This episode has stakes, history, tension, character development and is simply a wonderful thriller episode. I’m also a bit biased in that Garak is one of my favorite characters and this episode has a lot of Garak. This is one of my favorite episodes in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and I highly recommend it.

The episode was directed by Mike Vejar with teleplay by Hans Biemler and story by Bryan Fuller.

The story involves Miles O’Brien leading a squad to the abandoned Cardassian Space Station Empok Nor in order to get supplies to repair Deep Space Nine. All is not as it appears to be as their arrival wakes up two Cardassian Soldiers who were left behind.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise of an abandoned station full of threats is really cool. You get the haunted house meets slasher vibes and the characters we follow are good. We have Garak to undo the traps, Nog who volunteered and Miles controlling the mission along with a few redshirts for good measure.

The Horror – The horror is really great in this episode. As said above we get the haunted house vibe with the slasher vibe as the Cardassians who wake up begin killing the Starfleet officers on the mission. Eventually Garak is infected by the same compound the other Cardassians are infected with that has made them killers and now it is him against Miles and Nog. It is really well handled and you feel how trapped our heroes are.

Nog – Nog is the eager cadet on this mission who ends up being the most prepared. He comes fully armed and sticks with the chief. This doesn’t stop him from being captured by Garak when Garak goes insane, but we see how committed he is to the mission and is willing to die to save Miles and complete the mission. His courage is admirable and I was grateful that he was one of the three survivors. Aron Eisenberg truly did a fantastic job.

Garak – Garak is fascinating in this episode as he kills the enemy Cardassians but finds himself infected with the same thing that they were infected by, making him psychotic. What keeps him from simply killing Nog and Miles though is his fascination of Miles being the hero of Setlik III during the Federation-Cardassian War. He has respect for the Chief and wants to face him in combat. In the end this leads to his defeat and regret as hates the fact that he killed one of the Federation Officers when he got infected. Andrew Robinson continues to give this former Obsidian Order agent so much nuance and this episode is a great example of why he is one of m favorite characters.

Miles O’Brien – This is very much a Chief O’Brien episode and Colm Meaney does a great job carrying it. In this we see the man he’s evolved into since the Cardassian-Federation War as no matter how many times Garak brings up the past, he insists he’s an engineer. We see this mindset in his problem solving with both getting help from Deep Space Nine when Terok Nor loses all communication and the enemy cardassians destroy the shuttle and in how he outsmarts Garak by using the tech. he as the create a bomb. He keeps the crew focused and even though most of them die, O’Brien does complete the mission and manages to save both Garak and Nog.

The Past Lives On – Terok Nor is an abandoned Cardassian Station with soldiers left behind the kill anyone who tries to enter. The moment they activate it is like the Cardassian-Federation War all over again. This echo of the past eventually consumes Garak as the drug that made the enemy Cardassians crazy, also does the same to him. Once more Cardassians and Federation soldiers fight and die as the past war lives on in the present and with it the wounds caused by this excursion for the needed Cardassian Technology.

Okay:

The Redshirts – The Redshirts are all given base personalities but aren’t developed beyond that. They also don’t survive the episode as they are either killed by the Cardassians left behind, or Garak when he goes mad. This was a shame as if even one of these characters had survived we could have had a redshirt giving us more of the experience of the “Dominion War.” I didn’t put them as a negative as they do have personalities, but they aren’t a pro as they weren’t developed beyond that.

“Deep Space Nine” is one of my favorite shows and that is largely due to it tackling themes of politics, war and trauma as this episode does. This episode is perfect in tone and the stakes are consistent through the entire run. We also get some amazing Garak and Miles development. I can’t wait to see how they play off each other again when I watch future episodes. This episode is a favorite and I highly recommend it to any fan of the show.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 One of my favorite “Star Trek” episodes. If the redshirts had been developed further it would have been perfect.

