WARNING: This article has spoilers for the third season (and seasons before) of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". Proceed at your own risk.

Well, at long last, here's the season-end review as promised. (I'd give my usual apologies and excuses for the delay -- a very busy month, the fact that I re-watch the episodes before writing this, etc. -- but you probably know them better than I do at this point.) The format should look pretty familiar, too; first I'll have some capsule
notes about each episode and then some general remarks. So, on we go:

I. Season 3, Episode by Episode

"The Search, Part I"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe (story); Ronald D. Moore (teleplay)
Directed by: Kim Friedman
Initial rating: 6.5
"When did I start thinking of this ... Cardassian monstrosity ... as home?"
"Can I speak freely? [nod] What the HELL is wrong with Starfleet?"
"I'm your friend -- you know, the one who talks to you when she needs help."

"Big changes" were spoken of during the break between seasons, and this episode certainly tried to show off many of them. And many of them worked, at least in concept -- the Defiant seemed a reasonable reaction to both the Borg and the Dominion, the Federation crackdown on Odo was long in coming (if quickly abandoned), and the sense of wonder regarding Odo finding his home was well shown. However, many other elements seemed entirely too forced to work: Odo's hostility was overdone, things often came off totally unexplained (such as Odo's "homing instinct"), and regular characters were shown to be somewhat inept on several occasions, the primary one being the Jem'Hadar assault. In a vacuum, part 1 of "The Search" works -- but not without qualms.

Final rating: 6.5.

"The Search, Part II"
Written by: Behr & Wolfe (story); Ira Steven Behr (teleplay)
Directed by: Jonathan Frakes
Initial rating: 4.
Quotables: "I don't believe it; I'm talking to a tree."
"... the only explanation I can find it that our leaders have simply gone insane." [Garak]
"It's a little foolish to worry about your careers at a time like this, when there's a good chance we're all about to be killed." [Garak again; gotta love this guy]

"The Search, Part II", on the other hand, was the first episode to really drive home my suspicions that the "improvements" touted for the season were not likely to pan out. About the only true positive in this episode was Rene Auberjonois, who did a superb job driving home both Odo's exhilaration at finally being able to start
understanding himself and his abilities and Odo's eventual shock at finding out that his people ran the Dominion. Other than that, we had a lot of Strange Plot Moves (such as the Romulan exclusion from the peace talks for no reason and the total lack of explanation of how Odo and Kira escaped from the Defiant the previous episode), and a non-ending ending that proved one of the bigger cheats of our time. (Illusions have their uses; this wasn't one of them.) All in all, not an impressive outing.

Final rating: 3.5.

"The House of Quark"
Written by: Tom Benko (story); Ronald D. Moore (teleplay)
Directed by: Les Landau
Initial rating: 6
Quotables: "You can't ask her to turn a profession into a hobby."

"The House of Quark" was the first of three "all Quark, all the time" comedy episodes of the season. It was probably the best of the lot, too; unfortunately, that's more an indictment of the other two than high praise for this one. The subplot around the O'Briens was reasonable enough, and the initial backdrop of gloom inspired by the Dominion threat was a good idea as well. Unfortunately, most of the Quark-centered plot didn't do much for me. The single best moment the episode had was watching Klingons look on in befuddlement as Quark tried to explain high finance to them -- unfortunately, a few good moments here and there do not a wonderful episode make.

Final rating: 5.5.

Written by: Christopher Teague (story); Rene Echevarria (teleplay)
Directed by: Cliff Bole
Initial rating: 9
"Beets are a very misunderstood vegetable." [Sisko showing he has too much time on his hands...]
"I don't need therapy, Julian; I need answers."
"Can I ask what you're doing?" "Yes."

"Equilibrium" drew a lot of fire when it first aired for being "boring". I'm not really sure why. Yes, bits of it were occasionally overplayed or sluggish; and yes, the use of the Defiant for a joyride to the Trill homeworld jumps out as a bad strategic move. However, the basic concept of Dax suppressing memories of a host is a very interesting one, Dax's obsession was well shown, the music motif was put to good use, Sisko and Bashir got to have useful detective work for a change, and the hallucination sequences themselves were top-notch. This was probably the first really good episode of the season.

