[DS9] Jammer's Review: Seventh Season Recap
- Greetings. You may have noticed this is way later than my season recap
generally is. But, hey, Voyager doesn't start up for over a week and DS9
doesn't start up at all, so this is on time as far as I'm concerned. :)
Why so late? Well, for me it's been a very busy summer that gave way to
blatant procrastination once the craziness died down. I didn't get around
to starting this thing until a few weeks ago, and then it became a slow
process of chipping away at it until I finally put a rush on it late last
week. Bottom line: I didn't feel motivated to meet any deadline, so I took
my sweet time ... and then turned it into a sprint after imposing an
arbitrary deadline when I realized it was September and the start of the
fall TV season (including Voyager) was rapidly approaching. So there. :)
Warning: This lengthy recap article contains plentiful spoilers for the
seventh and final season of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."
Nutshell: A season with flaws? Certainly. Nevertheless, I'm willing to call
it one of DS9's--and Trek's--best overall seasons. I didn't get everything
I wanted, but I certainly got a lot.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -- Seventh Season Recap
Capsule Reviews & Season Analysis
For episodes airing from
9/28/1998 to 5/31/1999 (USA)
Series created by Rick Berman & Michael Piller
Executive producers: Rick Berman & Ira Steven Behr
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Well, this is it folks--my last posting for "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."
As has been the case in past years, this summary takes the usual format:
There are the capsule reviews in part one, followed by the season
commentary in part two, and, this year, some closing thoughts in part
three. What was accomplished this year? What was overlooked? I'll offer my
take on the matter in this final installment of the "Jammer Review" for
DS9. Feel free to agree, disagree, or punch your computer screen. Let's begin.
PART 1: CAPSULE REVIEWS
"Image in the Sand" -- Airdate: 9/28/1998. Written by Ira Steven Behr &
Hans Beimler. Directed by Les Landau.
And so we set the stage with the first of the last. "Image in the Sand"
plays like several of the "Final Chapter" installments: It's hard to judge
on its own because its story destination is unclear and rides so much on
what comes afterward. As DS9 goes, this episode was nicely presented, most
notably through the pacing and continuity, but nothing groundbreaking.
Dax's death had lingering effects for Worf; Sisko's self-imposed exile came
to the beginning of its end through some interesting Prophet plotting and
imagery; and Kira had her hands full with a Romulan political snafu that
drew parallels to the previous season's "A Time to Stand." There's a lot
here to digest, but it all remains interesting. It's a necessary piece of
the larger DS9 puzzle.
Rating out of 4: ***
"Shadows and Symbols" -- Airdate: 10/5/1998. Written by Ira Steven Behr &
Hans Beimler. Directed by Allan Kroeker.
The key word for "Shadows and Symbols" is "suspense." Much like, again,
many of the "Final Chapter" installments. Allan Kroeker turns the heat up,
particularly as the Kira/Romulan subplot becomes a countdown to disaster.
Meanwhile, three generations of Sisko venture into a desert while Worf
ensures a place for Jadzia in Stovokor, with the help of O'Brien, Bashir,
and Quark. (Quark?) The self-discoveries for Sisko are far-reaching,
revealing his birth was arranged by the Prophets. The execution of the hour
was nearly flawless, and I particularly liked the way the writers moved the
nature of Sisko's relationship with the Prophets into new Trekkian
envelope-pushing territory, which sets the stage for what we would later
learn is part of Sisko's destiny and existence. Some very neat stuff--sort
of "Star Wars"-esque.
"Afterimage" -- Airdate: 10/12/1998. Written by Rene Echevarria. Directed
by Les Landau.
"Afterimage" didn't do all that much to rivet me to the screen, and still
doesn't. It was certainly a necessary show to acquaint us with Ezri. There
was certainly nothing wrong with the hour as it unfolded. And the reactions
of the other characters to the presence of this "new Dax" seemed
reasonable. I suppose those reactions were just a little *too* reasonable
and somehow lacking in punch. The Worf/Ezri dilemma made sense, I suppose,
but it was still frustrating to watch, simply because it wouldn't be until
the "Final Chapter" when Worf and Ezri would finally start confronting
their problem instead of silently wallowing in it. I also had the sense
that Ezri was a little too "goofily" confused (motormouthing away was cute
but not very dramatic) when she should've been a little more darkly
disturbed--but that's probably just my own opinion on botched Trill
joinings. Overall, "Afterimage" is pleasant--a perfectly okay show that
doesn't vie for the status of powerhouse.
"Take Me Out to the Holosuite" -- Airdate: 10/19/1998. Written by Ronald D.
Moore. Directed by Chip Chalmers.
Timing can be everything, and possibly no better time could've been picked
to release a baseball episode than the year when baseball fully returned
from a stint of national scorn and disinterest. Other than timing, what was
good about this show? Well, the fact that we have a cast that is fun to
watch and a premise that is as simple as a captain wanting to beat a rival
captain. Yes, it's corny, contrived, obvious, and overplayed at times. But
so what? It's fun. Watching Sisko blow up, then lighten up and put the
Amazingly Incompetent Rom in the game is itself worth the view. And Odo as
an ump? Me likes. All I ask from a Trek comedy is good spirits and an
ability for the hour to leave me with a goofy grin on my face. This
episode, while not an inspired comedy on par with, say, "In the Cards,"
gets the job done nicely.
"Chrysalis" -- Airdate: 10/26/1998. Written by Rene Echevarria. Directed by
A surprisingly forgettable show, and four surprisingly tame role reprisals
for Bashir's Lovable Crazies. This show was not unpleasant, was not badly
performed, was not the least bit ill-conceived. But it wasn't much of
anything else, either. The key word here is "pedestrian." The
by-the-numbers romance between Bashir and Sarina honestly didn't strike me
as anything more than a quota fulfillment, and the idea of essentially
rehashing the bulk of "Flowers for Algernon" suffers from the fact that
we're seeing the story through Bashir's eyes rather than Sarina's. We learn
little, if anything, about Bashir we didn't already know, and the emotional
impact ultimately isn't nearly enough to sustain the interest.
