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WARNING: The following article contains spoiler information for the entire second season of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". As such, those not familiar with the season and wary of spoilers may want to steer clear.

Well, here it is, at long last -- and far later than I expected. Sorry for the delays; I hope it's worth the wait.

As with last year's review, this contains first a show-by-show commentary, and then some general comments to wrap everything up. So, we might as well get underway...

I. Season 2, Episode by Episode

"The Homecoming"
Written by: Jeri Taylor and Ira Steven Behr (story); Ira Steven Behr (teleplay)
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe
Initial rating: 10.
Quotables:

"You can't expect a politician to give up an opportunity like this."
"And I had done nothing but shoot an unarmed Cardassian in his underwear."
["How I got *into* his underwear I'll never know..." Sorry.]
"But it's all based on a lie!" "No, it's based on a *legend* -- and legends can be as powerful as any truth."

"The Homecoming" definitely picked up the pace where season 1 left off. Bajor in turmoil, the return of an epic hero, a quest into the very stronghold of the enemy fortress (sort of) -- this was epic stuff in the making, and a marvelous intro to the Li Nalas arc. Richard Beymer and Frank Langella were both wondrous in their guest roles, the dialogue snapped like crazy, and all in all this was a terrific show. (The one nitpick: why *was* O'Brien so calm when volunteering for a suicide mission? He's got a family, after all. Still, if *I* were father to a child that was growing twice as fast as time actually progresses, I might run off too. :-) )

Final rating: 10.

"The Circle"
Written by: Peter Allan Fields
Directed by: Corey Allen
Initial rating: 10.
Quotables: Tons of them...

"Will someone PLEASE explain this conversation to me?"
"It might be interesting to explore useless for a while..."
"We've got to leave! Well, I do, anyway; you can just turn into a couch."
... and a chilling "No one despises the Cardassians more than I, Major -- but we did learn a few things from them."

The epic kept going here, and showed every sign of blowing the lid off of most of past Trek in terms of quality. The Circle's pervasiveness and implacability, most of the Winn/Bareil interaction, the political dance of Jaro and Winn ... that was powerful stuff. Add to that the flat-out zaniness of the conversation in Kira's quarters, and the intensity of Kira's vision, and you've got one of DS9's best to date.

Final rating: 10.

"The Siege"
Written by: Michael Piller
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe
Initial rating: 7.
Quotables:

"Where are you RUNNING to?" [not a great line, but spectacular delivery!]
"Don't you like combat rations?" "A French onion soup would've *really* been nice..."
"I'd die for my people -- " "Sure you would. Dying gets you off the hook."

Unfortunately, the strength couldn't last. "The Siege" is by no means bad, but given the epic feel and sense of wonder in the first two parts, to have a "wham-bam-"here's your station back, ma'am" cutoff like this smacks all too suspiciously of previous Trek cliffhangers that ended with a fizzle. "The Siege" had a lot of nice action, to be sure, and some decent strategizing in the Sisko/Krim duel of wills, but Colonel Day screamed "plot hurrier", Li's death was a disappointingly "conventional" move, and the sense of foreboding on Bajor seemed far more broken than events should have dictated. Basically, " The Siege" was a nice *show*, but it'd be nice if someone had remembered to end the bloody thing.

Final rating: 6.5.

"Invasive Procedures"
Written by: John Whelpley (story); John Whelpley and Robert Hewitt Wolfe (teleplay)
Directed by: Les Landau
Initial rating: 5.
Quotables: "They reduced my entire life to one word: Unsuitable."

This show improved a bit on a second viewing, but I didn't find it nearly the powerhouse that others did, or that it could have been. Again, there was some intelligent planning on the part of the villains, and both John Glover and Megan Gallagher did good jobs with the roles they were given. All the same, the show felt lacking: Odo had to commit the all-time brainless move of his life to let the plot progress, Quark took an action which should have resulted in his permanent departure from the station (which makes his continued presence implausible at best), and the Bashir/Jadzia end of the plot didn't ring true for me at all. Plus, Quark's squealing is about as
pleasant as nails on a chalkboard -- and in stereo, too. Oh, joy.

Final rating: 6.