Final rating: 8.5.

"Second Skin"
Written by: Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by: Les Landau
Initial rating: 5
"Personally, I think Cardassia could use a few more artists."
"Commander, this is extortion." "Mmm ... yes it is."
"Don't worry, he's on our side ... I think."
...and, of course, Garak's immortal "Major, I don't think I've ever seen you looking so ravishing."

I'm not sure why I gave "Second Skin" such a low rating initially; must've been in a bad mood that week. The show certainly did have some significant flaws, the use of the Defiant and Garak's way-too-strong abilities being among them. However, Nana Visitor and Andrew Robinson were both quite good, the plot against Ghemor was
befitting the Order in many ways, and a lot of the Entek/Ghemor interplay was well worth the hour. I still wouldn't call "Second Skin" a standout, but it was certainly a good deal better than I initially thought.

Final rating: 7.

"The Abandoned"
Written by: D. Thomas Maio & Steve Warnek
Directed by: Avery Brooks
Initial rating: 5
"Sixteen years old and dating a Dabo girl? Godspeed, Jake."
"So he'll be a well-treated specimen."
"Isn't there anything else you care about [besides killing]?" "I don't think so."

"The Abandoned" strikes me as one of those shows that must have sounded good as a premise, but fell apart in the actual doing. I like the idea of the Jem'Hadar soldier wanting to belong to his people so badly that nothing else matters, and Odo's inclination to offer him other choices is certainly an understandable one. However, a far better approach could have been taken than this subtle-as-a-sledgehammer one, Bumper Robinson really underwhelmed me as the Jem'Hadar soldier, and Odo had a good deal of foolishness in his
methods that no one ever seemed to notice.

[As an intriguing aside -- so far as I can remember, the Jake/Mardah/Sisko dinner conversation is the first time that Jake is mentioned as a writer. It's interesting to see the genesis of that particular progression.]

Final rating: 5.5.

"Civil Defense"
Written by: Mike Krohn
Directed by: Reza Badiyi
Initial rating: 9
"You know, I never knew how much this man's voice annoyed me." [Sisko, on Dukat]
"-- which reminds me, those pants you wanted altered are ready to be picked up." [Garak, reacting to Bashir's "tailor" gibe]
and a pair of absolute gems from Dukat:
"Let me guess; someone tried to duplicate my access code, hm?"
and "Garak groveling in a corner; this alone makes my trip worthwhile."

"Civil Defense" is comic-book DS9, really -- there's not a whole lot of depth to it, Dukat does everything but twirl his nonexistent mustache early on, and the ending's way too sudden. However, it's good comic-book DS9; the threat is plausible and builds gradually, characters react intelligently, and there's more excellent dialogue in
this one episode than in the six prior to it in the season combined. Dukat getting caught in his own trap stands up there as one of the best "ohhhhhhh shit; this is bad" moments in the series so far.

Final rating: 8.5.

Written by: Hilary Bader and Evan Carlos Somers (story); Mark Gehred O'Connell (teleplay)
Directed by: Jonathan Frakes
Initial rating: 3
Quotables: "I don't know what to say." "That's a first."
"I just need some time ... just sixty years or so."

The less said about "Meridian", on the other hand, the better. The best element it had to offer was one of the rare emotional Sisko/Dax interchanges, which worked well; and the fact that O'Brien's magic-tech solution didn't work in the end was also well appreciated. However, we were faced with dialogue about counting spots on one hand, and a horrid plot about Kira's stalker "friend" on the other --complete with reams of technobabble to cement the edges. This one was pretty appalling.

Final rating: 2.5.

Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: Cliff Bole
Initial rating: 9.5
"At least two of these items must be used and fully enjoyed before you leave this facility."
"This is a very entertaining story ... but why am I listening to it?"
"I only wish we had someone with such keen tactical instincts." [Korinas, slapping Dukat down]
and another winner from Dukat: " -- but someone has to pay for what's happened here, and I don't want that someone to be ME."

