Thursday, May 25, 2017

Deep Space Nine 7x13 "Field of Fire"

rating: **

the story: With the help of the volatile Joran, Ezri hunts a killer.

what it's all about: This is actually another of those valuable war stories.  Fans at the time thought it was a pretty random and poor excuse to put Ezri in the spotlight again, but really, it's best seen as a war story, once you reach the end of it, and understand it for what it is.

"Field of Fire," like "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" before it, was part of a trend that season to depict Vulcans in unusual ways.  Both times it's how they're processing their experiences in the Dominion War.  If there's a weakness, it's that both episodes feature characters who mean nothing except in the context of their stories.  The Vulcans, I mean.  It's odd to think Deep Space Nine, which had about a billion recurring characters, didn't have a Vulcan one.  In hindsight that would've been really helpful in these particular episodes.  But I still think they handle their insights well.

"Field" really owes its greatest debt to the third season, in which the hidden host Joran is first explored in "Equilibrium" and "Facets."  Here it's Ezri dealing with him instead of Jadzia, who was the one who had to go to the trouble of reintegrating his memories into the Dax symbiont and thus the current host as well.  It's actually pretty neat to see Joran again.  It's a shame that more prior hosts didn't become relevant.  Even Curzon, the "old man" Sisko was always referencing to Jadzia and/or Ezri, really didn't have that much of a legacy (except "Blood Oath," and "Facets").  That's another creative oversight of the series.  Curzon was basically Deep Space Nine's Sarek, and in seven seasons it seems he could've been fit in more than he was.  But that's nitpicking.

Ezri ends up a curious means to solve a mystery, regardless of how she does it, because her function aboard the station really has nothing to do with such things.  It's always odd when characters do that in TV shows.  But then, the history of TV shows is all about unusual people solving crimes, in some respects. 

Not the most consequential episode, but enjoyable.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Casual fans will probably be baffled.
  • series  Connects nicely with existing lore.
  • character - Especially concerning all things Dax.
  • essential - Not especially.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Deep Space Nine 7x12 "The Emperor's New Cloak"

rating: ***

the story: The chronologically finale Mirror Universe episode.

what it's all about: In hindsight it kind of seems inevitable.  And hugely, hugely appropriate.  Deep Space Nine's fifth and final Mirror Universe episode (sequels to the classic episode "Mirror, Mirror") is also a "Ferengi episode."

Let me briefly explain: in the first three series Mirror Universe episodes, a Ferengi dies.  First Quark then Rom then Nog.  (That's the big three Ferengi in the series, by the way.  But it was all the Mirror Universe counterparts.  Brunt's counterpart dies this time to continue the tradition, by the way.)  So it was only a matter of time, really, until things finally worked out for the Ferengi (mostly) in the Mirror Universe.

But it's also a "Ferengi episode."  At this point in the series, it was considered Deep Space Nine's greatest creative liability, especially after the perceived fiasco of last season's "Profit and Lace."  In fact, it's the only "Ferengi episode" of the final season.  When Ferengi congregate, things tend to go a little silly.  Basically, the Ferengi were the Jar Jar Binks of Deep Space Nine (and maybe the franchise as a whole).  I never had that problem.  I loved the guys, and their episodes were always highlights for me.

If "The Emperor's New Cloak" seems weaker than previous Mirror Universe episodes, it's because the tone is so different.  But it's also the big bombastic finale of the whole thing, and it pokes fun at the whole thing, and is the kind of statement the final season needed, because in five more episodes, everything was going to become a lot more grim, and there was never a guarantee of a happy ending.  So the Mirror Universe saga finally concluding ("Crossover" in the second season proved how "Mirror, Mirror" ended up with different results than Kirk anticipated) with a decisive win for the good guys is worth celebrating, regardless of its creative departures.

I like how everyone gets to let loose.  Michael Dorn, especially, seems to have enjoyed the opportunity, giving Worf his most energetic scenes in the whole series.  And for the record, the Vic Fontaine who's not a hologram but rather a flesh-and-blood (and very quickly dead) guy, I have a theory for that, and it's simple enough: Bashir based the lounge singer on a real person.  Maybe not a singer, but, y'know.  Simple.  Obvious.  Sends everyone home happy!

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Again, the final sequel to "Mirror, Mirror."
  • series - Which ends a Deep Space Nine tradition, too.
  • character - I think this one was just meant to be fun.
  • essential - And to my mind, wildly succeeds.
notable guest-stars:
James Darren (Mirror Vic Fontaine)
Jeffrey Combs (Mirror Brunt)
Andrew Robinson (Mirror Garak)
Chase Masterson (Mirror Leeta)
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
Wallace Shawn (Zek)
Tiny Ron (Maihar'du)
J.G. Hertzler (Martok)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Deep Space Nine 7x11 "Prodigal Daughter"

rating: ***

the story: Ezri has an incredibly awkward family reunion.

what it's all about: Technically, "Prodigal Daughter" is a sequel to last season's "Honor Among Thieves."  O'Brien has a supporting role in the episode where he attempts to find some resolution in his undercover work among the Orion Syndicate.  But this is really an Ezri episode.  I think there was some resistance to "Daughter," originally, among fans resentful of the fact that a new character was hogging attention in the final season of the series.  This is one of three episodes (including the earlier "Afterimage" and the later "Field of Fire") that showcase Ezri's attempts to rediscover her footing.  This was a character who never had the same confidence as her predecessor, Jadzia Dax, and I think for some fans that was hard to reconcile, all the more so because Ezri kept stealing time from the familiar characters whose time was drawing to a close.

It's their loss.  Ezri was a unique character in a series where it was far more common to have an abundance of confidence, overconfidence.  But more tellingly, to be filled with doubt.  That was often the unspoken undercurrent of these characters, who often struggled to admit it, and that was the irony of "Afterimage," because Ezri was paired with the one who struggled with this the most, Garak.  But in "Daughter," Ezri has to struggle with a different set of characters, her family, including a brother crippled by his inability to live up to expectations.  And seeing where she came from, it's all the more clear how Ezri became who she is, and actually proof that she's actually much tougher and more resilient than was apparent before "Daughter."

For one episode, the series really does seem to become the Ezri show.  It's incredibly rare in Star Trek to meet the whole family of a character.  Granted, it's far more common in Deep Space Nine, but aside from the Ferengi, it's rare to be thrust into the workings of that family.  Like all of them, there always seems to be someone missing, and in this case it's the father.  His absence is a telling detail of the family's story, the void they're all trying to fill, and failing.  It makes Ezri more relatable, watching her endure it.

For anyone who really struggles to empathize with Ezri, there's the return of the Orion Syndicate, which breathes further life into the baseline reality of the franchise, away from Starfleet, away from the Federation.  Yeah, they're gangsters, but there's always someone like them, forcing lives to be altered by arbitrary power plays, forcing impossible decisions, forcing terrible choices.  And of course there's O'Brien to drive the point home.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - You really need to be invested in Ezri to care about the episode.
  • series - It works as a sequel to "Honor Among Thieves."
  • character - It's in some ways the most important Ezri episode.
  • essential - It has a universal message that humanizes the character, and her hapless brother.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Deep Space Nine 7x10 "It's Only a Paper Moon"

rating: ****

the story: Nog struggles with PTSD.

what it's all about: Well, this is one of the big ones, what I'd argue to be one of the best episodes not only of Deep Space Nine but the franchise as a whole, for the very reasons any episode of this series ever reached such heights: because it got to the very hearts of its characters.

"It's Only a Paper Moon" is ostensibly a sequel to "The Siege of AR-558," an episode most fans normally point to as a classic.  But to my mind, "Paper Moon" is such a richer, deeper, more fulfilling experience, relying less on mood than its actual storytelling.  Nog has his leg blown off in "AR-558," but has to deal with what that actually means in "Paper Moon," which turns out to be a different matter entirely.  Yes, it's a war story, too, in a series and several seasons immersed in war stories, but it's one that gives as much depth to war as it does Nog.

For a long time, Nog was just the Ferengi who contradicted Ferengi tradition and became the first of them to join Starfleet.  He was the kid who grew up and made good.  In a lot of ways, he stole the arc of his best friend Jake Sisko, whose defining moment came halfway through the series (the equally highly recommended "The Visitor").  Nog has the benefit of hitting his high note toward the end of the series.  He's one of the few characters in the franchise to experience something terrible and actually have to deal with it.  And the whole episode, brilliantly, features his process toward recovery.

What makes it even better is that "Paper Moon" also features holographic lounge singer Vic Fontaine, and the episode manages to work as well for him as it does Nog.  Vic could easily have been a bad gimmick, maybe a character who worked really well once (his debut in the sixth season episode "His Way"), but whose recurrence only serves to expose him.  He serves as a de facto counselor, much the way Guinan did in Next Generation.  And hey, Guinan already filled that role!  But Guinan never had an episode like this one.

At a time when Voyager was also proving what further depths there were to explore with artificial intelligence (The Doctor following in the footsteps of Next Generation's Data), Vic proved that another hologram, in an entirely different context, could do it, too.  And really, all he has to be is smart enough to let Nog talk through his problems, give him a little space.  No one else is willing to let Nog have any of that.  They all expect something from him.  All Vic does is sing, right?  And, thanks to Nog, have a simulation of a life, once his program runs continuously.  But he's okay living that kind of existence, too, because for him it's real enough.  And he lets Nog realize that's what life is for anyone.  It's only as real as you make it.  It's only a paper...