"Cardassians"
Written by: Gene Wolande & John Wright (story); James Crocker (teleplay)
Directed by: Cliff Bole
Initial rating: 9.
Quotables: "I am no more a spy than you are -- " "-- a doctor."
"So, you deduced that Garak thinks Dukat is lying about something you're not sure of, and you proceeded to interrupt my conversation to confront him about whatever that might be." "I'm sorry, Commander." "Don't apologize -- it's been the high point of my day. DON'T do it again."
"I was in the underground." "Really? Perhaps we HAVE met!"

About the only negative I could find in this show was Sisko's final decision about Rugal, and that's more a gut "oh, bad move" feeling than an actual dramatic problem. Beyond that, we had some nice work with O'Brien
confronting his own biases -- and more than that, enough political scheming with Garak, Dukat, Pa'Dar, Sisko, and Bashir to satisfy most with a taste for it. This was also the first in a series of Really Good Bashir Shows [tm].

Final rating: 9.5.

"Melora"
Written by: Evan Carlos Somers (story); Evan Carlos Somers and Steven Baum and Michael Piller & James Crocker (teleplay)
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe
Initial rating: 2.5.
Quotables: "There's nothing worse than half-dead rakht."

"Melora", on the other hand, was one in a hopefully very short list of Really Bad Bashir Shows [tm refused]. While the Klingon restaurant was a definite high point, and there was a trace of honest emotion in Bashir's face once or twice, "Melora" combined screaming doses of implausibility (Melora's physique, Bashir's inexperience in zero-g, etc.) with a bludgeoning message about disabilities, and seasoned to distaste with a healthy dose of deus ex machina, delivered by phaser no less. I think I understand what the writers were trying for here ... but this definitely wasn't it (I hope).

Final rating: 2.5.

"Rules of Acquisition"
Written by: Hilary Bader (story); Ira Steven Behr (teleplay)
Directed by: David Livingston
Initial rating: 4.
Quotables: None good enough to mention.

Once again, I seem at odds with the net where Ferengi episodes are concerned. Most people hated "The Nagus" last year, and I loved it. On the other hand, "Rules of Acquisition" seemed well received from what I remember; and it fell really, really flat for me. Grand Nagus Zek was entertaining in "The Nagus" because he was new, and because he appeared in small doses; neither was the case here, alas, and as such he was well beyond wearing. To its credit, the show *tried* to have a point, but reminded me of "The Outcast" in some ways, being both bludgeoning and sexist about it. Other good points included Dax's casual acceptance of Pel (with some interesting hints about her attitude towards sexuality as well), and a healthy dose of canniness for Rom. Beyond that, though, the only draw was chuckling at the Dozai, who must have been spawned by some unholy genetic cross of the World Wrestling Federation and Oompa-Loompas. :-)

Final rating: 4.

"Necessary Evil"
Written by: Peter Allan Fields
Directed by: James L. Conway
Initial rating: 10.
Quotables:
"My own very adequate memory not being good enough for Starfleet, I am pleased to put my voice to this official record of this day. Everything's under control. End log." "You're not as stupid as you look." "I am too!"
"Have you ever seen a dead man before?" "Yes -- in your mines."
"Are these kinds of thoughts appropriate for a Starfleet log? I don't care."

Wow. This is quite possibly DS9's best show to date (though "Duet" is still a serious rival as well). The only problem with it is that Rom's screaming isn't any more entertaining than Quark's -- but fortunately, this time it was short. Other than that, the lack of followup where Odo's trust in Kira is concerned is troubling, but it's a problem with the series, not the episode. On the other hand, we had here a show with a surprisingly nice set of bits with Rom, some riveting flashback sequences, particularly between Odo and Dukat (though Odo/Kira is close), atmosphere oozing out of every shot (thanks in very large part to director James L. Conway), and a tight, tight story that pulled no punches. It's a shame Peter Allan Fields is gone; between this and "Duet", it's pretty clear that he will be missed.

Final rating: 10.

"Second Sight"
Written by: Mark Gehred-O'Connell (story); Mark Gehred-O'Connell and Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe (teleplay)
Directed by: Alexander Singer
Initial rating: 3.5.
Quotables: "-- and of course, it doesn't hurt to be a raging egomaniac."
"I thought the theoretical maximum for those engines was warp 9.5." "It was."

