We’d do a “your mom” strapline, but honestly with Christine here it’s a bit weird

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. David Faggiani
    November 25, 2015 @ 4:32 am

    So, this is possibly the first episode of DS9 I ever saw (it's this or 'The Nagus') and I actually loved it at the time! Thought the 'Elamarein' (or whatever) scene was kind of creepy.

    I guess I was 9, and also watched 'Knightmare' (UK readers will know what I'm talking about) which resembles this episode a bit. Haven't rewatched it since I was about 11, just in case it doesn't… you know… hold up.


  2. David Faggiani
    November 25, 2015 @ 4:34 am

    It's actually a bit like a less-violent version of the movie 'Cube', as well, which featured Nicole de Boer. Circle Complete 😀


  3. Ross
    November 25, 2015 @ 12:48 pm

    Oooh. Nasty.

    (A good 2/3 of the reason Knightmare was hard is because british schoolboys are unable to issue an order without ending it with ", right?". Your typical Knightmare run ended with the order "Quick, go left, right? No, not right, left, right?")


  4. Blueshift
    November 26, 2015 @ 10:20 am

    They tried a pilot for a reboot of that a while back with CGI. Awful.


  5. John Biles
    November 26, 2015 @ 10:54 pm

    I never ever thought to connect this to the Prisoner before; once you said that, I could see the connection and why they blew it. This is an almost perfect case of what goes wrong so often in such efforts: they understand the outside candy coating of the Prisoner but not the chewy center. The Prisoner was full of weirdness like chess games with human pieces, moving the show's setting to the Old West for a single episode,or the business in Fall out with ripping mask after mask off the same person. But all the weirdness was in pursuit of a set of ideas the show wanted viewers to take away from the episodes. All the gonzo weirdness of Star Trek Episodes like the OK Corral one or The Empath was to express moral ideas and reframe modern conflicts in a parable where we get to the heart of the matter by discarding the modern trappings which can distract us from the truth.
    Checkmate is ultimately about trust, about how do you trust anyone in a prison where any apparent prisoner may be a warder in disguise? Answer: You can't, and so you can't escape because the prisoners won't cooperate with each other for fear of being betrayed by co-conspirators, so no one can break free.
    Further, the conflict in Checkmate, or in surreal Star Treks typically had real stakes. The Prisoner wants to escape and maybe he could have if not betrayed. The Metrons tell Kirk that if he loses, they will destroy his ship.
    Move Along Home isn't about anything. The only real moral is 'Quark, you shouldn't cheat your customers', but there's no actual consequences for Quark or the others; it's all just filler and messing with his head and then the aliens leave. There is no message and surrealism without a message is just visual masturbation.

    The realest Prisoner tribute was Chain of Command, which actually deals with some of the kinds of issues that the Prisoner did, though in a realistic style.


  6. elvwood
    December 8, 2015 @ 11:19 am

    [Catching up – well, I would be if my comments weren't getting eaten!]

    I enjoyed this one slightly more than Josh, though not nearly so much as young David. Mind you, being a Whovian, the nearest comparison would be The Celestial Toymaker, so on that front it didn't exactly have a high bar to clear! (And come to think of it, there are some comparisons to be made between the Toymaker and Q, so perhaps my least favourite DS9 episode thus far got bit by the same bug.)

    Gutted for Farrell. As you say, there was no reason for it to be her here, and she would have worked so much better in Birthright.


  7. Daru
    December 21, 2015 @ 12:35 am

    "And Hard SF, as a general rule, doesn't like anything that smacks of mysticism or baroque experimentation."

    Big shame for Farrell. Myself, I have always been more interested in baroque mysticism rather than hard SF. Just a shame as one commenter said above, that so often when it's tried the deeper layers are missing – and yeah it really does not require much extra money to do it well, simplicity would often be best.

    In a way this one makes me think of the UK kids show The Adventure Game, an 80's game show which had large elements of weird and genuinely unsettled and excited me as a kid:



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