"Treachery, Faith, and the Great River" -- Airdate: 11/2/1998. Teleplay by
David Weddle & Bradley Thompson. Story by Philip Kim. Directed by Steve Posey.
Now we're getting somewhere. "Treachery" is the best of several worlds,
supplying a meaty return to the central story arc, a stellar analysis of
the relationship between the Founders and the Vorta, and containing a
wonderful set of performances from Jeffrey Combs as two very different yet
still very alike Weyoun clones. (Whatever projects Combs has been involved
with since DS9 wrapped, the creators are lucky to have him.) The episode
plants plenty of interesting seeds that would pay off down the road (the
disease in the Link, Damar's growing malcontent). In the meantime we have a
very nice self-contained story involving Odo and the defecting Weyoun
clone. The action makes sense and the dialog remembers the themes of
selfless Dominion servitude a la "Rocks and Shoals." This is an interesting
plot development episode but, more than that, an empathetic analysis of two
tragic characters (Weyoun-6 and Odo).
"Once More Unto the Breach" -- Airdate: 11/9/1998. Written by Ronald D.
Moore. Directed by Allan Kroeker.
The best word for this episode is "classy." Somehow, you get the feeling
this was written by a fan of the franchise as much as by one of its
employees (which it was--one Ronald D. Moore). John Colicos' Kor is
certainly worth an hour of screen time; I personally don't see how anybody
could dislike this guy. The message behind the hour is one of painful
obsolescence. The notion of a politically ostracized warrior now cast aside
as a useless burden is powerfully drawn through Kor's humiliations and the
things he has in common with the ship's yeoman, Darok. In one key scene,
Kor responds to Martok's insults with a wonderful speech that makes Martok
angry at himself for his own insolent mockery. Unfortunately, something
about the ending and its off-screen battle just doesn't sit right, and the
show sort of fizzles out. Too bad, because this would've been a classic had
it provided a stronger finale. It's a very nice Klingon outing.
"The Siege of AR-558" -- Airdate: 11/16/1998. Written by Ira Steven Behr &
Hans Beimler. Directed by Winrich Kolbe.
Like "Nor the Battle to the Strong," "AR-558" is one of DS9's great
visceral experiences. So much of it is conveyed through atmosphere and
photography (in a virtuoso Kolbe direction); a review will only get you so
far. Powerful yet simple details of human jitters set the stage for a
combat encounter that looms in the all-too-immediate future, until the
entire setting takes on a sort of surreal quality. Meanwhile, Quark, Nog,
and Sisko form the central core of some war polemics, as Quark's
observations of the war-torn Starfleet battalion point out a human capacity
for violence that lurks beneath the surface. Nog is the eager soldier whose
world will come apart when he is injured. Sisko is the mission commander
who must not hesitate in sending his soldiers to die. The story reveals a
wartime pragmatism that is necessary but hardly uplifting. And the story
puts a face on the millions of Federation soldiers whose sacrifices are
typically reduced to throwaway dialog. "AR-558" is probably the best Trek
war movie we'll likely get.
"Covenant" -- Airdate: 11/23/1998. Written by Rene Echevarria. Directed by
There's plenty of interest in "Covenant," but there's also plenty that's
suspect. Part of my job for an episode like this is to embrace
contradiction and resist presumption, because we're talking about a group
of cultists who are following blind faith rather than logic. But still,
they're going to follow Dukat, one of the most hated men in Bajoran
history? And they intend to follow him even if it's right over a cliff?
With Kira's headstrong defiance during this mess, and then a Cardassian
child--obviously Dukat's--being born to a Bajoran woman, one would think
there'd be room for some sort of dissent within this cult. Alas, there
isn't. And the cultists' 180-degree revolt at the end, as well as Kira's
"Dukat is still dangerous" speech, prove far too simplistic. On the plus
side, the Kira/Dukat interaction was good, and I'm of the opinion that
Dukat's worship of the Paghwraiths put at least some grey back into his
character (even if the finale wouldn't see it through). Intriguing but shaky.
"It's Only a Paper Moon" -- Airdate: 12/28/1998. Teleplay by Ronald D.
Moore. Story by David Mack & John J. Ordover. Directed by Anson Williams.
In the year's sleeper hit, Nog is the central character in a well-played
follow-up to "The Siege of AR-558." A quietly absorbing, pleasant, and
believable hour, "Paper Moon" is the perfect example of how character
consequences can be portrayed without requiring heavy serialization but by
still acknowledging past episodes and sending a character in a specific
direction (Voyager writers take note). The episode has lots of reasonable
moments of post-traumatic stress featuring the ring of truth; one of Vic
Fontaine's best employments; some rare-for-season-seven Jake/Nog
interaction; Ezri getting some moments of clever psychology; Rom and Leeta
portrayed as people rather than caricatures; and a general respect and
affection for all of its characters. Pretty invigorating. If Jake had been
given this sort of attention this season we'd be in great shape.
"Prodigal Daughter" -- Airdate: 1/4/1999. Written by Bradley Thompson &
David Weddle. Directed by Victor Lobl.
Among the quietest episodes in recent memory, "Prodigal Daughter" documents
Ezri's homecoming, as she visits the family with which she has become
somewhat estranged. On the positive side, this episode is one of the more
low-key and competent tales of troubled family life that Trek has done. On
the negative side, we have a plot involving O'Brien, Bilby's dead widow,
the Orion Syndicate, and Ezri's family in a way that features one (or
three) too many coincidences and as a result feels forced together. (A
quiet family drama saddled with a follow-up to "Honor Among Thieves"
strikes me as a bit of a muddle by definition.) The family dynamics of the
Tigan household ring true for the most part, but the episode is hard to
take as something more than lightweight filler with an occasional note of
melodrama. Not bad, but not particularly memorable, mostly because it feels
so disconnected from the series.