I must have been in a lousy mood when I first watched "Sanctuary", because in retrospect I was far, *far* too harsh. Yes, there's not exactly an overflow of chemistry between Sisko and Fenna; yes, the technobabble about the star's reignition was terrible; and yes, the dialogue got a little strained from time to time. But Richard Kiley's Seyetik, which for some reason really turned me off at first, grew on me quite a bit later on, and turned into one of the show's high points. Add to that some nice conflict between the two, amusing work with Sisko/Dax and Sisko/Jake, and you have a show that really isn't bad. (Not *great*, but not bad at all...)

[As a further question -- did Seyetik remind anyone (in bearing, anyway) as somewhat Asimov-like?]

Final rating: 6.5.

"Sanctuary"
Written by: Gabe Essoe & Kelley Miles (story); Frederick Rappaport (teleplay)
Directed by: Les Landau
Initial rating: 6.
Quotables: "It's hard to keep a secret in Ops, especially when you've been shouting at a monitor for two days."

"Sanctuary", on the other hand, seems to be getting duller with age. Although much of the basic story about the Skrreeans was sound, and Haneek was a very well made character (at least late in the show), the episode also got saddled with an ultra-sluggish start, lots of silliness with the Universal Translator, guest characters that were unpleasant in ways beyond the intended ones (Minister Rozan and Tumak being two big examples), and execution that just sort of padded along hoping to spur some interest somewhere. I'm not sure how much of it they got.

Final rating: 5.

"Rivals"
Written by: Jim Trombetta and Michael Piller (story); Joe Menosky (teleplay)
Directed by: David Livingston
Initial rating: 6.
Quotables:
"You had a game?" "No, HE had a game. I just kinda stumbled around the court for 90 minutes making a complete ass of myself."

"Rivals" was basically fluff, and a lot of it worked -- but only up to a point. While most of the racquetball plot between O'Brien and Bashir had me on the floor, there were some decent incidental moments (particular Bashir
looking for a working saltshaker during lunch with Dax), and Martus's final comeuppance was pleasant, the show basically looked like it was boring several of the major actors involved, Chris Sarandon in particular.
"Rivals"'s only big problem was that it seemed extremely slow; another ten minutes of plot might have helped thicken things out a lot more. Otherwise, it's okay if you've a slow hour to kill. :-)

Final rating: 6.

"The Alternate"
Written by: Jim Trombetta and Bill Dial (story); Bill Dial (teleplay)
Directed by: David Carson
Initial rating: 7.
Quotables: "I have five thousand pieces of Pleg in my storeroom!"
"Just because you suffered through [Klingon opera] doesn't mean I have to!" "Yes it does!" [that *grin*!]
"All things considered, the computer's having a bad week."
"I prescribe rest -- because it's hard for a doctor to go wrong with that one."

"The Alternate" could have been so much more than it was that it almost hurts to see the lost potential. With James Sloyan in another major Trek guest-star role and a story with some "father/son" conflict between Odo and Dr. Mora, this should've been riveting. Somehow, though, it wasn't. It had moments that were terrific (the Odo/Mora confrontation in security being the major one), but there was also the entire subplot of the pillar (which turned out to have zero relevance to anything), a rather pronounced "Alien" knockoff with O'Brien, and a story that just didn't quite ... connect. I'm not sure exactly what did happen here, but "The Alternate" wasn't nearly the powerhouse it should have been.

Final rating: 6.

"Armageddon Game"
Written by: Morgan Gendel
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe
Initial rating: 8.5.
Quotables: "Extension courses?"
"I'm not blind, you know." "Of course not -- but you *are* married."

The mid-season lull started to shake itself off once "Armageddon Game" came into view. While neither of the enemy diplomats were particularly convincing, the show had a few too many "hold at gunpoint long enough for
a miraculous escape" cliches than was good for it, and there was one somewhat nagging plot hole (in that the Harvesters actually *weren't* destroyed!), there was a nice premise here with a lot of solid execution, and the
Bashir/O'Brien interplay was among the best this pair has had to date. Morgan Gendel's second DS9 story was certainly light-years ahead of his first, last season's "The Passenger"; this one worked.

Final rating: 7.5.

"Whispers"
Written by: Paul Robert Coyle
Directed by: Les Landau
Initial rating: 9.5.
Quotables: "How's the sex life?" "I don't HAVE a sense of humor."
"I believe you've poked into every orifice in my body -- and created a few new ones."
"They *GOT* to you..."

