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

Hi there. One last time ... here we are. This review's been more of an effort than usual to write -- I'm not sure whether it's because it's the last one, or whether that means it's a good thing this is the last one. (Possibly a bit of both.)

Anyway, if you've been reading my stuff for a year or two (or ten), 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! (As a note, comments in []'s during quotables are either my own comments or my own MSTings. But you'd probably have figured that out anyway...)

I. DS9 Season 7, Episode by Episode

"Image in the Sand"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by: Les Landau
Initial rating: 6
Quotables:
"It's not that I'm afraid to fight -- I just don't want to die." [interesting only because of the speaker: Nog]
"So, what'd you find out?" "That you should never try to match drinks with a Klingon."
"Maybe we should talk to Admiral Ross." "Oh, yeah, I can see it now: 'Admiral? Could you please send the Defiant on the most dangerous mission you can think of? Jadzia needs to get into Sto'Vo'Kor.'"
"What makes you think she wants to spend eternity there? I know I certainly wouldn't. Imagine what it must be like -- hordes of rampaging Klingons, fighting and singing, sweating and belching..." "Sounds like this place on a Saturday night." "Would YOU want to spend eternity here?"
"Well, you know what this means, don't you?" "Yes: that I'm risking my life for a very dubious cause." "No. It means I'm going to risk my life for a friend risking his life in a very dubious cause."

I may have been a bit harsh on this the first time around, but the episode is still pretty mixed. Sisko's partial revelation about his mother still does very little for me even knowing where it leads, but the quest for the Orb of the Prophets has its moments. Worf's overall quest to get Jadzia into Sto'Vo'Kor bounces between entertaining scenes (like the Bashir/O'Brien/Quark scene which produced most of the show's quotable moments) and really dull ones like Worf tearing up Vic's. The only absolute winner here was Kira's interactions with Senator Cretak. There are lots of good ideas in this one -- the idea behind Worf's grief, bringing the Romulans onto DS9 more thoroughly, and Sisko's vision quest -- but the execution was a fairly hit-or-miss affair.

Final rating: 6.5.

"Shadows and Symbols"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by: Allan Kroeker
Initial rating: 7.5
Quotables:
"You're probably asking yourself: who is this person, how did she get the symbiont, do I even want another Dax in my life, does she always talk this much ... these are all very good questions."
"Well, I was hoping that our relationship was going to be a long and happy one, but I suppose I'm willing to settle for short and exciting."
"Ben, maybe my memories are playing tricks on me ... but have you gotten stranger?"
"I wish he'd get there." "Who?" "Dr. Wyckoff: they're waiting for him in the isolation ward." "You have definitely gotten stranger."
"You're not fine. People who are fine don't write on walls."
"The Sisko has completed his task." ["But that trick never works!"]

Another mixed bag, this time one that doesn't hold up as well later on. The Kira/Ross/Cretak stuff is definitely the best work here, giving us some evidence that Kira and Bajor, at least, have limits past which they will not be pushed ... but the resolution is a little bit unsatisfying when you consider that we never see any evidence of a strong Romulan presence again. Worf's plot is pretty by-the-numbers, and I still have a lot of qualms about him considering a blow-up-the-sun ambush an honorable battle. As for Sisko's quest to Tyree, it's intriguing in spots, particularly the Benny Russell flashes -- but in the end, Ezri's right: Ben's gotten a lot stranger and a lot more obsessive, and that (plus his Prophet ancestry) makes him a less compelling character, not more.

Final rating: 7.

[Note: it's never really made all that clear whether Ezri consented to joining with Dax. She keeps saying that she was the only Trill on board -- was she legally bound to join, or did someone just appeal to her conscience? It's a pity that was never clarified...]

[Note #2: I take back my earlier claims that engineering Sisko's birth was an un-Prophetlike act in terms of timing. I still don't like how it turned out, but I accept that them discovering him, then creating him works out.]

"Afterimage"
Written by: Rene Echevarria
Directed by: Les Landau
Initial rating: 8
Quotables:
"These pronouns are going to drive me crazy!"
"Come on, Dax -- what are you going to learn in the next few months that you haven't already learned in the last 300 years?" "Oh, how to keep from breaking into tears for no reason, how to resist the urge to stand on my head ... things like that."
"I intimidate Worf, huh?" "You like that, don't you?" "Of course not." [just for Brooks' delivery]
"The station could use a good counselor." ["Yeah, especially if she's young, cute and perky!"]
"Spare me your insipid psychobabble. I'm not some quivering neurotic who feels sorry for himself because his daddy wasn't nice. You couldn't begin to understand me."
"I don't need someone to walk in here and hold my hand -- I want someone to help me back to work, and you, my dear, are not up to this task."
"I knew Jadzia: she was vital, alive, she owned herself ...and you ... you don't even know who you are. How dare you presume to help me? You can't even help yourself. Now get out of here -- before I say something unkind."
"I know that Dr. Bashir cared for Jadzia, but this woman is not Jadzia, and treating her as if she were dishonors her memory!" "Wrong. Treating Ezri like a stranger dishonors Jadzia's memory." [It's not every man who can calmly tell Worf he's wrong.]
"You have just agreed to take responsibility for the mental health of everyone in this room. You have your work cut out for you."
"She is cute!" "She is also about three hundred years too
old for you."

A lot of people come down hard on "Afterimage," and I'm not entirely certain why. I was a bit too generous initially with an 8, yes, but for what it was the show worked pretty well. Ezri had to get worked into the station's life somehow, and "Afterimage" let us see a bit of Sisko/Dax role-reversal and a few realistic reactions to the return of another Dax. The biggest problems here are that Garak's position is a bit too obvious and that Ezri appears to be a truly rotten counselor -- those are sizable, but not enough to hurt the show all that badly.

Final rating: 7.

"Take Me Out to the Holosuite"
Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: Chip Chalmers
Initial rating: 9
Quotables:
"Chief, what's a grand slam?" "A home run that's hit when the bases are crowded."
"Well, there's an old saying: those who can't, coach!"
"I can't play?" "That's the smartest thing you've said all week -- you can't play."
"What are you eating?" "I'm not eating, I'm chewing." "Chewing what?" "Gum. It's traditional. I had the replicator create me some." "They just chewed it?" "No -- they infused the gum with flavor." "What did you infuse it with?" "Scotch."
"I know that look. It's the I'd-really-like-to-smash-something-but-she'll-think-I'm-crazy look."
"So, there I was ... drunk ... and debating logic versus emotion with a very smug, very sober Vulcan."
"So, in the heat of the moment ... I challenged him!" "And?" "I wound up in the infirmary with a separated shoulder, two cracked ribs, and a very bruised ego."
"All right now, let's hear some chatter!" "Hey, batter batter batter!" "Hey, batter batter batter!" "Death to the opposition!"
"What were you doing, regenerating?"
"No player shall at any time make contact with the umpire in any manner. The prescribed penalty for the violation is immediate ejection from the game, rule number 4.06, look it up but do it in the stands, you're GONE!"
"You are attempting to manufacture triumph where none exists." "I'd say he succeeded." "To manufactured triumph." "Manufactured triumph: hear, hear!"
"Do I hear irritation in that voice?" "Certainly not." "That sounded positively defensive to me!" "With just a hint of anger." "And a lot of bitterness." "Are you always this emotional?"

