tv review: star trek deep space 9 (season 1)

Photo Credit: The ‘Pacman Nebula’ (NASA, Chandra, Spitzer, 09/28/11) by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

When I was eight years old my cousin lived in our house for a year while she did her first year of university. One of the many things that happened was she got me hooked on Star Trek (and eating dinner for breakfast). She was supercool and liked Star Trek: The Next Generation, so TNG was always “my” Star Trek too. I know those episodes backwards and forwards. When I think of examples of leadership Picard is my go-to character. I love TNG the way you love the things you grew up with.

I have a much more complicated relationship with Deep Space 9.

DS9 came out when I was in high school and I just didn’t like it. The plots were boring. Too much political stuff. They couldn’t go anywhere without a ship. I wasn’t a fan. Then they got a ship and Worf joined the crew and I rethought my disapproval. And then the Dominion War began and it was just one ongoing war-story which wasn’t at all what I wanted out of Trek either (I was also watching less television in those days). So I always think about this sweet spot in the middle of the show’s run being where anything good would have happened.

I decided I needed to rewatch DS9 to see if my opinions about it, most of which were made when I was a teenager, still meant anything. I just finished watching the first season and there is so much more I really like about it now.

The biggest thing I like about it (that I used to hate) is its sense of place. DS9 is an Old West frontier town. They’re actually building relationships between the Federation and people who don’t really want them there but need them to keep the peace in a hostile galaxy. There’s colonialism going on, but the ethical issues don’t get quite resolved in a single episode. They’re much more complicated than something the Enterprise could zip in, solve and zip out again. I was used to that kind of story in Star Trek and this was different.

Also, I love the father-son dynamic between Ben and Jake Sisko. The way those two interact makes you feel like people in the Federation are more than just props for ethical stances. The relationships in this show just feel more accurate than the assembly of the best and brightest that you’d see on the Enterprise. I love that Jake doesn’t want to be in Starfleet and that he and Nog make weird business deals. UFP economics didn’t make much sense in TNG (though, to be fair, DS9 hasn’t really tried to deal with them too clearly this season).

Now, there are some crappy episodes in this first season. I have no kind words for “Move Along Home” the episode where Gamma Quadrant aliens pull people into a game that Quark is playing. “The Forsaken” (where Odo gets vulnerable in a turbolift with Lwaxana Troi) was less good than I remember it. I didn’t like “The Storyteller” very much, but it was neat to see that O’Brien and Bashir weren’t best buds right from the beginning of the show.

My favourite episodes of the season have Sisko refusing to be pushed around by forces bigger than him. Though the resolution of “If Wishes Were Horses” was a little pat, it was a good science fictional premise and an interesting episode (I can also see how the lack of sinister motives would have bugged young Justin). “Duet” was about a possible Cardassian war criminal being arrested on the station and was just fucking great.

While DS9 isn’t as dark or bleak as (new) Battlestar Galactica it’s different from the Treks that came before it and yeah, this first season is much better than I remember it. If you put it up against first-season TNG there is absolutely no comparison. I wonder if I’ll like the Dominion War better when I get to it this time around, or if this vastly better opinion is mainly a function of only being 13 when Season 1 aired for the first time. I probably had better taste when I was 17, right?

ifla indigenous knowledges conference response/reflection

I got to attend the IFLA Indigenous Knowledges Conference because of the research project I’m working on about IFLA (the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions), and there was a lot of good stuff.

One of the big issues I find myself thinking hard about when thinking about aboriginal information issues and especially Traditional Knowledge is the notion that there’s some information that people just shouldn’t see (because it’s sacred stuff, and if you aren’t a priest you don’t have the proper context, to simplify it down a lot). Not being religious and being a Creative Commons/Open Access loving kind of guy, my hackles go up at the idea that communities would obstruct the free flow of information I see librarians as being instrumental in (I commented on this a little bit last year after attending a colloquium on Digital Repatriation). But I’m also a big fan of Community-Led Library issues, learning from the communities you’re serving instead of coming in with solutions in search of problems (the whole “improve society by facilitating knowledge creation in their communities” new librarianship deal works really well in this context). So I came into this conference ready to learn stuff that we don’t talk a lot about in our more traditionally focused courses.

And learn stuff I did.

Val Napoleon talked about the way oral cultures and knowledge representation is gaining legitimacy in the Canadian legal system as law, not just a cultural artifact. She also talked about how lofty principles are kind of meaningless without application and consultation. Community Consultation and Informed Prior Consent were recurrent themes throughout the two days.

Another recurrent theme was the situation of knowledge in place. This is one of those ideas that’s completely foreign to me. I don’t have any deep connection with any place, and for me the digital future is interesting because of its disconnection from a location, that I can go anywhere and bring all my stories with me. But that’s not the only way to think of things. Recordings are a crutch and they separate the stories from the people and without stories you become the walking dead, said Cry Rock, a video that was presented.

On Friday afternoon people were talking about indigenous training methods and indigenous subject heading and knowledge organization which was very interesting, but a bit annoying that the guy on the panel spoke about his (admittedly neat) online dictionary for as long as the three women did combined. On Twitter I referred to him as a white guy, but that was an assumption on my part, since I didn’t hear how he self-identified. The self-identification of where everyone was from and who they were was fascinating throughout the conference. And the thanking of the Musqueam nation for hosting the conference on their unceded land. I can’t remember ever hearing that kind of acknowledgment of land issues back in Winnipeg, but it happens a lot at UBC and did in Sydney too.

Oh, thinking of Sydney, on Saturday Alana Garwood-Houng was talking about Traditional Knowledge and copyright issues in regards to WIPO, but while there were some good things happening in that realm, there are also terrible human rights abuses going on in the Northern Territory. It was an emotional issue (check Stand for Freedom for the video she showed us) and she stressed that protecting cultural knowledge is important but protecting people and their human rights needs to come first.

I’m going to give my favourite part of the conference its own post, but in general, that was my experience with it. There were some boring parts, and I think IFLA missed the point of conversation about intellectual property issues in its Guiding Principles document they presented. Grand Chief Ed John called them out on their “respect for human rights so long as… access to information is unimpeded.” I’m all for access to information (remember, I’m a CC-loving info-sharing librarian) but I think serving the community has to come first. Harald von Hielmcrone did say there’s no human right to look through someone’s private papers, but the Guiding Principles bury that sentiment (if it’s there) in bureaucratically hellish clauses and doublespeak. I am not a fan of policy documents, I guess.

I am a fan of this conference and the information I came away with. I didn’t network as much as I should, but I was tweeting and taking notes. Hopefully this response was useful. It was only the first conference of a bunch this summer, so expect more of these writeups. I hope the rest will spark such cool shifts in perspective.