Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season Seven

Alas, the final season of a fantastic series. I've never been more excited about watching a Star Trek series, and though I was eager to have seen it all, I was not eager to have it end. I really loved this show. And continue to love it.

1. Image in the Sand (my rating: 4 out of 5)
I like how this season opens more quietly, more thoughtfully than previous seasons. It's nice to be a little contemplative going into the final season. And, as always, I love the Sisko family. I love how protective Ben's father and son are of him, how patient they are as he mourns the loss of Jadzia and tries to rediscover his place.

2. Shadows and Symbols (4/5)
What a surprise to see Benny Russell back! There's so much happening in this episode, and all of it works. I liked the tension of the Klingon plot, with Worf attempting to win a victory in Jadzia's name. I also liked the truth of Sisko's parentage, which finally explains why the Prophets keep saying he is "of Bajor." And then we have Ezri, the new Dax. I like Nicole de Boer in the role. She's so different from Terry Farrell, which is a nice choice. The writers made a good choice having her involved in Sisko's storyline; he, of course, accepts her right away as the Dax he's known in, now, three different incarnations, and their friendship resumes. So if Sisko accepts her right off, her place on the show doesn't seem so jarring.

3. Afterimage (4/5)
I think they try a little too hard in this episode to make Ezri Dax somewhat quirky. It's a little too cute for its own good, but it elevates itself by putting some focus on Worf's reaction to her, and by Andrew Robinson's excellent performance as Garak in this episode. It's hard to single out his always-excellent performances on this show and say one or another is the best, but this one was very impressive.

4. Take Me Out to the Holosuite (5/5)
Well, if you're going to do a fluffy episode, make it a damn fun one. This is fantastic, with the crew taking on a Vulcan crew at baseball, and Sisko getting far too carried away. It's nice because it's not just filler; besides examining just how the crew's loyalty to Captain Sisko can be tested, it also fully integrates Ezri into the camaraderie and gives us the opportunity for a lot of silly humor (and for Rom to be the hero). Just fun as heck.

5. Chrysalis (2/5)
Oy, another Star Trek love story. Thin and very predictable.

6. Treachery, Faith and the Great River (4/5)
A very interesting idea, taking a Weyoun clone and having him switch his loyalties from one Founder (the Female Changeling) to Odo. Jeffrey Combs is superb here, finding a way to play Weyoun with more honesty than usual. I also liked the B story, which reminded me of a M*A*S*H episode, with Nog scheming to make things move faster for Chief O'Brien. I like that Nog can be true to his Ferengi upbringing as well as his Starfleet oath.

7. Once More Unto the Breach (5/5)
I'm glad to see Kor get a noble death; this episode does so much more for the character than that terrible "Sword of Kahless" episode. I also like the exploration in this episode of Martok's prejudices; his holding a grudge against Kor for decades is believable, and watching him ridicule Kor later is painful. It's a mark of the writing and of JG Hertzler's performance that we can see a tolerant and strong Klingon do something petty without destroying my opinion of the character. It adds a more realistic layer to Martok that he could feel something like that. We all have our weaknesses.

8. The Siege of AR-558 (5/5)
An excellent episode, but a very tough one. So much bleakness here that I actually wept for a moment. The episode really brings its anti-war message home by injuring Nog so that he loses his leg. And Quark's speech about human beings and how quickly they can turn on you when their needs aren't met is a beautiful, and very true, piece of dialogue. The cruelty of the Jem'Hadar mines is chilling.

9. Covenant (4/5)
Wow. Gul Dukat having devoted himself to the Pah-wraiths, complete with a camp of Bajoran followers is an indicator of Dukat's real problem: that he demands to be loved by people over whom he has power. It's his tragic flaw, and here he has a group of worshipers that he wants to worship him. I wonder if he's really devoted to the Pah-wraiths or if he just sees them as a stepping stone to greater power (and, by extension, adoration). He basically hopes to become the Emissary of the Pah-wraiths, or an Anti-Sisko. It's amazing how far off the deep end he's willing to go to fulfill this.

10. It's Only a Paper Moon (5/5)
I love Vic Fontaine. This episode is so much deeper than the average holodeck episode, with Vic Fontaine being the one who helps Nog through his convalescence, his readjustment after losing his leg, and his post-combat fear of returning to work. Aron Eisenberg's performance in this episode is really touching and special, and James Darren is perfect as ever as Vic.

11. Prodigal Daughter (2/5)
Not much about this episode really does anything for me. I just don't care about the Orion Syndicate, and it's too late to do much with the thread now. This episode tries to tie in Ezri's family with the Syndicate, but it never really meshes. I understand they want to do more with Ezri, since she's such a late introduction, but ultimately I just wasn't moved by her rich, whiny family. I also still don't understand the point of an undercover CPO, but I'm no expert.

12. The Emperor's New Cloak (4/5)
As much as I hate the Mirror Universe now, this one saved itself by also being a Ferengi episode and putting Quark, Rom, and Grand Nagus Zek into the whole situation. Also, increased screen time for Mirror Universe Worf is pretty awesome. I'm pretty beyond sick of the Intendent, but I love the Ferengi, so it's just a bunch of fun.