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - One of the best episodes Star Trek ever did.
  • series - Another essential war story.
  • character - It's the ultimate Nog episode, and the ultimate Vic Fontaine episode.
  • essential - It's a must-see, a classic through and through.
notable guest-stars:
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)
James Darren (Vic Fontaine)
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
Chase Masterson (Leeta)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Deep Space Nine 7x9 "Covenant"

rating: ***

the story: Kira discovers Dukat's new gig as a cult leader.

what it's all about: I've always struggled with this episode. Nominally, it sets up the Dukat who appears in the final episodes of the series, as a true Pah-wraith fanatic capable of swaying Kai Winn to his side, and so it has value in that regard.  Dukat began this path in the sixth season finale, "Tears of the Prophets," in which he unveils his new role as Emissary of the Pah-wraiths, finally and at least revealing himself to be Sisko's opposite number.  And yet, and yet...

Before I go on, "Covenant" has plenty of value as a study of cults, and as such lines up with franchise feelings on religion in general, how most of the time it seems to be a trick on gullible people (you don't have to take my word for it, watch the original series episode "The Apple" or Next Generation's "Devil's Due" and you'll see for yourself).  Deep Space Nine actually had deep religious roots, and "Covenant" plays nicely with those, too, but it's also an episode that comes down on the negative side, rather than the doubt that was far more prevalent, or the faith, which was the base contradiction the series always presented.  So if you want things simplified, "Covenant" is the way to go.

But there's so much that Deep Space Nine fans will be able to criticize.  Dukat, as I mentioned, is more or less finally and truly set up for his final role in the series, as Sisko's opposite number.  And yet they really won't have been relevant to each other since "Waltz" last season, and not again until the very last episode ("What You Leave Behind").  In some sense this makes sense, since they've been on individual paths from the very beginning (although his significance grew considerably during the course of the series, Dukat was the last Cardassian commander of the station before Sisko took over, and so his presence was always there), finding their way as they struggled against various obstacles, and most ironically their relationship with Bajorans and their beliefs.

So "Covenant" doesn't feature Sisko, but rather Kira, who is once again thrust into what's ostensibly a complicated situation, something she'd mastered all the way back in the first season's "Duet," a standard that was in some ways completely impossible to live up to, and proven by the results across the rest of the series.  "Covenant" is really the last attempt, but the story is so lopsided this time, and Dukat so clearly evil, that Kira's role s by definition completely changed, too.  She's no longer the angry, troubled Bajoran we met at the start of the series, either.  She knows where she fits now, and she's found peace, perhaps more than any other Bajoran.  So to have a whole episode where she's thrust into a madhouse of Bajorans who've actually convinced themselves of Dukat's outrageous lies...I just don't know how it's supposed to work, even twenty years later.

What to make of it?  To even begin to count the number of times Kira was kidnapped and forced to deal with some insane plot is to realize what a tired trope it'd become by "Covenant."  Some of the episodes worked really well ("Second Skin"), while others...I'll give them this: they always made you think about why they were happening.  It's just a shame that she was never given the benefit of the doubt, a position of power.  For one of the most powerful women in the whole franchise, she had it taken away from her a disturbing number of times. 

So on this last occasion, she's forced and we're forced to decide, once and for all, what it all meant.  One of the guest characters is meant to suggest that "Covenant" is, once again, all about doubt, about what faith really means, whether it means even if you're proven absolutely wrong, that faith might still be justified. Or if Dukat, even if he's clearly evil at this point and hindsight proves he's headed toward his most awful actions, is somehow vindicated by the inevitability of it, if because he believes in himself it somehow means something, because like everyone else in the series this was a character who started out having to massively readjust, and in some ways was actually the character who spent the most time trying to rediscover himself.  If this is how he does it, does "Covenant" conclude that Kira should pity Dukat, because she knows better than anyone what exactly happened to him?

I don't know.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Classic Star Trek meditation on faith.
  • series - Sets up some of the last major developments.
  • character - Specifically related to Dukat's ultimate journey.
  • essential - I don't know how well it succeeds in making sense of that journey.
notable guest-stars:
Marc Alaimo (Dukat)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Deep Space Nine 7x8 "The Siege of AR-558"

rating: ****

the story: The crew attempts to alleviate the stress a unit of deployed Starfleet officers have been experiencing.

what it's all about: To be perfectly frank, I never found "The Siege of AR-558" to be as fantastic as other fans tend to consider it.  But I will defer to the common perception, because it at least acknowledges something positive.  I'm much more loathe to do so with episodes that are considered bad, when they really aren't.

"War is hell."  That's the basic plot of the episode.  Deep Space Nine had already done this with such episodes as "The Ship," "Nor the Battle to the Strong," and "Rocks and Shoals," all of which I would probably prefer over "AR-558," which I think fans like because it's so unrelentingly grim, and for whatever reason that's what fans preferred at that time, which ended up resulting in Battlestar Galactica, a show so unrelentingly grim the most compromised character in it (Baltar) was actually its most interesting. 

Anyway, so it's also worth noting that one of my least favorite episodes of the franchise is Voyager's "Memorial," which repeats the "war is hell" theme with no discernible distinguishing features.  What "AR-558" ultimately has going for it is Nog.  Nog had just had a memorable b-story in "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River," so clearly the producers had been planning to do something notable with him, really for the first time since having him decide to join Starfleet in the third season.  Since that time, much like Jake he had just sort of been there for the ride.  He was a recurring character, not even one fans will automatically think of in the whole host of recurring characters in the series, more like just another of those Ferengi who were always trying to change the tone.  When he turned his back on traditional Ferengi values, his father Rom did the same soon after, somewhat dulling the impact of the arc.  So it was high time to finally separate Nog from the pack, once and for all.

And so he gets his leg blown off.  More on this in "It's Only a Paper Moon," by the way.  "AR-588" is really the origin story of a much better episode, a backstory, if you will.  It even explains how and why he becomes obsessed with Vic Fontaine (again, more on that in "It's Only a Paper Moon").

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Reiterates the classic Star Trek refrain of "war is hell."
  • series - Also follows in a Deep Space Nine tradition of same.
  • character - Explains what happened to Nog, in the interests of a later episode.
  • essential - Pulls back the curtain on what the series had sort of skirted around for much of the war.
notable guest-stars:
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
James Darren (Vic Fontaine)
Bill Mumy

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Deep Space Nine 7x7 "Once More Unto the Breach"

rating: ****

the story: Kor discovers that it's a good day to die.

what it's all about: This is the episode Deep Space Nine kind of tried making for four seasons, and finally got it right.  This is its answer to "A Matter of Honor," the Next Generation episode where Riker serves aboard a Klingon ship, and as such is as close to a Klingons-only episode as Star Trek is ever likely to get. 

It's also a follow-up to the earlier "Blood Oath," in which original series Klingon warrior Kor (plus a few others) returns to the franchise for one last glorious adventure.  In "Blood Oath," Kor is among friends and as such has trust that he'll be taken at face value.  When he next resurfaces, in "Sword of Kahless," he first comes across Worf, who represents the current generation he probably has been shielded from for years, and they quickly develop a rivalry.  In "Once More Unto the Breach," it isn't Worf that's the problem, but Martok.

Like the last few episodes, this is another guest-star spotlight, and it falls both on Kor and Martok, for whom this serves as his most personal episode, in which we learn about his background and how it's connected to Kor (not in a positive way, alas).  It's the first time two guest-stars of any species dominate an episode, so it's nice that it happens for the Klingons, long a franchise favorite.  It's a little weird that Worf plays second third fiddle in such a Klingon-heavy episode, but that also speaks to how he's finally found Klingons (well, Martok anyway) he's completely comfortable around.

Anyway, this is also an episode about aging, which is something Star Trek has done before (we can start the conversation with Kirk, really), but never before quite this intimately, with the subject of the study in such a vulnerable position.  When we saw Sarek (in the eponymous Next Generation episode) in a similar predicament, the main thrust is placed on a debilitating illness, not his age.  The whole matter becomes especially poignant for a Klingon, of course, because Klingons have some pretty rigid expectations about dignity, as we've seen elsewhere.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - One of the great Klingons episodes.
  • series - A war story that necessary.
  • character - Operates as a Kor and a Martok episode.
  • essential - And as a study of aging, in a way that had been done before.
notable guest-stars:
John Colicos (Kor)
J.G. Hertzler (Martok)

Star Trek: Discovery - our first look!


Wow.  So immediately, I can tell that this show is going to do what we're probably never going to get in the Abrams movies, which is the big Klingon confrontation, teased in Star Trek Into Darkness.  I wonder if in some ways that's the whole reason Discovery is even happening, because someone realized JJ Abrams wasn't interested in doing what seemed so obvious.  He cut the Klingons from 2009's Star Trek, and Justin Lin didn't have them at all in Star Trek Beyond.  (I wonder if that's part of the reason Beyond made so relatively little at the box office.)