This is a love-it-or-hate-it episode, no doubt about it. Put me firmly in the "loved it" column. Yes, it seems a little bit out of place to have two weeks of baseball practice in the middle of the war -- but they are somewhat behind the lines, and as long as they're staying on-station there's nothing that says they can't attend to their duties as well. This was easily the most flat-out fun show we've seen since at least season 5's "In the Cards," with just the right level of looniness most of the time ... and even in a war, I think that's a valid concern. The cast seemed to have tons of fun with this ... and it was infectious.

Final rating: 9.

"Chrysalis"
Written by: Rene Echevarria
Directed by: Jonathan West
Initial rating: 7.5
Quotables:
"Oh, so you're a surgeon now?" "How hard could it BE?"
"Your friend was right: you can't break the laws of physics. But you can bend them!"
"Your future is full of possibilities." ["One of them involves a mouse named Algernon."]
"The fact is that the universe is going to STOP expanding and it is going to collapse in on itself. We've gotta do something before it's too late." "How much time do we have left?" "Sixty trillion years -- seventy at the most." "Oh, no..."
"You can't change the cosmological constant." "You know, Sarina, we are trying to save existence as we know it, and all you can do is criticize."
"Can we talk about that later?" "Later? There isn't going to BE a 'later' later."
"Julian, why don't you show everyone how much you love me ... and order the next round."
"I felt so comfortable around them. I didn't have to worry that someone was going to throw a tantrum, or break into tears all of a sudden." "They only usually do that at staff meetings."

Did we absolutely need another show with the JackPack? No, of course not -- but I was interested to see what they were up to, going in. The love story between Bashir and Sarina didn't completely work: beyond changing the premise of her illness, there are ethics breaches flying fast and loose throughout the whole show. However, thanks primarily to good work from Alexander Siddig and Faith C. Salie, the core of the show remained moving, and in the end that's what counts. It's clunky in places, but it does what it came to do. (And damn it all, I still liked the song!)

Final rating: 7.

[Note: I initially complimented Tim Ransom on his singing voice here; I was then told by him, among many other people, that it was dubbed. Oops; my apologies.]

"Treachery, Faith and the Great River"
Written by: David Weddle & Bradley Thompson (teleplay); Philip Kim (story)
Directed by: Steve Posey
Initial rating: 7
Quotables:
"Aren't you being a little paranoid?" "Of course I'm paranoid -- everyone's trying to kill me."
"Chief! In here NOW!"
"Has it ever occurred to you that the reason you believe the Founders are gods is because that's what they want you to believe? That they built it into your genetic code?" "Of course. That's what gods DO. After all, why be a god if there's no one to worship you?"
"Whaddya think?" "It's white." "I know it's white. I'm gonna paint it." "It's the wrong shape. It's the wrong height, the wrong width. Other than that, it's perfect; the captain's never gonna know you switched desks on him."
"I know now, whichever side wins, one thing is certain: I'm going to lose."

Most of the problems in this episode stem from the B plot: the Great Material Continuum, while worthwhile in showing a little Ferengi culture in a positive light, is fairly dull stuff, and O'Brien is made out as really dense in all of his dealings with Nog. The A plot, on the other hand, has improved with age: Jeffrey Combs is quite impressive with his double-duty turn as Weyouns 6 and 7, Damar gets a brief taste of what having the upper hand feels like, and this last change for Odo and any Weyoun to interact gets at Odo's ambivalence about his people quite nicely. Not a perfect show, but a remarkably pleasant one in retrospect.

Final rating: 8.

[Note: the music here during the runabout chase sequence tends to stand out. Listen for it again whenever the Breen interrupt a Worf and Ezri heart-to-heart later on in the season.]

"Once More Unto the Breach"
Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: Allan Kroeker
Initial rating: 7.5
Quotables:
"The only real question is whether you believe in the legend of Davy Crockett or not. If you do, then there should be no doubt in your mind that he died a hero's death. If you do not believe in the legend, then he was just a man, and it does not matter how he died."
"Even as our entire race grapples with the Dominion, there's no place for an old man ... with too many enemies and not enough friends."
"Worf, you've been living with this democratic rabble for too long."
"Oh, yeah, people would love bringing their problems to me. 'You dreamt about WHAT? You're crazy -- get out of my office. Next patient!'" [Kira, on the benefits of a career change]
"Savor the fruit of life, my young friends. It has a sweet taste when it is fresh on the vine. But don't live too long -- the taste turns bitter ... after a time."
"If they succeed, you can drink to their courage ... and if they fail, you can STILL drink to their courage."
"How did that pompous old man hold off an entire Jem'Hadar fleet with only one ship?" "Does it matter?"

The first and last quotes above illustrate the point of "Once More Unto the Breach" nicely: the nature of legends, both in the mists of storytelling and when they prove to have feet of clay. J.G. Hertzler doesn't usually save shows by himself, but when given good people to play off of he can do terrific work -- and John Colicos' Kor and Neil Vipond's Darok fill those roles nicely. Most of the other Klingons range from terrible to unwatchable, and the Quark-misunderstands-Dax subplot back on the station is basically useless, but the core of the show (even the class struggle, which I initially disliked) is a solid one. So long, Kor -- it was fun.

Final rating: 7.5.

"The Siege of AR-558"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe
Initial rating: 6
Quotables:
"When the war started, I read every name. I felt it was the least I could do to honor their sacrifices. But now ... the names have begun to blur together."
"Welcome to Paradise, Captain."
"Take a look around you, Nog: this isn't the Starfleet you knew."
"Let me tell you something about hew-mons, nephew. They're a wonderful, friendly people -- as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts ... deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers ... put their lives in jeopardy ... and those same friendly, intelligent, and wonderful people will become as nasty and as violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon."
"Houdinis?" "Find one and you disappear."
"There's only one order, Lieutenant: we hold."
"I'll tell you one thing, nephew: if the Federation had listened to the Ferengi Alliance, there never would've been a war."
"He has his orders, Quark." "That is so easy for you to say ... but I bet you wouldn't send Jake out there." "Jake is not a Starfleet officer."
"It's just that a few hours ago, we thought of these mines as the kind of ruthless weapon only the Dominion would use, but now ..." "They've become a whole lot friendlier."
"Funny ... I joined Starfleet to save lives."
"We held." "Those were our orders, sir."
"This was a great victory -- one worthy of story and song." "It cost enough."
"Children." "Not for long."
"How many this time?" "Including the troops lost at AR-558, seventeen hundred and thirty." "Seventeen hundred and thirty!" "That's a lot of names." "They're not just names. It's important we remember that. We have to remember."

When "Siege" first arrived, I dismissed it as little more than a bunch of war-movie cliches strung together. To some extent, that's still true -- most of the "veterans" we see in the show are fairly stock characters, and the Jem'Hadar's fundamental nature seems to be altered somewhat in order to make them fit this episode's mode. However, Quark's speeches resonate more strongly with age, Sisko is surprisingly (and pleasantly) understated given his situation, and in a lot of ways this episode did succeed in showing the horrors of war better than just about anything else in DS9's past two years. That's not enough to completely make up for logic questions and red herrings (in particular the question about "will Nog's leg work?" which is used for nothing more than a little cheap theatrics), but it helps.

