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

Whew. Here we are again. I can hear the cries of "what the hell TOOK you so long?" already; suffice it to say I've been busy. At any rate, by now you know the drill -- an episode-by-episode recap followed by some general commentary. Without further ado...

I. DS9 Season 5, Episode by Episode

"Apocalypse Rising"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by: James L. Conway
Initial rating: 7
Quotables: "I hate prototypes."
"I hope First Minister Shakaar appreciates what a lucky man he is." "Shakaar's not the father." "Then who is?" "Chief O'Brien." [worth it just for the look on Dukat's face]
"Let's not spoil this special moment with predictions of doom."
"It's not easy being funny wearing these teeth."
"I could do without the ridges, but ... I kind of miss the fangs."

"Apocalypse Rising" picked up where "Broken Link" in many ways, as is to be expected. Odo's moroseness and interest in food and drink (particularly the latter) were planned out particularly well, in that it really felt like he'd never experienced being a humanoid before, and the misdirection used by the Founders to nearly cause a war more explosive than the one we got was well taken. However, there were more than a few nagging details (the wisdom of bringing along O'Brien rather than Dax, for instance), and too much of the show was devoted to Random Klingon Ritual #407C (and a strikingly tame one at that). All in all, if you take this as part two of what "Broken Link" began, there's the usual "part 2 is weaker than part 1" Trek syndrome at work here.

Final rating: 6.5.

"The Ship"
Written by: Hans Beimler (teleplay); Pam Wigginton & Rick Casey (story)
Directed by: Kim Friedman
Initial rating: 10
"Y'know, Muniz, you're due for a transfer. How does waste extraction sound?" [the only good reference to waste extraction in the season, ladies and gentlemen]
"I'm NOT a conspirator!" "What would you call yourself, doctor?" "An idiot."
"I'm not some bloodthirsty Klingon looking for an excuse to murder my friend." "That's enough." "No. You are just another weak human afraid to face death."
"Do you have any gods, Captain Sisko?" "There are ... things ... I believe in."
"That doesn't make it any easier." "Maybe nothing should."

Much better. "The Ship" did exactly what it wanted to do -- it told a morality tale about trust while simultaneously putting four of the regulars into a very stressful situation just to see what would come out. Reactions felt natural, there were hardly any plot problems (leaving the door to the ship open during Sisko's first negotiation being one of the few), and Muniz's death felt more real than just about any random crewmember death ever has. Only a slight heavy-handedness keeps this one from being really top-notch.

Final rating: 9.5.

[Note: the seized Jem'Hadar ship here makes advances in Federation technology later in the season quite plausible, as many people pointed out to me after I reviewed "Call to Arms".]

"Looking for par'mach in All the Wrong Places"
Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: Andrew J. Robinson
Initial rating: 3
"Sounds like you're describing a statue. What would you do with a woman like that? Put her up on a pedestal and clean her every week?"
"Miles." "Yes, Nerys?" "Get out." "Right."
... and a beautiful pair from Bashir:
"Never mind. I don't need that particular image running around in my head. I'll just treat you."
"I don't need that image either; in fact, I'm going to stop asking that question altogether. People can come in, I will treat them, and that's all."

When I initially panned this, the majority of responses disagreed with me -- "lighten up," they said ... "it was a lot of fun," they said ..."you just don't like romance," they said. So I watched it again, looking to see if I'd misjudged the show.

Nope. It's still pretty bad. It seemed slightly better the second time around, the Kira/O'Brien stuff in particular early on, but that's all. The maturity level of the show is still set at early adolescent, the gosh-aren't-we-having-fun-snooping mentality shown by Bashir is still annoying as all hell, and Worf spends most of the episode being almost as much of a pain in the neck as he is throughout all of "Let He Who is Without Sin". No, thank you.

Final rating: 3.5.

"Nor the Battle to the Strong"
Written by: Rene Echevarria (teleplay); Brice R. Parker (story)
Directed by: Kim Friedman
Initial rating: 9
"I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about."
"Who care about anomalies? People want stories about something they can relate to." [Comment on the series' lower points? Gee, you think?]
"Listen to me; I'm actually rooting for a plague."
"Humanoid bodies are so fragile!" "Yes ... they are."
"... the line between courage and cowardice is a lot thinner than most people believe."
"It takes courage to look inside yourself, and even more courage to write it for other people to see. I'm proud of you, son."

"Nor the Battle to the Strong" also felt a little better the second time around -- but this time, it was already so high that "a little better" made it amazingly strong. Jake's internal dialogue with himself and trial by fire made for riveting viewing, and making Jake a writer makes statements that might seem needlessly obvious much more sensible. The Klingon conflict was used nicely as a backdrop as well. Jake went in way over his head on this one, and watching him get out (and NOT get out, at times) made for a wonderfully intense hour.

Final rating: 10.

[Note: Odo's future parenthood is foreshadowed here in a conversation with Sisko, and although I wouldn't say Jake's future with the Starfleet News Service is, the groundwork is certainly laid to make it more plausible.]

"The Assignment"
Written by: David Weddle & Bradley Thompson (teleplay); David R. Long & Robert Lederman (story)
Directed by: Allan Kroeker
Initial rating: 7.5
"Besides ... I have to be in surgery, operating." "On who?" "I'll find someone."
"I have to stay here and play the idiot? [...] I'm Quark's brother; I know the role."
"I don't give a damn about the Celestial Temple or your noncorporeal feuds -- I just want my wife back."

"The Assignment" was Weddle & Thompson's first surprise -- something that by all lights should have been old hat and dreadful that instead put O'Brien in a really tough situation in ways that made sense. There were certainly some problems -- the wraith seemed a bit too trusting at the end, for instance, and most of the work involving Rom that wasn't directly connected to him helping O'Brien -- but Colm Meaney and Rosalind Chao both turned in standout performances, and poor O'Brien will probably do some reading up on Bajoran legends now in case this ever happens again. :-)

Final rating: 7.

"Trials and Tribble-ations"
Written by: Ronald D. Moore & Rene Echevarria (teleplay); Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler & Robert Hewitt Wolfe (story)
Directed by: Jonathan West
Initial rating: 10
Quotables: Look, go buy the script and open to a random page. You'll find something, trust me -- from every character.

I love shows that can get self-referential without looking stupid, and this one did it in spades. The only criticism I have is that the music during the bar brawl was far inferior to the music in the original sequence -- but if that's the best I can do, the hour's been a treat. It's clever, it's witty, it pokes fun at everything in sight while still remaining true to itself, and we get the "explanation" of Klingon changes in physiology that I think was best deserved. I wouldn't want to see another one like this made any time soon -- you won't catch the lightning twice -- but it's terrific.