But I like it.  Very excited.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Deep Space Nine 7x6 "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River"

rating: ****

the story: Weyoun's latest clone goes rogue.

what it's all about: So, Deep Space Nine never got the memo that Star Trek is supposed to be unfriendly in matters of faith.  This usually took the form of the Bajorans, but there were many branches, and one of them involved the Dominion, which although it's known as the element of the series that took it in a completely different direction from the show's origins, actually complements it quite nicely.  Because the Dominion, among other things, consisted of the Founders and the Vorta.  The Founders, who turned out to be Odo's people, engineered the Vorta, and others, to view them as gods.  This proved to be a somewhat nebulous concept, except, finally, in "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River."

This is also, by the way, the Weyoun episode.  I call it that, even though Weyoun as a character goes back to the fourth season ("To the Death"), because this is the one real spotlight the character had in the series despite numerous appearances.  It only figures, because Weyoun was, generally speaking, an unapologetic bad guy in a series that found shades of gray in nearly everyone.  Weyoun certainly had less than completely adversarial appearances ("In the Cards" is actually pretty relevant to the b-story in the episode, but more on that in a bit), but those were the exception that proved the rule.

What was most fascinating about Weyoun was that he was a clone.  The first time we see him he's already gone through nearly half a dozen iterations.  The one present during the sixth season war arc occupying the station apparently died off-screen prior to "Treachery."  The one that is featured in "Treachery" is "defective," deficient in the programming the Founders use to ensure loyalty.  The results are a little like the Next Generation classic "The Defector," in which a Romulan comes to Picard requesting asylum and with a lot of useful information (or so he thinks).  This Weyoun wants to tell Odo what he knows, too, and that makes him a huge target, so the episode spends its time with him and Odo hunted by the next Weyoun, all the while Odo having the most peculiar conversation he'll ever have.

Because Odo has long struggled with the legacy of his people, above and beyond their relationship to the Dominion.  That it means he's invariably treated as a god, too, when confronted by representatives of the Dominion has been as uncomfortable to him as Sisko's relationship to his role as the Emissary.  But like "Chrysalis" before it, "Treachery" is less about the main character featured in the episode, and more about the guest-star (again breaking the rules).

It's fascinating, compelling stuff, and suspenseful!  And heartbreaking.

And there's a b-story, too, and it's equally good, even if it has a completely different tone.  It features Nog getting to get his Ferengi on, which is something that had been denied him ever since he decided to join Starfleet.  There were flashes of it in "In the Cards," but it's alarmingly and awesomely on full display in "Treachery," which proves all over again how unique Nog has become.  He may not subscribe to Ferengi notions of greed anymore, but he still believes that business is a unique phenomenon and if respected can pull off miracles.  He proceeds to make a series of incomprehensible deals to pull off yet another war story that Deep Space Nine was wise enough to pursue, other than the business of war itself (which will also come home to roost for Nog, soon enough), how to come up with needed supplies when the supply line has been stretched thin.  It's also a fun way to watch more day-to-day concerns come to the surface, which was another thing Deep Space Nine so reliably did well.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - A completely unique Star Trek experience.
  • series - Yet another unique war story.  Or two.
  • character - It's the Weyoun story you never expected.
  • essential - A classic is defined by the ability to do the previously unthinkable, and that's exactly what this one does.
notable guest-stars:
Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun)
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)
Casey Biggs (Damar)
J.G. Hertzler (Martok)
Salome Jens (Female Founder)
Max Grodenchik (Rom)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Deep Space Nine 7x5 "Chrysalis"

rating: ***

the story: Bashir gets a chance to show the genetically-enhanced but painfully withdrawn Sarina her true potential.

what it's all about: Until the J.J. Abrams reboot movies, I'm not sure how clear it really was that Star Trek was always about characters who were extreme exceptions to society.  It was clear, to a certain extent, in Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, but seeing these characters so often, no matter the stories that made it obvious, tended to dull the impact, because at the end of the day they always had a family to turn to, the crew at the heart of that particular series.  Abrams put the alienation inherent to the lives of Kirk and Spock front and center.  But "Chrysalis" got there first.

"Chrysalis" is a follow-up to "Statistical Probabilities," one of the more innovative war stories from the sixth season, where we first meet the Jack Pack, genetically-enhanced misfits crippled by their genius, riddled with personality quirks that only compounded their problems.  This was very much a Bashir episode, in which the revelations of the still-earlier "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?" were finally made clear.  While "Chrysalis" clearly features Bashir, too, it's almost more Sarina's story.  Sarina had been the least obnoxious member of the Jack Pack (so-called because Jack was the most obnoxious member), because she was more or less in a catatonic state.  She'd had no chance to assert herself.

Bashir pulls an Awakenings (it's a great Robin Williams movie, and it's a great Robert De Niro movie; do yourself a favor and see it if you can't imagine how that can possibly be true) and allows Sarina to flourish, but in doing so she discovers something worse than her previous existence: she no longer fits in with the rest of the Jack Pack. 

The Jack Pack, basically, is Star Trek in all its ideals taken to a ridiculous extreme.  These guys are brilliant, but they overthink everything.  Imagine if all the heroics in the franchise existed only in the minds of the characters (say, Data processing possible outcomes in the span of nanoseconds, expanded into whole episodes).  Now, what happens when you find one of these guys is able to put the nonsense of the acumen aside, and just do it?  Sarina is basically Kirk.  Yeah.  She's basically Kirk, and every other roguish hero in the franchise, every other character capable of cutting through what's merely possible and making the leap of faith into the impossible. 
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Maybe I'm not explaining it well.  Suffice to say, but "Chrysalis" is a profile of an outsider realizing they're an outsider.  That better?  Anyway, I think it's one of those episodes that just really had to happen.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Speaks to the heart of what Star Trek is really all about, finding your full potential.
  • series - Rounds out several previous episodes.
  • character - Bashir ends up taking a backseat to Sarina.
  • essential - Does for a guest character what proved to be so hard to do for main characters throughout the franchise.
notable guest-stars:
Faith Salie (Sarina)
Tim Ransom (Jack)
Michael Keenan (Patrick)
Hilary Shepard (Lauren)
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)

Friday, April 28, 2017

Deep Space Nine 7x4 "Take Me Out to the Holosuite"

rating: ****

the story: Sisko fields an unlikely baseball team against an old Vulcan rival.

what it's all about: Of all the episodes set during the Dominion War that didn't seem to notice that, y'know, a war was going on, it seems "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" would be the most egregious example of wasting such a unique platform, doing the exact opposite of what the producers should've been busy doing.  And granted, they were always going to have to shuffle in some episodic material with the hope of roping in casual fans, but this?

Well, yes, this.  It's such an unexpected episode and flies in the face of everything Deep Space Nine was supposed to be, that grim and nasty and dark series most fans probably didn't really have to worry too much about as they ignored its existence...But it was always the series with the most range, too.  I mean, it was always standard, from the very stark, to let loose a little.  "The Trouble with Tribbles" is the classic of all classic examples, surely.  But "Take Me Out" goes well, well beyond that.  And it's not technically a "Ferengi episode."  It does pivot around Rom's participation in the climactic ballgame, but it's really an episode for the whole cast, centering around Sisko, naturally.

Sisko's obsession with baseball goes all the way back to the very first episode ("Emissary") in which he actually explains linear existence to the Prophets with a baseball metaphor.  He had a baseball sitting on his desk throughout the series!  So at some point, the series was actually going to have to feature baseball.  Directly.  So that's basically what "Take Me Out" is.

It's also a kind of morale story, which is definitely a war story, a way to take weary minds off the heaviness of the conflict.  Only to redirect it to learning a game that in the future has almost entirely died away.  So it's a funny, fun episode as Sisko tries to explain how to play it to people (Worf's "Death to the opposition!" rallying cry is of course a classic) who couldn't possibly appreciate it as much as he does. 

Including their Vulcan opponents.  Having Vulcans as the "bad guys" is pretty interesting.  Until Enterprise the franchise never really got around to exploring just how humans and Vulcans actually get along.  Aside from Spock and Tuvok (Voyager), who pointedly were always pretty isolated from other Vulcans, Star Trek never really got around to exploring Vulcans.  Until, of course, Enterprise.  A lot of fans got very angry about how Enterprise presented them, but the roots of that were planted in "Take Me Out."  Is it really wrong to suggest Vulcans are arrogant, condescending?  How would you expect them to present themselves?  To my mind it's an entirely logical (heh) interpretation, so I think the episode nails that, and this depiction in it is a creative breakthrough worth celebrating as much as Sisko getting to celebrate baseball itself.

I'll admit that other fans will probably dispute a lot of my conclusions for "Take Me Out," but that's true for any episode.  This is merely my case for its credentials.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Between the spirit of the episode and the presence of Vulcans, I think casual fans should be interested.
  • series - Presents a look at how to blow off pressure during wartime.
  • character - Sisko!  Baseball!
  • essential - An episode that in hindsight seems completely inevitable.
notable guest-stars:
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
Penny Johnson (Kasidy)
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)
Chase Masterson (Leeta)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Deep Space Nine 7x3 "Afterimage"

rating: ***

the story: Ezri tries to get used to being the new host of the Dax symbiont.

what it's all about: It's tough being the new kid in town.  Especially in Star Trek.  No series has ever had a dramatic shakeup in its cast.  Few have left, few have been added.  Being added in the last season is an especially difficult task, an honor experienced by...Ezri Dax.  And...actually, she's the only one, really.