"The Emperor's New Cloak" -- Airdate: 2/1/1999. Written by Ira Steven Behr
& Hans Beimler. Directed by LeVar Burton.
*Thud* went "Emperor's New Cloak," which ranks as the year's most obvious
clunker. But what's most a shame here is the wasted potential of the mirror
universe. It's been an unfolding mini-arc visited almost once per season
since second season's "Crossover," yet here the creators don't think to tie
up loose ends, especially involving the usually entertaining power struggle
among Regent Worf, Intendant Kira, and Garak. Instead we get a hopelessly
lame-brained plot filled with extremely unfunny Ferengi hijinks;
offensively glib, wannabe-hip lesbianism; painfully stupid villains; and a
lot of poorly conceived comic-book posturing that this time around fails to
be even remotely fun. The result is a big, dumb bore--nothing one would've
hoped or expected for DS9's final venture into the mirror universe.
"Field of Fire" -- Airdate: 2/8/1999. Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe.
Directed by Tony Dow.
It's a competent follow-up to "Rejoined," and a competent Trek murder
mystery featuring an ingenious (if high on the opening-a-can-of-worms
scale) tech murder weapon. And it's by far a better use of Ezri's dark side
than the ineptitude of "The Emperor's New Cloak." Still, at this point it
seems to be a bit of Ezri overload, and some of the show's obvious moral
moments (Will Ezri give in to Joran and kill the defenseless Vulcan?) prove
how much better a homicide works on a TV show that's about homicide every
week. As an implementation of a police procedural with a sci-fi twist,
"Field of Fire" fares okay but uncovers the murderer too swiftly. I
initially defended Ezri uncovering the killer, but while I maintain that
her deduction was possible, it *is* rather contrived. And Leigh J.
McCloskey's turn as Joran was too theatrically stylized to be effective as
believable psychological terror (though he conveys the smug sarcasm very
well). I did like this as an Ezri-in-action installation, but it has a few
too many rough spots, not enough lasting significance, and overlooks the
fact that Ezri came face to face with violence just a few weeks before.
"Chimera" -- Airdate: 2/15/1999. Written by Rene Echevarria. Directed by
"Chimera," to me, is one of DS9's (and Trek's) all-time greatest moments.
The Odo/Kira relationship has often been one of the series' most
interesting, but after sixth season's "His Way" it became somewhat more
routine by TV standards ... until this gem came along. As a romance, this
episode is immensely moving, making every other Trek romance look pale in
comparison. As a story about Odo's identity, this is a tour de force; Laas'
presence brings with it all sorts of questions that exemplify the best of
what Trek has to offer. Who are we, *really*, and why? How do others
perceive us, and why? Echevarria's script is full of brilliant dialog
touches and astute character speeches that say a great deal without
sounding the least bit preachy. Laas (wonderfully played by J.G. Hertzler)
is a sympathetic character whose prejudices and distrust are completely
understandable, and when he kills a threatening Klingon we see all the
interesting nuances of the Klingons' resulting search for "justice"
(including Worf silently pondering the matter while in the background of
one scene). It's an unfortunate situation that brings about some truly
tough questions, bringing Odo back to wondering whether he belongs with
"solids." Quark gets a thoughtful dialog scene, while Odo and Kira get to
discuss their feelings in sincere ways that are, really, pretty
groundbreaking. All the elements--the romance, the identity issues, the
scrutiny of justice--come together to form a near-flawless hour that truly
means something and inspires us to reflect upon that meaning. This is a
masterpiece. (Did I mention that I liked it?)
"Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang" -- Airdate: 2/22/1999. Written by Ira Steven Behr
& Hans Beimler. Directed by Mike Vejar.
It was a reasonable lightweight outing, but it was also a victim of bad
timing, straining the patience of those of us who at this point were
anxious to get back into the series' core material. It's all about style
and inconsequential fun. It's *not* about lasting impact or significance.
On the downside: an unexpected racial argument that is brought up and then
quickly dropped; scenes between Kira and Franky Eyes that are stale and
cliched; and the usual holodeck contrivances. On the upside: a clever caper
plan that of course goes awry; an amiable, fourth-wall-breaking
Darren/Brooks duet; and an appropriate sense of whimsy. Overall it's pretty
entertaining (though not as much fun as "Take Me Out to the Holosuite").
But if you take it away, what have we lost?
"Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" -- Airdate: 3/1/1999. Written by Ronald D.
Moore. Directed by David Livingston.
"Inter Arma..." embodies what I believe is a part of DS9's larger
contribution to the Trek ideology: It challenges the core values of the
Federation in ways that might be unthinkable on the other Trek series,
thereby encouraging a growth of the franchise's scope. This is an episode
with lots of great polemical dialog, wonderfully conveyed through the
performances of William Sadler and Alexander Siddig. The plot, despite
being more complex than is sometimes realistically believable (Sloan comes
off as the greatest manipulator of all time), is an efficient,
tightly-wound series of clever deceptions. What makes this so memorable,
though, is its ability to argue the moral issues until we're not sure what
is truly "best" for the Federation's survival--Sloan's ice-cold pragmatism
or Bashir's unwavering idealism--when we consider the threats of our
enemies. Admiral Ross' involvement in the plot only further demonstrates
the tricky problem--we give in to our weaknesses during desperate times.
The episode is as much a moral play as any classic TOS episode (showing the
virtues of Bashir's moral code), but it goes beyond typical Trekkian
bounds, and shows that the Federation is not perfect and that even ideal
values can be subject to scrutiny.
