Rule of Acquisition #162: Even in the worst of times someone turns a profit.
It only seems like yesterday when...scratch that. It seems like a hundred years ago when the pandemic began. Our world is different, scarier, darker, and oh-so-much-angrier than it was back in the Before Times. It didn't seem possible that we could get even more inflamed, but we did.
Also: Join us for #StarTrekDay today. Watch virtual panels featuring cast from all 9 series
Although the human race right now seems to be having more bad days than good, there have been bright spots. Back in April (which seems like only a mere 90 years ago), I wrote about acts of wonderful good cheer made possible only by the internet, broadband, and online video.
Today, I'm going to try to brighten your day a bit more by sharing with you another delightful act of good cheer, also facilitated by the internet. For the last four days, while working out, it had me grinning ear-to-ear -- and I'm not one to grin while working out.
Just before the weekend began, I found an article on StarTrek.com about the actor Alexander Siddig and his YouTube channel known as the Sid City Social Club.
Sidding is perhaps best known for playing the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine character, Dr. Julian Bashir, which he played from 1993 through 1999. While he's known to Trek fans as Bashir, Siddig has had other regular roles including Doran Martell in Game of Thrones, Ra's al Ghul in Gotham, and Ruben Oliver in Peaky Blinders.
Since the pandemic began, Siddig has taken on another role: that of fan community bright light. He's been running Zoom sessions with fans, even talking to them one-on-one. This isn't Cameo, where anyone with a bit of celebrity can make a few bucks recording short messages for fans. No, Siddig has been spending time with fans for free.
That's really cool, but that's not even what caught my attention. What caught my attention was Alone Together, a two-hour, four-part play that reunites Star Trek: Deep Space Nine characters, 25 years later. Think Picard, but via Zoom and without production studios.
Alone Together is not Star Trek canon, but it is a great little Star Trek story that originated as fan fiction by Matt Campbell.
WARNING: There are no spoilers here, but if you don't like to know anything about how a show will play out, this is where you should stop reading this article and go watch the show.
It's basically a table read done entirely via video chat. It feels almost like an old-time radio play, but this time, you can see the actors play their parts. There is absolutely no production value. Siddig has some sort of carpet behind him, for example. There are no sound effects, no elaborate stage makeup, and almost no props.
Throughout all four episodes, Siddig plays Bashir. Andrew Robinson reprises his role of Elim Garak, the always-secretive Cardassian spy/tailor. An all-grown-up Cirroc Lofton reprises his role of Jake Sisko, son of the DS9's Captain Sisko. Two other DS9 favorites, Nana Visitor and Armin Shimerman make guest appearances.
The plot is a bit convoluted, but if you've ever watched the interaction between Bashir and Garak, you'd expect nothing less from their complex relationship. In Alone Together, Bashir is still working on Deep Space Nine, but is also heavily and reluctantly involved in the Federation black ops service known as Section 31.
Bashir has been summoned to Cardassia by Garak, who is now Castellan (head of the planet). Garak and all of Cardassia have been infected by a virus that has a variety of deleterious effects on the mind and body.
As the story plays out, Garak's arguments for and against disclosure, and for and against secretive action, feel like they've been ripped from today's headlines -- but in a good way. There's no preaching or politicizing here. Robinson merely plays Garak as Garak has always been.
It's in the back-and-forth between Garak and Bashir that fan Matt Campbell's writing shines. I hope he gets to write more. It's well done.
25 years after the events of the Deep Space Nine TV show, Jake Sisko is all grown up. When we first met Jake, he was Ben Sisko's 13 year old son. When we last saw Jake, he was almost 20. But time has passed for everyone, and Cirroc Lofton is all grown up now, so we get to see a mature Jake. He is now the editor-in-chief of the Federation news service.
Jake has heard rumblings of some sort of lockdown on Cardassia. When he reaches out to Bashir, he's brought into the inner circle. His role is to help chase down who caused what they are starting to suspect is an engineered plague.
When we get to the third episode of Alone Together, Nana Visitor (who back in the DS9 days was married to Siddig) pops in playing the mirror universe version of Colonel Kira Nerys.
According to the narrative, The Intendent (Kira's title in the mirror universe) is now working for Section 31 in the Prime Universe. Meanwhile, Prime Universe's Kira is now Kai -- the spiritual leader of Bajor, the planet closest to DS9.
Convoluted or not, it was a pleasure seeing Nana Visitor reprise the deliciously devious variant of her DS9 roles. Even without props or costumes, she can still raise hairs on the back of your neck.
And then there's Quark. You've got to hand it to Armin Shimerman. Even though he was reprising his role in front of some wood-grain blinds (I think I bought the same set at Home Depot a few years ago), he had on a set of Quark's prosthetic teeth.
I love knowing that somewhere in Shimerman's collection of old work memorabilia has been sitting a set of pointed teeth. You gotta wonder how often he brings them out on special occasions.
The appearance of Armin Shimerman reprising his role of Ferengi bar owner Quark was a delight in and of itself. But the idea that Shimerman dusted off a set of fake teeth more than a quarter century old, put them on, and then played his part wearing them moves Shimerman to the top of our cool list.
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Now you know why I was grinning when Quark showed up on screen quoting Rule 162 of the Rules of Acquisition: Even in the worst of times someone turns a profit.
Although Quark has yet to own as many moons as his cousin, he's doing well. We saw Quark's Bar in an episode of Picard. Apparently he has a viable franchising system, although the robotic versions of Quark used as greeters are still a little buggy. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In any case, Quark uses his sources to ferret out vital clues for Sisko, which helps Bashir research a possible cure for the virus.
The story is good. You'll have to watch to find out how it ends, though. No spoilers here. I watched the episodes during my workouts over the course of four nights. Despite the lack of props, backgrounds, costumes, or even sound and video quality, it was frickin' awesome.
We've reached a point where our basic desktop tools can create productions like this. We get to see old friends on screen. They can share them with a wide audience with no filters or gatekeepers.
In this time of so much sorrow, five actors and a few dedicated fans have worked to bring cheer by collaborating on and sharing their creativity.
On a final note, I wanted to mention that I've been binge-watching the various Star Trek series since the pandemic began. It's been a great way to get through the long weeks. If you haven't seen Deep Space Nine from beginning to end, you're missing a treat. It's different from the other starship-centric planet-a-week Star Treks, and it's deeply awesome.
Watch it if you can. CBS All Access has all the series (including the new ones) available right now. In fact, if you subscribe with the promo code PLAY, you can get a free month of CBS All Access.
Disclosure: ViacomCBS, which produces Star Trek, also owns ZDNet and I'm paid by ZDNet. That said, I have no input (drat!) into Star Trek, don't get to see or review shows before they air, and pay my monthly fee to CBS All Access like everyone else.
So what about you? What have you been watching to pass the time? Do you have a favorite Star Trek series or character? If you've seen DS9, who is your favorite character and what's your favorite episode? Let us know in the comments below.
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