So three episodes in the seventh and final season, she gets her story told for the first time.  In a lot of ways, it may be her best episode, too.  It's one of the most complete introductions of a Star Trek character ever, actually.  The audience by now is more than familiar with the Trill joint species concept, so it's the host concept that's really explored for the first time, the need to integrate the memories of others, not to mention trying to figure out how you fit in, not just around others but in your own life.  That's "Afterimage" in a nutshell.  Not too shabby!

Ezri is easily the most shaken main cast member of any series until Hoshi in Enterprise, in this episode.  That makes it a tougher sell, in some respects, because Star Trek was always about confident people boldly, you know, going.  But it makes her relatable, in ways that don't always happen in the franchise.  But the episode has an answer to that: Garak.

Because this is a Garak episode, too, his last real spotlight of the series, really.  It's the last time we see the character traits that made him famous in "The Wire," all the way back in the second season.  Not only is he in exile now, but actively working against his fellow Cardassians, which makes a rough existence, well, rougher.  It's a perfect counterpoint to Ezri's arc.  Actually, Garak's arc is a nice nod to the ongoing war that so often since it began tended to fall into the background when not the active focus of a story.  You'd hardly know it was even still happening, sometimes.  Here its inclusion is so casual, it may in fact help "Afterimage" be the best example of life during wartime in the series.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Ezri's regular debut might be a little Deep Space Nine specific.
  • series - Nicely ties in with the war.
  • character - Ezri's fill introduction; also features Garak nicely.
  • essential - An important moment in the season and series, really.
notable guest-stars:
Andrew Robinson (Garak)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Deep Space Nine 7x2 "Shadows and Symbols"

rating: ***

the story: Sisko searches for the Orb of the Prophets, but finds himself plagued by visions from the Pah-wraiths to prevent him from succeeding.

what it's all about: This is probably the biggest creative leap of faith the series ever did.  In "Shadows and Symbols," a direction continuation of the season premiere ("Image in the Sand"), Sisko discovers that his mother was actually a Prophet, which means that Sisko is the Emissary of the Prophets in kind of the same way, well, Jesus was the son of god.  That's right: the main character of a Star Trek series becomes a truly messianic figure.  Kind of smacks in the face of just about every franchise tenet, right?

But that's what Deep Space Nine was all about, challenging every assumption, in the very best Star Trek tradition.  Gene Roddenberry created a platform that allowed any concept to be explored.  The fact that often he and his follow creators in the original series tended to come down on a certain side of cultural conclusions did not make those conclusions the only possible ones; it was the ability to explore the ideas that defined the vision Roddenberry gave birth to, not the conclusions.  Only Deep Space Nine really seemed to get that. 

But I'll probably grant that not every fan will be willing to admit that.  Not every fan is willing to admit a lot of things about the franchise.  Most fans are in fact "protective" of the franchise.  They think rejecting a series or a movie protects the legacy of the franchise.  Right.  If the franchise needs to be protected, it doesn't deserve protecting.  Interesting little conundrum for you.

There's other stuff going on in the episode, by the way: Worf winning a great victory for his late wife Jadzia, spending time with the next Dax host (Ezri), Kira pulling a Kirk against the Romulans...and a kind of sequel to last season's "Far Beyond the Stars."

In "Stars," the Prophets send Sisko a vision about a life where he must choose to rise above his circumstances to reach his full potential, confront doubt and discover certainty.  In "Shadows," the Pah-wraiths try the same trick, except their vision is perverse; the doubt Sisko faces isn't external, as it was in "Stars," but internal.  He's made to believe he's crazy.  In a lot of ways, it's a kind of Wizard of Oz story.  In the controversial 1985 film Return to Oz, Dorothy is made to believe that her experiences in Oz were all a delusion.  In a way, not only Sisko's experiences as a 1950s pulp fiction writer named Benny Russell in "Stars" but all his time at the station and being declared the Emissary, they're all called into question.  It's as big a character moment as Sisko ever had.

I wish the whole episode had dealt with it.  Instead we have other moving parts, which I think is the main weakness of both "Shadows" and "Image" before it.  This was a story that should've focused entirely on Sisko.  To try anything more is to dilute the potential, which is exactly what I think happens.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Casual fans may be confused or even worse, offended by this episode.
  • series - But it's a crucial development for Deep Space Nine.
  • character - A lot of other characters have things going on, but this is Sisko's episode.
  • essential - While I wish it had been done differently, it's still the biggest thing to happen to any Star Trek character...ever, really.
notable guest-stars:
Deborah Casey (Sarah Sisko)
Brock Peters (Joseph Sisko)
Casey Biggs (Damar)
Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun)
J.G. Hertzler (Martok)
Barry Jenner (Admiral Ross)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Deep Space Nine 7x1 "Image in the Sand"

rating: ***

the story: Sisko receives a puzzling vision of the future while Kira adjusts to temporary command of the station.

what it's all about: I don't know how impactful "Image in the Sand" is as a season premiere, especially since its story continues into the next episode ("Shadows and Symbols") before breaking off into a string of standalone episodes.  It's kind of a place-holder, a slow burn beginning.  On one hand it's kind of a status update.  Kira, for the first time ever, is in charge of the station, and finds that all over again she has to learn how complicated everything really is (kind of her life story over the course of the series). Sisko, meanwhile, is kind of moping at home on Earth, before being thrust into what will turn out to be a kind of radical revision of the character (more on that next episode).  There's also some of how Worf's dealing with the death of his wife, Jadzia Dax.  Plus the soft introduction of the new Dax.

All of it combines for an episode that feels far more like a continuation than anything.  Which at this point is probably just about right for a series that had been creeping toward serialization from the start.  As I said in my thoughts for the sixth season finale ("Tears of the Prophets"), the producers seem to have finally decided to move forward at any cost with their storytelling, which meant they were no longer waiting around for fans to catch up with them.  Which is just as well.  This was going to be the final season anyway; there was literally nothing to lose.

The only thing truly odd about all this is that "Image" and "Shadows" really should have been a two-part episode, like "The Search" at the beginning of the third season and "Way of the Warrior" at the beginning of the fourth.  The fifth began with a complete standalone ("Apocalypse Rising") while the sixth had a six-episode arc to help kick off the Dominion War.  The war, meanwhile, just sort of exists in the background of "Image," even though "Tears" had just made a point of Starfleet looking to ramp up the offensive.  Kind of weird.  But again, "Image" was a lot of character work, the hallmark of the series.  Which seems appropriate.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Casual fans might find the episode somewhat impenetrable.
  • series - Dedicated ones will suffer no such confusion.
  • character - Sisko and Kira find themselves at turning points.
  • essential - Sisko's on the verge of a big reveal, so this material is pivotal.
notable guest-stars:
Deborah Casey (Sarah Sisko)
Brock Peters (Joseph Sisko)
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)
Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun)
J.G. Hertzler (Martok)
Barry Jenner (Admiral Ross)
Casey Biggs (Damar)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x26 "Tears of the Prophets"

rating: ****

the story: Dukat makes a fateful decision, which affects both the wormhole and the future of the Dax symbiont.

what it's all about: Well, that's how to ramp things back up.  Actually, it might be argued that this is the first episode of the seventh season, and the depiction of the Dominion War as it would be seen throughout the final season.  Season finales are always a little tricky.  Sometimes they're meant to provide a climax for a season.  Sometimes they're meant to provide a cliffhanger.  But "Tears of the Prophets" is different.  If you don't consider it in the context of the next several episodes, from the next season, you might not fully appreciate it.

But it's a big, big moment, too, all on its own, because this is the death of Jadzia Dax.  Jadzia was a regular in the series from the very start.  She was the current host of the Dax symbiont, and everyone knew it thanks to Dax's previous friendship with Sisko, who referred to Jadzia as "Old Man" in tribute to the previous host, Curzon.  Although it's sad saying goodbye to Jadzia, in a way there could have been no more perfect arc for the character in the series, passing the symbiont off to someone else, so we could explore what exactly it's like for the symbiont to move on.  But more on that next season.

Jadzia's death is the third major death in franchise lore, and second to be permanent (Spock came back, after all), a series regular KIA (Next Generation's Tasha Yar in "Skin of Evil"), not just a subtraction from the cast (which is also rare in Star Trek, but temporarily happened to Crusher and then permanently for her replacement Pulaski in Next Generation, and then Kes in Voyager, who like Wesley in Next Generation ended up appearing again). 

The drama surrounding her death can seem a little exaggerated.  She and Worf celebrate the news that they're going to have a baby.  Bashir and Quark lament the news (but they'll still be talking about Dax and Worf next season, so that's some of the strong connective material).  The baby adds extra pathos (melodrama) to the death.  Apparently the producers thought and rethought how Jadzia would die, but I think they probably overthought it, even if they came up with a pretty good version in the end, a random death for a random cast departure (Terry Farrell decided she'd had enough, and walked away from what turned out to be one remaining season). 