"Deep Space Nine: The Final Chapter" -- Devoting 10 hours to the series'
ending saga wasn't simply a good idea; it was practically a necessity. The
producers' willingness to make the final stretch of the series into a huge,
ambitious storyline (against the studio's general wishes) is something I'm
grateful for. Not everything here was handled in the best possible way
(spending so much time on Ezri/Worf and Ezri/Bashir probably wasn't
completely necessary, and the ball was dropped with "Extreme Measures"),
but it was nice to see DS9 go out with some thinking ahead, a great deal of
sensibility regarding its characters, and a storyline that felt "epic" in
"Penumbra" -- Airdate: 4/5/1999. Written by Rene Echevarria. Directed by
The series' final stretch begins with this story centering on two romantic
plots: Sisko proposes to Kasidy; Dax rescues Worf. Noteworthy is the
internalized, low-key performance by Avery Brooks; the Sisko/Kasidy
relationship has quite an impact. More predictable is the Worf/Dax angle,
as their runabout is destroyed and they find themselves stranded with
nothing to do but talk, argue, and have yadda-yadda sex--but at least they
weren't ignoring each other anymore. Meanwhile, the Big Plot fires up: The
Dominion's search for the cure to the Founders' disease shows no useful
progress; the Female Shapeshifter turns up the Freon for Cold Beeyatch
Mode; Damar bottoms out in pathetic status; the Breen enter the picture and
kidnap Worf and Ezri; Dukat shows up with a devious plan; the Sarah-Prophet
warns Sisko that marrying Kasidy will bring nothing but sorrow. [Gasp for
air.] It's a lot set (or resumed) into motion, which makes for an engaging
but not standout segment of the story arc.
"'Til Death Do Us Part" -- Airdate: 4/12/1999. Written by David Weddle &
Bradley Thompson. Directed by Winrich Kolbe.
Strangely, it remains just as difficult to render judgment on some of these
individual episodes as it was before I knew how the arc would play out.
"'Til Death" is still a good setup show that skillfully conducts its
suspense elements like an orchestra. Damar's realization of his level of
pathetic-ness is nicely staged with a standout scene of silence. The
Worf/Ezri/Breen storyline still proves too redundant (though reaching their
understanding of each other slowly, through great difficulty, was probably
a good thing). Dukat's wandering is interesting. Sisko's marriage is nice,
and the promised consequences fearsome (though the wording of him knowing
nothing but sorrow seems misleading in retrospect). Nothing is the primary
storyline here; they're all important, and, as such, more pieces to a
puzzle. The verdict: Good entertainment, little payoff.
"Strange Bedfellows" -- Airdate: 4/19/1999. Written by Ronald D. Moore.
Directed by Rene Auberjonois.
And "Strange Bedfellows" did it again. I find myself almost automatically
wanting to discuss plot for an episode like this, because plot is where the
show is most involving. This time it was primarily Dukat/Winn venturing
into new territory, although Worf/Ezri finally finds some pleasant
resolution, and Damar busting them out of their cell plays as a microcosm
for Cardassia's imminent uprising against the Dominion (who probably see
the Cardassians as useless given their new alliance with the Breen). The
show's standout scene is probably the Kira/Winn discussion, which shows
Winn as genuinely and understandably lost but still so power hungry that
she can't help but follow the Paghwraiths. The show is hurt somewhat by
some truly excessive Evil Dialog at the end. Nevertheless, the theme for
"Strange Bedfellows": an episode that reveals to the audience which way
characters are heading for their final chapters.
"The Changing Face of Evil" -- Airdate: 4/26/1999. Written by Ira Steven
Behr & Hans Beimler. Directed by Mike Vejar.
Knockout punch number one. After three weeks of intense plotting sans
payoff, "Changing Face" explodes, providing a roller-coaster ride of
characters committing themselves to new paths. Starfleet mounts a large
battle, but before we get into that, we get some well-played comedy that
reminds us these people are human beings. We get Weyoun duped by Damar in
one of the most deliciously played ironic scenes in recent memory. By the
time the battle is over, we have witnessed the destruction of the Defiant
in a painfully vivid sequence. And shortly thereafter, we have Damar asking
the Cardassian people to turn against the Dominion (in a scene that still
makes me want to cheer). And, oh yeah--two words: Mike Vejar. This is
simply a wonderfully entertaining thrill ride, done DS9 style, and packed
with little character touches that make all the difference in the world.
Not for one moment are the characters lost in the mayhem.
"When it Rains..." -- Airdate: 5/3/1999. Teleplay by Rene Echevarria. Story
by Rene Echevarria & Spike Steingasser. Directed by Michael Dorn.
There's plenty of good material, particularly surrounding the great irony
of the Cardassians in almost the exact situation the Bajorans were in
during the Occupation. Kira allies with the Cardassian resistance movement,
which is a brilliant signpost of change and characters coming full circle.
As with other installments in the arc, there's tons going on and this is a
middle segment with almost no internal resolution. "When it Rains..." is
less effective than some of the other parts because it's one of the least
satisfying on its own and comes off as a bit wooden in execution. And it
comes screeching to a halt in a way that's almost jarring. But it offers a
lot of ideas that are very much worth the time.
"Tacking into the Wind" -- Airdate: 5/10/1999. Written by Ronald D. Moore.
Directed by Mike Vejar.
Knockout punch number two, which proves even better than knockout punch
number one. The final arc's best episode, "Tacking" not only continues to
move the plot along at breakneck speed, it's an episode that embodies much
of the DS9 mythos. We see societies and movements facing internal problems
that could bring down the whole war effort, and Ron Moore's script draws
brilliantly conceived lines back through the histories of these individuals
and societies. Kira's encounters with Rosot reveal an old-school Cardassian
hard-liner whose attitudes are obsolete. Kira's encounters with Damar
reveal a man with the courage to accept change; a quietly executed key
Kira/Damar scene vividly exacerbates old wounds along with new. Meanwhile,
Gowron's political foolishness leads Sisko to tell Worf to do "whatever it
takes," in a scene that demonstrates just how much Starfleet has changed.