"Defiant" was another comic-book DS9 story, albeit one with more depth. And although it did have a few problems, the "let's-have-Riker-bag-a-babe" Kira romance and the whiplash-style sudden ending being in the forefront, it was similar to "Civil Defense" in that it was a lot of good fun. Tom Riker did a good job keeping his
identity a secret while on the station, Tricia O'Neil did a beautifully eerie job as Korinas, the terrorist/hero dichotomy was used well, and in the Obsidian Order fleet we also had some early setup for the Garak
two-parter to be used later. All in all, this one's still a winner.

Final rating: 8.

Written by: Ira Steven Behr & James Crocker (story); Philip LaZebnik (teleplay)
Directed by: Avery Brooks
Initial rating: 2.5
Quotables: Not surprisingly, all of them are from the O'Brien plot.
"Chief?" "Major. ... Keiko." "Bareil."
"You're right; I'm an idiot."
Bashir & O'Brien: "How many games of racquetball have we played in the last two months?" "I don't know ... 15, maybe 20?" "Try 70; I've been keeping track of that, too. And you know what all those games have proved to me? That I'm a poor substitute for your WIFE." "I coulda told you that 60 games ago."

The O'Brien plot worked. The rest was appalling. I've no wish to speak of the matter again.

Final rating: 2.

"Past Tense, Part I"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe (story); Robert Hewitt Wolfe (teleplay)
Directed by: Reza Badiyi
Initial rating: 10
"Causing people to suffer because you hate them ... is terrible. But causing people to suffer because you have forgotten how to care -- that's really hard to understand."
"Gimmes -- no sense of fun."
and Brooks's growling "The name is Bell. Gabriel Bell."

Okay, so this one didn't age well. The technobabble was both unnecessary and godawful, and the temporal "logic" has some glaring flaws which hurt repeat looks. But I still happen to like this one quite a bit: the message, although incredibly blunt, is conveyed well through a very plausible near-future; Dax is written intelligently in an all-too-rare happenstance; and Sisko and Bashir are also well characterized. This was a case where a very strong presentation did quite a bit to shore up a story which bears little scrutiny.

Final rating: 8.

"Past Tense, Part II"
Written by: Behr & Wolfe (story); Ira Steven Behr & Rene Echevarria (teleplay)
Directed by: Jonathan Frakes
Initial rating: 5
"Personally, I'm thinkin' Tasmania."
"There are ten thousand people living in here." "Well, let them get their own hostages!"
and "I really think we should kill this guy."

Part II of "Past Tense", as when it originally aired, bore the brunt of dealing with all the rotten logic set up in part I. There were some good lines (as noted above), and Avery Brooks was tremendous as a desperate, driven Sisko-as-Bell. However, we're meant to believe that all the changes created in an effort to preserve one particular change are totally insignificant, which I can't believe; the O'Brien/Kira Temporal Tour was an example of people not knowing how to conduct a search; and the ending scene was even more bludgeoning than the message in part I -- too much so for my taste. There are some moments here and there in the episode worth watching, but not really enough.

Final rating: 4.

"Life Support"
Written by: Christian Ford & Roger Soffer (story); Ronald D. Moore (teleplay)
Directed by: Reza Badiyi
Initial rating: 3
"although I'm afraid I might have an unfair advantage." "You mean, playing against a dead man?" [Kira and Bareil on springball]
"I'm beginning to dislike seeing that look on your face, Doctor."
and Jake's "Great. So we both disgust each other."

I owe the DS9 staff an apology: Bareil's death has not been used to get Kira and Odo together, despite my and many others' fears, and I feel sorry to have jumped to that conclusion. However, all that does is make this a bad episode without context rather than a bad episode being put to worse use. Winn is still extremely mischaracterized, Nog is still unpleasant in the extreme (and the "message" of that plot still strikes me as unsound), Bashir is still doing a masterful job of ignoring the very Hippocratic oath he took when he first began his medical career, and this is all still for the sake of a treaty that is both unlikely given the circumstances and pushed way behind the sidelines. Thanks, but no thanks.

