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

Greetings, all. It's amazing, and somewhat terrifying, to think that this is already the sixth time I'm writing a season-ending DS9 review ... not to mention that it's the next-to-last one. I think I'm feeling old. :-)

Anyway, by now you know the drill. First, there's an episode-by- episode recap, where I see what's changed from the first impressions to watching everything at season's end over the course of a little over a week, then there's general commentary on trends, successes, and failures of the entire season. Onwards!

I. DS9 Season 6, Episode by Episode

"A Time to Stand"

Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by: Allan Kroeker
Initial rating: 8.5
Quotables:
"Are you trying to insult me?" "A 32.7 percent chance of survival -- I call THAT insulting."
"You know, I never expected to say this ... but as occupations go, this one's not so bad."
"How do I explain that I evacuated every Federation citizen off Deep Space Nine except his grandson?"
"Dad, it's not quite as bad as it sounds." "You mean you didn't leave my grandson at the mercy of a vicious, bloodthirsty enemy?" "Well, no ... I did." "Then it's certainly just as bad as it sounds."
"What about freedom of the press?" "Please. Tell me you're not that naive."
"What do you think is gonna happen here, Dukat? That you're going to wear me down with your charming personality? That I'm going to be swept off my feet by that insincere smile? Are you really so deluded that you actually believe that we're going to have some kind of intimate relationship?" "Oh ... we already DO..."

As season openers go, this one was ... okay. There were certainly sources of frustration, like the initial three months of the war going by in a line of dialogue, and plenty of silly moments: Bashir's excessive Spockiness, only two weeks' worth of training to fly the Dominion ship (and the typical klutzy-pilot jokes along with it), and so on. Despite that, though, one did get the sense that the war might be protracted, and the events on the station felt very, very real (particularly Quark, for some reason). There certainly could have been better ways to start the season -- but there could also have been far, far worse ones.

Final rating: 7.

[Note: Sisko makes his first promise of the occupation here: to get Jake back safely.]

"Rocks and Shoals"

Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: Michael Vejar
Initial rating: 9.5
Quotables:
"Maybe someone can go get it. The ship's only about five hundred meters below the surface." "How long can you hold your breath, Cadet?"
"You may discipline me -- but only I discipline the men. That is the order of things."
"Would you make a deal like that?" "No." "Then why should I?" "You shouldn't." "You're not a very good negotiator, are you?"
"Evil must be opposed."
"I'm alive." "No self-diagnosis, please! I'm the doctor here."
"I'm willing to bet that you've brought one of those famed Starfleet engineers who can turn rocks into replicators."
"There are rules, Garak, even in war." "Correction: humans have rules in war -- rules that tend to make victory a little harder to achieve, in my opinion."
"When I was in the resistance, I despised people like me."
"Half the Alpha Quadrant is out there right now, fighting for my freedom, but not me. What am I doing? I'm eating a full meal every day, sleeping in a soft bed ... even write reports for the murderers who run this station."
"Keevan doesn't deserve the unwavering loyalty you're giving him." "He does not have to earn my loyalty, Captain. He has had it, from the moment that I was conceived. I am a Jem'Hadar -- he is a Vorta. It is the order of things." "Do you really want to give up your life for 'the order of things'?" "It is not my life to give up, Captain -- and it never was."
"You know, Captain ... if I'd had just two more vials of white, you never would have had a chance."

Now this one remained just as strong with age, if not growing even stronger. The station-bound side of things seemed to turn a corner in Kira's attitude (and Vedek Yassim's sacrifice was utterly compelling viewing), but for a change the Starfleet side rose to match it. Phil Morris's Remata'Klan is one of the few Jem'Hadar to ever feel like an honest-to-Prophets *character* rather than a plot device, Christopher Shea's Keevan was deliciously vile, and Michael Vejar's direction knitted everything together marvelously. The only false note was artificially removing Dax from the fray with her injury: while I realize that was due to an artificial cause (Terry Farrell's difficulty filming in direct sunlight for long periods of time, as Ron Moore has stated online), I wish it had been dealt with in a less artificial way. Still ... ah, let's be generous. There are plenty of occasions coming up where I won't be...

Final rating: 10.

[Here's the second promise from Sisko: to get Dax off the planet safely.]

"Sons and Daughters"

Written by: Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by: Jesus Salvador Trevino
Initial rating: 6
Quotables:
"I tell you, Worf: war is much more fun when you're WINNING!"
"When a father and son don't speak, it means there's trouble between them." [Hey, Martok, ever think of putting in for the ship's counselor job?]
"Nothing breaks the tension better than a tankard of warnog ... except maybe a good brawl."
"Keep a close watch. There may be more hostile simulation programs out there."
"You don't like the dress." "The dress is fine -- I don't like YOU."
"Tell me, Alexander Rozhenko, why are you on my ship?" "To serve the Empire, General." "That is a slogan, not an answer."

And now for something completely out of place. The story on the station with Kira, Dukat and Ziyal was the stronger of the two, but even it had serious problems: Ziyal turned into a pod person, and Kira's complacency in the face of Dukat and Damar flew completely in the face of her revelation in the previous show. (That's not even counting that this episode is when Jake's role in the arc began to vanish to almost nothing.) On the Rotarran ... well, I suppose seeing Alexander back answers a few questions, but not enough to justify half an hour of Klingon platitudes and a drab performance from Marc Worden. The station work was almost enough to bring this up to "neutral", but not quite.

Final rating: 4.5.

"Behind the Lines"

Written by: Rene Echevarria
Directed by: LeVar Burton
Initial rating: 10
Quotables:
"What I need is some peace." "What you need is clarity. I can give you that."
"What can I do for you, Major?" "I'm looking for Odo." "Well, he's not here."
"Try to stay out of trouble, Damar -- you don't want to end up on sanitation duty."
"It's an old naval tradition: whoever's in command of a ship, regardless of rank, is referred to as Captain." "You mean if I had to take command, I would be called Captain too?" "Cadet, by the time you took command, there'd be nobody left to call you anything."
"I just shared a bottle of kanar with Damar. Hee-hee. That rhymes!"
"I tried. I tried my best to run my establishment under this occupation -- but you know what? It's no FUN. I don't like Cardassians -- they're mean. And I can't stand the Jem'Hadar -- they're creepy. They just stand there like statues, looking at you..."
"A lot of people are going to die. Don't you care?" "It has nothing to do with me."
"The last five years, your life here, our friendship: none of that matters?" "It did, once."

Although it may be slightly unfair to judge an episode on the strength of what comes after it, in this case there's almost no way around it. The greatest strength of "Behind the Lines" came from Odo's tragic, almost ethereal turn away from his friends and fellow resistance members -- and while the tragedy shown in this episode still feels very real, it doesn't carry the same power to it when you know that the major response from Kira, from Quark, from Rom, and from everyone else down the line is basically "Oh, that; never mind." The show is still very strong, but the lack of repercussions and the Sisko material's weakness definitely hobbles the story more than I'd like.

Final rating: 8.5.

[Note: although we see Kira and Rom follow up on the Dominion shortage of white here, we never get any sense that Starfleet has followed up on the success of Sisko's mission. Why not?]