The impact of the death ends up meaning a great deal to Sisko.  Finally, the war becomes truly personal for him, and connects to his role as the Emissary of the Prophets.  This is more of how the next season follows this material so strongly.  Dukat briefly becomes Emissary of the Pah-wraiths (the Prophets, or wormhole aliens' opposite number) so he can shut down the wormhole, and in the process kills Jadzia.  It's the closing of the wormhole that's the most impactful event of the episode.  The wormhole was sometimes a matter of convenience in the series, taken for granted as just another way to get around, and yet it was a unique element of the series, and proved to be important in ushering the threat of the Dominion.  Yet it becomes most important not because of the Dominion but for what it always was, a conduit to the bigger concepts of the series, the godlike beings and the decidedly human ones trying to contend with them. 

To have it suddenly taken away rips something important from Sisko.  The Prophets never conformed to the expectations of godlike beings elsewhere in the franchise, and "Tears" reflects how significant they are even in their absence, how Sisko has no power over them, and how he's equally free to make his own decisions. 

Anyway, it's big and important, but it leads to bigger and more important things, which makes "Tears" arguably one of the most successful season finales ever in Star Trek.  In one episode a season's worth of sometimes lethargic developments in the most important arc of the series, the Dominion War, becomes transformed into something that speaks on multiple levels and leads directly to the final episode ("What You Leave Behind").

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Death of a major character, truly epic season finale.
  • series - Transforms the war arc and prepares the way to the end.
  • character - Obviously important to Dax, but to Sisko as well.
  • essential - What could have been obvious storytelling is transformed into something greater in the context of ensuing episodes.
notable guest-stars:
Marc Alaimo (Dukat)
J.G. Hertzler (Martok)
Andrew Robinson (Garak)
Casey Biggs (Damar)
Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun)
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)
Barry Jenner (Admiral Ross)
James Darren (Vic Fontaine)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x25 "The Sound of Her Voice"

rating: ****

the story: The crew must keep communications open with a Starfleet captain stranded and in desperate need of help.

what it's all about: If the preceding episode ("Time's Orphan") was a nice if safe sci-fi episode in a series that usually geared itself more toward human stories, "The Sound of Her Voice" manages to be both, and by the time you've seen its ending, I think you'll agree that it's a classic, too.

It's an example of a sci-fi twist that deepens rather than cheapens the impact of the storytelling, what M. Night Shyamalan later made a whole film career around.  No, I won't spoil it here, but speaking of spoilers, it's also the rare chance for Star Trek to allude to future events, in this case the very next episode, "Tears of the Prophets," the season finale in which the circumstances of "Voice" are echoed in bittersweet fashion. 

It's a kind of slice-of-life episode, since part of what the plot enables is the crew talking about their problems, so that on one level it's just an episode about people talking, which would seem boring, but again, once you make it to the end, you'll find it poignant beyond belief. 

I don't mean to dance around what happens in "Voice," but seeing it for yourself is kind of vital to the experience.

So in the meantime, Deep Space Nine gets to do what it does best, which is just spend time with its characters, a luxury Next Generation attempted at various points, to mixed results, and what Voyager and Enterprise subsequently wove into their storytelling as well, so that the characters really mattered and weren't just there to serve the plot.  That is Deep Space Nine's greatest legacy, and in a lot of ways, "Voice" is where you might best see it in action.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - A great twist casual fans will love.
  • series - Reflective of what Deep Space Nine was all about, and what it passed on to later series.
  • character - Every member of the cast gets a chance to shine.
  • essential - Just too clever to deny.
notable guest-stars:
Debra Wilson (Captain Cusak)
Penny Johnson (Kasidy)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x24 "Time's Orphan"

rating: **

the story: Molly O'Brien is lost on a planet, but when she's found again it's from ten years in the future, and time hasn't been kind to her...

what it's all about: This is one of those episodes that will probably please casual fans, a time travel plot that's as faithful to the general sci-fi origins of the franchise as you're liable to find in Deep Space Nine.  It's also the only episode of two different series (this one and Next Generation, where she was born) that centers around O'Brien's daughter Molly.

There's not much sense talking about the plot of the episode.  There's Starfleet failing to learn from its past again (shades of Next Generation's "The Offspring," in which Data builds himself a daughter and Starfleet wants to take her from him, where Starfleet apparently has failed to learn from the earlier "The Measure of a Man," which Starfleet still hasn't learned from by the time of Voyager's "Author, Author"), trying to step in where it shouldn't be meddling.

So anyway, it's the Molly O'Brien episode.  Molly was literally born during the course of Next Generation ("Disaster"), and actress Hana Hatae ended up playing the role, aging with the character, straight through the final episode of Deep Space Nine.  Even Naomi Wildman in Voyager was played by a couple young actresses, and artificially aged somewhere along the way, just like Alexander in Next Generation.  Hatae wasn't cast to be an actor, but rather to be adorable, and she kept on being adorable in all her appearances.  But she was too young even by the end to be expected to do much acting, so she was always incidental to any given story (she threw up once, off-camera, on Lwaxana Troi, "Fascination").  Until a gobbledygook plot sci-fi plot, of course.

While the older Molly in "Time's Orphan" isn't asked to do much more acting than Hatae ever did (she's feral, alas), the story is still about her, which is about good enough.  It's kind of the same trick the series played with Morn earlier in the season ("Who Mourns for Morn?"), making the sixth season not just the dawn of the Dominion War, but the season the writers pulled off the impossible.  Twice!

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - The standalone nature and sci-fi friendly storytelling here will be ideal for casual fans.
  • series - Has nothing at all to do with the Dominion War.
  • character - The one episode to focus on Molly!
  • essential - It does what it has to, which is about as perfunctory as Deep Space Nine can get.
notable guest-stars:
Hana Hatae (Molly)
Rosalind Chao (Keiko)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x23 "Profit and Lace"

rating: ***

the story: Quark is forced to defend everything he stands against as Ferengi society prepares to undergo a massive revolution.

what it's all about: Well, here we are, the "Ferengi episode" of all "Ferengi episodes."  Frequently cited as the worst episode of the series.  What I can never quite decide is how badly it betrays Star Trek fans to fall horribly below their own standards.  No, not on what makes a good, or bad, episode, but the social standards the franchise always represented.  With twenty years hindsight, the extreme hate for this episode actually kind of represents the most extreme bigotry the fans ever expressed.

For one episode, Quark becomes transgender.  That's perhaps the one-sentence summary I should've used above, and every fan would know instantly what I was talking about, and come up with their own summary of its worth: "Profit and Lace" is a farce.  That's exactly what they've been saying since it originally aired.  I've tried to come up with the reasons why the pejorative term "Ferengi episode" came into being, but it's probably because of "Profit and Lace."

The huge, huge irony is that this is not even the first time in Deep Space Nine featured a Ferengi posing as a member of the opposite sex.  Way back in the second season, "Rules of Acquisition" featured a female struggling to be taken seriously.  It was actually the foundation of the arc Ferengi society would take across the series as a whole, ratcheted up considerably when a different female, Quark and Rom's mother Ishka, took up the struggle in "Family Business" in the third season, the more obvious predecessor to "Lace," which follows the effects of Ishka ending up in a relationship with Grand Nagus Zek, the leader of the Ferengi.  In "Rules," the female poses as a male, and much like the ending of "Lace," it's unwanted sexual advances that end the experiment in discomfort.

"Lace" is about a lot of things, but it's kind of the episode where Quark must really decide how much he wants to struggle against the tide of history.  Tellingly, it begins and ends with him interacting with one of his hired girls at the bar, and how he decides to treat her, which in itself has nothing to do with the few scenes where he's a woman (except from his firsthand experience fighting off unwanted advances).  True, by the end of the series Quark is the one character who seems to be in the same place he was at the beginning of the series, but he's also the one character who had settled into his new life well before the end, when massive change had already rocked the foundations of his world.  As in, this episode.  As in everything that preceded and followed it, but mostly this episode.  Quark stops being such a desperate man after this.  That's really the best characterization of the bartender, previously; he was always so desperate to validate his existence, trying to be the ideal Ferengi when everyone around him kept telling him it was a horribly backward mistake.  If he didn't make the outward advances his brother Rom and his nephew Nog did, Quark still managed to make peace with the universe.

What, you were expecting it to look different?