Die Hard 2 (1990): A Good Sequel That Could Have Been More

die-hard-2

       With how successful the first “Die Hard” was it was inevitable that it would get a sequel. Like most films that start out strong they don’t really need a great Sequel to be promised a Franchise and this is very true of “Die Hard 2” as it is good but lacks a lot of what film does and repeats some things from the first film that weren’t what made the first film great in the first place. I’ll get into more of what I mean later in the review.

        The film was directed by Renny Harlin, written by Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson and produced by Charles and Lawrence Gordon as well as Joel Silver.

      The story involves John McClane (Bruce Willis) going to meet his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) at the Washington D.C. airport on Christmas Eve when former U.S. military special forces soldier Colonel Stuart (William Sadler) takes control of the airport in order to rescue a dictator General Ramon (Franco Nero) who is being brought in for crimes of drug trafficking. From here McClane must stop them before the circling planes above run out of fuel.

The Pros: The Premise –  The premise of an airport being under siege is really cool. There are so many areas that can be explored and planes as a threat and what need to be rescued are a good ticking time bomb for the hero forcing the action to always be moving.

The Action – The action is solid, but I’d expect nothing less from a “Die Hard” film. There are a lot of great fist fights, gun fights and great use of the different areas of the airport from fighting on a plane to in the baggage area.

Ed Trudeau – Thompson did a good job in this role as you see his main deal is trying to get the planes to land and you see how in over his head he is. He isn’t an enemy to McClane but he isn’t exactly an ally either. He is all about the big picture and when the big picture is falling apart around him he doesn’t know how to react.

Sergeant Al Powell – Reginald VelJohnson makes a cameo in this! It is thanks to him helping McClane that he is able to find out that the military guys he saw are supposed to be dead and that they have something planned. It is small but I liked that bit of humanity and friendship we see between him and McClane.

John McClane – John McClane is really the heart of the film as the entire premise of the guy is a cop in over his head who has to think and improvise his way out of situations. This is fully on display here as he could care less about the politics around him and just wants to save his wife and the planes that are circling above.

The Ticking Clock – The ticking clock is that the planes will run out of fuel with the power shut down at the airport leading them all to crash. It is a powerful ticking clock too and shows the military guys at least thought that part of the operation through. It adds tension to all the events that happen after.

The Final Fight – The final fight takes place on a jet about to take off and it is pretty awesome! McClane takes on a few of the military guys, defeating one and using the other to break open the fuel so that he can blow them up from the jet engine fuel that was spraying from the engine. One of the best action sequences I’ve watched in any film like this.

Okay/Con: The Villains – I never understood the villain motivations…why were a bunch of U.S. soldiers so attached to a South American Dictator. They say it was because he was good at killing communists but we never get their plan after he is rescued. Did they plan to reconquer his country? Him being a drug trafficker is never shown to be a motivation, which would have shown them to be lying about the communist thing…so in end they are a mixture of okay and con. All the actors do a good job with what they are given but every good villain needs clear, fully explored motivations.

The Cons: The Reporter – This guy was annoying. He could have been shown to be a 3 Dimensional guy trying to get the story out of the terrorists holding up the airport but instead he creeps on women, purposely makes people panic and panics himself in the end. This man served no purpose but to cause panic in the airport. Honestly the role of the press played could have been so much more.

The D.C. Cops – The D.C. cops only hamper McClane until he saves them at the end and after he rallies them to fight the military guys. They are just there to be against McClane and later soldiers and the transition isn’t handled very well.

Holly – She is there to be rescued…that is it…simple damsel and she deserved better if they were going to have her appear again. At least Al Powell was able to get info. to McClane to help stop the terrorists.

Repeating the First Film – It takes place on Christmas Eve, outsider who no one is helping, ticking clock and things get resolved with wife once more at the end. Switching any of these up or doing something creative with it would have elevated this film to great.

    This is a good action movie that is worth checking out, but if you are only ever going to watch one “Die Hard” film just stick with the first one. This one repeats a lot of unnecessary things from the first film and the villains aren’t nearly as interesting. What makes it good though are the action sequences and John McClane is still very much a compelling everyman that keeps makes the action mean something and adds heart to a film that could have had no heart with a different star.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10