Final rating: 10.

[Note: I believe someone pointed out that the person O'Brien mistakes for Kirk was actually William Shatner's stunt double.]

[Note #2: I quoted a student of mine as suggesting a Borg tribble in my initial review. Some time later, I got mail from Mike Okuda saying that a fan made him a couple years ago. One of them went to David Gerrold. Warped minds think alike, I guess...]

[Note #3: The two agents from Temporal Investigations were named Dulmer and Lucsly -- which as many people have pointed out are anagrams of Mulder and Scully.]

"Let He Who Is Without Sin..."
Written by: Robert Hewitt Wolfe & Ira Steven Behr
Directed by: Rene Auberjonois
Initial rating: 2
Quotables: "Commander --" "Do not hug me."
"But what I want is Worf." "WHY?"
"Trust me, there's no word for 'crisp' on Ferenginar."

Bleah. A one-sided, paper-thin skinfest which only makes everyone look shallow, including the Federation for letting criminal activity on Worf's part go unpunished. Robert Hewitt Wolfe posted once that the main thought going through his mind during the making of this show was "Please don't let this suck." At least he knew what was coming.

Final rating: 1.

"Things Past"
Written by: Michael Taylor
Directed by: LeVar Burton
Initial rating: 6.5
"I see I'm going to have to add the word 'pickpocket' to your resume." "It's only a hobby."
"How much damage would it do to the timeline if Quark were to suffer a mysterious ... accident?"
"The Bajorans are ... well, they're like my children, I suppose." [Talk about your abusive families...]
"I guess the truth is that anyone who lived through the occupation had to get a little dirty."

"Things Past" set out to even out the score set up by "Necessary Evil" back in season 2, by showing that Odo had his own failings during the occupation, just as Kira did. It managed that admirably. What it didn't do, unfortunately, was package it nearly as neatly as "Necessary Evil" did. Instead, we got a psychological story with physical effects, huge contrivances to get everyone into the situation, and a lingering question of why, if Odo felt this guilty, he didn't just mention it to someone prior to this ... after all, it's been years. It was a nice idea, and some of the touches (like Thrax's dialogue) were terrific, but the packaging brings this down to earth far more than it should.

Final rating: 7.

"The Ascent"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by: Allan Kroeker
Initial rating: 5.5
Quotables: "Care for a game of fizzbin?"
"Muscles, Jake! You know, those things that are supposed to go between your bones and your skin?"
"Please, Nog, no cliches before breakfast."
" ... and I can finally sit in the chair and know with absolute certainty that it isn't YOU."
"I'm not trying to rescue you -- I'm taking you along as emergency rations."

Where "Things Past" had a great idea wrapped up in a difficult-to-swallow package, "The Ascent" had a few great moments wrapped up in a dull-as-dirt idea. The "enemies are forced to work together" story is older than the hills, and when nothing more is done with it than a few crisp bits of dialogue and lots of whining and complaining, the viewers complain too. Without the somewhat more fun Jake/Nog subplot, this would be even lower.

Final rating: 5 .

Written by: Hans Beimler (teleplay); L. J. Strom (story)
Directed by: Jonathan West
Initial rating: 9.5
"Drum roll!" <drum roll> <banner unveiled> "'Welcome, Klingons'?" "Not that one."
"There is an ancient Klingon proverb that says 'you cannot loosen a man's tongue with root beer.'" [oh, well, that makes perfect...huh?]
"For one moment, I could see the pattern that held it all together."
"It is naval tradition." "Well, so is keel-hauling but..."
"... and while you had your weapons to protect you, all I had was my faith -- and my courage. Walk with the Prophets, child -- I know I will."
"Admiral." "What is it?" "Your son. You can stop worrying -- he forgives you."
"What I believe in is faith. Without it, there can be no victory."
"That's not much to bet his life on." "You're wrong. It's everything."
"Locusts! They'll destroy Bajor, unless it stands alone!"
"Before Captain Sisko found B'hala, my path was clear. I knew who my enemies were, but now ... now nothing is certain." "Makes life interesting, doesn't it?"
"I almost had it -- almost understood it all. Now it's gone..."
"One day, Bajor will join the Federation -- that I'm sure of." "Are you speaking as a Starfleet captain, or as the Emissary of the Prophets?" "Both." "In that case, I'll keep the champagne on ice."

Wow. "Rapture" pretty much sums up my feelings on the episode -- even the nagging annoyance of not using or even mentioning Shakaar (combined with using Kasidy Yates for no real purpose) isn't more than a mosquito bite here. "Rapture" brought Bajoran issues back into the fold (far more than we even realized at the time), put Sisko's role as Emissary to stunning use, gave us the best characterization of Kai Winn ever written, and managed to foreshadow the other half of the season better than I'd really hoped. Beautiful, beautiful stuff.

Final rating: 10.

"The Darkness and the Light"
Written by: Ronald D. Moore (teleplay); Bryan Fuller (story)
Directed by: Michael Vejar
Initial rating: 8
"I do not smirk -- but if I did, this would be a good opportunity."
"Worf --" "No."
"You know the Rules of Acquisition?" "I am a graduate of Starfleet Academy; I know many things."
"I'm sorry, Nerys." "I've been hearing that a lot lately."
"I know what the difficulties are! You have your orders; dismissed." [take that, <tech>!]
"He wanted to protect the innocent, and separate the darkness from the light. But he didn't realize the light only shines in the dark, and sometimes innocence is just an excuse for the guilty."

"The Darkness and the Light" had a lot going for it, but somehow aimed a little too high. The idea of Kira's violent past catching up with her is good, the idea of Kira finding her pregnancy a hindrance was both good and long overdue, and "in this situation, what is innocence?" is a good question. Unfortunately, the plausibility factor fell far short of the mark; I never bought Silaran Prin as being able to do all of this -- at least, not without suggesting that Gul Dukat would have a trivial time killing anyone he likes on board DS9. Add to that Shakaar's absence again, a fifth act that tried way too hard to be "symbolic", and O'Brien's lack of reaction to Kira's endangering his unborn child, and you have a show that, while interesting most of the time, falls down at the end.

Final rating: 7.

[Note: I don't fault Kira's actions for what they were -- she was upset and is usually pretty hot-headed, so I can easily see her going after Prin, pregnant or not. What we needed to see, and didn't get, was someone getting angry at her for it -- someone like Miles.]

[Note #2: the episode isn't quite sure how to pronounce the name 'Latha', from the first of Kira's friends to be killed. Note how the pronunciation varies over the first fifteen minutes of the show.]