"Favor the Bold"

Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe
Initial rating: 7
Quotables:
"Engage, retreat, engage, retreat. I tell you, that's becoming our favorite tune." "Well, we better think of a new tune fast, or else the only song we're gonna be singing is Hail the Conquering Dominion."
"Gods don't make mistakes -- though sometimes, I think it would be nice to be able to carry a tune."
"Once we disable the replication units in all the mines, we can detonate the entire minefield, and I guarantee you: weak eyes or not, THAT explosion you will see."
"Let her go." "And if I don't? What then?" "Oh, I was hoping you'd ask that."
"What's this?" "Ancient Bajoran texts." "Ah. The Emissary looks for guidance on the eve of battle." "Guidance, insights, loopholes. I'll take anything I can get."
"It sounds like when your assignment to Deep Space Nine is over and Bajor is welcomed into the Federation, you're going to have a tough time saying goodbye." "I don't plan to say goodbye. I plan to build a house on Bajor." "And if Starfleet assigns you to a different sector?" "I will go wherever they send me -- but when I go home, it will be to Bajor."
"Can you believe it? They made me an Ensign!" "I hadn't realized things were going so bad." "Scary, isn't it?"
"Let me tell you something, Odo -- we are way, WAY past sorry."
"There's an old saying: Fortune favors the bold. Well, I guess we're about to find out."

"Favor the Bold" felt at the time like an hour's worth of buildup -- generally good, solid buildup with a few coincidences and a few iffy moments, but not bad. Now? Well, in retrospect ... it's an hour's worth of generally solid buildup with a few coincidences and a few iffy moments. (I still don't like the fact that Sisko happened to tell people about his DS9 recovery plan just when it became essential to do so; had it been suggested that he'd been working on one all along, that'd be better.) For a change, the weak link was the station: the Odo/Founder material this time is fairly insipid, and the Dominion's lack of surveillance in their holding cells is just absurd. On the whole, though, this is a solid hour, and in keeping with Changeling policies it's a reasonable Link between "Behind the Lines" and "Sacrifice of Angels".

Final rating: 6.5.

[I still think Jake could have been far better used. Morn got a message out? Morn, of all people? If you've got a reporter on the station, it makes dramatic sense to put him to use; otherwise, why bother with the character?]

"Sacrifice of Angels"

Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by: Allan Kroeker
Initial rating: 6
Quotables:

Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler Directed by: Allan Kroeker Initial rating: 6 Quotables: "Now, now, Damar -- that's no way to talk about our valued allies. Not until the war is over, anyway." "Congratulations, Captain. You wanted them angry -- they're angry." "To the conquerors of the Federation." "Aren't you being a little premature?" "Tell me, Weyoun, have you ever been diagnosed as anhedonic?" "A true victory is to make your enemies see they were wrong to oppose you in the first place! To force them to acknowledge your greatness." "Perhaps the biggest disappointment of my life is that the Bajoran people still refuse to appreciate how lucky they were to have me as their liberator. I protected them in so many ways -- cared for them as if they were my own children -- but to this day, is there a single statue of me on Bajor?" "I would guess not." "And you'd be right." "The Defiant is no match for this station. Sisko wants to commit suicide -- I say we let him." "The Link was paradise ... but it appears I'm not ready for Paradise." "Ben, if I were you I'd start coming up with a Plan B." "One ship against an entire fleet? That's a hell of a Plan B." "You want to be gods? Then BE gods! I need a miracle." "The Sisko is of Bajor, but he will find no rest there." "Time to start packing!" [Ah, that Weyoun, always chipper...]

Ah, yes -- probably the single most argued-about episode of the season. Some found it thrilling, others found it insulting. I found it ... okay, at the time, and that assessment really hasn't changed much in retrospect. The Odo/Kira rapprochement still rankles, absolutely, and there are too many moments where the good guys win because the bad guys are morons (particularly the Jem'Hadar letting Quark get the drop on them and Weyoun being stupid enough to talk about Kira's escape in front of Odo; I'm okay with the Founder's similar lapse, as she wanted Odo to keep his free will). Sisko's convincing the Prophets to intervene with little more than a good speech is also a reach, and the lack of any obvious sacrifice caused some problems as well. Despite all that, though, the episode has some charm: avoiding the rescue-in-the-nick-of-time cliche by letting Dukat destroy the mines was nice, the battle sequences were of course well displayed, and best of all, the slow dissolution of Dukat's sanity was just marvelous. Even the use of the Prophets worked: aspects of it were annoying, but cries of "deus ex machina!" carry a lot less weight when the "dei" in question are and have been an integral part of your storyline and your central character's actions for five years. The season definitely had its share of problems, but "Sacrifice of Angels" was far from the worst episode or biggest disappointment of the season.

Final rating: 6.5.

[Note: I still like the choice of spokesbeings the Prophets used when calling Sisko "belligerent", "aggressive", and "adversarial".]

[Note #2: even if Kira's forgiven Odo, where the hell are Quark and Rom in all this? Rom was sentenced to death thanks to Odo's actions, and Odo didn't lift a finger to stop it. Doesn't that usually lead to just a weensy bit of resentment?]

"You Are Cordially Invited"

Written by: Ronald D. Moore Directed by: David Livingston Initial rating: 6 Quotables: "Four nights of a Klingon bachelor party -- just THINK of the possibilities." "That is a prejudiced, xenophobic view." "We ARE Klingons, Worf." "The truth is ... she doesn't like you that much, either." "Blood, pain, sacrifice, anguish and death." "Sounds like marriage, all right." "How would you know?" "It's a Klingon bachelor party. You're a writer -- use your imagination." "Miles?" "Yeah?" "It's working. I've had a vision about the future. I can see it so clearly." "What is it?" "I'm gonna kill Worf." "You're mad." "I am concerned." "Yeah, well, I'm hung over. Can we talk later?" "She says it's because he's a pig-headed, stubborn man who puts tradition ahead of everything else. He says it's because she's a frivolous, emotional woman who refuses to take him or his culture seriously. You can see the problem." "They're both right." "We are not accorded the luxury of choosing the women we fall in love with." "No food for the ones on the path to Cal-haya!" "No refunds for the ones on the path to Cal-haya, either." "And I've got news for you, Old Man -- you're not Curzon any more." [then why are you calling her Old Man, Benny me boy?] "Whatever happened to that young, callow ensign I used to know? The one who used to turn to me for advice all the time? You know ... the one with hair?"

Interestingly, "You Are Cordially Invited" came up a bit in the final analysis. When it first aired, the things I most disliked were the standard cliche of "quick, call off the wedding!" and the Odo/Kira strife being swept completely under the rug with one conversation. Those are still the weakest aspects, and the second one is perhaps even more annoying after it's obvious how little play the issue got. The first one, however, is one I can live with, particularly given interesting cultural conflicts between Dax and Martok's wife Sirella. Add in a Klingon ceremony that actually has some resonance for once, and you get a show that, while not much more than fluff, at least managed to be entertaining fluff almost throughout.

Final rating: 7.

"Resurrection"

Written by: Michael Taylor Directed by: LeVar Burton Initial rating: 6 Quotables: "You are so obsessed with appearance." "And sometimes your taste in men frightens me." "I'll tell Worf you said that." "Well, I think I should be getting back to the infirmary -- unless there are any more details forthcoming." "Goodbye, doctor." "Goodbye." "I just stare into the Orb?" "Actually, it's more like the Orb stares into you." "I suppose I am a lot more like you than I'll ever be like Vedek Bareil." "Perfect. Then we have a deal?" "I'm afraid not." "Why?" "Because right now I don't like either one of us." "I've been a bartender a long time; I've seen all sorts of customers. Sad ones, happy ones, complicated ones --" "And Bareil? Where does he fit in?" "He's one of the tormented ones."