And an Ezri/Worf conversation challenges the viability of the Klingon
Empire given its willingness to tolerate its own kleptocracy. All of this
is put in terms of the current conflict with the Dominion, making the
stakes extremely high--but grounding the lasting significance in the terms
of fictional societies that have solid, compelling histories, and futures
we're inspired to imagine. (And, oh yeah--two words: Mike Vejar.) It's
absolutely fascinating to watch play out, and provides one of the best
representations of what DS9 is all about. Call it a tie with "Chimera" for
best of the season.
"Extreme Measures" -- Airdate: 5/17/1999. Written by Bradley Thompson &
David Weddle. Directed by Steve Posey.
Unfortunately, if there's an episode that most hurts the larger scheme of
things, it's "Extreme Measures." Here's an episode that by definition
should've been the writers' last word in answering many of the moral
questions that the Dominion War and Section 31 have provided for this
series. All the ingredients are here: Sloan, Bashir, and the titular
"extreme measures" involving illegal Romulan mind probes. But many of the
most important issues are never discussed. Instead, for reasons I can
barely fathom, the writers turned this into a routine Virtual-Reality
Adventure [TM] replete with all the VR cliches. And there's a lot of wasted
time, like extended scenes of Bashir and O'Brien in a falling turbolift or
lying wounded in a corridor. The banter is first-rate Bashir/O'Brien stuff
(the "I like you a bit more" routine is classic), but it's simply
inappropriate under these circumstances. And, unfortunately, the Section 31
moral dilemma feels like it never received the closing chapter it clearly
deserved. Overall, not a complete loser, but clearly the season's biggest
"The Dogs of War" -- Airdate: 5/24/1999. Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore & Rene
Echevarria. Story by Peter Allan Fields. Directed by Avery Brooks.
Present here is more backdrop for the finale involving the destruction of
the organized Cardassian resistance and Damar/Kira/Garak taking the
struggle to the streets, which is necessary and intriguing. And there's
talk of the war's upcoming final assault on Cardassia Prime. However, on
its own, this episode might be more easily remembered as the closing of the
book on Quark and the Ferengi. As such, it's surprisingly tolerable,
underlining the fact that Ferenginar has changed while Quark--who will
continue to cling to yesterday's values, today rendered obsolete--has not.
It doesn't make up for years of lame Ferengi episodes and a Ferengi society
whose drastic change in the past two years is scarcely believable ... but
it does send Quark and the Ferengi out with some dignity, and for that I'm
"What You Leave Behind" -- Airdate: 5/31/1999. Written by Ira Steven Behr &
Hans Beimler. Directed by Allan Kroeker.
It's possible that your opinion of this season was largely decided by how
effective you found the final episode, simply because the final episode had
to resolve so much of what was set up in the preceding eight shows (and
before). It's certainly true there are plenty of things that I might've
liked to see in this last episode that weren't present. But it's also true
that a great deal of what needed to be said was said. As a final "event"
episode to tie up the threads, this episode worked and worked well. All the
characters got appropriate final moments and goodbyes, and Kroeker's
direction over this huge project was incredibly well paced. The one true
weakness--the unsatisfying conclusion to the Sisko/Dukat/Winn
showdown--hurts, but certainly not enough to bring down the show. The
bottom line: undeniably flawed ... but still a riveting, satisfying ride.
We'll look at all the consequences below in the season analysis.
PART 2: SEASON ANALYSIS
So, Deep Space Nine is over and done with. And there are still stories that
could be told. Stories that, if I were expecting another season, I would
say should be told. Of course, they won't be told. (If you're holding out
for a DS9 movie, whether in theatrical release or on TV, my advice is not
to hold your breath.) Did this season cover as much ground as it possibly
could've? Probably not. Cover as much ground as it *should've*? I
dunno--possibly not. There are a couple big things that at season's outset
I would've said were "mandatory" to cover but now must accept as
unfinished. And, of course, there were other moments this season that
happened which I wouldn't have minded had they been omitted.
But in looking back at this season, I think DS9 was about as ambitious as
it's ever been--and certainly as solid in terms of quality. Despite the
missteps, despite the fact some things went undone, despite the fact some
ideas weren't taken quite as far as they could've been, DS9's seventh
season goes down as one of Trek's most engaging and well-thought-out
seasons--in my book, anyway.
Is DS9 the same series it was when in premiered in 1993? I would say yes
and no. (Is that the lame, easy way out of the question? Maybe, but I also
happen to think it's true.) Some elements from those first two seasons were
retained. Some evolved. Some were thrown out or forgotten. The focus of the
show shifted from time to time, sometimes jarringly. (Season three's
premiere, "The Search," and season four's premiere, "The Way of the
Warrior," both attempted to reinvent the series with great suddenness.) But
through all the plot changes, we still had the most important aspect of
DS9--watchable, believable characters. These were people whom we could care
about. Despite the fact we're talking about a sci-fi/fantasy genre cast,
there's always been something about Sisko and his crew that had a ring of
truth to them. It's sometimes hard to put my finger on what exactly that
is. It's a feeling that I don't nearly as often get the with some other
series, like Voyager, for instance.
Anyway, even the best characters need to populate good stories to be
useful, and the question for season seven was what stories we would get.
This is a series that specialized in setting up dozens of storylines and
elements--sometimes too many--and those elements would at times go
unresolved. Season seven was a season that covered a lot of ground,
particularly in its final 11 hours.
Now, I'll talk about the oversights in a moment, but first I'd like to
discuss the major themes for this season. Unlike the stand-alone attitudes
of a Voyager season, most episodes of DS9 seem to be coming from somewhere
and heading somewhere. Yes, ongoing stories grew out of multi-part
episodes. But they also grew out of previous seasons and a general care for
maintaining a bigger picture--one that was sometimes most rewarding to
those of us in for the long haul.