But getting back to the transgender thing, I still find that shocking.  Of course the scenes of Quark as a female will be hard to take seriously, if you're already predisposed to the idea of the "Ferengi episode."  Quark's basic character, again, remains entirely consistent.  Complaints about this concept stem either from problems with Ferengi in general, or a failure to take the concept of changing one's gender seriously.  It could be one or the other, or both, but I'm inclined to believe the hate is really directed at the gender issue.  I'm fully aware of how complicated this concept is, how it's not any closer to being mainstream now than it was in 1998, when "Lace" originally aired.  Today we see transgender people as visible for the first time ever, but they haven't even begun to approach the level of acceptance of the homosexual community, which still faces its own hurdles.  Star Trek did analogies for years, but didn't begin incorporating gay characters themselves until 2016's Star Trek Beyond

But fans consider "Lace" an abysmal episode, for the scenes of Quark as a female, and for those scenes alone.  They don't seem capable of incorporating those scenes into the rest of the episode, or the rest of the series, for that matter.  And maybe that's a good thing.  Maybe that makes them more powerful.  I don't know.  I just know that it makes the episode more important, for being impossible to ignore, one way or another.  And probably not even what the producers remotely had in mind when they conceived it.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - A groundbreaking episode still ahead of its time.
  • series - I'm inclined to knock it here, as it does seem to reiterate previous material.
  • character - Unlocks the course of Quark's development.
  • essential - Became the definition of must-see when fans insisted that it was must-miss, for all the wrong reasons.
notable guest-stars:
Cecily Adams (Ishka)
Wallace Shawn (Zek)
Jeffrey Combs (Brunt)
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)
Chase Masterson (Leeta)
Tiny Ron (Maihar'du)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x22 "Valiant"

rating: ***

the story: Jake and Nog end up on a ship run entirely by Starfleet cadets...who are on a suicidal mission against the Dominion.

what it's all about: Technically, "Valiant" acts as a kind of sequel to "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost" from back in the fourth season, which featured a subplot involving Nog's dealings with the kind of cadets Wesley Crusher experienced in Next Generation's "The First Duty."  And actually, "Valiant" (and its preceding story points) can be seen as a rephrasing of "First Duty" (which Voyager's Tom Paris kind of does as well, but in ways we won't get into here), an episode that spent more time grappling with Wes's complicity in a horrible accident, whereas Nog's acquaintances are more embroiled in misplaced Starfleet zeal, the kind the Dominion helped expose.

But "Valiant" also draws from "Defiant," a third season Deep Space Nine episode in which another rogue Starfleet officer goes on a misguided suicide mission.  The fact that they're both named after a Starfleet ship can't be a coincidence. 

But..."Valiant" might best be considered Deep Space Nine's attempt to justify Voyager to skeptical fans.  Voyager began with a crew devastated by heavy losses in the command structure once the ship was stranded in the Delta Quadrant.  While Janeway was and remained captain during the restructuring, the rest of her crew had to adapt around her, and like the cadets in "Valiant" had to decide if they were to go rogue and follow their own sense of duty or attempt to adhere to Starfleet ideals.  This was about a year before Voyager did its own take on the "alternate Voyager," the two-part "Equinox" (which ironically ended up becoming known for controversy more than its attempt to justify how the series played out).  And of course, this was years before Battlestar Galactica presented a completely different interpretation of the Voyager scenario.

The results in "Valiant" may be difficult to see in this light, because they hinge on an entirely inexperienced and ill-prepared crew, young adults who were not at all ready to assume such responsibility.  It's a Dominion War story, arguably one of the most tragic Deep Space Nine ever attempted, but more than that it's an attempt to prove just what it takes to succeed in Starfleet, and how not everyone has it, and why the lead characters in these series always end up being outliers when we meet other captains who invariably fail to live up to their standards.

It's a story type that goes all the way back to the original series.  Literally every time Kirk encountered another Starfleet captain, they ended up being terrible examples of the rank.  If Kirk occasionally bent the rules, he did it in the best interests of upholding them, rather than outright betraying them.  It seems, in the Star Trek model, good examples are few and far between.

Anyway, this is a Jake and Nog episode, the last Jake and Nog episode of the series.  It forces them to confront all over again where their lives have led them, and how they're not as far apart as they sometimes think they've become (a struggle they've had since the third season).

And in some ways, it also reflects back on the very beginning of the series.  In "Emissary," we see how Sisko was among the few survivors of his ship during the Battle of Wolf 359, the big confrontation with the Borg in Next Generation's two-part "Best of Both Worlds."  Deep Space Nine and Voyager both positioned their lead characters as survivors.  And that continues to be the fate of characters in Deep Space Nine, thanks to experiences like "Valiant."  (This also counts as foreshadowing, I think.)

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Comments on a strong tradition of Star Trek storytelling.
  • series - Reflects past and even future events.
  • character - Last chance to see Jake and Nog do their thing together.
  • essential - I'm not sure either character was ready for a story this big, which is why it's easy to overlook what the episode actually accomplishes (Nog's last spotlight, "It's Only a Paper Moon," however, nails it).
notable guest-stars:
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x21 "The Reckoning"

rating: ****

the story: The first experience of the Prophets squaring off with the Pah-wraiths via their chosen surrogates (but you'll be surprised about who represents them).

what it's all about: So yeah, this is a pretty huge episode.  It's in some ways, exactly what you might expect the final episode of the series to look like, a dramatic showdown between the god-like powers of beings long in the background but only seldom seen, and always (except "The Assignment") at crucial moments. 

I'll compare it to the movie version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which ends in, yes, a dramatic showdown between the forces of good (Dumbledore) and evil (Voldemort).  It's the only time in eight films in which wizards are shown to really cut loose.  This doesn't even happen, properly, in the several duels between Voldemort and Harry himself.  It can't, really, because Harry was never as experienced a wizard as his mentor Dumbledore.

Sisko never will be, during the length of Deep Space Nine, because he never develops his abilities.  Most of the time he's barely interested in his role as Emissary of the Prophets (the wormhole aliens Bajorans worship as gods).  Dukat quickly develops his abilities as Emissary of the Pah-wraiths (the "cast-out" Prophets), which is why their showdown in "What You Leave Behind" (the series finale) seems so lopsided.

So what makes the showdown in "The Reckoning" different?  It's literally a Prophet and a Pah-wraith inhabiting a couple of lowly mortals, so it's really a showdown between them.  The Prophet chooses Kira while the Pah-wraith makes a far more interesting choice: Jake Sisko.  It's like Jake's decision at the start of the season, to remain behind at a Dominion-occupied station, writ large, especially where his father is concerned, who must once more look on helplessly.

Actually, surprisingly, it's Kai Winn, who is usually the least sympathetic character in any episode in which she appears, who gains the most points in all this.  And her role is actually far more foreshadowing than the rest of the events in the episode, as later she'll be held in thrall by Dukat, and once again be forced to make hard decisions, decisions she otherwise finds so easy to avoid.  Here she begs Sisko to stop meddling in affairs he doesn't understand (she doesn't understand them any better, mind you), and then forcibly ends the showdown, unwittingly making things ten times worse (and she herself will learn), because that will mean the showdown between the Emissaries will still have to happen, and no one will be prepared for that one...

What makes this episode so compelling is that it openly explores issues the franchise previously only skirted around, the scope of god-like powers, and what it means to confront them.  Throughout the original series, Kirk kept outsmarting "gods," one after the other, whether mere mortals who had suddenly gained extraordinary powers, or god-like beings themselves.  And obviously there was Q in nearly every other incarnation of Star Trek (including Deep Space Nine), but Q is very much Q, and so is hard to fit in this context.  So "The Reckoning" is a unique adventure, in that we see two god-like beings, locked in immortal combat with each other...This is a series that dares to argue that humans really don't have any adequate answer to such events, and this is the episode where that is most abundantly clear.

It's a big, big moment, the likes of which will probably never be seen again, as they weren't even later in the series itself.  It qualifies as a classic almost on that basis alone.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - A bold new look at the "god problem."
  • series - A glimpse of the kind of power that was always in the background.
  • character - This is Kai Winn's biggest moment.
  • essential - Everything that was never done before and will ever be done again, and for good reason, and I do mean good.
notable guest-stars:
Louise Fletcher (Winn)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x20 "His Way"

rating: ****

the story: Holosuite lounge singer Vic Fontaine helps Odo and Kira finally admit that they love each other.

what it's all about: You mean besides the most romantic moment ever in Star Trek?  You mean besides the debut of Vic Fontaine?

Do you need anything else?

Okay.  Fine.  So let's do this.  Nearly six full seasons into its run, Deep Space Nine finally bites the bullet on the worst kept secret of the franchise, that Odo and Kira were destined to be more than just friends.  Took long enough, right?  But it's perfect timing.  The sixth season began the Dominion War, but also the sometimes seemingly impossible task of telling stories within that context that somehow have nothing to do with it.  Perfect time to fall in love, right?  Of course it is.

Bashir creates the unique holographic character Vic Fontaine as a way to help everyone escape the realities of war.  (This ends up being hugely ironic in the seventh season's "It's Only a Paper Moon," believe me.)  But Vic, who was created with full self-awareness, immediately catches on to the obvious, the monkey in the room, when he performs for the gang and watches Kira and Odo, sensing there's something more than what either has thus far been willing to admit.  Vic is such a unique character.  He's a councilor who also helps Star Trek indulge its interest in popular music (which came into being long before the Beastie Boys, thank you very much), no matter the era.  Vic specializes in standards (he was originally meant to be played by Frank Sinatra, Jr., but now it's impossible to think of anyone but James Darren and his effortless cool inhabiting the role), but he's anything but.  He's like the next iteration of Guinan, the guest character who feels like they exist in their own world, but you're more than glad they visit ours, too.

Much of the episode is helping thaw the perennially icy exterior of Odo, which Vic correctly identifies as the thing standing in the way of love.  Kira will never know how he feels, much less be able to share it, until Odo can let loose a little. 

So much so good.  Then Vic pulls the old trick of getting them in the same room at the same time without either knowing it's going to happen and...Disaster!

