Friday, October 14, 2011

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season Three

I've been really impressed with this show so far; this season builds so well on the previous season, getting into serialized territory and really letting the characters grow and breathe. These two seasons have actually been, so far, the most enjoyable time I've ever had watching any Star Trek TV series. I'm glad Becca and I, two lifelong Trek fans, have been getting to experience this for the first time together.

1. The Search, Part I (my rating: 5 out of 5)
First, I have to say that the Defiant is an amazing ship. Very impressive, well-designed, and unlike anything we've seen from the Federation. I can't believe it's taken this long to get a real warship. I know this fictional universe has been focused instead on peaceful exploration, but between the Klingons and the Romulans and the Cardassians, it makes a lot of sense to have a warship every now and then. It's like we're seeing where the Federation has finally decided they need to toughen up with enemies like the Borg and the Dominion out there. This is an exciting, action-filled episode.

2. The Search, Part II (5/5)
And now we finally learn the truth about Odo, his people, the Dominion, and what his real purpose is. The scenes about the station provide some suspense and craziness, but it was obvious how it would all end. The real story is Odo's journey, his understanding, and his rejection of his people. And it's a very good one. It's a shame they didn't keep the Romulan character around, though. I'm always looking for them to actually do something interesting with the Romulans...

3. The House of Quark (3/5)
Not quite as much fun as I'd hoped it would be, pulling Quark into dealings with the Klingon High Council. But I do always love to see Gowron, and I like the Klingon impatience with Quark's accountancy problem-solving.

4. Equilibrium (4/5)
More information about the Trill is usually interesting. This is a nice twist on the overly familiar "Crew member goes crazy" episode. I dug how it tied in to Trill politics, such as they are, and the idea of Dax having a forgotten host is very dramatic.

5. Second Skin (3/5)
I think they wimp out on the ending a little bit on this one. The Obsidian Order and the Cardassian Dissident Movement are both interesting, but of course it turns out Kira is just being used and isn't really a Cardassian spy. Her being a spy--this fervent Bajoran patriot we've come to know--and then choosing to still be Kira anyway because that's all she really remembers would have been much more dramatic a way to go. Imagine Kira being forced to deal with actually being part of a people she holds responsible for a life of suffering. So it's not a bad episode, but the ending was a little pat and predictable for a show that is usually braver. Kira's a great enough character without it, but still...

6. The Abandoned (2/5)
I wasn't interested so much in the Jem'Hadar child or how he related to Odo as one of the Founders. They just didn't pull it off for me; it's a rather heavy-handed attempt at humanizing the inhuman enemy. I did like Mardah the Dabo girl, though. Good for you, Jake. Good for you.

7. Civil Defense (5/5)
Tense and exciting episode with O'Brien accidentally tripping a Cardassian security program that will destroy the station. It's also exciting to see Gul Dukat and Elim Garak take each other on a bit more, revealing more of the animosity between these two great, complicated characters. The only misstep, to me, is the way Gul Dukat hits on Major Kira and it's played as cute and funny instead of horrifying, which it would be to Kira--her former torturer now displaying sexual/romantic interest in her would be a nightmare. But it's a blip in a fantastic episode.

8. Meridian (1/5)
Another one of those Star Trek love stories that completely fails to grab me. Really, Star Trek? Brigadoon? Jeffrey Combs appearing on the show is the only thing I really enjoyed. Boy, everyone's in lust with Kira, aren't they?

9. Defiant (5/5)
It's really nice to see Jonathan Frakes in Star Trek again, this time as Thomas Riker, trying to steal the Defiant for the Maquis. There's a lot of tense political stuff happening in this episode, with Sisko and Dukat trying to recover the Defiant and the Obsidian Order trying to destroy it. The revelation of a potential Obsidian Order fleet is a jaw-dropping moment.

10. Fascination (1/5)
This episode is just embarrassing, with Lwaxana Troi accidentally infecting everyone with A Midsummer Night's Dream Syndrome, or something. The only high points were the color palette (bright colors for once!) and Rosalind Chao being particularly sexy.