"The Begotten"
Written by: Rene Echevarria
Directed by: Jesus Salvador Trevino
Initial rating: 7.5
"Now that you're a humanoid, you have to learn to relax." "That's what you said last week." "And?" "And it helped ... that and the prune juice."
"What better way to gauge another race than to see how it treats the weak and vulnerable?"
"Constable -- why are you talking to your beverage?"
"If it wasn't for me, you'd still be sitting on a shelf somewhere in a beaker labeled 'Unknown Sample'!"
"I am HAPPY, Quark. Can't you just accept that?" "No."

Considering how well an episode turned out the last time Odo tried to raise something (a Jem'Hadar, in "The Abandoned"), "The Begotten" came as a pleasant surprise. The Odo/Mora interplay was incredibly effective (far more so than in "The Alternate"), and if Odo had to revert back to being a Changeling, this was a good way to do it, giving both a tinge of sacrifice and a real sense of wonder about being a Changeling.

On the other hand ... there's the Kira plot, with more cliches used than avoided, a presentation of Shakaar being so shallow that I rooted for the character to be killed off, and generally just a "let's play the males-are-stupid-during-birth" game that everyone's seen too many times before. No.

Final rating: 7.

[Note: given the later revelation that the Bashir who helped Odo and tried to save the baby Changeling was in fact a Changeling, Bashir's role here deserves serious re-examination -- and the fact that no one, including Odo, has thought to look back at it is not good.]

"For the Uniform"
Written by: Peter Allan Fields
Directed by: Victor Lobl
Initial rating: 9
"Look at them, Captain -- they're humans." [interesting in that it suggests a slight racism on Eddington's part]
"You left a cascade virus in the Defiant's computers." "Sounds simple, doesn't it? But I assure you, it took a great deal of time to devise one that wouldn't be detected by Odo or Chief O'Brien. I'm really quite proud of it."
"I'll add it to the list of charges against you." "Well, as long as you're making a list ... why don't you add this?" <ZOT>
"I'm the one in control here, Captain." [and was he ever]
"Sir, have you ever reminded Starfleet Command that they stationed Eddington here because they didn't trust me?" "No." "Please do."
"You win some, you lose some." "You've always had problems with the 'lose some' part of that."
"Do me a favor." "Of course." "Save me a seat at his court-martial."
"I tried reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I couldn't get through it. It's so melodramatic, and his heroines are so two-dimensional." [Zing! Take that, Disney!]
"You betrayed your uniform!" "And you're betraying yours, right now! The sad part is, you don't even realize it."

Despite my complaints (about to be repeated) concerning what "For the Uniform" could have done, I liked it a lot. Avery Brooks and Kenneth Marshall were both incredible, both Sisko's and Eddington's tactics were both clear and sensible, and everything came together to create a very nice hour.

But ... at the same time, with the focus on Sisko "making this personal" and Eddington's romantic dreams of being a Victor Hugo protagonist (poor guy), some of the bigger picture about the Federation and the Maquis are lost. I've always said that Sisko and Kira's relationship is a good mirror for the Federation/Bajor relationship, but that only works well because the two of them don't consciously try to be symbols; here, both Eddington and Sisko were too consciously symbolic. That reduction of focus is a little annoying, and the lack of repercussions after Sisko poisoned a planet is an awful lot more so.

Final rating: 9.

[Note: I still maintain that an excellent follow-up to this would have been to show Eddington's court-martial, perhaps with one of Sisko alongside for his actions here.]

"In Purgatory's Shadow"
Written by: Robert Hewitt Wolfe & Ira Steven Behr
Directed by: Gabrielle Beaumont
Initial rating: 9
"You've come a long way from the naive young man I met five years ago. You've become distrustful and suspicious. It suits you." "I had a good teacher."
"So let me get this straight. You want me to lie to my commanding officer, violate Starfleet regulations, and go with you on a mission into the Gamma Quadrant that'll probably get us both killed."
"At the first sign of betrayal, I will kill him -- but I promise to return the body intact." "I assume that's a joke." "We will see." [I'm a sucker for good is-he-joking-or-not lines...]
"Then why all this deception?" "Because lying is a skill like any other, and if you want to maintain a level of excellence, you have to practice constantly." "Practice on someone else." "Mr. Worf, you're no fun at all."
"The man is a heartless, cold-blooded killer." "Like I said, he's a Cardassian." [Ow.]
"If that's a threat, I'm not impressed." "There was a time when Bajorans took Cardassian threats very seriously." "Not any more."
"I'd like to get my hands on that fellow Earl Grey and tell him a thing or two about tea leaves."
"So be it. Stay here, if that's what you want. Stay here ... and be damned."
"I'll do as you ask, on one condition: that you don't ask me this favor as a mentor, or as a superior officer ... but as a father asking his son."
"You've always been a weakness I can't afford." "So you've told me -- many times."
"Here goes nothing." [evil prescience on the Bashir-changeling's part]

Yowza. It's about here that the real core of season 5 came into sharp focus. Cardassia's continued straits and Dukat's intent on changing things, imminent Dominion invasions, a resolution of the Garak/Tain thread (though I still maintain that wasn't really necessary), the return of General Martok, and the raising of many interesting questions about the Bashir Changeling's time on the station. Only two things keep this one from being at the top of the heap: the fact that a Jem'Hadar prison camp is an idea which seems fundamentally at odds with everything else we know about them, and the 36-hour delay to close the wormhole, which is sloppy strategy at its finest.

Final rating: 9.

"By Inferno's Light"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by: Les Landau
Initial rating: 6
"There sure are a lot of them." "That'll just make it harder for us to miss."
"You and I on the same side. It never seemed quite ... right, did it?" [Actually, I beg to differ; it was fascinating.]
"By the time his birthday dawns, there will not be a single Klingon alive inside Cardassian territory, or a single Maquis colony left inside our borders. Cardassia will be made whole. All that we have lost will be ours again, and anyone who stands in our way will be destroyed. This I vow with my life's blood -- for my son ... for all our sons."
"This would make a wonderful interrogation chamber. Tight quarters, no air, bad lighting, random electric shocks ... it's perfect."
"Think of it. Five years ago, no one had ever heard of Bajor or Deep Space Nine, and now, all our hopes rest here. Where the tides of fortune take us, no man can know." "They're tricky, those tides."
"You expect us to join the Dominion?" "I expect you to behave rationally."
"After all, a verse about the Cardassian who panicked in the face of danger would ruin General Martok's song."
"The Jem'Hadar don't eat, don't drink, and they don't have sex -- and if that wasn't bad enough, the Founders don't eat, and don't drink -- and they don't have sex either, which between you and me makes my financial future less than promising." "It might not be so bad. For all we know, the Vorta could be gluttonous, alcoholic sex maniacs." "I never thought of that!" [interesting given Weyoun's later love of Dabo -- okay, it's not any of the three vices above, but it's a vice nonetheless]
"You may have escape defeat this day, but tomorrow -- " "We will see about tomorrow." "Yes, we will."