And now, the filler begins. There were a lot more pluses than minuses in the original Vedek Bareil and his romance with Kira, I always thought -- but even I couldn't get into this show the second time around. The ability to stroll over to and from the mirror universe as though you were heading to the replimat for dinner continues to be annoying, the complete disregard for anything that made mirror-Kira or even the mirror universe interesting is annoying, the telegraphed and by-the-numbers resolution was annoying, and the complete lack of Odo in a situation where he should be screaming bloody murder (figuratively, of course) is really annoying. The show does have a few moments at times, most of them surrounding Quark (!) in this case, but they're too few and too far between to really let anyone get into this particular "Resurrection".

Final rating: 4.

"Statistical Probabilities"

Written by: Rene Echevarria (teleplay); Pam Pietroforte (story) Directed by: Anson Williams Initial rating: 8 Quotables: "Funny, he doesn't look like a mutant." "There are rules! Don't talk with your mouth full -- don't open an airlock when there's somebody inside -- and don't lie about your genetic status!" "Here it comes, the 'You-Can-Still-Contribute' speech." "Besides, we're not talking about excluding them from anything. We're just talking about, well ... limiting what they're allowed to do." [Ah, well, that makes perfect -- HUH?] "Well, why don't you fix it, dear fellow, dear fellow? Well, why don't you fix it before I go MAD?" "Since when do you speak Dominionese?" "Since this morning." "Coward." "He tried." "I meant her." "It's all right, Julian. Go play with your friend, we'll be fine." "You want me to play with you, do you, Chief?" "They feel comfortable around you. What was the word Jack used? 'Uncomplicated.'" "Surrender to the Dominion? Not on my watch." "Now, I'm happy to hear your group's advice on how to win this war, but I don't need your advice on how to lose it." "So we go down fighting. How terribly courageous of us." "The way you're acting, you think nobody with half a brain could possibly disagree with you." "Frankly, I don't see how they can." "Well, I can see two possible explanations. Either I'm even more feeble-minded than you ever realized, or you're not as smart as you think you are." "It's not our place to decide who lives and who dies. We're not gods!" "Maybe not -- but we're the next best thing." "Odo!" "Yes, I know -- I honor you with my presence." "If we can come up with a way to beat the Dominion ... will you listen?"

Were the entire season filled with stories as thoughtful as this one, I'd be a very happy camper. "Statistical Probabilities" had a few glitches here and there, from the Federation's surprising willingness to hand over classified information to some occasionally one-note scripting of the mutants, but they weren't much of a problem. What we did get was an interesting discussion of forecasting a la Asimov's psychohistory, standout performances from Alexander Siddig, Colm Meaney, and Tim Ransom, and one of the best examinations of what makes Bashir tick that we're likely to get given his new status. This one's definitely a keeper.

Final rating: 8.5.

[Note #1: I've traded a bit of e-mail with Tim Ransom since the episode, and his own unofficial take on the enhancement is that genetic enhancement may have enhanced whatever mental instabilities were latent originally. Thus, Jack becomes hyper-ADD, Lauren becomes a hyper-nymphomaniac, and so on. Bashir, having no pre-existing problem, turns out normal ... or normal for Bashir, anyway. :-) It's an interesting idea; any comments?]

[Note #2: The "JackPack" will be back next season; I don't know details, but they're returning.]

[Trivia note: this is the first time we hear about the Romulans eventually breaking their nonaggression pact. At least one part of Bashir's projection was fulfilled, albeit with a different timetable.]

"The Magnificent Ferengi"

Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler Directed by: Chip Chalmers Initial rating: 2 Quotables: "Must've taken a wrong turn." "Looks that way." "A child, a moron, a failure, and a psychopath." ["They're detectives!"] "Going somewhere?" "Apparently not. I couldn't get the impulse engines on line." "That's because I had Rom disengage the induction matrix." "Then why did you bother chasing me?" "Because sometimes my brother gets things wrong."

About the only saving grace here was the fact that Ferengi really are pathetic when it comes to rescue missions. I didn't need an entire episode to display that, though, and I certainly didn't need to see Keevan killed and then "revived" with the old jab-em-with-the-nerve- impulses trick along the way. There were moments of good dialogue, but very few -- and in the service of a lame story, that's not enough. On the other hand, having seen true crap later in the season, a 2 may have been marginally harsh for what was really no more than dull and vaguely insulting anarchy.

Final rating: 2.5.

[Note: I still say that Quark should now be high up on the list of Dominion targets. It'd be nice if the show reflected that, or even had Quark worrying about it.]

"Waltz"

Written by: Ronald D. Moore Directed by: Rene Auberjonois Initial rating: 9.5 Quotables: "As terrible as it sounds, there's a part of me that wishes he were dead -- but that's a thought unworthy of a Starfleet officer." "Do you believe I'm guilty, Benjamin?" "I haven't seen all of the charges." "It's not like you to equivocate." "You've got to laugh at a universe which allows such radical shifts in fortune." [Er, did Ron Moore just ask us to laugh at the writing staff? :-) ] "How is everybody on what I'm sure you're once again calling Deep Space Nine? Odo, Kira, Quark?" "They're all fine -- and no, they don't miss you." "Now, I'm asking for your opinion of me, and I find it difficult to believe you don't HAVE one." "You will forgive me if I don't consider your honor to be worth Captain Sisko's life." "You may leave the bridge, Doctor." "Behold Benjamin Sisko: supreme arbiter of right and wrong in the universe." "Now let me get this straight. You're not responsible for what happened during the Occupation -- the Bajorans are." "Yes! Yes, exactly!" "We did not choose to be the superior race. Fate handed us that role." "I should have killed them all." "And that is why you're not an evil man." "From now on, it's him ... or me."

When it originally aired, I thought "Waltz" was utterly compelling material marred only by some very minor problems. I still think the individual scenework is compelling, showing Avery Brooks and Marc Alaimo at their best most of the time. After seeing some of the fallout from the episode, however, I think it put a good episode to an iffy use: the Dukat we've seen since "Waltz" has been close to your standard Evil Insane Villain, and the loss of his magnificent complexity is a severe loss indeed. Showing Dukat's insanity here was marvelous; taking his final statement about Bajor and claiming it's the only thing that defines the "truly evil" Dukat (if it's even true) is a mistake, and one that seriously undercuts the characters. There are other problems, too (such as the standard "Defiant finds them at the last possible moment" trope, which is way too common), but the overriding one is what happens to Dukat: it turns a great episode into a good one. I could still be wrong, and we could find out there's more to this Dukat than is immediately apparent: but so far it doesn't seem that way, and I have to call it accordingly.

Final rating: 8.5.

"Who Mourns For Morn?"

Written by: Mark Gehred-O'Connell Directed by: Victor Lobl Initial rating: 6 Quotables: "Jadzia." "Can we PLEASE drop this?" "What's that smell?" "Your inheritance: Levanian beets. Very ripe." "What's that?" "That, I believe, is a matador." "Just think of me as Morn. I can't believe I just said that..."

And now, the filler continues. Like "The Magnificent Ferengi", this episode tried to be anarchic fluff; unlike "The Magnificent Ferengi", "Who Mourns For Morn?" had enough utterly loopy moments to almost pull it off. Gregory Itzin's Hain stole the show in spots (reminding me of Chris Sarandon in "The Princess Bride" for some reason), Odo's early sarcasm was spot-on, and the ending had a reasonable twist to it. Unfortunately, that wasn't quite enough to justify the hour, particularly when it's combined with gratuitous vamping, incessant Morn jokes, incredibly bad performances from the Brothers Dopey, and a Morn reset button. Deeply committed Morn fans (and let me tell you, if you like Morn that much you risk being deeply committed :-) ) may like this, but I'm pretty neutral on it.

Final rating: 5.