Final rating: 2.5.

"Heart of Stone"
Written by: Behr & Wolfe
Directed by: Alexander Singer
Initial rating: 6
"Everything that goes wrong around here is your fault; it's in your contract."
"If it helps any, he's the one who does all the singing." [Odo, discussing kayaking]
"After all, we've been in worse situations than this one and come out all right." "Name three."

"Heart of Stone" was another mixed bag. When it first aired, I intensely disliked the Nog-in-Starfleet side plot and liked bits of the Odo/Kira plot. Now, the Nog stuff has become more palatable with time -- although Nog himself is still annoying on occasion, the story itself works fairly well, and I'm prepared to reserve judgment on how well his career's going to turn out -- but the Odo/Kira work has aged less well. The Changeling subterfuge is good, but there are shots of Kira alone and worried which undercut it; and there are many questions about specific actions the Changeling took (such as the fake "Maquis" phaser fire -- why do it?) which make things implausible. Add that to the Kira/Odo declarations of love, fake or otherwise, and you have something just as mixed as before.

Final rating: 6.

Written by: David S. Cohen & Martin A. Winer
Directed by: Les Landau
Initial rating: 9
"It's hard to work for someone who's a religious icon."
"I'm sorry, Major -- but where you see a Sword of Stars, I see a comet; where you see vipers, I see three scientists; and where you see the Emissary, I see a Starfleet officer."

Much, much better; in fact, "Destiny" is the first DS9 episode of the season to hold up as truly excellent after repeat viewings. (Given that it's in the second half of the season, that's a depressing notion.) Sure, there are a few glitches, be they technical (the comet's tail and the gravity-well issues) or otherwise (the O'Brien/Gilora stuff, for instance, which seemed a bit unneeded). However, the story itself is one that richly deserved the telling, as it's time we dealt with Sisko's status in the eyes of the more religious Bajorans, and this sort of cultural/religious/political confrontation is precisely the sort of thing that DS9 has done a good job of from the very start. Sisko and Kira felt more real to me here than in virtually all of the season up to that point; I'm glad it wasn't the last time.

[An aside: it's interesting to notice from here that Cardassian naming
conventions are the same as Bajoran ones; the family name first.]

Final rating: 9.5.

"Prophet Motive"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by: Rene Auberjonois
Initial rating: 4
"April Wade is 106; the last time she was nominated, people said it was premature!"
Put my name up for nomination in seventy years and I promise you I will get very excited."
"You'd rather play a game of racquetball?" "Chief, since Keiko's been on Bajor we've played 106 games of racquetball." "Right. So throw a dart."
Rom: "He [the Nagus] says I'm malleable."
"But I bet there are doctors all over the Federation saying 'Julian Bashir? Who the hell is HE?'" "<thwud of a dart missing>"

Aside from the very personal revelation to me that Rom is the Ferengi reincarnation of the old Warner Brothers cartoon dog that went hunting with Elmer Fudd on occasion, the Ferengi side of this episode really didn't have much going for it. :-) I enjoyed most of the "Bashir nominated for the Carrington Award" B-plot, but between the overexposure of the Nagus, some meaningless visions, and the relegation of the Prophets to the straight-man role in a Ferengi story, this needed some serious work.

Final rating: 4.

Written by: Ethan H. Calk (story); John Shirley (teleplay)
Directed by: Reza Badiyi
Initial rating: 9.5
"If all you can hallucinate about is Quark's maintenance problems, you have a sadly deficient fantasy life."
Kira's "I'm always diplomatic."
"Well, it could've been worse. It could've been ME." [Bashir, on O'Brien seeing himself dead]
"Commander ... there is no careful way to question a Klingon."
and the immortal "I HATE temporal mechanics!"