It's the second part of a two-parter. What do you think?

Seriously, although Cardassia's joining with the Dominion is among the most interesting and fruitful plot twists in DS9 history (and not remotely as implausible as I initially feared), the episode it came packaged in had more than a few disappointments. The strangeness of the Jem'Hadar prison camp is now overshadowed by the extreme idiocy (one of many) in keeping the runabout in orbit where it can be seized; the "Worf survives with honor intact by single combat" motif is more than a little old; the impact of Bashir as a Changeling is limited to a light-hearted sentence or two from O'Brien (so much for my confidence that it'd be followed up); and Dukat's conversion seems a little too one-sided. I like what the basic premise of "By Inferno's Light" brought about, but the episode itself falls far short of its predecessor.

Final rating: 7.

"Doctor Bashir, I Presume"
Written by: Ronald D. Moore (teleplay); Jimmy Diggs (story)
Directed by: David Livingston
Initial rating: 6.5
"Why is everyone so worried about holograms taking over the universe?"
"Think of it, Julian: if this thing works, you'll be able to irritate people you've never even met."
"I hope you're more interesting than you seem -- I'd hate to be boring."
"Then it's true? You're ..." "The word you're looking for is 'unnatural', meaning 'not from nature.' 'Freak' or 'monster' would also be acceptable."
"And no one ever suspected?" "Oh, there's no stigma attached to success, Chief."
"Yes, let's come up with a new plan! That's the way we do things in this family, isn't it? We don't face our problem; we come up with new plans. Don't like your job? Well, move along to the next one; don't like the law? Well, find a way to get around it -- but whatever you do, do not accept responsibility."
"You used to be my father. Now, you're my architect: the man who designed a better son, to replace the defective one he was given."
"For every Julian Bashir that can be created, there's a Khan Singh waiting in the wings."

You leave the juvenile and out-of-place Rom/Leeta subplot out of this show and you have an easy 8 or 9: Bashir's family dynamics rang all too true, and Bashir's genetic background actually fits in rather nicely with his past. Combine that with excellent performances from both Alexander Siddig and Brian George and you have a show marred only by (you guessed it) the lack of fallout from such a great revelation. Even that wouldn't hurt things too badly -- it's the ear-grating, stomach-churning Rom/Leeta dialogue that knocks it down a bit more.

Final rating: 7.

"A Simple Investigation"
Written by: Rene Echevarria
Directed by: John Kretchmer
Initial rating: 5.5
Quotables: "Look what you did to the carpet."
"I didn't realize I'd tripped an alarm." "You didn't. You're good." "I still got caught." "I've been following you." "I didn't know." "I'm good too."
"She's so pretty; I was hoping we wouldn't have to kill her." "You'll get over it."
"Car trouble, Mr. Bashir? Hi, Odo."

Bleh. Some good SF twists here and there help, but basically this is a papered-over "hard-boiled detective falls for femme fatale with a heart of gold" story, and not one that gets far enough beyond the cliches to be of much interest. Moments here and there stand out, Odo's musings about "having the courage to walk away" being among them, but that's all.

Final rating: 5.

[Note: I do still like Bashir having gotten his Bond program from a friend "Felix", though.]

"Business As Usual"
Written by: Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by: Siddig El Fadil
Initial rating: 8
"Isn't this the cousin who tried to kill you?" "I see you've heard of me."
"They underestimated the Bajoran thirst for freedom. I didn't."
"What are you telling me: my baby's just sad?" "Perhaps he's become prematurely aware of life's existential isolation." "You're sure it's not a rash?" "Look on the bright side -- he'll probably be a great poet."
"Twenty-eight million dead? Couldn't we just wound some of them?"
"Don't quote the Rules of Acquisition to me!" [boy, I hope that's the writers' opinion as well...]

Thompson and Weddle's second surprise was "Business as Usual", and it came off even better than "The Assignment" did. Quark was put in a truly ugly bind here -- ugly enough that I wasn't sure how he was going to get out -- and the tracking of Quark's plight from beginning to end felt both realistic and complete. (The crying-Kirayoshi plotline, unlike the Rom/Leeta plot in "Doctor Bashir, I Presume", actually was a good and light-hearted counterpoint here.) Only the fact that Quark still gets off a bit easy (and that the door is left a little too obviously open for a sequel when the episode doesn't need one) hurts this one.

Final rating: 8.5.

"Ties of Blood and Water"
Written by: Robert Hewitt Wolfe (teleplay); Edmund Newton & Robbin L. Slocum (story)
Directed by: Avery Brooks
Initial rating: 6
"Still calling yourself Gul? I'm surprised you haven't promoted yourself to Legate by now." "I prefer the title 'Gul' -- so much more hands-on than 'Legate', mm? And less pretentious than the other alternatives: President, Emperor, First Minister... Emissary." "How about 'Dominion puppet'?"
"I want to believe you, Dukat, but even if I did ... let's just say I don't like the company you're keeping."

I wanted to like this episode a lot more than I did, but it just never clicked into place for me. Neither Ghemor's past with Kira nor the current situation were enough to make me really believe the relationship we were supposed to take for granted, and Kira's closing speech about her father's death somehow managed to feel both inadequate in places and annoyingly redundant in others. (I also don't like the forced way Weyoun was brought back -- I'm more comfortable with the character now than I was, but the casual 'oh, here he is again' borders on insulting unless it's meant to mean something later.) I appreciate what the show tried to do, but at least from this viewer's perspective it just never did it.

Final rating: 5.5.

[Note: apparently Jeffrey Combs had never heard the word "progenitor" before. Listen to how he pronounces it when Weyoun first talks with Sisko.]

"Ferengi Love Songs"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by: Rene Auberjonois
Initial rating: 3
"Wait a minute. What's the Nagus doing in my closet?" [The backstroke? I dunno...]
"What are you doing in my closet?" "Conducting official FCA business." "In my closet?"
"You're a manipulative, self-centered conniver." "Thank you!" [anyone else who was reminded of first-season MST3K with that?]
"Congratulations, Quark -- you're a Ferengi again." "I always was!"
"Latinum lasts longer than lust: Rule of Acquisition 229." "Maybe, but lust can be a lot more fun."