Final rating: 7.5.

[Note: This is one of the few times Vic's music works fairly well. The two minutes we get with him at the beginning of the episode are horrid, but the later material works.]

"Covenant"
Written by: Rene Echevarria
Directed by: John Kretchmer
Initial rating: 7

Quotables:
"So I guess the ancient texts just had it all wrong, then." "Oh, come now, Nerys! You know as well as I do that history is written by the victors!"
"It opened my heart." "Would that be before or after you killed Jadzia?"
"If it hadn't been for me, the Occupation would have been much worse." "And you want a thank-you?"
"You believe the Prophets are the true gods of Bajor, I believe the Pagh Wraiths are. Let's just leave it at that." "I'd be happy to. There's just one thing: we can't both be right."

What appeal "Covenant" had back in the fall was probably due to relief at seeing Dukat at all, considering how strongly he figured in seasons 5 and 6. Unfortunately, this wasn't the way to go about it at all. Ron Moore and others have said that this episode was necessary to get Dukat to where he needed to be for later in the season, but I frankly don't see it: Dukat's need for the love of the Bajoran people was already established, his belief in the Pagh Wraiths isn't made any more convincing by his rejection of suicide in this episode, and Kira's statements about Jadzia imply that the DS9 crew has known all along that Dukat was behind her death and done absolutely nothing about it for months. It's a shame, too, because there are interesting places this could have gone, particularly in Dukat's claims that the Pagh Wraiths would have helped Bajor during the Occupation. Instead, we get Jonestown '98. Marc Alaimo and Nana Visitor do what they can (along with Norman Parker as Vedek Fala), but in the end it's not really all that much.

Final rating: 4.

[Note: Kira says here that Vedek Fala was different from (and presumably better than, given the tone of the conversation) all the other Vedeks. Um ... Kira? What about Bareil?]

"It's Only a Paper Moon"
Written by: Ronald D. Moore (teleplay); David Mack & John J. Ordover (story)
Directed by: Anson Williams
Initial rating: 9
Quotables:
"I don't want to go back to my quarters. Actually, I don't want to go back to my life."
"My son is insane! He's a one-legged crazy man!"
"How can hiding in one of Julian's adolescent programs be a good sign?" "Hey." "It could be worse. He could be hiding in the Alamo program." "Or that ridiculous secret-agent program." "Hey--" "Or that stupid Viking program." "HEY!"
"I'm sorry, but moving into a holosuite isn't my idea of therapy."
"She called you a hero, and for that you slugged your best friend? Remind me never to give you a compliment."
"I had no idea how much it means to just ... live. And now I'm gonna return the favor -- and give you your life back."
"He can turn himself off -- and if he doesn't want to appear, he doesn't appear." "You mean he has free will?" "Hey, I'm an engineer, not a philosopher."
"You stay here, you're gonna die. Not all at once -- but little by little. Eventually, you'll become as hollow as I am."

If anyone told me that after ten episodes of the season, one of the better ones would focus on Vic and Nog, I'd have had them put away. But there we are: despite veering a bit too often into Vic-as-Superguy territory (the free will question, for one), as a means to help Nog find a way to face down his demons he worked very well. The show has flaws, certainly: besides SuperVic, we see Ezri do a horrible job counseling Nog, and Aron Eisenberg doesn't quite hold up his end of the show come Nog's final breakdown. Overall, though, this episode marks one of the very few times we get to see a character work through issues that are usually dropped off-screen -- and that, if nothing else, deserves some substantial praise.

Final rating: 8.

"Prodigal Daughter"
Written by: Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by: Victor Lobl
Initial rating: 6.5
Quotables:
"When she walked into my room, I put on a big smile, looked her right in the eye, and said, 'Hi, Mom! It's me ... Curzon.' Things kind of went downhill from there."
"Where's your report?" "Oh, it's in there -- with Captain Sisko's bootprints all over it."
"I'm about to present my family with a whole new Ezri -- and to tell you the truth, they didn't really know what to make of the old one."
"There's days when I wake up, and I don't even know if I'm a man or a woman until I pull back the covers! ...I also have an unfortunate tendency to ramble."
"What do you know about raising children?" "Actually, I have three -- no, four lifetimes' worth of experience raising children."
"So, what are you feeling?" "I'm feeling ... like I don't want to be analyzed by my sister." ["Good move -- the last two times I counseled someone on screen, it didn't turn out so hot."]
"Norvo ... you don't know what happened to Marika, do you?" "I'm the idiot brother. How would I know?"

The single best scene in this episode comes near its end, where Norvo's part in Marika Bilby's death is revealed -- Kevin Rahm does very solid work, and Victor Lobl's direction is top-notch. Unfortunately, the episode really doesn't have a firm way of getting to that point. Is it about how Ezri's changed since being joined? Is it about Ezri's family dynamics? Is it about Miles' quest to atone for Liam Bilby's death? Is it a murder mystery? It tries to be all of those things, and winds up being very little of anything. Instead, we get a
vaguely hypocritical Sisko (after all, he let Miles go undercover before), no sense of what's changed in the Tigan household, a horribly cliched Orion Syndicate member, and too many standard soap-opera histrionics. File this one under "All My Trilldren," then skip to the end.

Final rating: 4.

"The Emperor's New Cloak"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by: LeVar Burton
Initial rating: 1
Quotables:
"I can't believe it. Julian just shot Vic Fontaine!"
"You worthless piece of space trash." [Now there's witty repartee!]
[on the cloaking device] "It's working!" ["How would YOU know, Garak? You're inside the ship!"]

"Worthless piece of space trash" should about cover this one. A faulty premise (the mirror universe has cloaking devices), horrible overacting throughout, needless (and endless) let's-play-up-lesbianism-for-titillation scenes, bad physical comedy ... truly, this one has it all. Half a point for killing Vic, but that's it.

Final rating: 0.5.

[Note: Last year, Frank Sinatra died a few weeks after "His Way" aired. This time, Jerome Bixby (author of the original "Mirror, Mirror") died about the time "The Emperor's New Cloak" went into production. For the second year in a row ... I refuse to consider this a coincidence.]

"Field of Fire"
Written by: Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by: Tony Dow
Initial rating: 5
Quotables:
"Starfleet officers do not go around murdering other officers." "Not usually, anyway."
"I'm sorry, Lieutenant. There's nothing more annoying than a corpse with a mind of its own."
"Joran." "You recognize me. How nice." "What do you want?" "Respect. Understanding. Love."
"Whaddya think?" "Nice melon."
"I am certain that you will do whatever is necessary to complete your task." "How do you know?" "You are Dax. It is your way."
"How could anyone be so happy with such unattractive children?"
"Vulcans distrust emotions, but they don't go around killing people for smiling."

What is it about Ezri and murder mysteries? A scant two episodes ago we had "Prodigal Daughter," which involved Ezri's family but nonetheless hinged heavily on an unsolved murder. This time, Ezri's investigating another murder, and brings out her old host (and our old pal) Joran to look inside the mind of the killer. A bit derivative of "The Silence of the Lambs," but nice in theory. Unfortunately, while Ezri's dream sequence was nicely surreal and the show had a nice sense of atmosphere in spots, the execution of the Joran/Ezri interplay really didn't come off well at all. Avery Brooks' three minutes as Joran back in "Facets" was orders of magnitude more chilling than Leigh J. McCloskey's Joran was here. Add in <technobabble> that opens up huge cans of worms, a frustratingly incomplete solution (so why did the murderer do it?), a suggestion that all serial killers think alike, and a fairly slow pace in general, and you have a show that ends up in the doldrums.