"Visionary" was the second show of the season to stay excellent months later, and also the second excellent show in three weeks: a promising trend. What glitches there were -- Odo tiptoeing out of character to boast, slightly unconvincing Romulans, and the like -- were far outweighed by the strengths of the show. The concept of O'Brien time-jumping was an intriguing and well-exploited one (even given the technobabble), Dax was given a rare dose of intelligence, the problems all stemmed from a single source, and all in all we had a nicely directed mystery. As mysteries go, this wasn't last season's "Necessary Evil", but it was quite good nonetheless.

Final rating: 9.5.

"Distant Voices"
Written by: Joe Menosky (story); Behr & Wolfe (teleplay)
Directed by: Alexander Singer
Initial rating: 4.5
Quotables: [all but one are Garak -- imagine that...]
"the challenge [of Cardassian mysteries] is determining exactly WHO is guilty of WHAT."
"I'm part of you, remember? I know what you know. Well, maybe a little more, hm?"
"Just doing my job." "No, you're not -- you're doing MY job."
"To think, after all this time, all our lunches together, you still don't trust me. There's hope for you yet, doctor."

"Distant Voices" was one of those shows that had fairly good acting and good directing -- but all of it wrapping around a story both tired and hole-ridden. Given that this was Yet Another Internal "Mind" Show [tm], the conceit of having only Bashir's associates on DS9 appearing was forced. What's more, though, the loss of Bashir's "representations" one by one seemed to have no apparent effect on Bashir himself, and we had reams of technobabble and exposition. Add that to Bashir's five-minute feel-good therapy at his final confrontation with the Lethian, and you get a story better left alone. It's a tribute to Siddig el Fadil and the rest of the cast that this show ended up as "neutral" as it did.

Final rating: 5.

"Through the Looking Glass"
Written by: Behr & Wolfe
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe
Initial rating: 8
"The only reason I can think of to keep you alive is to infuriate Garak." "What better reason do you NEED?"
"Now what?" "I'll think of something."
"Open the blast doors!" [no, wait, that was something else ... never mind]

I called "Civil Defense" comic-book DS9 earlier; this is another one. Here, though, that's a great pity, as "Crossover" suggested that mirror-universe stories could be done with some depth and some emotional heft. Here, we got a Sisko-plays-pirate fantasy: a cute one, admittedly, but really not much else. The best twist in the show was Rom's "double agent" bluff, which worked like a charm both internally and externally, and the mirror-O'Brien came closest to displaying the depth he had in the previous visit to that universe. Apart from that, though, there were a lot of coincidences and some shoddy work with other mirror-characters such as Kira. "Through the Looking Glass" was still fun, but it's fun that doesn't age as well as previous installments.

[Another aside: Sisko grew his beard shortly after this episode. Could it be argued that he was trying to distance himself from his counterpart? Just some food for thought.]

Final rating: 6.5.

"Improbable Cause"
Written by: Robert Lederman & David R. Long (story); Rene Echevarria (teleplay)
Directed by: Avery Brooks
Initial rating: 10
Quotables: Basically the whole damned show; watch it yourself. :-)

I said at the start of the regular review of this one, "Yes. Like that. More, please." It's still true. Everything, from writing to acting to direction to music to effects to anything you'd care to name, came together here. I can't say much else without going on forever, so I'll refrain.

Final rating: 10.

"The Die is Cast"
Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: David Livingston
Initial rating: 9.5
Quotables: Again, quite a few, but easier to list this time. I'll stick to the absolute musts.
"No wonder the Romulans can't conquer the galaxy; no one can stomach their cuisine!"
"You don't have to do this." "Yes I do -- and I think we both know that you won't trust me until I do."
"I make it a policy to never question the word of anyone who wears that uniform. Don't make me change that policy."
"I'm afraid the fault, dear Tain, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."
"...and I doubt that either of them [the Federation and the Klingons] will be a threat for much longer."
"These Founders, Elim, they're very good. Next time, we should be more careful."

"The Die Is Cast" managed to successfully conclude what was begun in "Improbable Cause", and that was no easy task. It made the Founders a dangerous enemy, hinted at vast changes to come in both Romulan and Cardassian society, put poor Garak through the wringer, and kept me on the edge of my seat. The one significant flaw, Sisko's casual disobedience of a direct order without any consequences, remains significant -- but it's hardly enough to bring down an otherwise phenomenal two-parter.