The second time around, the bits on Ferenginar seemed a good deal more palatable -- that doesn't mean I actually enjoyed them, but the dialogue was clever enough in spots to almost make me forget about the incessant Ishka/Zek squealing and the usual "endangering of Ferengi society" that we all know won't lead anywhere. (The everyone's-in-Quark's-closet gag actually brought a smile to my face here and there.) However, the partial reset button as regards Quark's business license left me cold (since there's been exactly one episode where you could even tell his license had been revoked at all), and the less said about the Rom/Leeta stuff, the better. [If you think that last clause sounds familiar, get ready to hear it some more.]

Final rating: 3.5.

"Soldiers of the Empire"
Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: LeVar Burton
Initial rating: 8.5
"Forgive me for boring you. Let me get straight to the point -- you're acting like a fool!"
"If you really want to thank me, don't come in here dripping blood any more; it takes days to get it out of the carpet!"
"My mother met the great Curzon on the homeworld once. She said he was very taken with him." "Curzon was very taken with many people." "So was my mother."
"Getting away is something we've become very good at. The Rotarran can run away from battle faster than any ship in the quadrant."
"On this trip, my bed is as empty as yours, Leskit -- except mine is empty by choice."
"Death and dishonor walk these corridors like a member of the crew."
"How's the intelligence business?" "Oh, I can't talk about it. All I can do is read these fascinating reports and analyses, and analyses of analyses, and then keep it all to myself -- because no one else has a 'need to know.' So, I have to walk around this station feeling like I ... you don't really care, do you?" "No."
"Perhaps you would consider replacing sentiment with a symbol of a new beginning. The House of Martok would be honored to welcome the son of Mogh into our family, as a warrior -- and as a brother."

A hearty Python-style squashing-foot "thppth" to those who claim I don't like Klingon-heavy episodes. :-) I like 'em fine, if they're done right -- and this one was. We got a good glimpse into the dishonored side of Klingon culture, a better sense of a ship's hierarchy, a nice song or two, some beautiful analysis of Martok (not to mention his emotional blackmail of Worf at one point), and an ending that really is progress in the "Worf's an outcast, no he's not, yes he is, oh the hell with it" ping-pong tournament that's been going on for far too many
years. A little stiff acting here hurt, as did Worf's description of Martok saving his life (what, we couldn't have seen that somehow in "By Inferno's Light"?) and a little bit of stock characterization ... but the overall effect here was very strong, and almost moving.

Final rating: 9.

[Note: Worf says that the show takes place in "the year of Kahless 999". Given the prevalence of even intervals (thousands or millions of years) in much SF, televised or otherwise, I wonder if this is meant to signify that Something Interesting is going to happen to Klingon society next season Just idle speculation.]

"Children of Time"
Written by: Rene Echevarria (teleplay); Gary Holland and Ethan H. Calk (story)
Directed by: Allan Kroeker
Initial rating: 9.5
"Are you the Son of Mogh?" "Yes, I am." "Is it true you can kill someone, just by looking at them?" "Only when I am angry."
"I've always thought that Quark would make a great math teacher -- he's so good with numbers."
"Apparently the planet is crawling with Bashirs." "Maybe I'll stay up here."
"It must've been very hard for you to listen to me go on about another man." "Well, I can't say I enjoyed it."
"You are my descendants." "Some by blood, some by choice."
"Praying over your own grave -- that's gotta be a new one." "If the Prophets were listening, I'm sure they're very confused."
"Ceasing to exist because my parents were never born? That is not a death worthy of Sto'Vo'Kor."
"The path the Prophets laid out for me ends here."
"We've got to take the Defiant back in time -- otherwise, we're cheating fate." "Yeah, well, I wouldn't mind cheating fate all the way back to the station."
"Aren't you gonna help?" "I'm busy." "You don't look busy."
"She's an O'Brien, all right."
"There's something else the other Odo wanted you to know. He was responsible for changing the Defiant's flight plan." "Why?" "So that you wouldn't have to die." "I can't believe it. Eight thousand people!" "He did it for YOU, Nerys. He loved you." "That makes it right?!" "I don't know. He thought so."

And speaking of moving ... "Children of Time" was about as moving as they come, at least for me. The premise, unlike a lot of Trek time-travel stories, made as much sense as it had to (meaning it established itself and then got out of the way to let the emotional repercussions come to the fore), and just about every character except for Bashir was written extraordinarily well. Sure, O'Brien's conversion is a little fast and Bashir is way too shallow, but those are pinpricks -- any show that can make me actually eager for the next Odo/Kira story did something very, very right. Bravo.

Final rating: 10.

[Note: Okay, so I do kinda wonder who's running the station...]

[Note #2: In my initial review, I inferred from the story credit "Gary Holland and Ethan H. Calk" that Calk did a second draft story on Holland's first draft, since that's often what it means. Ethan Calk wrote me and set me straight: both he and Holland contributed stories which had pieces of this, but neither rewrote the other. Just wanted to set the record straight.

"Blaze of Glory"
Written by: Robert Hewitt Wolfe & Ira Steven Behr
Directed by: Kim Friedman
Initial rating: 8.5
"I'm not here to gloat." "You deserve to. You won. I betrayed Starfleet by joining the Maquis ... you swore you'd track me down and you did. You got your revenge."
"That's it? You're just going to lie there and do nothing?" "That's what you do when you're in prison."
"It may look like chicken, but it still tastes like replicated protein molecules to me."
"For a dead man, you talk a lot."
"He thought you were wrong about the Maquis, but he forgave you -- which is ironic, considering you never forgave him."
"We had the Cardassians on the run!" "And look where they ran -- right into the arms of the Dominion. End of story."
"Is that what you want? To be remembered as the man who helped bring about the worst war in Federation history?" "Not quite the legacy I had in mind, but I can live with it."
"Are we there yet?"
"Where are you going?" "To get a raktajino." "NOW?" "Throat's a little dry."
"If you do have a plan, I guarantee I'll learn to love it."
"Now that's a scurrilous lie." "Scurrilous? Is that worse than a regular lie?"
"Nog, you are definitely getting stranger as you get older." [as if Jake will have any right to talk two episodes later :-) ]
"The sensors aren't detecting anything." "That's the general idea."
"Attacking two Jem'Hadar soldiers with a pipe: that's a brilliant plan." "It could be worse." "I know; it could be ME holding the pipe." "Exactly."
"You have sharp eyes." "Not really. I just waited to see which of you was knocked down first, and then I shot the one still standing." "Thank you for your vote of confidence."
"I wish I knew for certain that killing you would make me feel better." "I'm glad one of us remembered they can do that." [why does that sound like a writer's line, too?]
"I didn't know you were married." "We held the ceremony two weeks before you captured me." "Not much of a honeymoon."
"Does anyone know a good song? Something rousing? Too bad."
"Is that what this is? The end of the Maquis?" "Who knows? There could still be more of them out there, hiding from the Dominion, biding their time." "You almost sound hopeful." "There is something attractive about a lost cause."