To be specific, I point for starters to the two big winners of the season:
"Chimera" and "Tacking into the Wind." Both of these stories took
characters whose histories we knew so well and seamlessly melded those
histories into the storyline. "Chimera" took advantage of a long-standing
relationship (Odo/Kira) and a long-standing crisis of the self (Odo feeling
the call to the Link). "Tacking" played with the societal histories of
almost every power involved in the war, but the real standout were the
characters of Kira and Damar and the acknowledged parallels of Cardassia's
plight and the past-but-never-forgotten Bajoran Occupation. Both episodes
are Trekkian masterpieces, albeit for different reasons. "Chimera" was
inspired more by the classic Trek sense of storytelling, deeply exploring a
few characters upon the appearance of a guest character who harbors a
unique perspective. "Tacking," on the other hand, qualifies as
quintessential DS9 following the themes laid out by DS9. I guess you could
say it's more a DS9 episode than it is a Star Trek episode, showing how DS9
exists as a Trek product with its own identity and unique set of themes.
It's the ability for DS9 to have its own identity that I believe makes it
so worthwhile in terms of the Star Trek franchise. I've mentioned this
before in other articles and reviews, but over the past two years,
particularly with the war storylines and the introduction of Section 31,
DS9 has put its own spin on the idea of the Star Trek moral play. "In the
Pale Moonlight" was the best example, but this year we had one nearly as
good in terms of underlying, growing implications--"Inter Arma Enim Silent
Leges"--which had lingering moral consequences that would echo through the
season. I'd argue that the sense of storytelling involving Trekkian
morality was even more well-thought-out this season than ever before. For
the first time, I got the sense that the writers were taking some risks and
heading into uncharted waters--which, given Voyager's problems, is exactly
what this franchise needs. Do I think DS9 abandoned the revered Trekkian
morality? Not at all. What DS9 did was ask whether those values could
survive a war, and showed that the Federation is both flawed and fallible.
Season seven is where a lot of such arguments were presented.
Of course, like in season six, with the war and more focus on Federation
morality, there was less focus on Bajoran society. The Bajoran political
situation, a reliable element from the series' roots, was again absent this
season. On the other hand, the subject of a Cardassia left in ruins proved
beyond any doubt that the writers still remembered where the series had
originated. Seeing the series come full circle in at least this regard is
among the best things about this season. "What You Leave Behind" may have
been missing some important elements, but it certainly didn't forget where
the series began.
Like most other seasons, DS9 did not spend all its time on its "core
material." There were, of course, stand-alone episodes that didn't greatly
affect the larger picture. One of the more pervasive arguments I've seen
against the past two seasons has been that the war is too frequently
missing from the storylines. Personally, I won't be jumping onto that
critical bandwagon. I would certainly say there were moments this season
that tried my patience. (Like with season six, there was that period of
fluff and temporary aimlessness that characterized some patches after New
Year's.) But I wouldn't at all say that a lack of war-based storylines or
dialog was the problem. As much as the war was important to this season, I
had few qualms with DS9 breaking away for a stand-alone non-war-based
episode. Besides, I personally don't think anyone would be happy with a
Trek series that featured constant warfare. I like that DS9 would tell a
variety of stories without forgetting about what was important. No, I
wasn't always happy with the weird momentum shifts, but the variety was
fine, and generally wasn't to the detriment of the whole.
As most people have probably figured out by now (if not long ago), I
consider DS9 to be the best of the Trek series. It has told the most
stories that are in line with what I want to see on Trek, maintaining
optimism but also factoring in sobering doses of skepticism and caution.
Where does season seven rank in the DS9 scheme? I can't say I found any of
the seasons to fall into the minus column overall (although third season's
unevenness would probably be the closest). I'm not exactly sure how to
quantify such things, but my favorite overall seasons are two, five, and
seven (not necessarily in that order). Season two had a lot of very strong
stories and a good emphasis on the Bajoran political aspects. Season five
provided the development for what arguably would form DS9's longest-lasting
elements. And season seven was a further exploration of the series' more
challenging themes and convoluted plots.
DS9 featured many different characters and a wide variety of material, so
perhaps the easiest way to look at the season's most important aspects
would be in shorter snippets. Here's a listing of the most significant
successes and shortcomings of this season.
MAJOR ASPECTS DS9 GOT RIGHT THIS YEAR
1. Damar and the Cardassian rebellion -- Few big plots could work this
well, not only in being foreshadowed so far in advance (nearly two years,
one could argue), but growing logically out of a character's trajectory and
attitudes. Damar went from a relatively minor thug to an important piece of
the series. (DS9's focus on all its guest characters is one of the things I
really enjoyed.) I think Damar's death might not have been the best way to
use him in the finale (he might've been more useful as a symbol for
Cardassia's future), but the writers' use of Damar as a symbol of
Cardassian change was brilliant. The Cardassian resistance was a plot
element that I've been anticipating since the beginning of season six--and
when something seems that inevitable, I think that's a clear indication the
creators are doing something very right.
2. Kira goes to Cardassia -- An extension of item #1, but from perhaps the
most important perspective. By dropping a character into the action who had
previously been in a similar situation--only at the hands of those whom she
must now help--we could see the parallels and debates fast arising. (Go
back and watch "Tacking into the Wind" and you'll know what I mean.) Kira
is a character who has truly grown since "Emissary," from justifiably
hating the Cardassians to fighting alongside them for a greater good. This
plot displays her as a true heroine, in action and in attitude.
3. The Cardassian fall -- Yet another extension of item #1 (which shows
just how right the final Cardassian arc was), and a nice finish to a great
idea. It seemed pretty clear that the Federation could not fall, but
through the focus on the Cardassians' role in the turn of the war we also
could see and feel the side of some *major* losses. Garak became the
Cardassian patriot who, ironically, ended his exile by returning to a world
now destroyed and unlikely to ever again be the Cardassia he knew and loved.