Final rating: Still 9.5.

Written by: Hilary J. Bader (story); Rene Echevarria (teleplay)
Directed by: Cliff Bole
Initial rating: 7
"With all due respect, Major, you're beginning to sound like a Romulan."
"For a moment there, I thought you had been put in charge of the Cardassian Ministry for the Refutation of Bajoran Fairy Tales."
"In a few places, you're writing about things you haven't actually experienced ... at least I hope you haven't experienced. Unless you've joined the Maquis without telling me."
"People either love you or hate you. [...] I mean, I hated you, when we first met ... and now..." "And now?" "And ... now I don't."
"Better wait until tomorrow." "Why? Why not right now?" "Because you can barely stand UP right now." "Good point."

I got a lot of ... well, let's call it polite disagreement (since most of it was) when I originally praised "Explorers", pointing out lots of technical problems in the solar-sailing aspect of the show. While those problems are there, only one of them strikes me as hugely significant, that being the unlikelihood of Sisko being able to build a ship on his own in the space of weeks. Many of the other objections, as far as I'm concerned, missed the point: the solar sail, while entertaining enough, was not the point of the show. The Ben/Jake interaction was, and that came off beautifully. The pod-person use of Dukat was unpleasant, and the fireworks at the end were hokey
without question; but when the show stuck to the Siskos or to much of the Bashir B-plot (particularly he and O'Brien drowning their troubles), the show worked out just fine.

Final rating: Still 7.

"Family Business"
Written by: Behr & Wolfe
Directed by: Rene Auberjonois
Initial rating: 2.5
"You know, the way we go through runabouts, it's a good thing Earth has so many rivers."
"Nog isn't going to destroy the Ferengi way of life; he just wants a job with better hours."

Sigh. After my review of this episode, I was accused of bias against Ferengi. Could be -- but given the quality of the "All Ferengi Network" shows we got this season, I plead massive justification. :-) Some of the Sisko/Yates interaction was good, and upon a second look a couple of things about the Quark plot worked: Brunt, the FCA investigator, seemed amusing enough, and Rom's final stand against his family was reasonable. The rest of it, however, was either failed comedy or a rehash of "Rules of Acquisition" -- neither fits in particularly well for me.

Final rating: 3.5.

Written by: Gordon Dawson
Directed by: Jonathan West
Initial rating: 9
"It has been my observation that one of the prices of giving people freedom of choice is that sometimes they make the wrong choice."
"Somehow, replacing the arm seems ungrateful."
"We're trying to feed our own people here, and you're talking about exports."
"Either I'm getting older, or those mountains are getting higher."
"I didn't fight the Cardassians for 25 years just so I could start shooting other Bajorans."

Once again, it turns out that going with Bajoran cultural or political conflict is a winning strategy. Although Winn is marginally overdone and Sisko's lack of annoyance over his first officer going missing for weeks is a little hard to swallow, the rest of this show was golden. We had a serious debate over the future of Bajor, some repercussions from the death of Bareil (and of the treaty), beautiful character work with Kira, a good guest performance from Duncan Regehr as Shakaar, and enough tension to fill up a large room. Nicely done.

[Speculation: maybe the reason Sisko wasn't ticked off was that he was being kept informed. He said he hadn't spoken to Kira in quite some time; could he be lying, or telling a letter-of-the-law kind of truth?]

Final rating: 9.

Written by: Rene Echevarria
Directed by: Cliff Bole
Initial rating: 6
Quotables: "He wants to be a writer. There's no profit in THAT."
"Did I ever mention that you're a magnificent scoundrel?"
"Come in, come in; I was just oozing around the room."

"Facets" proved another mixed bag, some of which referred to its own undoing. While Avery Brooks and Rene Auberjonois were both stunning as Joran and Curzon/Odo respectively, Joran's statement that Jadzia was only a pretty girl might be applied to Terry Farrell in this episode; there was nothing to indicate when a host's memories were absent. The big "revelation" of Curzon's hidden passion was also implausible and underwhelming, which hurt. Facets of "Facets" shone, but there were also enough dull facets to keep it from really being a jewel.

