Star Trek Deep Space Nine – From Worst to Best

Season One of Star Trek Deep Space Nine (or DS9 as I’ll refer to it from now on) has got a lot of ‘boiler plate’ episodes, not actually bad as simply predictable stories with no real impact or stakes to them. Episodes where the dread word ‘anomaly’ tends to get passed about a lot. In Trek anomalies are convenient bits of pseudo-science, essentially magic, which creates a very plot specific effect that will require another bit of made-up science to fix.

I’m planning to watch DS9 from start to finish in order for the first time ever, courtesy of Netflix. In the past I’ve watched a majority of the episodes in different ways: VHS, BBC2 and Sky TV, and in a patchy order. Will viewing it as one long epic make me feel differently about some episodes and characters? Will I discover some lost gems or find my memories do not live up to harsh reality of the screen?

Back to Season One. At this moment the production team still seem to be finding out what kind of show they are making. Compared to these high pressure days where a network  show can be cancelled after a handful of episodes, it seems remarkable that they were given three seasons to really exploit how good their premise was. Anyhow at least I can rely on Odo and Quark to enliven any story with some banter, and already there are hints that this was a show prepared to end an episode without every problem neatly reset. Then there is religion. DS9 is still the only Trek incarnation to really grapple with faith in anything like a nuanced way. Watching these episodes again, the other element that is leaping out at me is Avery Brooks’ downright odd acting. Because it is Star Trek his distractingly emphasised delivery of his lines somehow fits in, but I couldn’t imagine it working in any other more realistic show like say The Wire or anything involving naturalistic acting. But here amongst all the other fairly broad playing he gets away with it. And after the diplomatic Captain Picard who sometimes seemed a bit too polite, his more aggressive manner does make him a convincing Starfleet military officer.

I’m going to be covering each season’s episode from the least to the greatest of its year.

An episode focused on Dax in which she largely sits in her room not saying anything. The twist is painfully obvious as soon as the victim’s wife Renora appears. It’s just painfully dull, the kind of characters-earnestly-discussing-a-fantasy-problem situation that sketch writers like to lampoon Trek for. And it only emphasises that the team are not doing enough with a potentially great character.

Move Along Home
Game obsessed aliens is quite a fun idea, but this is an episode made up of budget-saving filler and even the cast look clearly fed-up with some of the challenges in places.

The Passenger
When ideas run out, have a crewmember taken over by an evil alien. This really does feel like a rejected Star Trek The Next Generation plot.

It’s not bad, just the kind of escapade than any incarnation of Trek (or Stargate or Babylon 5) could do.

The Storyteller
In which Bajorans are basically portrayed as superstitious idiots. With the real heir to the Storyteller job obvious from the start, there’s no sense of jeopardy. However Bashir acting as O’Brien’s publicity officer is amusing.

Past Prologue
Kira’s struggle with her new role as part of the establishment after years of being rebel fighter was her defining quality in season one and it was explored a touch repetitively. This isn’t bad but once again it’s pretty obvious where it’s going.

If Wishes Were Horses
Not quite as bad as I remember, but still a generic Trek episode that any incarnation could do.

Brian Keith brings a lot of class to his guest star role. But it is yet another rerun of “Kira torn between being a rebel and being part of the establishment”, and so not as interesting a story as it might have been.

Q turns up and whilst John De Lancie is as entertaining as ever, as is Jennifer Hetrick as his partner Vash, it’s basically a shallow, broad comedy episode. However having Quark being openly criminal but still allowed to carry on at the end, does again point out that this is a different kind of Trek.

Dramatis Personae
DS9 characters should be above the Trek trope that characters have to be possessed by aliens to be less than perfect. But this remake of “Day of the Dove” does build on the existing tensions between the characters and thus is more thoughtful than many episodes this season. Plus it gives us our first encounter with slinky evil Kira.

The Forsaken
Quite a sweet episode thanks to the Odo / Luxania sub-plot that builds to a genuinely touching moment. The pompous Federation ambassadors visiting the station are quite funny too.

Nothing about it is subtle, but this look at the occupation and its legacy on both Bajorans and Cardassians is creditably serious.

Great episode for Odo and one of the first stories dealing with the “otherness” of the Delta Quadrant, full of races who don’t care about the Federation at all. The twists are satisfying and there’s a feeling of groundwork being put in for later stories.