Whew. Now that was *much* more like it. On a first run, "Whispers" grabbed me by the throat and didn't let me go until the final minutes -- and it was every bit as riveting a few months later. The oddness of O'Brien's situation works both before and after the truth is revealed, O'Brien has some great sleuthing moments, and the show oozed paranoia out of every frame. Being a big fan of paranoia myself :-), this wasn't to be missed. About the only significant problem "Whispers" has is the ending, which is strikingly fast and a little perplexing -- just why *would* the crew let the replicant O'Brien die without any attempts to save him? All in all, "Whispers" is one of DS9's better efforts this season.

Final rating: 9.5.

"Paradise"

Written by: Jim Trombetta and James Crocker (story); Jeff King and Richard Manning & Hans Beimler (teleplay)
Directed by: Corey Allen
Initial rating: 6.5.
Quotables:
"My name is Joseph; Vinod's the one playing with the sharp object."
"Interesting philosophy -- and while we're discussing it, a woman is dying."

"Paradise" seems to have hooked a lot of viewers far more than it did me, even after I heard all the wonderful arguments in its favor. The show's got a lot to recommend it: Alixus's intensity, a good old-fashioned battle of
wills, a stark and brutal plot full of fairly nasty imagery, and some smart thinking from Sisko and O'Brien once they're *in* the situation. But even so, there are a lot of elements that drag it down in minor ways: the naked
idiocy of Sisko and O'Brien *getting* themselves into the situation in the first place, a very out-of-place seduction sequence, an ending that seems grossly unfair, and the fact that Gail Strickland just got a bit too
"breathy" at times to be a convincing Alixus. "Paradise" is hardly a bad show -- in fact, it's perfectly fine -- but it's not one of the greats, either.

Final rating: 7.

"Shadowplay]]"[[
Written by: Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by: Robert Scheerer
Initial rating: 7.5.
Quotables:
"After seven lifetimes, the impersonal questions aren't much fun any more."
"Are we being accused of some kind of crime?" "Have you committed one?"
"You follow springball?" "Religiously! If you'll pardon the expression."

If "Shadowplay" had limited itself to the main plot (Odo and the holo-village), it might have been a 9 or higher, as that plot, while a little hoary, was executed absolutely beautifully. Noley Thornton continued to prove that at least *some* of Trek's guest children can act, and everything fell into place as neatly as anyone could wish for. Unfortunately, we also had the "Bareil's in heat" subplot, which left me very unimpressed: that pair is capable of a lot better, as we saw in "The Circle" and would see later in "The Collaborator".

Final rating: 8.

"Playing God"
Written by: Jim Trombetta (story); Jim Trombetta and Michael Piller (teleplay)
Directed by: David Livingston
Initial rating: 8.
Quotables: "Phasers on stun, Mr. O'Brien. I want those voles taken ALIVE."
"Serious? No. I just threw my whole life out a porthole. Nothing serious."

Oof. On a repeat viewing, "Playing God" tumbled quite a bit. Like "Rivals" and a couple of other episodes this season, "Playing God"'s biggest fault was that it was sleepwalking. (Its second biggest fault was Geoffrey Blake, who made Arjin about as interesting as a lint filter.) That's a shame, because the Dax/Arjin plot had a lot going for it, for once addressing Dax having to adjust herself to her new life and new persona -- and the Sisko/Dax conversation about Arjin proved that quite handily. The "proto-universe" plot was a waste of time, but the rest of it could have worked handily given the right conditions. Ah, well; better luck next time.

Final rating: 6.5.

"Profit and Loss"
Written by: Flip Kobler & Cindy Marcus
Directed by: Robert Wiemer
Initial rating: 6.
Quotables:
"If you're not a spy, maybe you're an outcast." "Or maybe I'm an outcast spy."
"So, how well does this woman know you? Just enough to dislike you, or well enough to *really* hate you?"
"She wants to know if it hurts. Of course it hurts, it's supposed to hurt, it's a PHASER..."
"They made you a Gul? I didn't realize the situation on Cardassia had gotten so desperate."