Final rating: 5.5.

"The Adversary"
Written by: Behr & Wolfe
Directed by: Alexander Singer
Initial rating: 9
"Now that you have another pip on your shoulder, does that mean I can't disagree with you any more?" "No -- it just means I'm never wrong."
"Well, as someone who IS obsessed with rank and title..."
"My son, the writer, thinks I ought to say something profound on this occasion."
"Just tell me how long it'll take [to regain control]." "Well ... I guess it'll have to be less than seven minutes, won't it?" "That'd be my suggestion."
"He said, 'You're too late. We're everywhere.'"

And so it ends. "The Adversary" didn't age quite as well as I'd hoped, but it's still enjoyable. Despite some of the Stupid Crew Tricks [the final battle in Engineering topping the list] necessary to make the story fit, and the implication of yet another war in the last decade or two that we'd somehow never heard about, there was a
good sense of eeriness and of desperation in the search for the Changeling, and the presentation of the show led down a few nice false trails for the viewer. Eeriness isn't enough by itself, but it sure helps.

Final rating: 7.

Whew. For those mathematically inclined, that works out to an average of 6.3 or so, but with a huge scatter.

II. DS9 Season 3 -- General Commentary

This season of DS9, as you might have been able to tell from my show-by-show take, is not one I found all that satisfying. I've been watching Trek in all its forms for about two decades now, and reviewing it since the second season of TNG; and sad as it is to say, rarely have I been so disheartened about the way a series is going.

When DS9's second season came to a close, I was amazingly optimistic. The season had been terrific; there were a lot of interesting balls hanging in the air, from the Maquis to the Bajoran/Cardassian situation to the Kai to the Dominion; most of the regular characters had managed to grow and change to the point where most of them were quite interesting to watch react to new situations; and on the whole, most aspects of the production were clicking along just fine.

This season, that has not been the case -- and as much as I hate to point fingers, I think the majority of the weakness has been in the writing. The regular cast has been fine (with the possible exception of Terry Farrell, who tends not to invest Dax with the necessary depth a significant chunk of the time), and the directing has also usually been pretty good. I think the show has changed in its conception in many significant ways, and that the show has not yet managed to figure out where it's going as a result.

Consider: the Maquis situation, brought up so nicely last season, has been virtually ignored entirely here. The only significant use of it was in "Defiant", which was still primarily a Tom Riker show, and the Maquis were barely mentioned apart from in that one show. Now, I realize that the Maquis as a concept were primarily brought in to provide a backdrop for "Voyager", but most of the Maquis is not in the Delta Quadrant; it's still in the demilitarized zone, and the Federation and Cardassia still have to deal with them. So why aren't we seeing that?

Then, there's the Bajoran situation. The internal Bajoran dissent and schisms are still being dealt with, at least on some occasions, and that's good (though more on it shortly). However, the Bajoran/Cardassian angle is virtually gone; swept out of existence by the shoehorned treaty between the two. I'm not opposed to the treaty itself; had it been justified, dealt with properly, and a path to future good stories, I'd be all for it. However, it wasn't either of the first two, and aside from "Destiny" (which was quite good), it hasn't really had much of an effect either. The treaty feels more like a way of avoiding future Cardassian-centered work than anything else, and that simply does not ring true with me.

I'd also note, however, that the religious side of the Bajoran issue is pretty much a dead issue as well now that Bareil has been killed off. With Bareil alive, we had a way to deal with problems in the Vedek Assembly; with him dead, all we have is Kai Winn to make pronouncements -- so unless something significant changes, there's apparently no longer any visible dispute within the Bajoran religious community.

And the Dominion? Oh, we've seen plenty of the Dominion. Gobs of it, in fact. And frankly, I think that may be just the problem. I worried aloud in last year's review that the "Threat From Beyond the Wormhole!" might be overused to the detriment of everything that had made DS9 unique up to that point. Unfortunately, that seems to be very much part and parcel of what has happened.