4. Wartime moral issues -- I've already discussed these at length, so I
won't do it again, but such issues are one of the main things for which DS9
will be remembered, and the seventh season featured them perhaps the most
5. Kira/Odo -- Whodathunkit? What prompted many a viewer's trepidation back
in "His Way" turned out to be one of the most believable bonds imaginable,
because (1) they were well written full with deep mutual understanding, and
(2) Nana Visitor and Rene Auberjonois sell their material so well. I doubt
I was the only one fighting back tears when Odo walked off into the Great
Link--and, hell, I'm a guy! (Heh.)
6. Long-term thinking -- It's the glue that held together the season, if
not the series. There were lapses in credibility here and there, but the
series was well served by the writers simply thinking about what they
wanted to do, and planting seeds ahead of time so that major events--like
Damar's defection--would make sense down the road. (To the creators of
Voyager: This should be your pattern for telling some stories.)
7. Riskier stories -- I must give credit to DS9 for trying things, even
though such things didn't always work. For a late-in-series example, I
liked the idea of the Prophets and Paghwraiths being brought into the core
of the story. I didn't like that they were utilized as magical entities
that would sometimes substitute for common sense, but like I said, the
writers tried. Other risks, like the idea of Section 31 manufacturing
genocide, were somewhat edgier by Trek standards.
8. Tasteful sendoffs -- "What You Leave Behind" had shortcomings, but it
sent the characters off in directions that basically made sense and closed
the book in ways that were satisfying. Some characters stayed on the
station while others did not, which strikes me as a realistic change in
times. Strangely, the writers walked a dangerous line in some cases and got
away with it working anyway: A huge example is Sisko's "change in
existence." This is something that leaves me baffled as whether to accept
the character as "killed off" or as suspended in limbo until the writers
change their minds. The weird thing is finding that I'm again reminding
myself that there are no minds to change, because what we've seen is all we
get. It's over. It makes a nice dramatic end, yet I'm still half hoping
there's more to it. It's frustrating yet satisfying and bittersweet all at
once. Are we all being cleverly manipulated? If so, it's working.
MAJOR ASPECTS WHERE DS9 FELL SHORT OR FEATURED A GLARING OMISSION
1. Bajor's entry into the Federation -- Far and away, this was the thing
that seemed to me as the most obvious long-term aspect of the series that
did not get the resolution it deserved. Sisko's original mission in
"Emissary" was to ensure the Bajorans were ready for Federation approval.
While he was successful in that mission and Bajor was approved in fifth
season's "Rapture," Bajor's actual entry was something I expected would be
re-addressed this season--and it wasn't. Even if Bajor didn't join the
Federation, it would've been nice to have some dialog devoted to the
matter. Instead, what we have is Kira running the station, which is fine
and good. But where is Bajor now that the music has stopped?
2. Internal Bajoran political situations -- Similar to item #1. While we
had plenty of stuff involving Winn, Dukat, and the Paghwraiths, all of this
had zero impact (as far as we were shown, anyway) on Bajor as a world.
Whereas we could see the people of Cardassia taking action in attacking
their problem, we saw nothing of Bajor, and that feels like an
oversimplistic cheat. Bajoran politics used to be important on this series,
and it's a shame that we couldn't get something more than a single line
about the next possible Kai in "What You Leave Behind." I have to agree
with what I read in another review a few months back: It seemed like Bajor
had about three people living on it, and that hasn't always been the case
in the past. Just one or two supporting characters (like the vedek in
"Rocks and Shoals") with something interesting to say could've made a big
3. The final Sisko/Dukat/Winn collision -- Of the things we did see on the
screen, this was one of the important things that I thought was
disappointing. This was something that could've answered a great many
questions about Dukat and his relationship with Sisko and Bajor. Back in
"Waltz" Dukat was a guy who wanted Bajoran acceptance so badly it hurt. Why
couldn't we get more dialog arising from that, and tie it back in with the
Paghwraiths? I genuinely think this was possible, and in a way that
would've revealed many more interesting psychological aspects of Dukat's
problems. This in turn might've given Sisko a more interesting ultimate
role as the Emissary than his heroic dive into the fires of hell. And what
about Kai Winn? She's killed and we don't get much payoff in terms of
larger consequences (see item #2). Everything leading up to this payoff
made sense, but having "What You Leave Behind" turn this into an archetypal
struggle of good versus evil is not even close to the best way of
exploiting the key strengths of these characters and their relationships.
Also, the Paghwraiths themselves became a little too concrete, and their
motives seemed on par with comic-book villains.
4. Jake Sisko -- Quite simply, he wasn't given enough to *do*. Who is this
guy anymore, aside from being Sisko's son? The issue of Jake being a writer
was ignored even more than it was during season six. Part of the problem
may be that Cirroc Lofton wasn't in a lot of the episodes, but a bigger
part of the problem is that the writers didn't set any goals or directions
for him. He simply reacted to situations (mostly relating to his father),
and that seems like a waste of a character. (And no goodbye to his father?
What a shame.) Even one good episode like "Nor the Battle to the Strong" or
"In the Cards" would've made a big difference. Ideally, the writers
should've given him a mini-arc like they gave Nog. The producers even
admitted at one point that they had "dropped the ball" with Jake and had
run out of time. At least they were aware of the problem, but that's still
cold comfort. Jake most resembles your average Voyager character--a
well-established personality not put to much use.
5. "Extreme Measures" -- Read the capsule review above (or even my original
review) for the full story. This is worth special mention because it was so
high in potential for being classic DS9, but was instead an extreme
letdown. I don't think it takes away from "Inter Arma" but it could've made
the Section 31/Dominion War saga even more powerful.
6. The Breen -- Just who *are* these guys, anyway? The series introduced
them into the game so very late, and none of them could be called
characters (all they did was stand around and expel electronic noises). The
optimist in me realizes the Breen ultimately aren't that important--they
were just a catalyst for the Cardassian insurgence--but in and by
themselves they're plot pieces plain and simple, given no motivation by the
writers for their alliance with the Dominion. They served their primary
purpose, but it's still a bit shoddy.