"Far Beyond the Stars"

Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler (teleplay); Marc Scott Zicree (story) Directed by: Avery Brooks Initial rating: 9 Quotables: "I don't know how much more I can take. I don't know how many more friends I can lose." "Heinlein ... Bradbury ... Sturgeon. Quite a lineup. Add Herbert Ross to it and it'd be perfect." "Some of our readers have been writing in, wanting to know what you people look like." "Oh, tell them we look like writers: poor, needy, and incredibly attractive." "If the world's not ready for a woman writer, imagine what would happen if learned about a Negro with a typewriter. Run for the hills -- it's the end of civilization." "Would someone please shoot me and put me out of my misery?" "Oh, how I long for a gun." "She's got a worm in her belly! Oh, that's disgustin' ... that's interestin', but that's disgustin'." "I read a lot of science fiction." "Bless you, my child." "The world needs more people like you." "Science fiction needs more strong women characters -- I'm always saying that, aren't I, Jules?" "Ad nauseam, dear." "Your hero's a Negro captain -- the head of a space station, for Christ's sake!" "What's wrong with that?" "People won't accept it -- it's not believable." "And men from Mars ARE?" "For all we know, it could cause a race riot." "Congratulations, Douglas. That's the most imbecilic attempt to rationalize personal cowardice that I've ever heard." "A colored captain? The only reason they'll ever let us in space is if they need someone to shine their shoes." "Walk with the Prophets, Brother Benny. Show us the way." "It's not about what's right. It's about what IS." "Rest easy, Brother Benny. You have walked in the path of the Prophets. There is no greater glory." "Tell me, please ... who am I?" "Don't you know?" "Tell me." "You are the dreamer -- and the dream." "For all we know, at this very moment, far beyond all those distant stars ... Benny Russell is dreaming of us."

I'd scarcely change a word of my original review on this one. The atmosphere of 1950's pulp SF writing is there and is excellent, many performances were superb (particularly those from Lofton and Shimerman), and this story of racism both covert and overt is one of Trek's better morality tales. The only real problems in the show were Brooks' slight scenery-chewing in "Benny Russell"'s final speech and a general lack of connection to the DS9 characters we know and love. When it manages to show a different set of characters and get us to care what happens to them, however, I can mostly overlook that. "Far Beyond the Stars" isn't quite the most compelling Trek ever, but it's definitely one to keep.

Final rating: 9.

[Long note: I've seen lots of discussion of how this or that detail in the pulp SF era is wrong (among them the fact that there wouldn't be a central office where the writers "came to work"). While most of those claims are legitimate, I think they may be missing the forest for the trees. The sense of being there is what's important -- and I think that sense came through nicely. Admittedly, I do like the suggestion that the publisher "whitewash" the story and make Sisko white behind Benny Russell's back better than what the episode did...]

[Long note #2: One other claim made was that a magazine wouldn't generally have a "house staff". While that's certainly true as a general rule, some magazines of the time did have its stories produced by a regular, and small, group of writers, among them Robert Silverberg and Harlan Ellison. (I'm getting this from the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction by Clute & Nicholls, incidentally; my own knowledge of the period is decent, but hardly exhaustive.)]

"One Little Ship"

Written by: David Weddle & Bradley Thompson Directed by: Allan Kroeker Initial rating: 7 Quotables: "What? I'm not laughing! Just because we are shrinking three people to the size of coffee cups..." "I do not see what is so humorous about being small." "Neither do I." [Worf and Nog, ladies & gentlemen -- give 'em a big hand!] "Chief, you're not gonna like this." "Are you telling me I'm gonna be this bloody tall for the rest of my life?" "This bloody tall, actually." "This conduit's filthy, Chief -- don't you ever clean up in here?" "All right, all right, let's not badger the Chief." "Thank you." "I'm sorry. It was very small of me." "Will someone please let me in on this conversation?" "Don't hit it too hard; you could shatter the control panel." "Don't worry. I have a light touch." "Not according to Worf. [...] What?"

And now, the filler really kicks into high gear. "One Little Ship" holds up pretty well after a few viewings, though -- despite a dull interlude into internal Jem'Hadar strife and a premise that's virtually the definition of "high-concept goofy", that premise is milked for all it's worth with just the right attitude. Were it not for the Jem'Hadar behaving like idiots in order to let the good guys win, this might have been even more fun -- as it is, it turned out okay.

Final rating: 6.5.

[Note: I think it would've been much more fun, albeit more difficult, to do the show entirely from the point of view of the shrunken folks, except for the beginning and end.]

[Note #2: There is potential in the "Alpha vs. Gamma" strife within the Jem'Hadar; there was just nothing compelling about the handling of it here.]

"Honor Among Thieves"

Written by: Rene Echevarria (teleplay); Philip Kim (story) Directed by: Allan Eastman Initial rating: 7.5 Quotables: "You have no idea what people are willing to pay for a glass of burning alcohol." "You got a family?" "No." "You should. It's the most important thing." "I never realized how much the Dominion and the Orion Syndicate have in common. It seems that in both organizations, loyalty is everything." "Starfleet Intelligence will warn them you're coming!" "How do you know that? I suppose you work for them." "What if I said I did?" "I wasn't even your target ... I suppose I'm not important enough." "The smart thing would be to kill you -- but I guess I already proved I'm not too smart." "Back home, wherever that is -- do you have a family?" "Yeah." "Good. It's the most important thing."

"Honor Among Thieves" falls down a bit on further inspection, however. No, it's not because of the allegations of "DS9 does Donnie Brasco" (about which I can't comment, not having seen the film or read the book); it's because, as "let's torture O'Brien" stories go, this one's too impersonal and too run-of-the-mill. Colm Meaney and Nick Tate were true pros and gave it their all, and that helped a lot -- but the predictable story and the inexplicable assignment of O'Brien to work for Starfleet Intelligence at this point in time always linger at the back of one's mind, causing trouble. "Honor Among Thieves" is still worth watching, particularly if you're a Meaney fan, but it's not one you're going to chew on afterwards.

Final rating: 6.

[Note: if you want an example of the isolation Miles talks about in "The Sound of Her Voice", the end of this episode is a good example. Miles talks to Bashir as much as he can, but Bashir's responses are halting, almost half-hearted -- as though he has absolutely no idea what to say.]

"Change of Heart"

Written by: Ronald D. Moore Directed by: David Livingston Initial rating: 5.5 Quotables: "Jadzia is playing a very deep game. Her strategy will become apparent any moment now." "I see. You have absolutely no idea how this game is played, do you?" "No." "Let me make this very clear. I do not want to spend my honeymoon climbing, hiking, sweating, bleeding, or suffering in any way." "All right. What do you want?" "Room service." "I didn't expect you to surrender so quickly." "Surrender?" "Bad word." "Very bad." "Okay..." "That is a joke! I get it! It is not funny, but I get it." "Think of it as a challenge!" "That's your obsession, Miles, not mine." "Do it for the latinum." "Nice try." "Do it for the satisfaction of seeing the look on Quark's face when he's beaten at a game of tongo by a lowly hew-mon." "Deal the cards." "Doctor, you don't expect me to show you all* my cards ... do you?"

"Change of Heart", on the other hand, actually improved with age. There are still a lot of things about the episode I didn't care for -- the initial question of why Kira would assign two people for a simple message pickup when the station's short-handed, for instance, some vague direction during Worf's crucial "decision", and an awful lot of filler while walking around in the jungle -- but even so, something about Worf's loyalty to Dax winds up coming through, and coming through enough to carry the episode. The B plot, O'Brien's and Bashir's Tongo Adventure [TM], is generally entertaining until the end, when the mad rush to have half the male characters on DS9 in love with Dax kicks in.

