Arena ★★★

It would be some coincidence if this Charles Band production wasn’t an inspiration to the brain trust behind Deep Space Nine. It’s not just that Armin Shimerman and Mark Alaimo appear as quasi-prototypes of the characters they would make legendary just a few years later, when its vibrant sense of space station life feels foundational to the spirt of that show (and of Babylon 5, whose lead Claudia Christian also stars here). Yes, I took all of that from what’s essentially a budget Rocky or Bloodsport in space, with unfortunately near-fatal glacial pacing that belies its rich imagination — not to mention remarkable practical effects that blend early animatronics with a charming rubber-monster aesthetic (care of John Carl Buechler and the inimitable Screaming Mad George).