7. The Wish List -- Some minor stuff that probably wasn't crucial: It
would've been really nice to see the follow-up to Kai Opaka's promise in
"Battle Lines." It would've been nice to have Sisko go into the mirror
universe one last time (rather than having that travesty called "Emperor's
New Cloak"). O'Brien could've had a meatier show as the central character
(Meaney was game as always, but O'Brien was a supporting character that had
little new to do).
8. Miscellaneous plotting details -- It would've also been nice to see the
little things gained throughout the war actually pay off in more tangible
ways from time to time. For example, holding off the Jem'Hadar and
maintaining control of the communications array in "The Siege of AR-558"
was supposedly a major victory. Why not actually show that in some way down
the road, or at least again mention this all-important communications array
in dialog? There are other similar details along these lines that could've
been fleshed out a little better, but the writers generally chose to press
on and not look back. I guess that while some puzzle pieces are huge and
important, others were simply intended to be forgotten afterward.
All in all, I have my complaints, but I don't have serious problems with
this season, which offered plenty to be a satisfying final ride for a
generally very solid series. Looking at the numbers, I find that this
season had only one out-and-out loser ("Emperor's New Cloak"), one major
disappointment ("Extreme Measures"), and one forgettable mediocre show
("Chrysalis"). Everything else was okay at worst ("Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang"
would be the next-lowest, but is still probably worth a view), or classic
at best. There were five that I rank in the four-star, absolutely-must-see
position ("Tacking, "Chimera," "Changing Face," "Inter Arma," and
"AR-558"), the first two of which harbor some of the series' greatest
moments. The week-to-week quality was consistently high.
The bottom line is that I enjoyed this season plenty. And in looking at
what it had to accomplish in a limited amount of time in ways that would
satisfy the most viewers, I think the creators pulled off quite a job. I
didn't expect perfection and I certainly wouldn't say we got it. But a
stellar season and a good end to DS9--yes, without a doubt.
PART 3: CLOSING COMMENTS
So, I guess it's about time for the Inevitably Gratuitous Personal Farewell
Look-Back Statement [TM]. Of course I can't resist.
I've been at this awhile. Certainly not as long as some people online, but
a good while spanning some important years in my life. When I started
writing these things I hadn't quite graduated from high school, and now as
I finish up this last DS9 posting, I'm a college grad working a full-time
job (though still undecided where I intend to go in life). The first DS9
review I wrote was in the spring of 1994. I had been the movie reviewer for
my high school paper, and for more practice I wanted to take a shot at
something that wouldn't cost me $6 a view. I'd seen some TV reviews of TNG
and other shows in some sci-fi magazines, and with DS9 nearing the end of
its second season, I decided to give it a try myself. I launched the word
processor and typed away, writing reviews that were shorter (and much, much
rougher) than my typical capsules are today. At the time, I hadn't logged
onto the Internet even once, and wouldn't for several months. For
completion's sake, those second-season reviews would later be completely
rethought and rewritten in 1997; if I have my way, the originals will
never, ever again see the light of day.
Since I started posting these reviews, I've found a sort of interesting
niche on the Internet. When I first logged on in the fall of 1994, I found
the Trek newsgroups had opinions of the various shows spanning all the
series, with comments ranging from "it's the greatest ever" to "it
absolutely sucks." Never had I seen so many virtual voices on such an
interesting medium discussing such a specific topic. Naturally, I wanted
in. Now there's no way out. Not that I want out--not yet. This is probably
the best hobby I've ever had--and the first hobby I had that at times felt
like a job.
In early 1995, I put what few reviews I had on the Web. I had no idea how
to build a decent Web site, but I certainly was going to try. Now when I
get up to go to work in the morning, I got to work with Web sites all day.
Funny how the dominoes are placed; you can't tell where they're leading
until they've started to fall.
Sure, I enjoy the Web design and administration aspects of this endeavor,
and I've learned quite a bit over the years. But the writing is why I do
these reviews, no doubt about it. It's fun to take a position and argue it.
With DS9 I felt the reviews were particularly worthwhile, because there
were often issues to discuss that required me to think about the episode a
little more thoroughly than I might've had I not been writing about it. It
was nice to eventually find an audience interested in this sort of thing,
but I must confess I never expected to get e-mail from overseas telling me
the reviews were useful in making videotape purchase decisions. I never
thought I'd see the reviews used proactively.
DS9 had a great run. It wasn't always great (what show is?), but for seven
seasons its writers kept me constantly interested in the where the stories
and characters would travel and, finally, end up. DS9 strikes me as a show
with a cast, crew, and writers who enjoyed what they were doing and were
good at it. And it has been fun writing about the show for the past few
years--even the really bad shows. My thanks go out to everyone involved in
producing the show for bringing us an entertaining incarnation of Trek that
tried to be different.
And thanks, everyone, for reading and offering feedback, comments, debate,
and support. Through work and my education, I learned a lot about writing
over the past five years. But, strange as it might sound, I'd say writing
these reviews was possibly the most important part of the process. It was
the one source of constant work that kept me on a quasi-deadline and was
still fun to do.
But what am I blathering on about? I'm not going anywhere. After all,
Voyager starts up again in a little over a week. I hope to see you then.
Maybe you aren't a Voyager viewer. I understand. After all, Voyager is
certainly no DS9. The point is, for me, a lot of things started with this
series. Now it's over and goodbye. Yeah, it's just a TV show. But I've
invested countless hours writing about it, and I've gotten more out of it
than I ever had imagined when I started. So maybe for me it's more than
just a TV show after all.
If you won't be joining me on the Voyager side, take care. It's been fun
having your ear, and even more fun trying to be an earful.
Over and out. May our paghs meet again.
Copyright (c) 1999 by Jamahl Epsicokhan, all rights reserved. Unauthorized
reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...