Final rating: 6.5.

"Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night"

Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler Directed by: Jonathan West Initial rating: 3 Quotables: "Why do you want to play a program where we lose?" [Because the alternative's being in this episode? Sorry, couldn't resist...] "Let me get this straight. You want to travel back in time to see if Gul Dukat and your mother were lovers?" "And I bet I know what you're thinking: you'd like nothing better than to get us all drunk so you can kill us in our sleep." "Are you sure you're not part Betazoid?" "'I only hope you won't condemn us all for the boorish behavior of one man.'" [Dukat repeats it] "How did you know he was going to say that?" "Let's just say this is not the first performance I've seen of this little ... melodrama."

Nope. This one was just a dumb idea that gets even dumber when one looks back. Insulting and offensive treatment of time travel, the use of the Prophets as a crutch (you want the Prophets as deus ex machina, this is a better choice than "Sacrifice of Angels"), and shallow treatment of just about every character involved make this one a big, big mistake. It's not the worst of the season, but it's awfully pointless -- when even Marc Alaimo isn't compelling, something's wrong.

Final rating: 2.5.

"Inquisition"

Written by: Bradley Thompson & David Weddle Directed by: Michael Dorn Initial rating: 8.5 Quotables: "It's like the river calls to me." "Yes, it's saying 'Stay away. Don't come near me, or I'll hurt you MORE!'" "Aaaigh!" "Wait ... um ... let me think. Was I alone in solitary? Yes, I think I was." "Is it really necessary to drive a Starfleet officer across the Promenade in irons?" "I was with the Seventh Fleet when the Dominion attacked the Tyra system. 98 of our ships were destroyed in a matter of hours. I lost a lot of friends." "I lost a lot of friends, too." "I believe that -- but yours were Jem'Hadar." "Now, so far, your case is based on circumstantial evidence and speculation." "What other case can I make against a man who covers his tracks so well?" "That's a circular argument and you KNOW it!" "This man concealed the truth about his illegal genetic enhancement for over thirty years. He lied to get his medical license, he lied to get into Starfleet, he lied to you when he came aboard this station, and he's been lying to you ever since!" "You don't believe me, do you?" "I don't ... I don't think you're lying, Julian." "You're saying that I'm a traitor!" "Traitor ... hero ... those are just words." "You violate those principles as a matter of course." "In order to protect them." "Well, I'm sorry, but the ends don't always justify the means." "Really?" "How many lives do you suppose you've saved in your medical career?" "What does that have to do with anything?" "Hundreds? Thousands? Do you suppose those people give a damn that you lied to get into Starfleet Medical? I doubt it." "I can't believe the Federation condones this kind of activity." "Personally, I find it hard to believe they wouldn't. Every other great power has a unit like Section 31: the Romulans have the Tal Shiar, the Cardassians had the Obsidian Order." "But what does that say about US? When push comes to shove, are we willing to sacrifice our principles in order to survive?"

"Inquisition" is probably the second-best episode of the latter half of the season (losing out only to its immediate successor "In the Pale Moonlight"). Although the fifth act and the revelation behind "Section 31" feels more like an attempt to jump on the conspiracy bandwagon than it does a natural outgrowth of the past few years, the questions it raises are ones which are worth asking: we've seen ends-vs.-means questions in Trek before, but generally as applied to individuals, not societies. There's food for thought here, which is nice by itself; add in a marvelously directed atmosphere of paranoia and a great guest star turn from William Sadler, and you get a very solid show.

Final rating: 8.

[Note #1: where was Garak in all of this? You'd think Bashir would have a lot to talk about with him after this...]

[Note #2: with all of the questions about "is Section 31 really authorized by Starfleet or not?", has anyone thought to check Sadler's claim and look at the original Starfleet charter? In a free society like the Federation, calling up the text of the charter should be an easy thing to do.]

[Note #3: Since I'm usually critical of DS9 on the rare occasions I bring up B5, I figured I should mention something else here in fairness. Although I think B5 introduced Nightwatch much more gradually and much more smoothly than DS9 did Section 31, I also think DS9 did a better job asking questions instead of showing straw men. Sloan's arguments were far more compelling and potentially winning than anything a Nightwatch member ever did or said. I realize the two organizations aren't quite parallel, but they're close enough that I thought the comparison made sense. Just in the interests of even-handedness...]

"In the Pale Moonlight"

Written by: Michael Taylor (teleplay); Peter Allan Fields (story) Directed by: Victor Lobl Initial rating: 9.5 Quotables: "I can see where it all went wrong. Where I went wrong." "So they're crossing my backyard to give the Federation a bloody nose. I can't say that makes me feel very sad." "Very good, Old Man. You would've made a decent Romulan." "I prefer the spots to the pointed ears." "And it may be a very messy, very bloody business. Are you prepared for that?" "My intentions were good. In the beginning, that seemed like enough." "If you want to guarantee that we obtain evidence of a Dominion plot to attack the Romulans, I suggest that we manufacture that evidence ourselves." "Captain, I've always liked you. I've suspected that somewhere deep down in your heart of hearts there was a tiny bit of Ferengi just waiting to get out." "People are dying out there every day. Entire worlds are struggling for their freedom -- and here I am, still worrying about the finer points of morality!" "Who's watching Tolar?" "I've locked him in his quarters. I've also left him with the distinct impression that if he attempts to force the door open, it may explode." "I hope that's just an impression." "It's best not to dwell on such minutiae." "Always a pleasure to see you, Mr. Worf." [zing!] "Mr. Garak, after having spent a week with you, I have developed a very, very thick skin." "So, you're the captain of Deep Space Nine, and the Emissary to the Prophets. Decorated combat officers, widower, father, mentor -- and oh, yes, the man who started the war with the Dominion. So, I thought you'd be taller." "Maybe you're right. Maybe the Dominion will win in the end. Then the Founders will control what we now call Cardassia, the Klingon Empire, and the Federation. So, instead of facing three separate opponents, with three separate agendas, you'll find yourselves facing the same opponent on every side. There's a word for that: surrounded." "I'm not an impatient man." [hands up, anyone who believes THAT one...] "That's why you came to see me -- isn't it, Captain? Because you knew I could do those things you weren't capable of doing. Well, it worked! And you'll get what you want -- a war between the Romulans and the Dominion. And if your conscience is bothering you, you should soothe it with the knowledge that you may have just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant, and all it cost was the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal, and the self-respect of one Starfleet officer. I don't know about you, but I'd call that a bargain." [Quite honestly, the rest of the scene leading up to this is nearly as good; my fingers just got tired. :-) ] "So: I lied ... I cheated .. I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder. But the most damning thing of all: I think I can live with it, and if I had to do it all over again, I would."

Shows like "In the Pale Moonlight" are the reason why I keep watching DS9. Okay, so the narration could be excessive in spots -- you could say the same about the original cut of "Blade Runner", and that's still a marvelous film. A tale of Sisko's good intentions gone bad has a lot of promise, and thanks to a lack of loopholes, good work by Brooks and by director Victor Lobl, and possibly the best single use of Garak any episode has ever made, this is one that really stands out as a season's peak.

Final rating: 10.

[Note: someone wrote me with an intriguing suggestion. Suppose that Garak had been lying about his contacts' death, or indeed about contacting them at all. Talk about Machiavellian planning...]