Emissary: Parts 1 & 2
The best of the Trek pilots, setting up the scenario, introducing the cast and telling a pretty good SF adventure too. The battle prologue is a great hook and lends an epic quality. Some lovely character moments too, such as Kira mocking Bashir for his patronising “frontier” comment, or Picard slightly awkward but genuinely considerate farewell to O’Brien. The conversation with the wormhole aliens teeters on corny portentousness but the way their timelessness is depicted is clever. It all feels organic and excellently paced.

Captive Pursuit
Another ABC Trek plot but the performances of Colm Meany and Scott MacDonald are splendid and the episode is the kind of combination of action and philosophy that is the bedrock of Trek.

Battle Lines
A great SF idea and a satisfyingly cynical attitude about violent human nature. Getting rid of a significant supporting character was a bold move that sets off a fascinating ongoing storyline in the next season. Surprising to learn that in the first draft that role was taken by an original character, whose loss would have been far too predictable. Good call by the producers.

The Nagus
Yes it’s as broad as a whale wearing a red nose but for entertainment value I loved this episode with the shameless Ferengi. Even if the plot is predictable, there’s plenty of energy and the comedy sings. I actually can say I enjoyed this as much as the later Tribbles episode.

In the Hands of Prophets
This tale of religious and secular intolerance is the moment DS9 really feels like it has gelled into Trek’s boldest incarnation. Even though teacher Keiko O’Brien is meant to be a voice of reason, her barely disguised contempt for the religious protesters makes her almost as unsympathetic as Kai Winn. Both Louise Fletcher and Rosalind Chao are excellent in this. There is a real feeling in this story of the stakes being raised. Kira’s open faith also adds an interesting extra layer to what could have been a very one-sided drama. Her final scene with Sisko is a lovely summing up of the whole season and almost makes one wish the Trek season formula did not always insist on ending with a cliffhanger. Having a satisfying wrap-up can be just as effective and subtler too.


Whilst looking for an unrelated piece of old fiction that I hope to revise and complete, literally a story for another day, I came across another work which I’d forgotten about. I wrote Cornucopia for a neoartists exhibition. This creative organisation used to renovate old shops, turn them into temporary galleries and exhibit art from its members. Back in 2011 I used to belong to this endeavour, alongside my friend Scott, in a imaginative but ultimately doomed attempt to link creative writing with conceptual art. Hence this story was chosen to be printed, framed and displayed in an ex-carpet shop in Bolton.

The idea behind my piece was to show how English contains an embarrassment of riches when it came to styles and vocabulary. It features the opening line on an imaginary novel, retold in twelve different ways (and twelve different fonts too, which was me trying to think visually, as well as in prose). You can see what the finished piece looked like by downloading a PDF version from here.

It might be a touch portentous but re-reading it I liked it enough to think it deserved a second showing on this blog. Hope you enjoy it too.

Chapter One
She rose from the bed with a smooth movement, pulling the rumpled sheet from her legs and padding over to the bay windows to discover where she had landed this morning.

The woman got up with an enviable sense of purpose, swinging her lean legs down to the carpet and walking over to the large picture window to look at the wooded hills beyond.

The woman in question climbed out of the double bed with an effortless action, drawing the puckered slip away from her limbs and stealing across to the large casement to ascertain where she had alighted at the start of the day.

Cathy floated from the bed, warm from their bodies and alighted at the window, gazing at the rural paradise that somehow seemed to have been created solely for their pleasure, and which they would explore together.

Sunday 7:43am. Female, 31 years old, 11 stone 3 ounces, Caucasian, red hair, mole on left shoulder blade, got out of bed, moved to stand in front of window 2800mm by 1500mm looking out north by norwest.

Int. Bedroom – Day.
CATH wakes and sits up, she looks around the room with curiosity, then glances at the sleeping figure of JED. She pulls back the bed sheets and gets up. She is nude. She walks to the window. Outside is an English countryside landscape.

Young Catherine was never one to linger in bed, not when there was a fresh day to explore.

The dame raised herself up and emerged from the bed like a panther coming out her lair, her toned body moving with oiled grace as she strode towards the sunlight which sternly illuminated her lover-boy’s extra-marital hidey hole.

Thus ye damsel rose fromst her bed and walked across her masters bedchamber to the window, to gazeth upon ye kingdom.

With her client still fast asleep, Catherine quietly tiptoed to the window and watched as Harold’s squat little car slowly wound its way towards the house.

Curvy Catherine (36-24-36) leaves little to the imagination as she sashays across the luxury bedroom of three times married womaniser Jed (age 42).