My notes for this one say "Eddington gets off easy" -- given that he gets shot in the chest about half a dozen times, I suppose that's a misstatement. :-) By ducking out on some of the issues raised in his last two appearances, I think the writers are getting off slightly easy with "Blaze of Glory" -- but for the most part, that's my only real objection. As with "For the Uniform", the Eddington/Sisko dialogue is top-notch (which is why a sizable fraction of it is in the above list) -- but this time, we get a slightly bigger sense of the Maquis, both in its goals and in its desperation. Little touches like the fate of Cal Hudson only add to the strength of the show. I for one hope this isn't the end of the Maquis, but if it has to be, the idea ended on a pretty solid note.

Final rating: 9.

[Note: One does wonder how the Jem'Hadar found the camp. I would also still like to know the fate of Ro Laren.]

"Empok Nor"
Written by: Hans Beimler (teleplay); Bryan Fuller (story)
Directed by: Michael Vejar
Initial rating: 7
"The Klingon restaurant?" "It would be quieter."
"How did you know I was going to ask for a phase decompiler?" "I was paying attention, sir."
"Lately, I've noticed that everyone seems to trust me. It's really quite unnerving; I'm still trying to get used to it."
"Asking a Ferengi to play a Cardassian game is like asking a Klingon to chew with his mouth closed."
"That's not the face of a tailor." "I'm not a tailor -- not for the moment, anyway."
"And the worst part of it is -- this isn't a coil spanner. <STAB> It's a flux coupler."
"Maybe it's true. Maybe you're not a soldier any more." "You're right. I'm an engineer." <click> <BOOM>
"Well, it could've been worse. If I'd been any closer to that phaser, it would've killed me." "Well, don't take this the wrong way, but ... that was the plan."

"Empok Nor" took a bit of a plunge upon a repeat viewing. It's not a bad show per se, but it's pretty much a typical horror-movie crewman-gone-bad tale. As such, it gets high marks for atmosphere (and for some of the dialogue of the "grunts", who were at least lively plot devices), but lots off for unrealistic scenarios, careless security guards, a few dozen cliches too many, and just generally managing to be goofy in a lot of not-so-good ways.

Final rating: 5

"In the Cards"
Written by: Ronald D. Moore (teleplay); Truly Barr Clark & Scott J. Neal (story)
Directed by: Michael Dorn
Initial rating: 7.5
"At this rate, we're gonna run out of ships." "That's not funny." "It wasn't meant to be."
"Mr. Worf. You've been paroled; the party's over."
"It's not my fault your species decided to abandon currency-based economics in favor of some ... philosophy of self-enhancement."
"Well, if you don't need money, then you certainly don't need MINE."
"Not even for my father ... the man who made it possible for you to enter Starfleet Academy." "Oh, no -- that's not fair." "The man who believed in you when no one else would." "Oh, this is so low..." "I can't believe you'd rather keep your filthy money in a box under a bed than use it to give him endless moments of happiness." "Aaaaargh! All right, all right!"
"The Dominion is notorious for its political intrigue." "I have some experience in that area as well."
"I haven't done anything wrong, and I won't be hounded by you and your soulless minions of orthodoxy. I haven't broken any laws ... except perhaps the laws of nature ... so stay away from me."
"Let me ask you both a simple question: do you want to die?"
"Death is nothing more than the result of cellular boredom."
"He's crazy, isn't he?" "Completely -- but he does have the baseball card."
"I'm not crazy; I'm just a little obsessed."
"They're trying to split Bajor from the Federation." "Forgive me, Emissary, but you've already done that."
"Can you promise me that you will not let one Jem'Hadar soldier set foot on Bajor? Can you promise me that you will use your entire fleet to protect our planet, even if it means sacrificing other worlds, like Vulcan, or Andor, or Berengaria, or perhaps even Earth itself?" "I can't make that kind of promise." "I wouldn't believe you if you did. So you see my predicament."
"We put ourselves in your hands. May we all walk with the Prophets."
"We should have it soon; Nog just got the bear. Don't ask."
"Lions and Geigers and bears." "Oh, my." [*wham wham wham wham wham*]
"Jake, I don't know what you're thinking, but I'm sure I'm not going to like it."
"Jake, I'm really starting to worry about you."
"Jake, as your friend, I think I should tell you you're starting to go over the edge."
"I feel that we are very much alike." "No ... we're nothing alike. Nothing at all."
"We're working for Starfleet intelligence." "Oh, no..."
"I believe you." "You do?" "Yes. That is, I believe your first story -- that you're two innocent boys trying to give a gift to Captain Sisko." "You're very wise."
"Even in the darkest moments, you can always find something ...that'll make you smile."

Once I'd gotten over the initial shock of the episode around the time of my first review, it's really started to grow on me. Yes, whoever coined the "lions and Geigers and bears" line needs to be taken out back and whacked in the face with a rolled-up Volkswagen until he promises never to do it again :-), but the show really manages to be entertainingly goofy while still doing some serious stage-setting for "Call to Arms". It's got the best Jake/Nog material I've seen in years, it begins to follow up Sisko's visions in "Rapture", it acknowledges that some time-travel stories are total nonsense, and we don't have to listen to Leeta. What's not to like?

Final rating: 9.5.

[Note: I still wish the trader had been Kivas Fajo. Just a one-line reference, that's all I ask...]