"His Way"

Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler Directed by: Allan Kroeker Initial rating: 1.5 Quotables: "Julian, are you telling me that you discussed your love life with a hologram?" "He's not an ordinary hologram, Miles. He knows about love, life, and women --" "Yeah, three things you know nothing about." "You're not exactly the most lovable person in the galaxy. You're not even the most lovable person in this sector -- or on the station -- or even in this room." "Captain, here's the report on that smuggling ring you requested." [Note to Odo: never misplace your modifiers. Let's look carefully at that sentence...]

Um ... no. My initial rating may have been a tad harsh, but the basic thrust of it stands: the episode was trite to the extreme, Vic is entirely too powerful to be any sort of plausible hologram (or at least one that gets blase reactions from Starfleet officers), there's rotten dialogue from most of the principals ("moment of perfect clarity"?), and logic is tortured beyond belief, all for the sake of creating a romance. Sorry, folks; as much as I like Odo and Kira as characters, this romance is way too forced, and this episode undid most of the goodwill that had built up from last season's "Children of Time".

Final rating: 2.5.

[Note: if you want an example of tortured logic, there's Kira deciding to pray in a holosuite, solely to enable Vic to chat her up. Right, that makes sense...]

[Note #2: within a matter of weeks after "His Way" aired, Frank Sinatra died. I refuse to believe this is a coincidence.]

"The Reckoning"

Written by: David Weddle & Bradley Thompson (teleplay); Harry M. Werksman & Gabrielle Stanton (story) Directed by: Jesus Salvador Trevino Initial rating: 9 Quotables: "He is the Sisko. He will not waver." "He is of Bajor." "He will bring the Reckoning." "What is it you expect of me?" "It will be the end." "Or the beginning." "That confirms it: it's a slab of stone with some writing on it." "The Prophets are not always clear." "Since they have never spoken to me, I'll have to take your word for it." "Who knows? The rest of the tablet probably says, 'Go to Quark's -- it's happy hour.'" "I like the way you think, Doctor." "It seems to me that if the Prophets wants the Bajoran people to follow a given path, they should provide more specific directions." "It doesn't work like that." "Maybe it should." "I just don't know how people make it through the day without [faith]." "We manage." "During the Reckoning, the Bajoran people will either suffer horribly, or ... eat fruit." "Eat fruit?" "Given the tone of the rest of the inscriptions, I would bet on horrible suffering." "I just got this uncontrollable urge to smash the tablet." "Oh, I get those urges all the time -- of course, I never ACT on them." "Rest assured, the Golden Age is upon us. The Prophets and the people will be as one. Think of it! There will be no need for Vedeks, or Kais -- or even Emissaries." "I think you're confusing faith with ambition."

Okay, okay, so I overreacted a bit here when "The Reckoning" first aired. I do still like it a fair bit, and I certainly don't have the same disdain for the Prophet/Pah wraith battle that others have shown. Some things do bug me more as I think about the episode, however, and chief among them has to be the regression needed in Winn in order to set the early stages of the story. A certain amount of stretching is something I could understand, but this gave me the distinct impression that the events of "Rapture" had been forgotten entirely as far as Winn was concerned. That's not good. Winn's backsliding, plus other issues like Jake's quick forgiveness, take what could have been a fantastic story about Sisko's faith and turn it into one that's merely reasonable.

Final rating: 7.

[Note #1: I still think that the Prophet's statement that "The Sisko has completed his task" is one that could be used as significant propaganda by someone suitably unscrupulous.]

[Note #2: Why wasn't Jake evacuated off the station with the rest of the civilians? The "reporter" issue doesn't wash this time, as he never mentioned it.]

"Valiant"

Written by: Ronald D. Moore Directed by: Michael Vejar Initial rating: 5 Quotables: "I felt like I met God every morning." "You're here to write the story -- to tell people of the Valiant and her crew. Don't interfere with this story, Jake; don't become a part of it. Just let it unfold around you." "I don't even know who you are any more." "I'm the Chief Engineer of the starship Valiant." "I'll have them put that on your tombstone." "What happened?" "We failed." [nicely stark] "You gonna write a story about all this?" "Probably." "What are you going to say?" "What do you think I should say?" "That it was a good ship, with a good crew, that made a mistake. We let ourselves blindly follow Captain Watters, and he led us over a cliff." "That's not true. Captain Watters was a great man." "Dorian, he got everyone killed." "If he failed, it's because we failed him." "Put that in your story, too. Let people read it and decide for themselves. [...] He may have been a hero. He may even have been a great man. But in the end, he was a bad captain."

Not a lot changed here. "Valiant" had its moments -- Dorian's story about sunrise on the moon, a usually strong presence from Captain Watters, and the novelty of a failed suicide mission (along with Nog's taking command of a ship of corpses) chief among them. In the end, though, they're not enough to really let me get into a story which seems questionable in terms of logic and odd in terms of its existence. Was Red Squad really popular enough or interesting enough that it warranted an episode? Not from where I sit.

Final rating: 5.

"Profit and Lace"

Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler Directed by: Alexander Siddig Initial rating: 0.5 Quotables: "A Dominion invasion of Ferenginar?" "Think of the terrible repercussions to the Alpha Quadrant!" "I cannot think of any."

Read my original review. It says all that needs to be said, except for the following: when I tried rewatching this one for the season wrap- up, I couldn't get through it. That's only happened once before -- with Voyager's "Threshold". Not exactly distinguished company...

Final rating: 0.

"Time's Orphan"

Written by: Bradley Thompson & David Weddle (teleplay); Joe Menosky (story) Directed by: Allan Kroeker Initial rating: 5 Quotables: "I can't believe how much she's grown since I last saw her." "Look who's talking." "She's anthropomorphized the landscape." "Yeah, she loves to draw." [huh?] "I'm disappointed in you, Chief. If anyone could break a prisoner out of a holding cell and get them off the station, I'd have thought it would've been you." "By the way, what does 'gung gung gung' mean?"

This year, instead of one "torture O'Brien" episode, we got two. Unfortunately, it's only by adding the scores of both together that you get a 10. "Time's Orphan" succeeds in some of its "retraining Molly" sequences, and Colm Meaney makes O'Brien's fatherhood and anguish seem fairly real -- but a reset-button ending, random technobabble weirdness on a known Bajoran colony, a somewhat iffy Worf/Dax subplot (not to mention a cheap one, given the season finale), and a general sense of things being too easily telegraphed made for a very lackluster show. Meaney's always worth watching, but that doesn't mean his material is.

Final rating: 4.

[Note: is there any reason they couldn't send a person back to look for Molly rather than doing the transporter tricks? Besides the fact that it would've left the staff without an episode, that is.]

"The Sound of Her Voice"

Written by: Ronald D. Moore (teleplay); Pam Pietroforte (story) Directed by: Winrich Kolbe Initial rating: 6 Quotables: "They're in love." "And what's love? Love's a distraction -- and a distracted policeman is an opportunity." "I'm having trouble creating real flesh-and-blood characters, especially nefarious ones." [...] "Lesson number one: no one involved in an extralegal activity thinks of himself as nefarious." "I'll have one of my officers stay on the comlink with you at all times." "And order them to enjoy it, too." "Done." "I get the feeling that it's gonna take me some hours to crawl out of this rather sizable hole I've dug for myself." "Not at all. It'll take you DAYS." "There's this assumption nowadays that only someone with a diploma can listen to your problems or give you advice." "To failure!" "I'm not drinking to that." "Jake, in ten minutes my business partner's ship will dock. In fifteen minutes, Odo will arrest him. In twenty minutes, my name will come up -- and in twenty-five minutes, Odo will walk in here with a warrant. I think you should humor me on this one." "So he'll get this one -- but JUST this one." "Contrary to public opinion, I am not the arrogant, self-absorbed, godlike doctor that I appear to be on occasion. Why don't I hear anybody objecting to that statement?" "I will if you insist." "I insist." "Then I object." "Thank you, Miles Edward O'Brien." "To Lisa, and the sweet sound of her voice." [Even if it weren't at the end of the scene, I'd have to put this one in. :-)]

I know exactly what this episode was trying to do -- let Our Heroes grow a bit by the introduction of an outside voice. Unfortunately, a lot of that was lost in the mix: Sisko's troubles were perhaps too obvious, Bashir was made a bit too robotic in order to let him learn his lesson later on, Dax was completely absent for no particular reason, and the sci-fi "premise" behind the resolution is just ghastly. There's enough good material here to be worth watching (particularly the Odo/Quark/Jake plot on the station), but only barely.