11. Past Tense, Part I
12. Past Tense, Part II (5/5)
I thought I'd put these together, as they're a sort of feature in the middle of the season. And these episodes are just mind-blowing, putting Sisko, Bashir and Dax back in the past, a past which is now only 13 years in our future. It seems even more prescient today than it must have been in 1995; seeing the homeless forced to live in what are essentially prison camps was powerful, but beyond depressing given the current climate and even my own home situation. It's important, too, to note the difference in experiences between Bashir and Sisko (two brown-skinned men who are transported straight to the ghetto and treated like criminals) and Dax (a white-skinned woman who immediately becomes the toast of rich society). Very tense stuff, delving into the heart of human nature and our own society. Great guest actors, too, particularly Bill Smitrovich and the great Dick Miller. I think Bashir comes into his own here, too. I noticed that, after proving how capable he is here, he sort of grows up and I'm far less annoyed with him than I used to be.

13. Life Support (2/5)
Some interesting examination of the ethics of life support and whether or not keeping someone who is nearly brain dead alive is really humane, but the drama of it never quite came alive for me. Becca was mad, though, because the death of Vedek Bareil is "the death of the sexiest guy on this show."

14. Heart of Stone (5/5)
The cruelty of the Founders really comes into focus here, with Odo being put through the emotional wringer and finally confessing his obvious feelings for Kira. It's an excellent plot, very well-acted, but for some reason what touched me most was Nog's impassioned speech to Sisko about why he wants to join Starfleet. That actually moved me to a few tears. There's something about Nog that I really identify with. Good balance of two great plots.

15. Destiny (3/5)
I don't think it quite comes off for me. A lot of the stuff about the prophecy is obvious. I liked the Cardassian women, though, and I'm glad they stopped to take a look at Sisko's discomfort with being made a religious figure for the Bajorans.

16. Prophet Motive (4/5)
I always get excited to see Wallace Shawn come back as Grand Nagus Zek. And definitely, Quark is my favorite character on the show. It's interesting how it starts off as a comedy and then becomes pretty serious, with Quark in the wormhole talking to the Prophets. Quark's argument that greed is good for linear beings mostly works, I think; he makes a great case for tempered ambition.

17. Visionary (4/5)
Now that's an interesting choice; replacing O'Brien with his from-a-couple-hours-in-the-future self. This way O'Brien gets to sacrifice himself heroically and still live to save the day. It effects nothing, really, but it's a neat idea. An episode with time travel that actually works without tripping over its own continuity, and it's got some exciting visuals (such as the destruction of the station). I like the way everyone just sort of accepts the time jumps and then works with them instead of spending too much time talking about it. And John Shirley writing for Star Trek? I HAVE seen everything.

18. Distant Voices (1/5)
Ridiculous old-age makeup. Again. Get over it, Star Trek.

19. Through the Looking Glass (3/5)
I'm not sure we needed another trip to the Mirror Universe--seriously, it's getting to be easier than walking to the drugstore--but it's not a bad one. I love that Sisko gets laid twice in the Mirror Universe (once by Jadzia Dax and once by Kira) and then never mentions it back in "ours." Man takes care of business. He goes in, does his job, reconnects with his wife (kind of), and comes home in one piece. That is a commander, people. Two big problems with the resistance fighters in the Mirror Universe, though: Bashir's ridiculous hair (and overacting, again), and the appearance of Tuvok, the Shittiest Vulcan Ever.

20. Improbable Cause (5/5)
Amazing stuff. Putting Odo and Garak together is brilliant, and bringing back Enabran Tain was worth waiting for. Cardassians just fascinate me, and Tain is a cunning villain. Now we get the secret Obsidian Order fleet revealed, and seeing them team up with the Romulan Tal Shiar is the kind of surprise that just makes you know something gargantuan is coming up.

21. The Die Is Cast (5/5)
Ho. Lee. Shit. This is truly epic. It's audacious enough seeing the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order team up to launch a direct attack on the Omarion Nebula to kill the Founders themselves, but to then watch as both secret police organizations are truly and thoroughly destroyed by the Jem'Hadar is just terrifying. Seriously, how is the Federation going to be able to defend themselves at all? Then it's layered with Garak's ever-shifting loyalties, and the scene where he tortures Odo for information and the anguish it causes Garak... seriously, what a fascinating character Garak is. Just an amazing episode.