Then love.  Epic love!  Odo and Kira exchange one of the great verbal jousts in franchise lore, and conclude that the only they really need to do is kiss.  And then they do.  And then they kiss again.  End of episode!  A true romantic catharsis, and an episode for the ages.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Pop music and love.  Knows no boundaries.
  • series - A moment long in coming.
  • character - Odo, Kira, Vic Fontaine!
  • essential - Really, really hard not to love, I think.
notable guest-stars:
James Darren (Vic Fontaine)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x19 "In the Pale Moonlight"

rating: ****

the story: Sisko uses lies and deceit to get the Romulans into the Dominion War.

what it's all about: There's a moment in the third season two-part premiere, "The Search," where Sisko and Garak are talking and they suddenly realize how strange it is, because until then they hadn't really spent any time together.  This was the period where the producers were catching on to the fact that scenes like this could lead to entire episodes.  It's not inconceivable that "In the Pale Moonlight" began to gestate that very moment.

"Moonlight" may in fact be the signature episode of the whole series.  Its story is framed by Sisko recording a personal log in which he struggles with everything he's done.  By the end he decides that he's okay with his decisions, and he deletes the log.  It's an incredibly bold creative statement that's downright unthinkable in any other Star Trek context.  Because his decisions seem to go against every Starfleet principle, and therefore every franchise ideal.  And yet the ends do seem to justify the means.  Without the Romulans, the Federation would likely have lost the war.  Even by the final episode of the series, it's not until the Cardassians defect from the Dominion that the good guys can be assured victory.

Which makes "Moonlight" as integral to the Star Trek meditation on war as anything else the franchise ever did.  The original series was famously conceived during the cultural tumult of the '60s, generally coming up on the same side as the counterculture that thought the Vietnam War was abhorrent.  At the time "Moonlight" originally aired, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were several years in the future, but the same arguments people made against Vietnam were just as relevant then, too.  There had finally come a point where civilization generally seemed to think war was no longer justifiable. 

And yet, "Moonlight" is an episode that justifies war.  Make no mistake about it: this is a story set deep into a war well underway.  It's the Romulans who are asked to fight, not the Federation.  But imagine it's the other way around.  What if it were Sisko needing to convince Starfleet to entire a Romulan war?  The results would be the same, wouldn't they? 

"Moonlight" has long been considered one of the major creative statements of Deep Space Nine, an episode with a lot of cool moments (a Romulan senator creating meme-worthy material when he hisses, "It's a faaake"), and of course Sisko grappling with his conscience, and his getting in bed with Garak, who for the first time since the third season willingly involves himself in morally questionable behavior.  It should be most shocking to watch Garak in this kind of material, as he has otherwise meticulously given himself an ambiguous presence, a past he never really talks about but deeply rooted in the messy affairs of a foreign spy service with a terrible reputation...And he's spent all this time looking like a good guy regardless, even quickly backing off of his decisions in that third season adventure ("Improbable Cause"/"The Die Is Cast"). 

So why should it be so easy to love an episode like this?  And what does that say about fans?  In the end, "Moonlight" isn't anymore an approval of war than the whole of the Dominion War arc itself, but tacit acknowledgment of its infinite complexities, and it's the embodiment of those complexities in its most viral state.  This one's hard to ignore.  It has all the elements necessary to explain in a nutshell what the war was really all about, the study of the human condition that Gene Roddenberry first set out to explore, whether in "The Cage," with Pike's experiences amidst fantastic illusions, or "Where No Man Has Gone Before," where Kirk's best friend turns into a mad god.  Sisko's demons are more terrestrial, more personal.  There are no tricks involved here, just oneself. 

It's Star Trek at its essence.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Tackles the big question at the heart of the whole idea.
  • series - The Dominion War arc boiled down to its core concepts.
  • character - Sisko's finest hour.
  • essential - Arguably the best episode of the series.
notable guest-stars:
Andrew Robinson (Garak)
Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun)
Casey Biggs (Damar)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x18 "Inquisition"

rating: ****

the story: Bashir is courted by the rogue Starfleet intelligence agency Section 31.

what it's all about: Dating back to Next Generation's first season, conspiracies have as much cache in Star Trek lore as they do society in general.  That season saw "Coming of Age," where the command staff is interrogated for reasons that become clear in the later "Conspiracy" (pretty obviously titled, right?).  Then there was "The Drumhead," which saw Picard grilled before a tribunal concerning his experience being assimilated into the Borg Collective.  The later "Voyager Conspiracy" (which was a Voyager episode, naturally) was a lighter episode in the tradition.  Deep Space Nine gave us "Whispers," in which we're led to believe there's a conspiracy being woven around O'Brien.

"Inquisition" trumps all of these.  And quite easily, too.  It's an iconic episode almost because of the introduction of Section 31 alone.  I was part of a Star Trek web community for years that was named after the off-the-books organization, and when the original owner of the site walked away, another community eagerly snapped up the URL.  Section 31 showed up in Enterprise and then Star Trek Into Darkness.  It had become a touchstone element of franchise lore.

What makes its introduction so brilliant is that it ties together a lot of previously random and even quite inexplicable series lore relating to the character of Bashir, such as his experiences in "Hippocratic Oath," and the time we learned he'd been replaced by a changeling doppelganger.  This is probably as thorough a character study as any series in this franchise has ever attempted.

But yeah, it boils down to the fascinating Section 31, and Luther Sloan, its signature enigmatic agent, a character who only needed to make a handful of appearances to solidify a huge reputation in Deep Space Nine.  This was one of two hugely successful attempts late in the sixth season, back-to-back, that plumbed the new darker tone established by the onset of the Dominion War.  At this point, it almost wasn't even the war itself that helped redefine the reputation of the series, but the new depth of storytelling it allowed.  The other episode is "In the Pale Moonlight."

"Inquisition" goes out of its way to soften its impact, reminding fans that Bashir was always obsessed with spies (citing his James Bond holosuite programs: "Our Man Bashir").  Left conspicuously absent is Garak (he'll factor brilliantly into "Moonlight"), but it does feel right for the good doctor to finally get a taste of the real stuff he previously only daydreamed about.  It might be called irony.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - The introduction of Section 31, thereafter a pivotal piece of the Star Trek landscape.
  • series - Redeems a lot of previously questionable creative choices.
  • character - A deep look at Julian Bashir.
  • essential - Brings everything to a whole new level.
notable guest-stars:
William Sadler (Sloan)
Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x17 "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night"

rating: *

the story: Kira travels back in time to investigate Dukat's claims about her mother.

what it's all about: It's almost inexplicable, that three of the four episodes in this stretch of the sixth season (this, as well as "Change of Heart" and "One Little Ship") could be so badly miscalculated in what is otherwise one of the most calculated periods in franchise history (only the next season, plus the third and fourth seasons of Enterprise can possibly compare, as well as portions of Voyager's second). 

"Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night" is the last time Deep Space Nine attempts to chase the legacy of one of its own classic episodes, "Necessary Evil" from the second season.  "Evil" was a trip back to the Terok Nor era of the station, when the Cardassians still ruled it, during their Occupation of the Bajoran home world.  "Things Past" from the previous season also made the attempt, but its success was equally muddled.  It's not so much the idea of revisiting the earlier time that's the problem, but the tortured excuses used in both episodes, both of them doubling up, unnecessarily, on the compromised nature of life under Cardassian rule.

It's a good thing, at least, to meet Kira's family, regardless of how it happens.  In that sense "Wrongs" is almost like an update of the classic Animated Series episode "Yesteryear," in which Spock, too, visits his own past (it served as the basis for how the character was depicted in the 2009 movie reboot).  And it's good to see Dukat in his prime, before everything fell apart for him.  A confident Dukat was always the best Dukat.  Even if he was such a villain in his prime (really, the third season, especially "Civil Defense" and "Defiant," features the best Dukat).  It's a problem in that regard, too, especially as we meet up with Dukat again later in the season and he's on a mad quest that will forever seal his destiny, not to mention how we'd last seen him ("Waltz") when he was clearly on his way there.  "Wrongs" really has nothing to do with any of that.  It's almost as if the producers simply thought it was a good idea to remind fans what Dukat was like before he went completely mad, since the six-episode arc that began the season really didn't have definitive Dukat material until his daughter was murdered in front of him.  Seems like a creative oversight clumsily corrected in "Wrongs."  Plus trying to remind people what makes Kira relevant outside of her relationship with Odo, which was about to finally hit its stride with "His Way" three episodes later.

In the end, "Wrongs" and its fellow misfires from this stretch in the middle of the season feel like misguided filler.  At least the season got really good again right after this, and continued bold storytelling for the rest of it, which led to renewed creative juices for the final season that followed.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Really, there's nothing here skeptics can't find done better elsewhere. 
  • series - Needlessly duplicates past storytelling without adding anything new.
  • character - We meet Kira's family, we see Dukat in his "prime."
  • essential - Such a wasted opportunity.  Almost would've been better to scrap the Kira material and focus on the character traits that would ultimately prove Dukat's downfall.
notable guest-stars:
Marc Alaimo (Dukat)
Thomas Kopache

Friday, April 7, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x16 "Change of Heart"

rating: *

the story: Worf must choose between the mission and saving Jadzia's life.

what it's all about: This has always been a difficult episode for me.  I get that it puts a strong focus on a relationship that had become integral to the middle part of the series, but at a steep cost.  It never felt authentic to me, like one of those impossible fiction scenarios superheroes normally get, who normally get to have it both ways.  Well, this being the increasingly grim Deep Space Nine, Worf most certainly does not get it both ways.  He seems to sacrifice his future professional potential because he can't bear to think of losing his wife.