Final rating: still 6.

"Tears of the Prophets"

Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler Directed by: Allan Kroeker Initial rating: 7 Quotables: "Mark my words: by this time next year, the three of us will drink bloodwine in the halls of Cardassia's Central Command." "Well, isn't anyone going to welcome me home?" "Heroes get welcomed home, Dukat, not failures." "We're in the middle of a life and death struggle for the control of the entire Alpha Quadrant, and all you can care about is quenching your petty thirst for revenge. You haven't changed a bit, have you?" "You're right, Dukat, you have changed. You've gone from being a self-important egotist to a self-deluded madman. I'd hardly call that an improvement." "Klingons can be quite entertaining, can't they? Every Romulan zoo should have a pair." "Why is it dangerous to leave? And how will it affect Bajor?" ["And how will it affect Al Franken?" Oh, sorry; ignore that...] "The sad truth is, we wasted our time fighting the Bajorans when we should have been fighting their gods." "If y'ask me, it's an ungodly hour to go to war -- you can quote me on that." "I will." "Pah wraiths and Prophets ... all this talk of gods strikes me as nothing more than superstitious nonsense." "You believe the Founders are gods, don't you?" "That's different." "In what way?" "The Founders are gods." "I know this is small comfort ... but I never intended you any harm." "My mother says all the Orbs are dark, that the Prophets have abandoned us. You have to find them, Emissary; you have to ask them to come back!" "I will try." "I had a hell of a lot of fun with both of you -- but Curzon was my mentor. You ... you were my friend, and I am going to miss you." "I need time to think, clear my head. But I can't do it here -- not on the station, not now. I need to get away, and find a way to figure out how to make things right again. I have to make things right again, Jadzia -- I have to." "Let's go home, Jake." "I was afraid of that. He's not sure he's coming back." "What makes you say that?" "His baseball. He took it with him."

And so it ends. While I'm all for ambition, which "Tears of the Prophets" had plenty of, I prefer my episodes to have focused ambition rather than just shoehorning in every neat concept people can think of. The broad strokes of the episode (the battle turning, the loss of the Prophets, and the loss of Jadzia) are generally fine -- but the details of them got all tangled together, and in many cases lost amidst a sea of rehashed "which are you, Emissary or Starfleet?" moments, inexplicable musical numbers, too many coincidences and logic lapses, and material meant solely to build up the loss of Jadzia, as if losing a character we'd known for six years somehow wouldn't be enough to make people feel something. "Tears of the Prophets" certainly wasn't a failure as a season finale, but like Sisko I can't help feeling the victory was somewhat Pyrrhic.

Final rating: 6.5.

[Note: Okay, I've changed my mind about Jake. Having him on board was okay.]

[Note #2: someone suggested to me that the Kira/Odo fight would've been more interesting had he been concerned about her going into combat again. That would've set up more than one person with a target on her back, and integrated the Kira/Odo material better. I like it.]

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 6

6.1

+/-

2.5

6.5

Last season (season 5) had 10 episodes scoring 9 or higher; season 6 has only 3 (although if you look at ones scoring 8 or higher, that jumps up to 7 episodes). Season 5 had only 3 episodes scoring below a 5; season 6 has 7, tying season 3 for most low-scoring episodes.

Clearly, then, something didn't quite click this season. What happened? Well, you can read on for my ideas...

II. DS9 Season 6 -- General Commentary |

Before I started writing this section, I looked back over what I'd written at the end of season 5, and it's interesting to see the contrasts. Back then, for instance, I wrote:

"... 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..."

As much as I'd been annoyed with the shift in focus over the years from the personal and cultural issue of Federation/Bajor relations (and Sisko/Kira as a mirror thereof) to the Grand Epic [TM] idea of the Federation/Dominion conflict, I was happy by the end of season 5, because everyone involved had picked up on an important concept if you're going to do a Grand Epic: everything has to fit. We've got to see buildup, we've got to see interrelationships, and we've got to see that this is something more than just the latest cool thing out there.

In the latter half of season 5, we saw that -- and the first couple of episodes of season 6 seemed to strengthen that idea even further. DS9 had moved to a much bigger tapestry, and at the time the picture was coming along nicely.

Now? Well, if last season showed me the up side of DS9 entering Grand Epic territory, this season displayed the perils of such an entrance. Chief among them is the renewed and even strengthened need for consistency. When Federation/Bajor relations were the main focus early in the series, it was easy to take detours into alien-of-the-week territory or into a particularly interesting phenomenon in the Gamma Quadrant. Now, with the Federation/Dominion war hanging like a backdrop over everything, it's not that easy -- but it's happening anyway, perhaps even more than it used to.

Think about it. How many episodes this season felt as though they were throwbacks to an earlier time when the Federation/Dominion war was still a vague tension, if that? There's "Resurrection", "The Magnificent Ferengi", "Who Mourns For Morn?", "Honor Among Thieves", "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night", "His Way", possibly "Inquisition", "The Reckoning", "Profit and Lace", "Time's Orphan", and "The Sound of Her Voice" -- and that's not even counting the shows which only barely seem to acknowledge the war like "One Little Ship". (Yes, you heard that right; we saw attempted Jem'Hadar takeovers well before the war, so the events of "One Little Ship" could've been old.)

The problem with doing a Grand Epic is that you really need to be focused -- and when nearly half of the season is doing other things, the impact is blunted. In this case, the impact was so blunted that the season seemed downright aimless most of the time.

That's a large part of the difficulty DS9 ran into this season, but it's not the only problem. If you look at the list of "fluffy" episodes above, there's a bigger problem than the fact that they're not really part of a larger scheme. After all, "In the Cards" was only barely a part of the looming Federation/Dominion tension last year, and it worked like a charm. "Trials and Tribble-ations" was nothing BUT fluff, but it was one of the best-loved shows of the year. "Hard Time" was (regrettably) wholly unconnected to anything in its season, yet everyone seemed to like it.

In other words, the problem with the episodes listed above is not just that they were unconnected. It's that the episodes were weak most of the time -- weak enough that you were frequently and harshly reminded of how unconnected they were to anything else. When you take something which isn't part of something ongoing and make it of iffy quality in the bargain, what you get is a string of episodes which, if not bad, tends to feel disappointing when it goes on for weeks at a stretch.

In a lot of ways, it's not the episodes that earn 2's and 3's which are most annoying -- while they're rotten, it's fair to expect that if a production team is willing to branch out and try new approaches, some of them will fall flat on their face. (Of course, having 4 of them this season is a bit much.) The really annoying thing is a string of episodes in the 5-7 range, I think -- because they're the shows that leave you feeling "oh, man ... I really wanted to like that one more than I did." They're the ones that leave you with a sense of missed opportunity, and at least to me there are few feelings more irksome.