Final rating: 3.5.

"Chimera"
Written by: Rene Echevarria
Directed by: Steve Posey
Initial rating: 10
Quotables:
"I think you'll find the people here are different." "Oh?" "They've accepted me." "Have they?"
"He has bumps on his forehead, she has a wrinkled nose -- but basically, they're alike. They're bipeds that eat, sleep, breathe ...you and I are nothing like them." "We're Changelings. We can be 'like' them when we choose." "I choose to be like them as little as possible. That's where we differ."
"The Voraalans called me 'Laas.' In their language it means 'Changeling.' Not very imaginative, is it?" "At least it's appropriate. Mine means 'unknown sample.'"
"The truth is, I prefer the so-called 'primitive' life-forms. They exist as they were meant to, by following their instincts. No words get in the way -- no lies, no deceptions." "We're not the ones who can disguise ourselves as anything we want." "Meaning?" "Meaning shapeshifters are not to be trusted." "I trust Odo." "Of course you trust Odo. You've convinced him that he is as limited as you are." "Laas!" "You've seen through our evil plan." "Foiled again." "It's not funny." "No. I'm very worried for him."
"Enough talk. Link with me." "Here?" "Why not?"
"You've been a humanoid for so long, you've forgotten you can be anything else."
"I'm sorry I can't Link with you." "It doesn't matter, Nerys. I love you."
"Laas? What's he doing?" "Being fog. What's it look like?"
"Since when do the Klingons resort to legal quibbling?"
"Is it a crime to shapeshift on the Promenade?" "It's not a crime -- but it's obviously not a good idea."
"Don't you get it, Odo? We humanoids are a product of millions of years of evolution. Our ancestors learned the hard way that what you don't know might kill you. They wouldn't have survived if they hadn't jumped back when they encountered a snake coiled in the muck, and now, millions of years later, that instinct is still there. It's genetic. Our tolerance to other life-forms doesn't extend beyond the two-arm, two-leg variety. I hate to break this to you, but when you're in your natural state, you're more than our poor old genes can handle."
"Watch your step, Odo. We're at war with your people. This is no time for a Changeling Pride demonstration on the Promenade."
"I don't know what to say." "You could say you were wrong. You could say the people here are no different than any other humanoids."
"They tolerate you, Odo, because you emulate them. What higher flattery is there? 'I, who can be anything, choose to be like you?'"
"...this is what you have always chosen to be. A man. The man I fell in love with. Are you trying to tell me that he never really existed?"
"You've no idea what it means to love someone enough to let them go."
"Perhaps the fact that [love] isn't easy is what makes it worthwhile."

Yow. This episode isn't 100% flawless, but it's the closest we've come in a long while. Yes, it's a pity that Laas isn't followed up on later, when Odo's disease is made apparent ... and yes, it's a little odd to have Odo follow Laas in a runabout when all ships are ostensibly being used for the search. Too bad. No episode of DS9 before or since "Chimera" has captured Odo's alienness this well, or created a truly effective sense of wonder about what it is to be a Changeling. J.G. "Garman" Hertzler's performance is so delicate and so nuanced that it's hard to realize he also plays Martok. Add in a tight script that wastes very few words and a surprisingly adult love story (in sophistication, not prurience) that works far better than I'd ever have anticipated, and you have an absolute, unqualified winner.

Final rating: 10.

"Badda-bing, Badda-bang"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by: Mike Vejar
Initial rating: 5
Quotables:
"Vic Fontaine's hotel has just been bought by gangsters." "I see. When do you plan on going back to work?" [Thank you, Ben. At least someone has some sense...]
"You have to understand. Vic is not just another holosuite program -- he's more like a friend." ["No problem. Some of my best friends are recordings."]
"So where you from again?" "Bajor." "That's in Jersey, right?"
"Miles ... are you thinking what I'm thinking?" "Depends on what you're thinking."
"You call this a cheesesteak? I wouldn't feed this to my parole officer."
"And Chief, you play innocent." "I am innocent! I've never seen this woman before in my life!"
"Where've you been?" "I don't wanna talk about it."

As a goofy caper, "Badda-bing, Badda-bang" works most of the time, mostly because of some nice atmosphere and the same kind of goofiness that permeated "Take Me Out to the Holosuite." Unfortunately, this time around we had to get more than just the caper -- so instead, we get a lot of speeches talking about how Vic is just such a gosh-golly-gee perfect companion in order to justify the whole mess. From a few characters (Kira, Odo, and Nog) I might buy that - but not from everybody this side of Worf. We also get Sisko's out-of-the-blue objection to Vic's on racial grounds, which I still say sounds a lot more like Avery Brooks' voice than it does Ben Sisko's. (This isn't even to mention that every single female character is put in a vaguely sexual situation during the caper -- it does match the time period, but it's tiresome.) It's not a hugely bad show, really ... but it isn't as inspired as it likes to think it is.

Final rating: 5.5.

[Note: A lot of people have suggested that Sisko's objection comes from the time he spent as Benny Russell. That may have some validity -- but the fact that Kasidy didn't immediately laugh his claims off suggests that it's more than just Ben, and that doesn't track.]

"Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges"
Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: David Livingston
Initial rating: 8
Quotables:
"...I live in hope that one day you'll come to see this universe for what it truly is, rather than what you'd wish it to be." "Well, I shall endeavour to become more cynical with each passing day, look gift horses squarely in the mouth, and find clouds in every silver lining." "If only you meant it."
"In essence, we want you to take the pulse of the Romulan government. No pun intended."
"...when the war is over the following will happen in short order: the Dominion will be forced back to the Gamma Quadrant, the Cardassian Empire will be occupied, the Klingon Empire will spend the next ten years recovering from the war and won't pose a serious threat to anyone. That leaves two powers to vie for control of the quadrant: the Federation and the Romulans." "This war isn't over ...and you're already planning for the next!"
"Let's make a deal, Doctor: I'll spare you the ends-justify-the-means speech, and you'll spare me the we-must-do-what's-right speech. You and I are not going to see eye to eye on this subject, so I suggest we stop discussing it."
"Very enlightening -- you almost made it comprehensible." "Well, next time I'll give the lecture with hand puppets, just for you."
"And how long have you worked for Section 31?" "I don't." "Oh. Just a temporary alliance, is it?"
"'In time of war, the law falls silent.' Cicero. So, is that what we have become? A 24th-century Rome, driven by nothing other than the certainty that Caesar can do no wrong!"
"Are you expecting applause? Have you come to take a bow?" "I just wanted to say thank you." "For what? Allowing you to manipulate me so completely?" "For being a decent human being. That's why we selected you in the first place, Doctor. We needed somebody who wanted to play the game, but who would only go so far."
"The Federation needs men like you, Doctor -- men of conscience, men of principle ... men who can sleep at night. You're also the reason Section 31 exists: someone has to protect men like you from a universe that doesn't share your sense of right and wrong." "Should I feel sorry for you? Should I be weeping over the burden you're forced to carry in order to protect the rest of us?" "It is an honor to know you, Doctor. Good night."