22. Explorers (5/5)
This, though, is probably my favorite episode of the third season. Just a simple father and son story, with Ben Sisko attempting to recreate the journey of ancient Bajoran star-sailors who may have reached Cardassian space. It reminded me a lot of my dad, and how much he loved Kon-Tiki and sailing and always wanted to do something like that. I hope he gets to some day. Avery Brooks is such a special actor on this show, and adding a goatee makes him seem much more comfortable and approachable. Just a lovely episode.

23. Family Business (4/5)
Sisko finally starts a tentative relationship (and with Penny Johnson, currently the chief on Castle, but she'll always be Beverly from The Larry Sanders Show to me), and we discover that Quark's mother (Andrea Martin) has the real head for business that Quark inherited. A very funny family comedy, showing us some the dilemma of Quark's character (and Rom's--the peacemaker who is starting to find his voice). And Jeffrey Combs as a Ferengi! Good stuff. Makes up for the less fun "House of Quark."

24. Shakaar (3/5)
Kai Winn is a truly dangerous character; here we see her attempts to make herself both the spiritual and political leader of Bajor, and we get a fuller picture of just how far Kira has come since the days of being a resistance fighter (and just how fragile the situation on unoccupied Bajor really is, even with the new Cardassian peace treaty). I think it's really interesting, too, to see how Sisko deals with Kai Winn. He really just deals with her because he has to; he tolerates having to be diplomatic with her, but doesn't cave in to her, doesn't pour on fake niceties, and clearly doesn't respect her. It's such a contrast to his respect and even personal like for Kai Opaka.

25. Facets (4/5)
An interesting idea for an episode, to see Jadzia get to speak with all of Dax's former hosts, embodied by her friends on the station. Avery Brooks as Joran Dax is a scary motherfucker. Odo as Curzon is a little less successful, just because we don't get to see the wise mentor that Sisko always refers to. That side of him is buried under this boisterous, fun-loving near-alcoholic who is running from himself. It's a shame we don't get to see more aspects of his character. Again, I was more interested in Nog's journey to enter Starfleet Academy. Watching Rom angrily stand up to Quark is a highlight.

26. The Adversary (4/5)
Star Trek does The Thing, but does it well. I still don't really trust Michael Eddington, the security guy; I expected he would be the Founder spy aboard the Defiant, so good red herring work on that. It's chilling to see how far the Founders are willing to go to destroy the Federation, nearly starting a war in the Alpha Quadrant. The warning "You are too late. We're everywhere" is a scary promise for the future, one that I can't wait to see combated.

Fantastic season of a fantastic show. This may be the Star Trek series I didn't know I always wanted to watch.


Jaquandor said...

I need to rewatch DS9 myself...which, after S3, would mostly be a "watch" and not a rewatch. When S4 started, the station that carried DS9 in these parts literally started airing the show at a different time every week. It was maddening, and eventually the show just reached the point of being too damned hard to find so I stopped trying, and it pretty much fell off my radar, except for an episode here and there for the rest of the run.

Semaj said...

Past Tense: Great episode. It actually seems to attack both the left and right sides of the political world. I loved the locations and the cameo by Clint Howard. I loved the various characters introduced in this episode. Everything Bashir talks about with the Fed being pushed to the limits comes head in the Dom War. Nice bit of foreshadowing.

Defiant: I loved the space battles and the Obsidian Order woman. She was great with that fake smile and they way she got under Dukat’s skin. Frakes is very good as Thomas Riker. I mentioned this before, but the Marquis woman on the bridge is the same character from “Preemptive Strike” of the TNG show. It was a nice touch. I guess that means Thomas crossed paths with Ensign Ro. I also liked that this episode leads right into that 2-parter later.

Visionary: Again, the back-story leads right into The Die Is Cast and Improbable Cause with the Romulans sharing their info with the Obsidian Order.

The Die Is Cast and Improbable Cause: One of my favorites from season 3. Plus, there is a bit of foreshadowing with the shapshifter saying the Klingons and the Federation won’t much of threat much longer. Using the two spy groups mistrust against them was a brilliant move. Great Space Battle too. I also liked the concern the Rom-shifter had about the shape-shifting holding machine. That was a nice touch.