My opinion of this one didn't change that much. I said months ago that Garak was the show's saving grace, and that's still quite true. Why anyone came up with the idea of a "Casablanca" pastiche for DS9 I'll never know, but Armin Shimerman, for all his charm, is *hardly* Bogart -- and a Quark love story seems quite likely to be one of Trek's more definite oxymorons. Garak had a lot of good moments, both with Quark and with Sisko, but unfortunately the two lovebirds (Quark and Natima) had no chemistry to speak of, and the show
made up for it with plot holes (Gul Toran having free rein of the station in particular). Fortunately, this was the last really weak episode of the season, and even it was watchable.

Final rating: 5.5.

"Blood Oath"
Written by: Peter Allan Fields (television story and teleplay); based on material by Andrea Moore Alton
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe
Initial rating: 9.5.
Quotables: "It's been a Klingon afternoon."
"Now our warriors are opening restaurants, and serving rakht to the grandchildren of men I slaughtered in battle."
"Kang thinks too much -- Koloth doesn't feel enough."
"I was once, if you remember, far less than you see -- and far more than I've become."
"There is tension on your face, Koloth -- you ought to drink more!"

"Blood Oath" may annoy TOS purists who wanted the three Klingons to reference Kirk in their every word and deed, but I doubt it'll rile anyone else. Dax, on the face of it the *least* likely person you'd expect to hang out with Klingons, proved her worth many times over to them, and it's a shame that the power of the no-words-necessary ending hasn't been addressed since. The stars of this Viking epic, though, were clearly the three Klingons, and with the exception of the occasional off-key moment from William Campbell, all three proved more than up to recreating their bygone roles: Kor as the body, Koloth as the mind, and Kang as the heart of the trio. John Colicos, in particular, was a joy to behold, stealing most of the best lines. This was drama at close to its best.

Final rating: 9.5.

"The Maquis, Part I"
Written by: Rick Berman & Michael Piller & Jeri Taylor and James Crocker (story); James Crocker (teleplay)
Directed by: David Livingston
Initial rating: 9.
Quotables: "The demilitarized zone." "Not so demilitarized, I'm afraid."
"Education is power -- joy is vulnerability."
"Untie my hands before you start trying to blame me, Mr. O'Brien!"
"Say what you like [about the Cardassian occupation] -- it was SAFER then."

Only two things hurt this episode: the "let's be stupid and beam down into an enemy camp without a way out" cliffhanger, and Bernie Casey. With all apologies to Mr. Casey, his stilted style simply wasn't right for Cal Hudson, a man who'd lost a lot and decided to fight back the only way he could. Most everything else about "The Maquis, Pt. I", however, worked like a charm, from the realization that the Federation can still be naive in its "moral high ground", to the dark side of Odo's security-conscious ways, to the power of the Sisko/Dukat sequences both here and in part II. We saw the opening of a can of worms here; one that's not likely to slam shut any time soon.

Final rating: 8.5.

"The Maquis, Part II"
Written by: Rick Berman & Michael Piller & Jeri Taylor and Ira Steven Behr (story); Ira Steven Behr (teleplay)
Directed by: Corey Allen
Initial rating: 9.5.
Quotables: "You don't want peace, Cal; you want *revenge*."
"You look out the window of Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it's easy to be a *saint* in Paradise."
"Tell him -- I still have his uniform. He can have it back any time he wants."
"-- that if the Maquis did not execute you, then the Central Command would -- *after* a comforting trial, I'm sure."
"Because Vulcans don't lie?" "As a rule, they don't." "They don't blow up ships either, as a rule."
"I thought you were strong, Commander. You're not. You're a fool, a sentimental fool."

Ouch. Part two of "The Maquis" pulled even fewer punches than part one, again erring only with Bernie Casey's Hudson. Both Sisko and Dukat, the other two legs of the Sisko/Dukat/Hudson triangle, were so good that it hurt to cut away from their scenes, which isn't something I can say very often. Add to that some nice subtext with the uniform, surprisingly nice action sequences at the end, and for once an acknowledgement that problems *don't* always get solved this fast, and you've got a serious hook on which to hang other good stories in the future.

Final rating: 9.5.