Whew. In principle, this show's a major winner: it gives us another look into the dark underpinnings of the Federation, and lets us realize how deeply Bashir's in over his head whenever he dallies in espionage. In practice, a few things turn this from a major winner into a minor one: Adrienne Barbeau is a bit of a disappointment as Cretak after Megan Cole's nuanced performance earlier in the season, and the final Bashir/Ross confrontation is undercut by Barry Jenner's difficulty getting past Ross's usual geniality. The fact that Bashir apparently never shares Ross's situation with anyone (or that no one cares) is a big, BIG problem as well. Still, for what it is this is a solid, solid show -- it's got more tension in 46 minutes than most of the final arc does.

Final rating: 8.

[Note: A number of people have suggested that Bashir did tell Sisko about Ross, and that Sisko's more realistic appraisal of the situation decided against taking any action. In light of later Section 31 stories, I don't buy it -- and even if I did, is there anyone out there satisfied with assuming that and not seeing it? Could be a hell of a scene...]

"Penumbra"
Written by: Rene Echevarria
Directed by: Steve Posey
Initial rating: 7
Quotables:
"Maybe someday, I'll retire here." "Oh, I can see you now: sitting in your rocking chair, watching the sun set over the mountains every night, wondering where you left your teeth." "Just like my great-great-grandfather: in the glass, next to the chair."
" Do you really think he'd go to Sto'Vo'Kor owing me money?" "He doesn't even like you." "Exactly! He couldn't enjoy the afterlife knowing I had something on him."
"Our adversaries don't view their soldiers as expendable. They're not bred in hatcheries like the Jem'Hadar." "If you have something to say, Damar, say it."
"She's a Dax. Sometimes they don't think: they just do."
"It's your house." "I want it to be our house ... let's get married."
"Best man, huh? That means I get to plan the bachelor party!"
"What'd you do to spend the time?" "Nothing." "Nothing? I bet the acoustics in there were pretty good. What'd you sing -- Klingon opera?" "I did not sing." "Which one? Che-vagh-to-gesh?" "No. Ko'vaq'to'va." "Ambitious! Those solos are for a tenor." "As you said ... the acoustics were favorable."

"Penumbra" was a pretty good indication of what to expect from the final run of episodes. On the good side, we had the beginnings of Damar's struggle against oppression (here limited to a sarcastic "no, of course it doesn't!!"), some reasonably good personal material for Sisko (along with some of the best Sisko/Kasidy chemistry we've had in a while), and a more interesting Dukat than we've seen in over a year. On the bad side, Ezri's romantic situation figures as heavily here as it does in the rest of the arc (i.e. excessively), Prophet-Sarah is considerably less interesting than almost any previous Prophet experience, and there are a few serious logic flaws to let the episode happen (among other things, everything involving the emergency beam-out from the runabout). It's not a bad show, but the storm clouds on the horizon aren't hard to spot.

Final rating: 6.5.

"'Til Death Do Us Part"
Written by: David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe
Initial rating: 9
Quotables:
"The Prophets came to me in a vision. They warned me that I was going to have to face a great trial." ["I'm fairly certain they were referring to you."]
"The Sisko has faltered."
"Worf, face it. The guard-my-cellmate-is-ill trick didn't work. Neither did your I'll-make-a-tool-and-short-circuit-the-door idea."
"What happened to that brave officer I served with? The one who stood at my side while we fought the entire Klingon Empire with a single ship?" "Those were simpler times."
"If I told my neighbors I was having tea with the Kai, they'd never believe me."
"Do you pray to the Prophets, Anjohl?" "Oh, every day." "And have they ever answered you -- in a vision, or in your dreams?" "Oh, there have been times when I've thought I could feel their presence ... but spoken to me? No. Surely they would reserve such a blessing for someone like you."
"This is no time for your jokes!" "And this is no time for your Klingon chest-thumping, either."
"The Prophets may have chosen to speak through him, but ...he's not really one of us, is he?" [Ah, irony...]
"The Emissary didn't suffer through the Occupation. He has no idea what the Cardassians did to us. Those years left many scars on Bajor's soul. So, how can he help heal what he could never comprehend?"
"Screw the Prophets; let's get hitched." [Okay, that one's fake ... but you wanted to hear it, right? :-) ]
"You should be honored. You're witnessing an historic moment: the birth of the alliance between the Dominion and the Breen. Changes everything, doesn't it?" [Well, not really...]

In six and a half years, we never saw Dukat and Winn interact -- if this episode was any indication, that's a shame. Although the Dukat material fell down in later episodes, just about everything between him and Winn here was absolutely masterful stuff, and the Dukat/Damar pep talk didn't hurt either. The "will he or won't he wed?" material was mixed, with Kira's reactions in the plus column and some general predictability in the minus column. As for Worf and Ezri ... well, when we get three very similar scenes about relationships that end with a case of Breenus Interruptus, it doesn't bode well for holding the viewer's interest. They're a fairly minor blemish on an impressive show, though.

Final rating: 8.5.

[Note: I still think Sisko could have made a better point to Kasidy: namely, that the last time he ignored the Prophets' warning, Jadzia died.]

"Strange Bedfellows"
Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: Rene Echevarria
Initial rating: 7.5
Quotables:
"You expect me to agree to territorial concessions when I haven't even seen what they are?" "Damar, you are missing the point. We need the Breen to win this war. When it's over, there will be more than enough territories available to compensate Cardassia for the loss of a few minor planets." "There are no minor planets in the Cardassian Union."
"The Dominion should never have agreed to give away Cardassian territory without my consent!" "I'm sorry -- I think I misunderstood you. It sounded as if you were implying that Cardassia and its territory doesn't belong to the Founders -- surely that isn't what you meant."
"I've known some of these people for ten years or more, and suddenly they're asking me for advice about their children, their wives, their husbands, their spiritual relationship with the Prophets..." "Welcome to the club!"
"Overconfidence. The hallmark of the Weyouns!"
"They'll just make another copy of him, you know. You should've killed me -- there's only one Damar." "I will keep that in mind."
"Well, hello!" "I'm glad to see you find the death of my predecessor so amusing." "Oh, you misjudge me. I miss him deeply. Here -- let's drink to Weyoun-7." "When will the prisoners be executed?" "When the trial is completed. Legal protections must be observed." "When?" "The execution is scheduled for tomorrow
afternoon, 1400 hours." "Have they agreed to cooperate?" "No. Maybe you should talk to Worf again." [just seeing Damar lose it in a hail of laughter is marvelous]
"Leave me!" "Oh, shut up."
"There's nothing to fear." "Of course not; I am the Kai. The Prophets will make everything clear to me."
"The Prophets have done nothing for you! During the Occupation they let our people suffer!" "Let me go!" "You've sacrificed everything for them, and how have they rewarded you? They've appointed an alien Emissary, they've rejected you at every turn -- even now they won't speak to you!"
"The Pagh Wraiths will give you everything you've ever dreamt of. The power, the adoration of the people ... in spite of your protestations of humility, that's what you really want, admit it!" [this one's Dukat channeling the writers, I think]
"Stop pretending to be something you're not!" [a beautiful line given the source]
"Go. Crawl back to your Prophets. Beg their forgiveness. Live the rest of your LIFE in Sisko's shadow!"
"Am I so offensive to your eyes that I don't exist for you any more?"
"I'll do whatever it takes to make myself worthy in their eyes." "Everything will change once you step down as Kai. You'll see." "Step down? I don't understand -- why would I do that? Bajor needs me." "Eminence, being in power is what led you on the wrong path." "But I've resolved to change! Don't you see -- once I have regained the Prophets' trust, I'll be better able to serve them if I remain Kai. If the Prophets wanted me to step down, surely they would have told me so."
"How many more sacrifices will my people be asked to make?" "Your people, Damar? We are all one with the Dominion - Vorta, Cardassian, Jem'Hadar, the Breen -- we all serve the Founders, and we will all make whatever sacrifices they deem necessary!"
"Y'know, Worf, I've had just about enough of your little Klingon aphorisms."
"Do you really think that I would disobey orders and risk my life just so I could seduce you? I hate to break it to you, Worf, but it wasn't that good."
"I want you to give a message to the Federation. Tell them they have an ally on Cardassia." "Why should we trust you?" "You can either trust me, or you can stay here and be executed." "I vote for option one."
"The Founder. She wishes to see me. She has to be told about this." "Oh, I'm sure they'll understand. But if she doesn't, I look forward to meeting Weyoun-9."
"I will no longer serve gods who give me nothing in return. I'm ready to walk the path the Pagh Wraiths have laid down for me."