13. Field of Fire (1/5)
Easily my least favorite episode of the final season is this pointless riff on Silence of the Lambs. The murder mystery episodes tend to be pretty lame, and bringing the murderer Joran in to guide Ezri is pretty silly. The final reveal is all kinds of ridiculous.

14. Chimera (4/5)
I'm glad they gave us an episode with another Changeling who isn't actually a Founder, letting Odo experience someone who had experiences similar to his own. JG Hertzler is very interesting as Laas, another of the 100 Changelings sent out into the universe to explore. I think this is where we really see Odo's decision to rejoin the Founders taking shape. And I love how he shares the link experience with Kira at the end.

15. Badda-Bing Badda-Bang (3/5)
Kind of a filler episode, but a very well-produced one. And any chance to see Vic Fontaine is a nice one. Still, doing the whole Ocean's 11 thing is always a bit predictable. A bit too cute.

16. Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges (4/5)
I'm glad to see that the show brought back Sloan and the whole concept of Section 31. Seeing the Romulan intrigue play out here is really interesting; I love what they've been doing with the Romulans on this show, and it deepens them a bit more from their previous position as "stock Nazi stand-ins" as they were often played on TNG. I hope that, whenever it comes time to do the Next Next Generation, the Romulans are on more cordial terms with the Federation, because I find them fascinating. And Adrienne Barbeau is really good here as Cretak.

17. Penumbra (5/5)
Here we go: the road to the finale. I like the way the relationship with Worf and Ezri plays out in this one; yeah, sex will certainly work out your aggression towards each other... With the Prophets warning Sisko not to marry, and the Female Changeling's illness developing more rapidly, and Dukat surgically altering himself to look Bajoran, it really feels like all the pieces are moving into place. And interesting to see the Breen again. I'm very interested in what the Breen are all about.

18. 'Til Death Do Us Part (5/5)
I love that Sisko decides that his devotion to the Prophets does not preclude his getting married to Kasidy. Seeing the Breen ally themselves with the Dominion is a great addition to the tension, but what really gets me in this episode is the development of the relationship between Kai Winn and Dukat. He really knows which buttons to press, because there are a number of ways in which they're alike, especially in their overweening savior complexes. They both want to be adored by people who don't like them, which is a big part of Winn's jealousy towards the Emissary. It's amazing how this episode makes it feel that their teaming together--even with him manipulating her and her not knowing he's really Dukat--was inevitable.

19. Strange Bedfellows (5/5)
The single best moment on this episode is when Worf kills Weyoun--suddenly, and very focused, and futilely, as another Weyoun clone will then be activated--but damn it, it's satisfying. I think what Damar is going through as leader of the Cardassian people is very interesting; obviously the Dominion needs the Breen because the Cardassians are proving to be too weak an ally overall, but it also feels like Weyoun is taking out his disappointment on them, letting the Eleventh Order get wiped out by the Klingons.

20. The Changing Face of Evil (5/5)
The action here is breathtaking. The Breen are scary as hell, managing to do what the Cardassians and the Dominion couldn't and carrying out attacks directly on Earth. And their weapon, which disables all the energy in the drive and weapons systems of starships, is really something else. So late in the story, and the Breen seem unstoppable. It's sad to see the Defiant go down in the line of duty. And the twist at the end, with Damar encouraging the Cardassians to revolt against the Dominion, is excellent. (I had to watch the final nine episodes all on the same day because I was too wrapped up in this.)

21. When It Rains... (5/5)
The truth of the illness infecting the Founders is revealed: Section 31 used Odo as a carrier in order to commit genocide on the Founders. That's the other shoe, then; we see that Section 31 is willing to wipe out an entire race in order to protect the Federation. I'm consistently fascinated by how this series has been willing to really examine what kind of darkness must come with maintaining a utopia. I also like the development that Gowron may purposely be trying to get Martok killed to eliminate a potential political rival.

22. Tacking Into the Wind (5/5)
Until Martok took his place for me, Gowron was my favorite Klingon ever. But Worf killing him in a duel was surprisingly satisfying. With everything going on, I'm pleased that Deep Space Nine also took the time to give us some resolution on the corrupt leadership of the Klingon Empire. It was so great for Ezri, having experienced close ties to the Klingons as both Curzon and Jadzia, to come out and call the Klingons out on not being able to confront that their ideals of honor are in conflict with the kind of corruption that honorable men like Martok and Worf are willing to accept.

23. Extreme Measures (5/5)
Wow, Bashir has a real ruthless streak; we've seen him develop now from playing with spy programs to becoming the real thing. For an episode swinging on such a potentially hokey premise as entering someone's mind, there's some real tension here that makes it work (and all of the deep bromance stuff going on between Julian and Miles weaves in some good character stuff).