Used to their expensive isolation, the bedroom curtains had been left open, affording Dimitri a clear view of the girl as walked into his telescopic sight.

Cannot get enough of Aladdin

That plucky young lad from Ancient China seems to keep crossing my path at the moment.

For a start I’ve just been making a video trailer for Bolton Little Theatre’s production of Aladdin in December. This one is based on a script by Alan P Frayne, who has previously provided scripts for BLT’s Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella.

Once again I was in the Forge studio theatre, improvising with the cast, but this time the emphasis was on laughs rather than menace. I had expected to be filming the cast in their civvies, but the wardrobe mistress was marvellously able to dress everyone who turned up in appropriate panto gear. We worked pretty fast, keeping the camera in one place this time and moving the actors in and out of the frame. I did not have much time to work on a polished script or too many takes because the cast were due to hold a full readthrough that evening. Then it was time to put the footage into the ever reliable Cyberlink Power Director to add some effects and a Chinese overlay downloaded for free from the company’s website. Hope folk like the result. It will be going live on Facebook next week.

For more details and to book tickets please visit Bolton Little Theatre’s Aladdin page

Meanwhile I am delighted to announce that there are two productions of my own Aladdin, co-written with Adrian Barradell, coming this Christmas.

November – St Anselm’s College, Wirral, UK
December – 2nd Comber Drama Group, County Down, UK

More details when I get them. If you would like to know more about my take on the famous tale, please visit my page at Lazy Bee Scripts




Downtime: The Lost Worlds of Doctor Who

Before I get into this review I ought to declare an interest. Many years ago I wrote or post-produced or acted in several of BBV’s productions, so consequently I am amongst the many contributors Dylan Rees has interviewed for this book about the intriguing parallel realities that Doctor Who passed into whilst the BBC was not making it. But I my experiences were just a small part of the story, and it has been fascinating to find out more about the bigger picture. Not to mention discovering certain repeating patterns of behaviour when it came to BBV’s driving force Bill Baggs, such as peculiar film editing choices.

As the author remarks in his Afterword, a book like this is long overdue. For quite a while fans believed that Doctor Who would never return to television. In the Nineties Star Trek may have seemed licensed to print spin-offs forever, but felt that our show was destined to remain unloved by the BBC and the Not-We. So we built our own little universe of Doctorish films and radio plays, and for a while it seemed fresh, vital, the future of the show. Then Doctor Who came back with a roar and the VHS era of The Stranger, PROBE and Mindgame seemed to be swept under fandom’s carpet. So “Downtime” feels very fresh, a decade or more of brand new script origins, behind the scenes information, funny anecdotes and let us the honest – gossip.

Credit to the author for pulling together so many threads into a narrative too. Bill Baggs’ filmmaking career becomes the spine of the book. Ambitious, energetic and with a knack for getting people to follow him and make his projects happen, the book produces a fair picture of the way he ultimately sabotages himself by taking too many shortcuts, and too much advantage of others’ goodwill.

There’s plenty of great material here, such as Nick Briggs recalling John Levine’s determination to take the leading man’s responsibilities seriously and entertaining the crew whether they wanted to be or not. Mark Ayres working with Jon Pertwee on his last dramatic role in The Zero Imperative. Colin Baker’s early role as an unofficial agent and cheerleader for spin-off videos, persuading other name actors to take part. Lots of stories of small groups working long hours in uncomfortable locations, kept going by their love of the show and camaraderie. And always the constant hope that this video will be the one that gets them into the professional TV and Film industry. In fact some of the stories seem to echo the BBC anecdotes of Doctor Who itself. Dylan Rees mixes interviews of the time with brand new interviews. Those of the time are keen to be positive and build up the image of whatever the current project is. The tone of the contributors today is generally fond, if rueful.

My only disappointment is that I had hoped to learn some new facts or other people’s impressions of the productions I was involved with. Sadly, aside from the contemporary reviews which I had not read before, most of the information about the likes of The Pattern and Do You Have a License to Save This Planet? comes from my own interview. So I am my own unreliable narrator it seems.

Also welcome are the reviews of every production, which are fair and well argued. It certainly made me want to go back and watch some of them again. I’ve really enjoyed reading this book and I can fully recommend it to any Doctor Who fan.


