the story: The war ends, and Sisko finally confronts Dukat to settle up between the Prophets and the Pah Wraiths.
what it's all about: This is it, the final episode of Deep Space Nine. I've always found it by far the most satisfying finale of the franchise. Of the ones specifically designed to provide end statements, none of them are particularly disappointing, to me. But they don't really give proper send-offs, aside from "What You Leave Behind." The second hour is devoted to the crew going their separate ways. That's all but absent in Next Generation's "All Good Things..." (which is a celebration of the crew itself), Voyager's "Endgame" (which completes the journey home just in time to end the episode), and Enterprise's "These Are the Voyages..." (which really only marks a goodbye to the show's best character, Trip Tucker). Fans have always kind of bagged Voyager's for leaving the farewells unsaid, and Enterprise's for spending so much time with Next Generation's Riker and Troi (I have literally never had a problem with their inclusion), and thought Picard joining the rest of his crew in a poker game was sweet, but everyone knew there were movies in their future, so there was no perceived need to round out their adventures, except conclude Q's trial from the very first episode ("Encounter at Farpoint").
Deep Space Nine, however, kind of knew this was the end, so there was no reason to send everyone home happy. Where some have been disappointed that Sisko never did get Bajor into the Federation (ostensibly the whole point of his posting in "Emissary"), it's hugely appropriate to end things in a moment of transition, because that's where things began, too, with everyone adjusting to radical new circumstances. By the end of "Leave Behind," Sisko has joined the Prophets, Odo the Founders, O'Brien headed off to Starfleet Academy (as an instructor), Worf accepting a post as ambassador to the Klingons, and Bashir finally in that relationship with (a) Dax that he'd always yearned for. The ending, with Quark remarking the old adage "the more things change..." and Kira and Jake Sisko looking off to the wormhole, wondering what the future holds...It's perfect.
The conclusion of the war itself is classic. Things finally come to a head with the Cardassians, as Damar becomes a martyr and the Dominion subsequently level heavy reprisals on the rest of the Cardassians as they rebel in his name, which puts them exactly in the situation Bajor was in at the start of the series. That, if anything, is the element that rounds out the experience, with one of those planets finding themselves at some logical conclusion based on everything they'd been up to during the course of the series. If everyone assumes it had to be Bajor, that doesn't mean they're right. And even Bajor is posed for a more hopeful future, with Winn finally out of the picture, her epic downfall at last complete.
Speaking of Winn, her scenes with Dukat are somehow the best they are in the whole concluding ten-hour arc, Winn increasingly uncomfortable dealing with Dukat but dealing with him all the same, deluded to her last moments that she's still got the upper hand, even as she enacts a final redemption in doing the right thing, unequivocally, turning against Dukat as Sisko appears. The encounter between Sisko and Dukat is itself a signature element of the episode, going totally against expectations. We'd seen a version of this play out already in "The Reckoning," a full-on duel between Prophet and Pah Wraith powers. But that was never Sisko, who was never Kirk, who was always game for a physical fight. Sisko was game for that sort of thing, but his was always a more cerebral way, much more like Picard, the Picard in the movies, maybe, but more mature, measured, than Kirk ever managed. When Dukat proves that he's willing to use powers he's all too eager to assume, a role he's all too eager to embrace, it proves all over again that for all of Sisko's doubt across seven seasons, he was still capable of doing the right thing, even if it meant sacrifice he became increasingly willing to make. It's to be remembered that in the beginning, Sisko was a broken man precisely for a sacrifice he never accepted, the death of his wife. Leaving his second wife, Kasidy, and their unborn baby, is the very symbol of his growth.
Vic Fontaine justifies his existence one last time in serenading the crew just before everyone splits, in the best scene of the best farewell in Star Trek history. Sisko all but acknowledges Deep Space Nine fan conviction that this was the best series of the franchise, regardless of how fans in general would ever consider it.
Just a lot of great scenes piled up on each other, one after the other, everyone having a chance to shine, and nearly every recognizable face present and accounted for, too many for me to make labels for everyone, alas. But a complete listing is below.
- franchise - It's the only final episode to date that allows fans to linger in the goodbye.
- series - The story comes full circle from the very first episode beautifully and imaginatively.
- character - Everyone gets a chance to shine.
- essential - To my mind the best final episode of the franchise to date.
Rosalind Chao (Keiko)
Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun)
Salome Jens (Female Founder)
Penny Johnson (Kasidy)
Andrew Robinson (Garak)
Casey Biggs (Damar)
Marc Alaimo (Dukat)
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)
J.G. Hertzler (Martok)
Barry Jenner (Admiral Ross)
Deborah Lacey (Sarah)
Hana Hatae (Molly)
James Darren (Vic Fontaine)
Louise Fletcher (Winn)