"Call to Arms"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by: Allan Kroeker
Initial rating: 8.5
"Dear, I find your blind adoration both flattering and disturbing -- but she does have a point."
"Guess I can't stop you from doing your job." "Can I quote you on that?" <glare> "I guess not."
"But one thing is certain: we're losing the peace, which means a war may be our only hope."
"So, for now all we need to concern ourselves with is deploying the minefield, maintaining station security, and preparing ourselves for a Dominion invasion." "Well, I don't know about you, but I feel more comfortable already."
"We need more time." "You don't have it."
"You don't think Starfleet could be persuaded to send a few more ships -- say, fifty?"
"Well, that was the most pathetic excuse for a wedding ceremony I've ever seen."
"It's ironic ... when the Klingons attacked the station, Gul Dukat and I were fighting side by side. At one point, he turned his back to me, and I must admit, he made a very tempting target." "You'd shoot a man in the back?" "It's the safest way, isn't it? But then I thought, well, no, I can't fight these Klingons all by myself, so I let him live." "And now you regret it." "Ah, my dear Constable ... before this day is over, everyone on this station is going to regret it."
"Captain -- as a major in the Bajoran militia, I must officially protest Starfleet's refusal to turn over this station to my government." "Your protest is duly noted." "Good. Now that that's over with -- Kira Nerys, reporting for duty."
"First we reclaim Terak Nor, then ... on to Bajor?" "Let's not get ahead of ourselves -- or must I remind you, the Dominion just signed a nonaggression pact with Bajor?" "The Dominion might have -- I never did."
"I've found it wise to never underestimate the Federation's technical skill, or Captain Sisko's resourcefulness."
"Who says there's never a Klingon around when you need one?"
"When I first took command of this post, all I wanted was to be somewhere else -- anywhere but here. But now, five years later, this has become my home, and you have become my family -- and leaving this station, leaving you, is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.'
"... and I promise I will not rest until I stand with you again -- here, in this place where I belong." [I rarely cheer at DS9 dialogue these days, but this speech made it tempting]
"Computer -- initiate program Sisko-197." "Program initiated." <bzzap> <boom> <poof> "Dukat wanted the station back -- he can HAVE it."
"We should rendezvous with the Federation task force in 48 hours." "And then what?" "And then we make the Dominion sorry they ever set foot in the Alpha Quadrant." "Cadet, you took the words right out of my mouth."
"I assume Captain Sisko removed or destroyed everything of value." "Not everything." "What is that?" "A message. From Sisko." "I don't understand." "He's letting me know -- he'll be back."

And so it ends. I still don't like the Rom/Leeta wedding angle to the show (particularly the "Casablanca" speech, but I'm not starting that again), and the actual technical logistics of the "self-replicating mines" is dubious at best, but the overall story of the Federation losing the station is very powerful. The wide-ranging cast of characters the series enjoys has been tossed in every direction by the end of the episode, and in ways which make a lot of sense. Pretty much every DS9 season-ending cliffhanger has left me curious as to what's
coming, but this one truly represented the culmination of a season -- and if it's all reset to zero in a single episode, I'll hit the roof.

Final rating: 8.5.

[Note: take a look at where Sisko is when he gives his closing speech. It might give you a hint as to what role he thinks he's playing in all of this.]

Well, that was lengthy. For those interested in some numbers, here
are the stats:

             Mean +/- Standard Deviation             Median

Season 1 7.1 +/- 2.3 7.5
Season 2 7.5 +/- 2.1 7.75
Season 3 6.3 +/- 2.4 6.5
Season 4 6.8 +/- 2.1 7
SEASON 5 7.3 +/- 2.4 7

Season 5 is the first season of DS9 since season 2 to have fully 10 episodes score 9 or higher, and has the lowest number of episodes since season 2 scoring lower than a 5. (Season 2 only had 2; season 5 has 3.)

Now on to the part that I personally care more about -- the State of the Season Address. :-)

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

II. DS9 Season 5 -- General Commentary

If you asked me about a third of the way through re-watching season 5 how I thought DS9 was doing compared to season 4, I probably wouldn't have been very hopeful. Although they'd had three excellent shows ("The Ship", "Nor the Battle to the Strong", and "Trials and Tribble-ations"), one of them was clearly a one-time type of episode -- and the remainder of the season so far had been punctuated by some truly dreadful work ("Looking for par'mach in All the Wrong Places" and especially "Let He Who Is Without Sin...") and much that just wasn't quite measuring up to what it really should have been, with both "Apocalypse Rising" and "Things Past" falling short of their goals. Early on, season 5 wasn't exactly leaving a sour taste in my mouth, but I was anticipating another season where I'd be frustrated at least as often as I was really satisfied.

That began to change with "Rapture", and as I continued watching the season over again, I noticed how much of it felt like pieces coming together in ways that DS9 usually hasn't managed. In season 4, heralded by many as DS9's best season, there were a lot of pieces in the air -- but they were scattered and fractured. There was a Bajor story, then a Klingon story, then a Maquis story, then a Dominion story ... and there wasn't much of a hint about how, or even if, these things related to each other on a grand scale.

For about the latter two-thirds, and particularly the last half, of season 5, that changed. From "Rapture", a Bajor story and an excellent one, we got prophecies which set up some of the events later in the season.
More importantly, the Purgatory/Inferno 2-parter tied a lot of threads together. Suddenly, a Cardassian story is a Dominion story, and the renewed Federation/Klingon alliance means that we're less likely to get Klingon stories happening in a vacuum. From there, we got the new order on Cardassia as established by "Ties of blood and Water", an example of Klingons adjusting to the Jem'Hadar threat in "Soldiers of the Empire", and especially the final two episodes of the season, which set up both situations and characters in very complex ways which you could nonetheless envision happening.

The best example of that on a character level would be Kai Winn. At the start of the season, she was still a "bad guy" -- a very effective one when used properly, but still a symbol of religious fanaticism and the threat it could pose to rational people. "Rapture" fleshed out her character better than any show ever had; it made her fanaticism understandable, and even sympathetic -- sympathetic to such a degree that you felt for her by the time her dilemma in "In the Cards" raised its head. That's a real achievement, and one which I respect quite a

What's more, the concern I had about using the Founders and Jem'Hadar as one giant all-powerful uninteresting villain for the Federation has also been assuaged, this time as a result of the Cardassian/Dominion alliance. In one stroke, that alliance makes the enemies seem more real, since Gul Dukat's about as three-dimensional a villain as Trek ever gets, and also shows enough of the Dominion's
power structure to suggest where future strains will lie. That's rather nice.

So, in terms of creating an overall sense of progress in the show and in the Trek universe, I think season 5 has been a gigantic step up -- the events are starting to pile up on each other in such a way that a bigger picture can be seen. Events, while not always being set up to make them seem truly expected, are at least seeming to build up on one another plausibly, and fallout from the more earth-shattering events is starting to happen a little more often.

So does that mean I'm satisfied? Hell, no. :-)

While fallout from major plot-related events is getting handled more easily, there are a wide assortment of character changes that have not fared so well, and they're making the characters seem more like plot devices at times than actual people.