Despite being one of the most quotable shows of the season (as evidenced above, and as is common for Moore scripts), this one still leaves me fairly conflicted. The Worf/Ezri stuff is still inconsequential, but is easily the best material they get. Damar's journey towards the light is an unqualified success here, with Weyoun managing to say and do just the wrong things at the wrong times to drive Damar to rebellion. Winn's journey is right on the edge. I can buy her going over to the Pagh Wraiths eventually, but cramming all of this into a single episode just doesn't wash, even after seeing a lot of good arguments. Winn's ego and belief in herself is a definite Achilles' heel, to be sure -- but I don't see her turning her back on the Prophets overnight, and that's what we're asked to believe here. (The Winn/Kira conversation is easily the best part of her sequence this episode, though.) A mixed bag, but you won't be bored.

Final rating: still 7.5.

"The Changing Face of Evil"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by: Mike Vejar
Initial rating: 9
Quotables:
"By the way, in case Weyoun forgot to mention it -- the Dominion once sang Cardassia's praises as well."
"What are you doing? You don't cook!" "I know! I was just ... making sure."
"Nobody touches my peppers."
"Doesn't seem right -- all this plotting and secrecy. What are we, Romulans?"
"I am but a moon made warm by the light of your sun." "I hope you're a better farmer than you are a poet."
"There's something different about you today, Damar. I can't quite put my finger on it -- it's as if you're only half dressed." "What are you talking about?" "You don't have a bottle in your hand!"
"Captain?" "She's a fine ship." "No one would argue with that -- but like you say, it's time to go."
"Eminence: that man is not Anjohl Tenon." "What are you talking about?" "Anjohl Tenon died nine years ago in the labor camp at Bac'ta. I warned you not to trust him."
"Don't listen to him! Look at him! Don't you recognize the face of your enemy? It's Gul Dukat." [The rest of the scene is pretty good, too.]
"And so, two years ago, our government signed a treaty with the Dominion. In it, the Dominion promised to extend Cardassia's influence throughout the Alpha Quadrant. In exchange, we pledged ourselves to join the war against the Federation and its allies. Cardassians have never been afraid of war -- a fact we've proven time
and again over these past two years. Seven million of our brave soldiers have given their lives to fulfill our part of the agreement. And what has the Dominion done in return? Nothing. We've gained no new territories -- in fact, our influence throughout the quadrant has diminished. And to make matters worse, we are no longer masters in our own home. Travel anywhere in Cardassia, and what do you find? Jem'Hadar, Vorta -- and now Breen. Instead of the invaders, we have become the invaded. Our allies have conquered us without firing a single shot. Well ... no longer."
"I call upon Cardassians everywhere: Resist. Resist today. Resist tomorrow. Resist until the last Dominion soldier has been driven from our soil!"
"Our cloning facility on Rondak Three has been destroyed. I could be the last Weyoun ... that's why he picked that target."

As with "Strange Bedfellows," "The Changing Face of Evil" is a frustrating mix of very good material and a lot of fluff you wish could have been avoided. The good stuff, fortunately, is the main material: Damar's continued presence is a big plus, and the Dukat/Winn material (including great work from James Otis as Solbor) makes Winn a bit more conflicted than the end of "Strange Bedfellows" would have suggested. On the bad side, the artificial Sisko/Kasidy fight is a waste of time (particularly since it doesn't even have the excuse of foreshadowing much of anything), some of the Dukat/Winn material early on is a rehash, the Kosst Amojan's magical powers are annoying pretty much from the moment they appear, and several red herrings about the Breen surface on this show. The destruction of the Defiant, while dramatic for the time (accompanied by nice music from Jay Chattaway), is made extremely hollow by later events.

Final rating: 8.5.

[Note: It's still amusing to note that Mike Vejar has been responsible for destroying both of the Defiant-class ships we've ever seen croak.]

"When It Rains..."
Written by: Rene Echevarria (teleplay); Echevarria & Spike Steingasser (story)
Directed by: Michael Dorn
Initial rating: 6.5
Quotables:
"Well, gentlemen, it seems as if the Klingon fleet is the only thing that stands between us and the Dominion." "What have we come to?"
"You want me to go behind the lines and teach a bunch of Cardassians how to be resistance fighters?" "I'm aware of the irony."
"Remember your place, Dukat." "I thought my place was in your bed."
"I fail to see why you're so determined to cure a disease that affects our enemy. We're at war, Doctor."
"Maybe the attack on Starfleet Headquarters has him spooked. Y'know, guys like Hilliard are used to sitting behind their desks, not under 'em."
"You expect us to attack our own people?" "If necessary, yes."
"This looks like the scan [Dr. Mora] did when he first found Odo." "Are you sure? That's a lotta numbers." "I saw it with my own eyes not seven years ago." "You really are genetically enhanced, aren't you?"
"The Pagh Wraiths have taken your sight in punishment for your arrogance. Only they can give it back to you."
"...you need a lesson in humility, and I'm going to see that you get it." "By putting me out on the street?" "You'll find the Bajoran people are very kind. A blind beggar will elicit their sympathies, I'm certain -- and with any luck, you'll earn enough to eat, and perhaps even enough for shelter each night." [Note to self: never get on Winn's bad side.]

"When It Rains..." puts the last major pieces of the arc in place. The turmoil Gowron starts among the Klingons, Bashir's discovery that Section 31 is behind the Founders' illness, Odo's infection, Kira's journey to help Damar ... it's all here. Unfortunately, a lot of it is crammed in tightly enough to leave a bit of a mess. The Klingon material works better than it did initially, but the parallels between Bajor and Cardassia are treated as far more exact than they should be (i.e. making Kira the expert on all kinds of resistance movements rather than a strictly planet-based one), any history between Damar and Garak isn't even acknowledged enough to be swept under the rug, Bashir's discovery is a bit too fortuitous, and the Dukat/Winn material ends on a note which is never resumed. Some elements of "When It Rains..." work all right, primarily Damar's leadership and Dukat's arrogance, but this one's too cluttered to really work well.