Look, and I had the same thoughts when it originally aired, but the whole thing becomes that much harder to defend in hindsight, because...ten episodes later it becomes a moot point anyway.  I can accept that Terry Farrell forced the producers' hand by the end of the season, deciding she wanted to leave, and they killed off the character to solve her absence, and that none of that had necessarily played out in the writers room at the time "Change of Heart" was first conceived, but...It just seems egregious, thinking about that now.  It doesn't even count as foreshadowing, because the situations that play out here and when she actually dies are nothing alike.  In one, Worf has the chance to save her, in the other ("Tears of the Prophets," the season finale) it's completely random.

So it makes Worf look good and it makes him look bad, forsaking what had previously been a fairly defining characteristic, his overriding sense of duty, which actually got him into trouble far more often.  So to have him finally forsake his duty, you'd really need a story that is itself defensible, not something that relies on backstory.  Yes, we know, from the episode, that they've recently gotten married ("You Are Cordially Invited," nine episodes earlier), and that at least for part of the episode, Worf and Jadzia are still enjoying newlywed bliss.  But it rapidly becomes something else.  It would actually be better if the whole episode, we know she has the potential to die.  Like "In the Pale Moonlight" a few episodes later, it would be better if the whole thing were told from Worf's perspective.  It would've been a completely different Michael Dorn experience.  Too often he seems remote, unapproachable.  His relationships, with Troi (Next Generation) and Jadzia were always calculated as ways of thawing him out a little.  And yet...the Worf in this episode is just as frozen as he ever was.  It gets in the way of the story.

To my mind, it's just not executed very well, and yes, I've had that thought from the very beginning, and I've never changed my mind.  Maybe I just can't stand that Worf has to stand there, at the end, and listen to Sisko warning him about how bad a career move it was, regardless of whether or not it was the right thing to do.  It only further alienates a character who still has only the one link to his second series, the character who was very nearly removed from the board during the episode.  And who will be.  And then we'll actually see where Worf stands.  Because we don't see that in "Heart."  It somewhat ironically lacks heart because of that.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Aside from Voyager's "Thirty Days," has any main character been so thoroughly compromised in the midst of doing the right thing?
  • series - Technically a Dominion War story, but that part is a complete afterthought.
  • character - Here's where you find your reason to consider this episode, whether or not it says something useful about Worf.
  • essential - No, it's not.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x15 "Honor Among Themes"

rating: ***

the story: O'Brien infiltrates the Orion Syndicate.

what it's all about: "Honor Among Thieves" is the episode that allows the season to dive into the new dark shadings of the series introduced by the Dominion War.  The opening six-episode arc itself kept away from such storytelling, and every episode following it made sure to isolate such shadings, or avoid them entirely.  Here they're shown to be systemic, and therefore the first true sign that the war made permanent the general impression that Deep Space Nine takes a more pragmatic approach to the optimistic depiction of the future as originally envisioned by Gene Roddenberry. 

The Orion Syndicate itself has its origins in the original series, an apparent offshoot of the green Orions (typified by the needs-no-introduction Orion Slave Girls) and their seedy interests.  "Thieves" might be considered a precursor to Star Trek: Insurrection, ostensibly a Dominion War story about strange bedfellows, what happens around the edges of such conflicts.  There's a Vorta trying to do what the Dominion had been trying to do before the war, which was sow distrust among its enemies, and on that score "Thieves" also manages neatly to redeem prior storytelling in the series by operating with infinitely more finesse than its predecessors (the entire Klingon arc begun in the fourth season and ended in the fifth in the run-up to the war is illustration enough).

It's also a kind of reclamation of the Maquis, the kind of storytelling both Deep Space Nine and Next Generation had attempted to do, about compromised loyalties, while helping set up Voyager.  At the center of "Thieves" is O'Brien being called on by Starfleet Intelligence (who previously horribly botched a similar gambit with Picard in Next Generation's "Chain of Command"), which means making friends with an unsuspecting mark, whom the good chief ends up befriending, because the guy turns out to be hugely sympathetic, to the point O'Brien ends up feeling rotten for betraying the guy, confessing the truth to him and eventually leading to a personal mission of redemption we see play out in the seventh season's "Prodigal Daughter."

Not only that, but it's basically a prelude to Section 31, as introduced later in the season in "Inquisition," which becomes such a signature creation of Deep Space Nine that it's actually kind of its major legacy, being later featured in the reboot movies (Star Trek Into Darkness) as well in the prequel series Enterprise.  O'Brien's good friend Bashir stars in that one, which only figures.  But it's O'Brien who needs to star in "Thieves," to sell the humanity of it, one of the gentlest Let's-Torture-O'Brien episodes, or perhaps most cruel. 

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - A dark mirror to Star Trek's basic optimism.
  • series - An intriguing look at the Dominion War.
  • character - One of O'Brien's most subtle spotlights.
  • essential - It's such a quiet affair, it almost seems timid, which is kind of why Section 31 seems to loud in comparison.
notable guest-stars:
Nick Tate

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x14 "One Little Ship"

rating: *

the story: Dax, O'Brien, and Bashir find themselves shrunk in the midst of a Jem'Hadar attack.

what it's all about: Now, this is something of a baffling episode.  It's almost as if someone decided it would be a good idea to give casual fans a Dominion War episode.  More committed fans will...only be baffled.

On the one hand, there's some useful continuity stuff in the way the Jem'Hadar are experiencing the Alpha Quadrant and how it affects day-to-day operations for the Dominion.  But it's not a particularly memorable Jem'Hadar episode.  On the other, the obvious gimmick of shrinking a runabout, and by extension a few of the main characters, is a visual trick that's kind of interesting and well within franchise tradition.  It's just...not Deep Space Nine tradition.

It's painfully not Deep Space Nine tradition.  So this is an episode that will always stick out like a sore thumb, and how you feel about it will probably depend on how much you can stomach the central gimmick.  You can sort of get into the spirit of things after a while, but it's like a bad one night stand.  It'll make you feel dirty in the morning.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - If you're really hesitant about the whole Dominion War thing, this one's for you.
  • series - Yeah, it takes the piss out of the heavy drama.  Maybe too much.
  • character - Honestly, no one really benefits from this one, not even the jokers at the end of the episode trying to ape the original series.
  • essential - All but completely skippable.  It's not superfluous or downright bad, but...
notable guest-stars:
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Deep Space Nine 6x13 "Far Beyond the Stars"

rating: ****

the story: Sisko experiences the life of a struggling black science fiction writer.

what it's all about: The above description makes "Far Beyond the Stars" sound like Next Generation's "The Inner Light," and to a certain extent it is, but it's perhaps more akin to the classic "The City on the Edge of Forever."  At any rate all three are about on par as far as transcendent Star Trek experiences go.  For me, because of its direct commentary on a real scenario from the past, "Beyond the Stars" resonates further, an evolution of the two-part "Past Tense" from the third season, which postulated a near-future San Francisco with "sanctuary districts" for the poor.  This is the only episode that addresses contemporary racial issues, which obviously haven't gotten much better than when it originally aired some twenty years ago.  It was basically Sisko in a "black lives matter" scenario.

And yes, it gives us a chance to see the cast, and a selection of the familiar guest cast, without makeup or prosthetics, but that's almost beside the point.  "Beyond the Stars" helps the sixth season compete with the third in terms of dynamic spotlights for Sisko.  Along with "Waltz" it's one of his best dramatic turns of the whole series, regardless of whether or not race is considered.  The moment where he breaks down is sometimes cited variously as Avery Brooks' best and worst acting of the series, but either way it epitomizes the scope of the episode and its ambition.  Sisko was even more controlled emotionally than Picard (but far warmer than any Vulcan), so to see him lose control is fascinating, and it's completely justified.

The greater point of the episode, that the experiences he has as a 1950s pulp fiction writer, is actually tied into the Dominion War, and as such doesn't have to be viewed on one level alone, is also part of its brilliance, that it works beautifully on multiple levels, and as such reflects the complexity of the series itself.  Now that the war has been going on for a while, Sisko begins to reflect on all the death mounting up around him, and this is before...

No, sorry, if you don't know what's coming up at the end of the season, I'm not going to spoil it.

Even if you want to view it as a neat trip to an earlier era, the pulp fiction era, before the problems really mount, that's fascinating, too, because that's the root of Star Trek, too, which is its own layer.  As much trouble as Sisko gets into, you're reminded that women had it rough then, too, and you're all the more grateful that Deep Space Nine ushered in a new era for the franchise where strong women were in crucial command positions.  Fans tend to forget that.  If they give Voyager any credit at all, they acknowledge the obvious fact of a woman in the captain's chair.  Kira got there first.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise  - Joins an elite and storied group of Star Trek episodes.
  • series - Reflective of the Dominion War from a unique angle.
  • character - One of Sisko's best episodes.
  • essential - One of Avery Brooks' finest hours.
notable guest-stars:
Marc Alaimo
J.G. Hertzler
Jeffrey Combs
Aron Eisenberg
Brock Peters
Penny Johnson
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