"The Wire"
Written by: Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by: Kim Friedman
Initial rating: 9.5.
Quotables: "In my expert medical opinion, I'd say it's ... sick."
"There's always Quark's." "True, but I'm really not in the mood for noisy, crowded and vulgar today."
"I wasn't yelling; I was just expressing my opinion, LOUDLY."
"I hope you don't have one of those little bugs hidden in my quarters." "Should I?"
"Doctor, did anyone ever tell you that you are an infuriating pest?!" "Chief O'Brien, ALL the time, and I don't pay any attention to HIM, either."
"My dear doctor, they're *all* true." "Even the lies?" "Especially the lies."

Whew. This was one of the more intense shows of the season -- and given the intensity of much of this season, that says a lot. Although the implication at the end of the show that "everything's fine now" undercuts the power of the show far more than I'd like, everything else was superb, from the casual menace of Enabran Tain, to still more of Odo's dark side (which I'd love to see more of later), to the answers-without-answers we got where Garak is concerned, to the strength of the Bashir/Garak interactions themselves, particularly in Garak's "withdrawal". If the ending had been stronger, "The Wire" would've been an easy 10. As it is...

Final rating: 9.

"Crossover"
Written by: Peter Allan Fields (story); Peter Allan Fields and Michael Piller (teleplay)
Directed by: David Livingston
Initial rating: 10.
Quotables: "I do admire a well-tailored gown."
"The players are all the same, but ... everyone seems to be playing different parts."
"You're the perfect gift for the girl who has everything!"
"You're looking in the wrong place for a hero, *ma'am*."
"I am a decent man!"
"Starfleet would probably have a big problem with [taking O'Brien along] ... to hell with them. Let's go."
"Have you lost your mind?" "No. I didn't lose it. I just ... changed it."

Okay, everyone has a weaknesses: battle-heavy shows, relationship-heavy shows, whatever. Mine is "what ifs", and even if objectively this show had a few weaknesses (the gratuitous destruction of mirror-Odo, for instance, and the slightly overdone opening dialogue), the return to the mirror-universe was done well enough that my interest in such stories took over. Even objectively, though, there's a lot to recommend "Crossover". Nana Visitor is breathtaking in her double role (being downright unsettling as mirror-Kira), Avery Brooks shows more snarling life than he has in virtually his whole tenure as Sisko to date, and O'Brien's pathos is surprisingly
effective. Sure, maybe the story's a little thin: frankly, I don't care. I loved it.

Final rating: 9.5.

"The Collaborator"
Written by: Gary Holland (story); Gary Holland and Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe (teleplay)
Directed by: Cliff Bole
Initial rating: 8.
Quotables:
"I know you're under a terrible strain, but if you're wise -- you will never speak to me with such disrespect again."
"Perfect. Not only is it illegal, it's *sacrilegious*."
"The question is, where will she lead us?" "Down paths she cannot possibly imagine. She's going to need our help along the way, even if she doesn't realize it yet."

Forget "Shadowplay" -- it's shows like "The Collaborator" that show how the Kira/Bareil relationship *really* progresses. Though I wish there'd been a bit more gradual closeness between the two seen on-screen, the relationship still *felt* established when we saw it, and the threat to it presented by Bareil's past seemed all too real. Beyond that, the politicking and the plot twists were up to the episode's high standards, and the Orb visions were marvelous. And actually making the "difficult" choice and putting Winn in the Kai's position? Eep. The only serious problem the show had was the Kubus subplot, which seemed to vanish without a trace. Other than that, this is yet another keeper.

Final rating: 9.

"Tribunal"
Written by: Bill Dial
Directed by: Avery Brooks
Initial rating: 6.
Quotables:
"Is he gone?" "Finally." "Good. He's been driving me crazy all day."
"Must've been someone else in bed with us."
"You have the right to refuse to answer questions; however, such refusal may be construed as a sign of guilt."
"I'm no angel -- but I try to live each day as the best human being I can be."

Irk. This was the only weak spot of the last third of the season, and it only gets weaker with age. Although the station's reaction to O'Brien's plight was handled quite well (particularly Bashir's hero-worship and Kira's
worms of doubt), and O'Brien himself was pretty well done, the plot itself just didn't gel right. Cardassian "justice" was too much like a parody of current justice, and everyone was way too over the top in making sure that We Got The Point. "Tribunal" had its moments (Bashir being "addressed" by the Maquis, for instance, was a chiller), but not nearly enough of them.

Final rating: 5.5.