Final rating: 5.5.

[Note: If you want a true resistance movement used to fighting on a multi-planetary level, it's a pity there aren't any Maquis around. Imagine bringing in Kira and, say, Eddington. That could've been an awful lot of fun...]

"Tacking Into the Wind"
Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: Mike Vejar
Initial rating: 9
Quotables:
"Odo, I hope you know how much I --" "If I don't want pity from the woman I love, why would I want it from you?"
"Julian, it's time to face facts. You're not gonna pull a rabbit out of your medkit."
"No more cloak-and-dagger games. Science is the answer here. Every problem has a solution, every disease a cure -- it's just a matter of finding it. Now, if you'll kindly get the hell out of here, I have work to do."
"Our priority should be to free Cardassia from the Dominion, not do Starfleet's dirty work."
"He wants to put up a brave front and protect me from the truth -- well, fine. If that's what makes this easier for him, if that gives him one last shred of dignity to hold onto, then I'll go on ignoring what's happening to him until the bitter end. Anything else?"
"You do whatever it takes, Mr. Worf. Those Klingon ships out there are the only thing between us and the Breen. Gowron is risking the safety of the entire Alpha Quadrant, and he has to stop." [dangerously close to ordering an assassination there, Benny my boy...]
"They weren't a part of this rebellion. The Dominion knew that, the Founder knew that, Weyoun knew that. But to kill her and my son -- the casual brutality of it -- a waste of life. What kind of state tolerates the murder of innocent women and children? What kind of people give those orders?" "Yeah, Damar -- what kind of people give those orders?"
"I think that the situation with Gowron is a symptom of a bigger problem. The Klingon Empire is dying -- and I think it deserves to die."
"Who was the last leader of the High Council that you respected? Has there even been one? And how many times have you had to cover up the crimes of Klingon leaders because you were told it was 'for the good of the Empire?' I know this sounds harsh, but the truth is, you have been willing to accept a government that you know is corrupt. Gowron is just the latest example. Worf -- you are the most honorable and decent man that I've ever met, and if you're willing to tolerate men like Gowron, then what hope is there for the Empire?" [probably Ezri's single best speech ever]
"Worf -- I do not seek leadership." "Kahless said, 'Great minds do not seek power; they have power thrust upon them.' Hail Martok! Leader of the Empire! Leader ... of destiny."
"He was my friend -- but his Cardassia is dead, and it won't be coming back."

Yow. The problems in this one are awfully tiny -- a rerun of Kira's Resistance 101 lecture, some questionable Dominion tactics regarding the Cardassians, Damar's questionable choice of coming along on the mission in the first place, and so on. Compared to the episode's strengths, though, those are small potatoes. Damar's leadership role has been a strong part of the arc for six episodes at this point, but "Tacking Into the Wind" lets him really come into his own. The Klingon stuff takes center stage here, though, and after this one I'd just as soon not see Klingon tales for a very long time: the implication is that Worf may have finally helped cleanse the Empire in bringing Martok to power, and I for one would like to leave it there. Ezri has a rare chance to develop her own character (that speech of hers is one Jadzia couldn't have given), Odo's pain is keenly felt, Sisko's hard-assed instructions to Worf ring true... it all clicks. This one's a major winner -- and the last one of the series.

Final rating: 9.5.

"Extreme Measures"
Written by: Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by: Steve Posey
Initial rating: 4
Quotables:
"I want you to leave." "Why?" "You watched Bareil die in this very room. I know how that's haunted you. I don't want your last memory of me to be witnessing my death." "Isn't that my choice?" "Maybe it is, and maybe I'm being selfish telling you all the things I want -- but I don't want the last thing I see to be pain in your eyes."
"I've got so much to say ... I don't know where to begin." "Just say you love me. That's all I've ever cared about."
"I take it I'm supposed to feel shocked and humbled by your ingenuity." "Frankly, I don't care how you feel."
"You came here because you thought I'd discovered a cure, and you wanted to destroy it. But first, you'd have to find it in my lab, and in order to do that you'd have to know exactly what it was you were looking for." "You call that reasoning?" ["No -- I call it writer fiat. Aren't you glad it worked?"]
"I wish I knew how long we'd been in here." "23 minutes and 11 seconds." "Show-off."
"This is older than I am." "What? I'm drinking with a child."

From what I've read, I gather that "Extreme Measures" was intended in part to give Bashir and O'Brien one last adventure as a duo. If this was it -- no, thanks. The Odo material in the opening scene was poignant, emotionally solid stuff: what followed afterwards was riddled with problems. We had plot idiocies on every level, ranging from Miles MacGyvering together a gigantic device in a matter of minutes to Sloan coming to the station himself to Sloan not kidnapping Bashir. Then we got a surreal environment without enough grounding to make the viewer care, the standard "we're still inside!" fake ending, an odd male-bonding scene that doesn't quite seem to make sense, and too much else to count. Odo's worth a couple of points, and some aspects of Bashir's obsession with Section 31 rang true -- but this was just crap.

Final rating: 3.

[Note: Bashir figured out he was still inside Sloan's head because of the repeated text in A Tale of Two Cities. Isn't he lucky Sloan hadn't read it?]

[Note #2: Nadion bursts are mentioned here as therapy for Odo. Earlier in the season, they were mentioned as a way to accelerate Koval's disease in "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges." Gotta love those versatile energy bursts.]

"The Dogs of War"
Written by: Rene Echevarria & Ronald D. Moore (teleplay); Peter Allan Fields (story)
Directed by: Avery Brooks
Initial rating: 6
Quotables:
"The reality is, the Federation set out to destroy my people." "Section 31 aren't part of the Federation -- they're a rogue organiza-" "Don't split hairs with me, Doctor! They used me as an instrument to try to commit genocide. Now we may be at war with the Founders, but that's no excuse." "I completely agree."
"Odo -- I wish I didn't have to say this, but I need to know you're not going to take matters into your own hands." "You have my word." "That's all I needed to hear." "Interesting, isn't it? The Federation claims to abhor Section 31's tactics, but when they need the dirty work done they look the other way. It's a tidy little arrangement, wouldn't you say?"
"He's not Nagus yet." "It's never too early to suck up to the boss!"
"Blessed Exchequer, forgive us. Your children have gone astray."
"You should hear the stories! Damar's alive! My cousin saw him on Kelvas Prime! He faked his own death! He's plotting a new offensive from his secret mountain hideaway!" ["He's living with Amelia Earha -- oh. Sorry."]
"You never told me you had a secret mountain hideaway." "I was going to surprise you."
"Surrender yourself or die." "I choose neither."
"Citizens of Cardassia, hear me! The Dominion told you that the rebellion has been crushed! What you have seen here today proves that this is yet another lie!"
"If you want me to be Nagus, you're going to have to let me do things my way!" "Who wants you to be Nagus?" "Out of the way, Quark..."
"As far as I'm concerned, the Ferenginar that I knew doesn't exist any more. No ... I take that back. It will exist, right here in this bar. This establishment will be the last outpost of what made Ferengi great: the unrelenting lust for profit! Broik -- water the drinks! Imtella -- rig the Dabo tables! Rom -- I wanna buy back the bar." "That's all right, brother -- I'll give it to you." "I suppose you're gonna let me keep the five thousand bars of latinum, too." "You're my brother." "And you're an idiot! But I love you."