First and foremost, there's the revelation that Bashir had been replaced by a Changeling for a month. This means that he helped deliver Kira's baby (to say nothing of the weeks leading up to the birth), that he helped Sisko through his visions in "Rapture", and most importantly, that he was the one monitoring the health of the infant Changeling that wound up giving Odo back his powers. That means Kira should wonder about the last month of her pregnancy, Sisko should wonder if "Bashir" overstated the dangers so as to prevent Sisko from seeing too much of future events, and Odo should very strongly wonder how much of the events of "The Begotten" were really coincidental. Instead, we got a joke from O'Brien about how he should have seen through it, because the faux-Bashir was so much easier to get along with. Feh.

Along similar lines, there's the revelation that Bashir (the real one) had been genetically enhanced and altered as a child. Given the Federation prohibition on such alteration, it's pretty reasonable to suppose that there are some people on the station, Starfleet or otherwise, who will have a real problem with Bashir's continued presence. You could argue that only the senior staff knows, except that O'Brien talking about it loudly at Quark's sort of puts a damper on that. Again, you'd expect a reaction that we haven't seen.

Also, there have been a few occasions within the series when characters take actions which are...questionable from a moral point of view. Sisko's poisoning of a planet in "For the Uniform" and Kira's endangering the life of the O'Briens' baby to satisfy a personal vendetta in "The Darkness and the Light" come to mind as obvious examples. In both cases, the actions may well have been justified at the time -- but that doesn't alter in the least the fact that someone should be upset by them. O'Brien should have given Kira major grief about "The Darkness and the Light", and I'd be surprised if someone on board the Defiant hadn't gotten upset about Sisko's seeming villainy and contacted higher-ups in Starfleet. For us to miss seeing things like that means that at times, the writers are still taking the easy way out, counting on the viewers not to mind -- but if characters don't react like that on a personal level, they seem less realistic. It's nowhere near the level of the "Stepford crew" problem that drove me off "Voyager" last year, but it's the same type -- if the stories ever falter, you need to have realistically drawn characters to fall back on, and each non-reaction like this leaves the characters a little emptier, even ones so expertly written within a show and beautifully acted as, say, O'Brien.

[I could also mention Worf's actions in "Let He Who is Without Sin" here, but that show was just so unquestionably awful that I'm trying to avoid it altogether.]

Given this, it's interesting that some of the most realistic characters are ones we don't see as often as the regular cast. Jake would be one of them -- yes, he's in the opening credits, but we only see him every third show or so. Regardless, his actions have been very consistent with his character and very understandable from as far back as "Explorers" in season 3 -- and he's just young enough and out of the global-politics loop enough that he doesn't need to react to a lot of the characters' more extreme actions. Another would be Gul Dukat, whose evolution from villain to freedom fighter to would-be conqueror has also been pretty well laid out, and who has rarely had lapses where one has to wonder how he got from point A to point B. (Most of those lapses were back in season 3, actually; this year, things have worked very well.) It might be one of the advantages of such a
gigantic recurring cast.

As far as problems in characterization above and beyond the long-running one that always bugs me, there's been some progress and some backsliding. The progress belongs to Kira: she was the one I thought was most hurt by Worf's addition in season 4, relegated to confidante, love interest, or laughingstock status too much of the time. This year, that was mostly taken away -- yes, her pregnancy was used for its share of bad plotting ("The Begotten" very high on the list), but her strong will and her devotion to Bajoran religion also came through far better than they did in most of season 4.

Worf, on the other hand, has fallen into a trap, albeit one that even a few characters have pointed out. It's been established time and time again that he's generally more straitlaced than most Klingons, which is sensible. Fine; all well and good. But that doesn't mean he has to be the biggest pain in the ass in all of Klingon history, and for much of season 5 that's been his role. Whether it was playing a reluctant Cyrano in "Looking for Par'mach in all the Wrong Places", breaking every law of Risa and common decency in "Let He Who is Without Sin", or tut-tutting at Dax gossiping in "A Simple Investigation", Worf spent much of the season acting like the stereotypical old maiden aunt, going on so much about everyone else's behavior that you can't see anything else. Episodes like "Soldiers of the Empire" later in the season helped, and there were moments here and there which gave Worf some other character traits ("Rapture" in particular helped), but Worf needs to get out of the holier-than-thou trap he's in.

Other new trends:

-- Waste extraction. At least half a dozen episodes had a reference to waste extraction this season; may I ask why? I'd love to blame a particular writer or set thereof, but at least four different writing teams tossed references in, so I can only assume it's the current DS9 phrase du jour. What, did the bathroom in the writers' offices just get refurbished or something?

-- Romance. For good or ill, there have been a lot of romantic relationships on DS9 this season, for one episode or several: Sisko/Kasidy Yates, Kira/Odo, Kira/Shakaar, Kira/O'Brien (Miles, that is), Miles/Keiko, Odo/Arissa, Dax/Worf, Quark/Grilka, Rom/Leeta, Bashir/Leeta, Zimmerman/Leeta, Garak/Ziyal, Ishka/Zek,
and undoubtedly Morn/Ensign Pran offscreen. Some of those have worked -- Kira/Odo is one of them for a change (at least by the end of this season), and Dax/Worf has had its moments ("A Call to Arms" being chief among them). However, all too many of the others have been excuses for bad sitcom-style plotting (e.g. Rom/Leeta), to indulge in innuendo-laden dialogue (Quark/Grilka), to indulge in bad Harlequin Romance dialogue (Odo/Arissa), or simply to keep unpleasant characters on the screen longer than I personally would like to see them (Ishka/Zek or Rom/Leeta). Not having tried to write romance dialogue for Trek, I don't know exactly why it's so difficult, but it seems to be the single most common type of situation that falls flat. I said the same thing about humorous episodes a few years ago, though, and the last two years have seen a dramatic increase in their quality (Ferenginar-based shows aside), so perhaps some surprises will come to pass later on.

(And as a "passing of the torch", a hearty "bon voyage" to long-time DS9 staffer Robert Hewitt Wolfe, and a "welcome" to David Weddle and Bradley Thompson.)

I think that about covers it. DS9's fifth season has had its ups and downs, but more improvements than collapses -- I think not having a sudden retooling at the start of the season, as happened in seasons 3 and 4, has helped everyone plan the show out much more clearly and effectively than has been done for years, possibly ever. It's not perfect, by any means -- what show ever is? -- but it's very often in there trying to do something interesting and trying to improve itself, which comes through clearly and helps a lot. I hope that season 6 can continue to build on the successes of season 5, and a run of quality like the last third of season 5 would make for a truly marvelous year.

Until next year, then -- like Sisko, I'll be back. Onwards!

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) <*>
"... but now ... now nothing is certain."
"Makes life interesting, doesn't it?"
-- "Rapture"

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