"The Jem'Hadar"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr
Directed by: Kim Friedman
Initial rating: 8.
Quotables:
"Don't you find [Keogh] just a *little* arrogant?" "Funny -- he said the same thing about you."
"Now, if you'll excuse me -- I have a lock to pick."
"Lieutenant, have you ever thought of serving on a starship?" "I'm happy where I am." "Good."

And thus the season came to an end -- with a bang, but at least partially *only* for the sake of ending with a bang, or so it seemed. Although a lot of the Jake/Nog stuff wasn't nearly as unpleasant as I found it in June, some of it still doesn't work, and a lot of the slapstick with Quark's discomfort in the outdoors was just flat-out unwatchable. However, the Dominion were properly enigmatic and menacing for a first threat, Eris was a remarkably terrific character to watch, and there were lots of good moments all around, from Kira's reaction to New Bajor's destruction to Quark's idea of selling "collectibles" on the monitors. ("Quark's Video Collectibles", as someone put it -- whoever thought it up, it's a great image.) There have been better season-ending episodes on Trek, but this shows a lot of future promise.

Final rating: 8.5.

Taking an average (for whatever it's worth), we come up with an even 7.5 for this season: not bad at all, and an improvement over last season (not to mention this season of TNG!). However, there's certainly a lot to say about the season as a whole. So...

II. Season 2 -- General Commentary


DS9definitely had a season of transition -- and for the most part, a lot of the good elements of last year were kept while some of the bad ones were diminished or removed. There was definitely a good year to be found here, with fully half of the episodes falling in the "8 or higher" realm. Not surprisingly, most of the good shows fell in either the beginning (e.g. the opening two parts of the arc, "Necessary Evil", etc.) or the end of the season (e.g. "The Maquis", "Crossover", "The Wire", etc.).

In fact, there was a definite mid-season slump. Only two shows of the middle nine fell in the "8 and up" region so far as I could see: "Whispers" and "Shadowplay", the latter by a whisker. By comparison, four of the first nine were very strong, and fully seven of the final eight were major successes. This would suggest that there's room for improvement, but mid-season is where you'd expect people to get tired without seeing an end in sight, so it makes some sense to me.

Character-wise, I think there were a lot of gains. Kira is finding more and more that being "on the other side now", as "Progress" put it, is far from an easy task: "Sanctuary", for all its faults, put her very much in touch with that point, and "The Collaborator" made her realize how much of what she idolizes is even more ambiguous than she thought. That's a rather nice bit of complexity in a genre that too often lacks it -- more power to it.

Also making a lot of progress were Bashir and Odo. The good doctor, while still youthful and idealistic (and damned annoying about it at times, too :-) ), is starting to have to deal with more difficult matters, in "Cardassians" and "The Wire" in particular. While so far he has a good track record, I have my hopes that he'll run up against problems he *can't* solve with a pure heart once in a while; it'll do him good. Odo, on the other
hand, is going the opposite route: his intense preoccupation with safety is proving to have some rather sinister undercurrents to it. I can't say strongly enough how much I *like* that: extremism in virtually any cause can be damned dangerous, and Odo can be dark without turning into a "bad guy" character. (Care needs to be taken not to try the latter without proper precautions, though: "The Alternate" is proof enough of that.)

O'Brien is about where he was last year, so there's not much to say beyond "give the man some growth!". Dax is slowly starting to come to terms with how she differs now from what she was, and both "Playing God" and "Blood Oath" helped her along considerably; I hope to see more of that development.

Sisko is a surprisingly mixed bag. While his command presence is generally good, and I think Avery Brooks is usually doing a fine job, I get the impression that more often than not, the writers don't quite know what to do with him. It's a telling point that many of Sisko's blown-against-the-wall, absolute *best* scenes this season were playing off of Gul Dukat, of all people. Not to detract from Dukat, who's turned into one of Trek's best
recurring villains, but shouldn't Sisko have some powerful moments with his *crew* every so often? For the most part this year, he hasn't; stuff with Dukat has been strong, and most of his scenes with Jake have also held up -- but other than that, there's, well ... not much *there* there. I'm not sure myself what might be good to do with the character at this point (if I did, I'd be writing it :-) ), but I get the impression the character's drifting. As I said last year, we need to see more of what *he* thinks and feels, rather than simply having him react to others.