Available as a large paperback or ebook from Obverse Books. Visit their website


Dead Guilty

As Bolton Little Theatre’s new season hoves into view, so does my side job of making promotional trailers for the plays in the 2017/18 run. Sometimes an idea for the trailer comes to me easily and other times it is a real struggle to think of a 30 sequence that will sum up the story and make it appetising. It’s a bit similar to writing in fact.

With Dead Guilty, the psychological thriller by Richard Harris which opens our season in September, the idea took a while to land, then I thought about a close-up on Julia’s face. She is the main protagonist and it is a story in which she is confined and oppressed. I thought she could give a speech to camera taken from the script. With the help of director Peter Scofield and actress Kim Amston, I developed this idea into a series of mid-length and extreme close-ups of the whole cast, delivering selected lines of dialogue. It took about two hours to film, using the Forge studio theatre. A lot of that time was taken with finding interesting angles to film Kim in Julia’s wheelchair, followed by several takes of each line. The result has been well received and hopefully will sell a lot of tickets. If you are intrigued then please visit Bolton Little Theatre’s website

Now I am turning my mind towards the second play Rabbit Hole. I have vague idea, again using actors rather than a slide show. Below is the trailer for the whole season, which is a good example of the latter style. Thanks for reading.

Rumplestiltskin in Lancashire

I went to see Mawdesley Amateur Dramatics Society last Saturday night to see their excellent production of Neighbourhood Watch by Alan Ayckbourn. I used to be a regular member of this group and it was there that I cut my pantomime teeth, both as a performer and later a writer. The visit reminded me that my MADS friends have also set up a website with an excellent gallery of past productions, including the first ever performance of Rumplestiltskin and other scripts of mine, including Dick Whittington where I played Dame Dollop. My last Dame role up until now.

Check them out below:

Rumplestiltskin 2015

Treasure Island 2013

Aladdin 2008

Dick Whittington 2007

Good memories and if you are in the Lancashire area, their productions are well recommended. Next up I believe is King Arthur, written by my former collaborator Adrian Barradell.

Red Rising – Sons of Ares

In a distant future, man has colonised the solar system, but this brave new era of exploration has led in turn to a tyrannical caste system of genetically modified humans, ruled by the Golds. Down in mines of Mars, a young Red called Darrow decides to fight back. So begins Pierce Brown’s bestselling series of YA SF novels. However I must admit though I had not heard of them until my friend Rik Hoskin told me about his current comic project – Red Rising – Sons of Ares.


Published by Dynamite Comics, Sons of Ares is a prequel series, exploring the early life of Fitchner au Barca, the leader of the resistance movement calling themselves the Sons of Ares. The first two issues are out now and it has been well received by fans of the series. Rik is working closely in collaboration with author Pierce Brown, just as he did with Brett Sanderson on last year’s graphic novel White Sands. The splendid artwork meanwhile is by Eli Powell.

You can see a few preview pages and find out more details on this page. The series is available in comic shops and also on the Kindle.

More recently Rik has been interviewed by Dynamite about his latest series, and looking forward to issue four.  Its a great read too. You can find it here. I’m hoping to post some impressions of it soon.


Talking about my old mate Rik also prompts me to talk about the latest addition to this blog. If you look to the left of the screen, you will notice I’ve added a new permanent section, containing downloadable copies of our original audio series – Agents of Psyence. These MP3 files used to be available at Westlake Films’ site, until I took them down during that site’s revamp. Now I’ve brought them in-house so to speak. At the moment the page is fairly bare-bones but I intend to expand it in time.

Agents of Psyence is an action adventure series based on Rik’s early self-published comic Psyence Fiction. Set in present day Britain, an enigmatic billionaire called Sebastian Hayward has assembled a team of unusual specialists, including a cybernetic warrior, an ex-MI6 agent and an occult expert, to investigate supernatural crimes. It’s mixture of horror and SF, with an emphasis on pace and thrills. My own approach was definitely influenced by the work of radio director/producer extraordinaire Dirk Maggs (Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Radio 1 version of Batman: Knightfall amongst many others)

The first story Truth and Bone was adapted by Rik from the pages of the first two issues, and the second, Bloodlines, written exclusively for audio by Rik and myself. I think they’ve got some of my best production work in them and its always been an intention of mine to continue the series. Several other scripts were written by ourselves, John Isles and Peter Grehen. I released the series under the label Phantom Frame, which is where the title of this very blog comes from.

You can experience both stories for free, playing them on this site or downloading them. Hope you enjoy them, whether you’re a new listener or a returning fan.

Discover the Agents of Psyence by clicking this link