Another thing that's happened to DS9 a lot this year is something that happened to TNG in its last few seasons as well: technobabble galore. It doesn't work any better here than it did there -- in fact, it works less so for me. Part of that's because I'm so sick of it that I've almost unconsciously started to tune it out, and part of that's because the setting itself is a lot less conducive to "gizmo episodes" than the Enterprise was. Regardless of why it doesn't work, however, the fact remains that it doesn't -- and as such, even excellent shows like "Destiny" are turned into less than what they could be. ["Visionary", on the other hand, did a reasonable job on that front: there really wasn't all that much in the way of technobabble, and what there was was used for a purpose, namely pointing the finger at the Romulans to blame for the mess.]

Another factor that's jumped way, way up this year is the use of Ferengi for comedy-centered shows. In past years, we've had "The Nagus" or "Rules of Acquisition" -- one Ferengi-centered show per year. "The Nagus" worked fine; "Rules", in my opinion, didn't. This year, though, we had "The House of Quark", which strikes me in retrospect as a Ferengi-centered show pretending to be a Klingon-centered show; "Prophet Motive", a Ferengi show using the Prophets (the Prophets, for heaven's sake) as window-dressing; and "Family
Business". And that's not even counting the Nog-centered B plots that were rather pervasive in the series as well.

I have to ask: to what is this sudden interest in the Ferengi due? I mean, they've been entertaining from time to time, yes; but "if some is good, more is better" strikes me as a Ferengi philosophy in itself, not a particularly good philosophy for Trek. Has Trek finally turned into such the golden goose that shows about money-grubbing are considered entertainment? (Based on the publication of the Rules of Acquisition by Pocket, it would seem so.)

This isn't to say the season hasn't had its high points -- it certainly did, and the Garak 2-parter is up there with Trek's very best. However, I've noticed a somewhat disturbing trend:

The most prolific writing team for DS9 this season was that of Ira Steven Behr (now running the show, I'm told, with the departure of Michael Piller) and Robert Hewitt Wolfe. They provided the story for nine of the episodes this season, and the teleplay for one other; Wolfe also wrote one episode without Behr ("Second Skin") and Behr co-wrote the story for "Fascination" without Wolfe, giving us a total of 12 episodes out of 26 this season that they were responsible for.

Of those, only two scored above a 7: Wolfe's "Second Skin", and part 1 of "Past Tense". The average of their shows is in the mid to high 5's: substantially lower than the season as a whole, and thus quite a bit less than the remainder of the shows.

On the flip side, there were five shows (only five, depressingly) this season that were 9's and higher: "Destiny", "Visionary", both parts of the Garak story, and "Shakaar". Four of the five drew on DS9's core strengths of political, cultural, and religious conflict; but more worryingly, all of the three one-shots were freelance stories, so far as I can tell.

This suggests, to me, that a shake-up is needed. I don't mean to imply that the current crew lacks talent: based on their previous work, I know that's not the case. (I also have vivid memories of Peter Allan Fields' early work: yes, he did tremendous jobs later, but he also did "Cost of Living" for TNG.) I do, though, think that Behr, Wolfe, Moore, and Echevarria might be overextending themselves a little (Moore in particular, given that he's been with Trek for six years as a writer at this point and is co-writing the next TNG feature along with his work on DS9).

That said, I hope next season is a turnaround. The addition of Worf to the mix could be very good, very bad, or something in between. As with all else, it depends on the use to which he's put; and I'm not making any plans to judge it this early. (My review of next year's opener, on the other hand, should wax lengthy on the subject.

Well, if you've made it this far, congratulations; I'm done. (And there was much rejoicing...) A season-end review of "Voyager" will be around sometime in the next couple of weeks (certainly before season 2 starts :-) ); as for DS9, see you in about two months.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"So, do you want to go back to your shop, and hem pants -- or shall we pick up where we left off?"
-- Enabran Tain

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