Then, lastly, we've got Quark, who's the only character I think has regressed a bit. When we don't have cases of the "Quark's scheming gets the station in trouble, but he never gets serious consequences" syndrome a la "Invasive
Procedures", we get Meaningful [tm] Quark stories such as "Profit and Loss" and "Rules of Acquisition." The problem: those stories are laughably mediocre most of the time. Quark may, unfortunately, be stuck in the comic relief role most of the time. That's not bad, but the more scenes like Quark's speech in "The Jem'Hadar" the better; the character deserves a little depth that actually rings true.

Plotwise, DS9 is turning remarkably intricate, and I can't say I'm sorry about it. We've got political turmoil on Bajor (the opening arc) which should still be unresolved, a religious leader who is opposed to the Federation and many of the regular character, internal dissension within the Federation (the Maquis), and the looming threat of an invasion from the other side of the wormhole. That's an awful lot to bring up in a season.

In fact, if anything I'm worried there may be *too many* balls in the air right now. Done right, a lot of these storylines can interweave together and reinforce each other, and I'm hoping to see it. Done wrongly, however, the eventual resolutions of these crises may seem very color-by-numbers: "okay, we resolved the major Maquis problem last week; how about the Kai this time?" I'm not sure how that will look, and I hope very much to see some subtle blendings of all of this together. The writers have already proven they're capable of bringing up intricate ideas: now it's time to hope that they can take it a step further without blowing the resolution (which, alas, *did* happen in the opening arc, and has certainly happened with distressing frequency in Trek history).

If it were up to me, I'm not sure I'd have brought in the Dominion. There's nothing wrong with it per se, but my tastes run more towards internal, cultural/political issues such as the Maquis and the feuding over the next Kai -- not a looming "Threat from Beyond the Wormhole!". I said last year that we can see a lot more of the internal workings of the Federation and a lot more of the recruitment process to bring a planet together and into the Federation given this setting, and I'm still hoping to see it. The Dominion's presence may blunt that, which would be a shame.

However, the initial look we've gotten at the Dominion seems strong enough to support a lot of stories, but I hope it doesn't fall into the trap that the Borg did, namely that of an overwhelmingly powerful enemy beaten by
technobabble. The Dominion are an alliance, and before they fall (as they no doubt will, eventually; I can't imagine the series getting so radical as to have the Feds *lose* in the end), I think we ought to see a lot of how the Dominion ticks. That would still give us a look into how the Federation ticks, by contrast if nothing else; and it would give us a feeling of a real enemy rather than as "something to be blasted and nothing else". If this is to be a conflict of cultures, let's see the *cultures*, not just the armaments.

That said, I've two other points: one a question, and one a wish.

The question is this: why *did* Peter Allan Fields leave DS9? The official explanation, that "the writing didn't measure up" or something akin, doesn't make any sense; the man wrote "Duet", "Necessary Evil", "Crossover", "The Circle", among others -- and those are among DS9's very best. The only plausible explanation I can come up with (assuming it was a business reason and not a personal issue -- contrary to rumor, Hollywood does have such things :-) ) is that Fields's work was probably somewhat expensive to produce: major set redresses for "Necessary Evil" and "Crossover", and lots of new sets and makeup time for "Blood Oath". I wonder if that was a factor.

As for the wish: It is my fervent hope that DS9 doesn't fall into the old trap of not letting actions have consequences. There were disturbing signs of that here: Odo's feelings of betrayal in "Necessary Evil" seemed to vanish as soon as the plot demanded it, and Dax's actions in "Blood Oath" seem to have gone without repercussions [not to mention Quark's work in "Invasive Procedures", but that's a weak point in and of itself]. That makes it all too easy to let a series turn into "magic shows": shows where anything outrageous can happen or be introduced, because it will never come back to haunt anyone or anything. We're seeing a lot of character growth already; don't duck it just because it might mean character conflict (*real* conflict, not O'Brien getting annoyed at puppy-dog Bashir).

That would seem to about do it. DS9 had a thoroughly enjoyable season this year, and I hope it can continue to improve even more as the next season unfolds. Onwards!

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
BITNET: tlynch@citjulie
INTERNET: tly...@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP: ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.caltech....@hamlet.caltech.edu
"Well, it's easy to be a SAINT in Paradise."
-- Sisko, "The Maquis, Part II"

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