Take, for instance, two-thirds of the opening arc. While all of them except "Sons and Daughters" were very decent, only "Rocks and Shoals" and "Behind the Lines" really felt like they were doing what they were supposed to. For a big, sweeping story like this, you should get swept away into the action, eager to find out what happens next. Most of the episodes in that arc had enough glitches in character, lapses in logic, or just plain missed opportunities that instead of being swept away, I felt as though I had to sweep up after all the loose ends. The lack of sacrifice in "Sacrifice of Angels", the complete non-use of Jake (and Garak, to a fault) in the entire arc, the Odo/Kira tension that got swept under the rug in a handful of lines of dialogue ... all of those things tend to make the viewer less interested in the characters, because they characters no longer seem quite so real.

One other general trend about DS9 that's concerned me this season has been the lack of teamwork, for want of a better word. An awful lot of stories this year have been focusing in very strongly on a single character or at most a pair of them: Kira in "Resurrection", Quark (mostly) in "The Magnificent Ferengi", O'Brien in "Honor Among Thieves", Odo in "His Way", Jake and Nog in "Valiant", and so on. One of DS9's greatest strengths for six years has been its diversity of character -- and while using various solo stories is a possible way to show that, it's not, in my opinion, the best one. It's much easier to see differing outlooks on life when the characters get to deal with a common issue; separating those characters almost turns the series into an anthology rather than a story with an ongoing setting. It's certainly not that every character needs to get equal time (or even to appear every show; that's what leads to those "give everyone their residuals!" scenes that can be so jarring at times); it's that we need to see them interact, not just react. Would "In the Pale Moonlight" have worked so well if Sisko hadn't had Garak there? Would "Rocks and Shoals" have worked if Sisko were leading a nondescript team, or if Kira weren't working so closely with Odo? Hell, one of the consistently good points of the early-season arc was the chemistry between Dukat and Weyoun.

On to some other character-centered thoughts. The winner of "best-used character" this year may well be, of all people, Dr. Bashir. Julian's genetic status, while not the overriding and central concept to any episode, has proven a springboard for not one, but two strong episodes this year: "Statistical Probabilities" and "Inquisition". In the former case, his own sense of isolation led him in interesting directions when he met "his own kind"; in the latter, his genetic status became a source of extra suspicion. Both of those are good things to do with the character; I'd like to see a little more dealing with him as a doctor, but he's the one I'm happiest about this season.

A strong second would be Benjamin Sisko. Although "torture O'Brien" episodes are a yearly staple these days, Sisko is the one carrying the weight of the Federation on his shoulders ... and in a lot of good ways, that's been showing more and more. A lot of my good impressions are based on "In the Pale Moonlight", unsurprisingly -- but things like "The Reckoning" and the ending of "Tears of the Prophets" have added to that sense. Kirk and Picard are interesting leaders and eminently watchable -- but Sisko seems to have a lot more inner torment. Plus, as Emissary, he's literally a mythic figure as well as a heroic one, and that's been put to good use this year.

(As an aside to that, though ... I'm getting less and less comfortable with aspects of Avery Brooks' portrayal of Sisko lately. I think Sisko is often best when he's somewhat restrained, when the strong emotions he's nearly always fighting with are internalized; Brooks, at times, chooses to play it far more ... well, "vividly" is the word that's coming to mind. If you look at some of his narration in "In the Pale Moonlight", or Benny Russell's breakdown in "Far Beyond the Stars", that's the sort of thing I mean. I'd be happier if he'd pull back just a tad.)

Then there are the "worst-used character" awards. Unfortunately, this is a tighter race. The pair I think got the shaft most were Odo and Kira. The betrayal early in the season was interesting -- but then it was taken away with a few kind words in a closet. Perhaps their reconciliation was meant to be a "love conquers all" message; if so, I've got news for people. "Love conquers all" isn't convincing when the "all" merely disappears. Kira has now seen a future version of Odo commit genocide in order to save her life, and "her" Odo condemn one of her compatriots to death by his inaction. That demands real responses, not a quick "we are WAY past sorry", a silent apology, and then a nice Vegas-style dinner in the holosuite later. What's worse, there's very little material these two have gotten which hasn't dealt with their romance -- Odo got virtually nothing else, and Kira only got lackluster concepts like "Resurrection" and "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night". They both still have roles other than Couple of the Year; let's see them.

(Actually, that's not entirely fair. They did get better moments early in the season; "Rocks and Shoals" was good to both of them, particularly Kira. It was just later that there were problems.)

I can't call Dukat badly used quite yet, but he's one I'm very strongly concerned about. We've only seen him a little bit since "Waltz", so it's possible that his complex motivations and his multifaceted nature may return. At the moment, though, all the signs indicate that his only goal now is revenge: revenge on Bajor and revenge on Sisko. That's all well and good as a motivation -- just ask Khan Noonian Singh. On the other hand, would Khan have made a good recurring antagonist for a season and a half on TOS? I don't think so; the taste of revenge can get awfully monotonous after a while. I'd like to see more examination of Dukat next year; material like what he got early on in the season was far more compelling than what he got later.

Dax is an honorable mention here. Her death was a result of outside events, but it could have been handled better -- and the fact that she spent almost all her screen time as Worf's wife rather than as a competent officer, an advisor to Sisko, and a joined Trill shows a lack of respect. Just as Kira seemed to be nothing but a figure of romantic interest two years ago, so Dax seemed to be nothing else this year. Unfortunately, Dax won't get the chance to rebound that Kira did. Pity.

(I'm not even going to mention Quark. "Profit and Lace" is just too painful to remember.)

And, of course, there's the "least-used character" awards. The two winners, hands down: Garak and Jake. Garak, at least, got one absolutely superb episode this year, namely "In the Pale Moonlight". The rest of this season, though, he's been little more than a sardonic observer; while that's entertaining, he deserves a hell of a lot more. In particular, I'm hoping we get interesting times between him and Bashir next season (as fallout from "Inquisition"), and lots of uncertainty about him from Sisko as a result of "In the Pale Moonlight".

Jake, on the other hand, has been virtually a cipher all season. At the end of last season, when Jake the reporter was left on the station during the Dominion occupation, I thought things were going to get really juicy for him. In fact, I said after the season premiere, "There are an awful lot of ways Jake can go here, and I'll be intrigued to see which way things end up." Unfortunately, he might as well have not been on the station at all, for what he got out of it. The only concrete purpose he served was to help get the message out to Starfleet about the minefield -- but given that the message was delivered through Morn, he didn't even need to be involved there. If he's going to be a reporter, the staff needs to let him be one, complete with all the issues that should address. Surprisingly, the closest he came to serving that role was in "Valiant", but even there he was much more "voice of reason" than he was a journalist. Moments here and there like his "character research" in "The Sound of Her Voice" helped, but Jake needs more material than he's getting.

Okay, I'm just about done. :-) DS9 certainly stumbled this season in a lot of ways, but I'd like to think that those ways are easily fixable for its seventh and last season. For one thing, I hope the "season adrift" feeling is gone for good -- with only a year left to wrap up, there's a lot that can and should be done. TNG staggered in its seventh season, but it didn't have anything definite it needed to do. DS9 does, and everyone on the show knows it: that should be a help. Sisko may not be sure if he's coming back, but I'm sure I am: with only one season left, it'd take far worse disappointments than a simply lackluster year to keep me from seeing things through to the end.

So, until the season premiere, be well. Me -- I'm outta here.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) tlynch@alumni.caltech.edu <*> "A true victory is to make your enemies see they were wrong to oppose you in the first place!" -- Dukat

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