24. The Dogs of War (5/5)
With all of the stuff going on here (Kasidy's pregnancy, the new Defiant, the Cardassian uprising), I'm so glad that we get one last farewell to the Ferengi, complete with an appearance by Liquidator Brunt and Quark mistakenly thinking he's going to become Grand Nagus. And Rom becoming Nagus is such a fantastic twist; I'm so happy for the way Rom's story has come to a conclusion. It's with this episode that I really get the sense of ending. We've got Rom safely made Grand Nagus of a new, equal Ferenginar, and Quark firmly ensconced in his bar... things are coming to a close.

25. What You Leave Behind (5/5)
Beautiful. What grand closure. I'm so glad for some of the breathing space we get here, where the battle takes place and the war ends--I like, by the way, how the Dominion War ends on a note of understanding, with Odo healing the Female Changeling--and we get some time to decompress before the final conflict between Sisko and Dukat among the Pah-wraiths. It's interesting how this episode ends, too, with so many goodbyes: Odo rejoining the Link in order to heal his people and hopefully change their minds about the solids, Worf being made the Federation's ambassador to the Klingon Empire, and O'Brien returning to Earth to become a teacher. Every major relationship on this show is severed, but not in a way that is painful or cheap. Even Sisko having to join the Prophets instead of being allowed to settle on Bajor and raise a family is somehow optimistic and hopeful, and that last shot--with Jake looking out towards the wormhole and waiting for his father to return--is a magical coda to this amazing series.

I would like to be able to see this universe in the future; as I half-joked earlier, the Next Next Generation. It's still too soon, but I don't want Star Trek: Nemesis to be as far as we go in the world of Star Trek. In the future, I'd like to see the repercussions of the Dominion War and our alliance with the Romulan Star Empire, and see how it all develops. One day, that would be nice.

But for now, and maybe for always, Deep Space Nine is the high point of Star Trek for me.

For now, I've already started Voyager. I'm not enthusiastic with it so far, but it's only a first season, and I want to give it a chance.

But maybe six, seven years in the future, I may have to sit down and watch Deep Space Nine all over again...


Tallulah Morehead said...

When Voyager ends, an ending I loved, you are deeper into the Star Trek universe timeline than Nemesis I believe. And of course, Voyager takes you MUCH deeper into the Star Trek Universe spatially, as geographically you are as far from earth as Star Trek ever got, so you're always exploring strange new worlds.(I thought Nemesis was a really lame film, and I've seen enough of Tom Hardy since to know he'll never grow into a Patrick Stewart clone.)

Be patient with Voyager. It takes until Seven-of-Nine is introduced to really get good.

My old,old friend David Stipes, whom I've known since we were in high school together, making amateur films together, and am still good friends with, was on the effects design team for Voyager's start-up, and is one of the handfull of men who designed the Voyager ship. If you were looking closely, you'll have been seeing David's name in the Deep Space Nine closing crdits many times, and you will still be seeing his name in the Voyager closing credits for the first two seasons.

I also have an actor friend named Tory Christopher, whose name you never saw in the Deep Space Nine credits, who did extra work on that series its last three years. He became a member of Dr. Bashir's team, and is usually seen with Bashir. Tory was lucky; he got to play a human, so he didn't have to show up at Paramount at 4 AM every day, but could get there at 7 AM like a civilized person. They never really established a character, or even a name, for him, and in the final season, he was killed at least three times.

I was with him in a bar one night while Deep Space Nine was still in production, when a bunch of Trekkies came in. (There was a Trek convention in town at the time.) When they learned that Tory was on the show, they took him off to a table in the corner, and quizzed him for two hours. It was his one night of celebrity. (He's an actor's agent now.)

SamuraiFrog said...

One of the few things I do remember about Nemesis--and it really is a lame and unmemorable movie--is Kate Mulgrew's cameo as Admiral Janeway. I don't even remember what she says, I just remember seeing her talking to Picard via viewscreen. That movie just refuses to anchor itself in my memory, and I think I've seen it three times... What a lousy finale for Picard and crew.

I'm just four episodes into the second season of Voyager now, and it's starting to pick up, I think. There have been some interesting character episodes. I'm really interested to see where it continues to go.

Tallulah Morehead said...

I saw Nemesis once only, when it came out. All I remember is how Hardy looked, and how surprised I was when I started seeing him in other stuff, to find out he was attractive. But it was always obvious those lips of his would never be Stewart's. I totally forgot that Janeway was in it. Totally. So then yes, it's deeper into the future than the end of Voyager.

I got to see Kate Mulgrew in a one-woman show at the Pasadena Playhouse about 6 or 7 years ago, where she played Kate Hepburn. Act 1she was Hepburn at the height of her career, and in act 2 she was the old Hepburn of her last appearences, in quite a make-up. She was terrific, though the play was only so-so at best, and the audience were full of Trekkies who never heard of Kate Hepburn, and were just waiting to get autographs after she stopped going on about some old movie star.

I liked Voyager, which by dint of where they are, had to be full of new aliens and conflicts, though I liked it best when what I feel are the best ST villains show up, and it is the arc of Seven of Nine that made it fascinating for me. since Voyager has to go right through these baddies' main territory.

Janeway is a good character, and that Maquis conflict gets forgotten about fairly soon, since it's a conflict rooted in a war now far, far away, which will be long over before Voyager gets home. It's Lost in Space for the non-moron.