As the finish line looms, "The Dogs of War" remains, like much of the rest of the arc, a mixed bag. As usual, the goings-on on Cardassia are the main highlight, with Damar turning from rebel to legend in the surprisingly believable blink of an eye. Odo's reaction to hearing about Section 31 would have been the highlight, but considering that this is all that we get it rings a bit hollow. The Ferengi material is a bit better than usual -- it's just tiresome rather than actively grating -- but devoting this much time to a situation that didn't need resolving seems a bit much. I liked various moments in the non-Cardassia material (Quark's "last outpost" in-joke, the direction of the final Ezri/Bashir clinch in the 'lift, Rom's final tenderness, etc.), but in the face of so many chess pieces moving around that's all they were: moments.

Final rating: 5.5, mainly for Cardassia.

[Note: Given the stardates of this and "Extreme Measures," it looks as though weeks have passed since Odo was cured. Why on Earth is he only being released and told now? For that matter, "Extreme Measures" has Bashir filling in the "fake" Odo on the situation -- why wouldn't he tell Odo about Section 31 while he's still abed?]

"What You Leave Behind"
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by: Allan Kroeker
Initial rating: 7

Quotables:
"You know, I've never been into battle with someone I've slept with before." ["Usually I sleep with them later."]
"How's Kas?" "Reports of my death have been exaggerated ... but not by much."
"Ensign, I believe you know the way to Cardassia." "If I get lost, I'll just follow the ship in front of me."
"I was under the mistaken impression that all Federation territory would fall under my jurisdiction, including Earth." "And so they shall." "But -- you promised the Breen --" "I would promise the Breen the entire Alpha Quadrant if I thought it would help win this war."
"Oh, when you were a small boy I was worried about you. Always getting into trouble -- so secretive, so full of deceit. Who would have thought those disgraceful characteristics would be turned to virtues?"
"The Emissary's task is nearing completion." ["Hey, I thought I was done! You said so before! Mommmm!"]
"Benjamin Sisko will be dealt with by me." "Assuming he survives the occupation of Cardassia." "Oh, he'll survive -- but I promise you, he'll wish he hadn't..."
"The hospitality industry isn't for the faint-hearted."
"I thought you said a bartender's life is a lonely one." "It is -- but I'm not a bartender."
"And stop calling me Adami. That privilege is no longer yours." "How should I address you, then?" "From now on, you will address me as 'Eminence.' Is that clear?" "Perfectly ...Eminence."
"Ironic, isn't it -- the savior of Cardassia a former Bajoran terrorist."
(Weyoun's entire speech announcing the destruction of
Lakarian City is good, too, but there's no particular sound bite.)
"I should have killed that Vorta jackal when I had the chance!" "You want another one?"
"You've hardly touched your meal! No wonder you're not looking well." "I'm not looking well because I live in a cellar."
"Sit still, or you'll end up with one arm shorter than the other." "You'd do anything to beat me at darts."
"You may kill us, but Cardassia will never --" "Final words are not permitted!" "How disappointing."
"I want the Cardassians exterminated." "Which ones?" "All of them. The entire population." "That ... may take some time." "Then I suggest that you begin at once."
"I never thought I'd say this, but thank God for the Cardassians!"
"What's the matter, Dukat? You look disappointed." "Well, this may sound naive, but I was expecting to see fire! They are called the Fire Caves."
"All during the years of my exile, I imagined what it would be like to come home. I even thought of living in this house again, with Mila. But now she's dead, and this house is about to be reduced to a pile of rubble. My Cardassia's gone." "Then fight for a new Cardassia." "I have an even better reason, Commander: revenge."
"That works, too."
"Founder -- what's wrong?" "I'm dying. That's what's wrong."
"Tell me, where's my old friend Damar?" "Damar's dead." "What a pity." "He died trying to free Cardassia." "What's left of it." <zap>
"I wish you hadn't done that. That was Weyoun's last clone." "I was hoping you'd say that."
"Before you waste too many tears, remember -- these are Cardassians lying dead at your feet. Bajorans would call this poetic justice." "That doesn't mean I have to drink a toast over their bodies."
"Some might say that we've gotten just what we deserved. After all, we're not entirely innocent, are we? And I'm not just speaking of the Bajoran Occupation -- no, our whole history is one of arrogant aggression. We've collaborated with the Dominion, betrayed the entire Alpha Quadrant ... oh, there's no doubt about it: we're guilty as charged."
"Of course it'll survive -- but not as the Cardassia I knew! We had a rich and ancient culture -- our literature, music, art was second to none. Now? So much of it is lost ... so many of our best people, our most gifted minds..."
"I'm going to miss our lunches together." "Oh, I'm sure we'll see each other again." "I'd like to think so -- but one can never say. We live in uncertain times." [Not a bad last line for our Mr. Garak, that...]
"We've been discussing your plans for the future." "I was not aware I had any plans."
"Nerys, you know my feelings for you will never change -- but I have to do this. My people need me -- they need to know what I know, to learn what I've learned from living among solids. It's the only way they'll ever learn to trust you."
"There's just one thing." "Anything." "I'd like to take you back to your homeworld." "I'd like that. I'd like that very much."
"Any idea where you're gonna live?" "No. Keiko and I are still mulling over a few possibilities." "Have you ever considered Minsk?"
"Earth's nothing more than a rotating ball of boredom."
"To the best crew any captain ever had. This may be the last time we're all together -- but no matter what the future holds, no matter how far we travel, a part of us ... a very important part ... will always remain here, on Deep Space Nine."
"You are pathetic!" "Then why are you the one on your knees?"
"Your time of trial is ended. You need to rest now." "I intend do, just as soon as I get back to Deep Space Nine." "That won't be necessary. You're with us now."
"If they don't know how I feel about them now, a few parting words won't make the difference."
"A-HA! I knew it! When I saw the two of you slip out, I said to myself, 'That no-good, misanthropic, cantankerous Changeling is trying to sneak off the station without anyone noticing." "That was the idea." Well, it's not going to happen, is it?" "Apparently not."
"So, now that I'm here, is there something you want to say to me?" "Such as?" "Such as 'goodbye. You certainly were a worthy adversary.' Or maybe something with the words 'mutual respect' in it." "No." "No? What do you mean, no?" "I mean no. I have nothing I want to say to you." "You're telling me that after all these years, after all we've been through, you're not even going to say goodbye to me?" "That's right."
"Don't take it hard, Quark." "Hard? Are you kidding? That man loves me. Couldn't you see? It was written all over his back."
"It's like I said -- the more things change, the more they stay the same."

And so it ends. I haven't seen an episode in a long time that had this many things that caused controversy. For what it's worth, I still think the montages were fine -- perhaps not exactly what I'd have done, but suitably moving. (The scene in Vic's, on the other hand, I could have done without -- at least the song.) The episode was a success in some ways: it brought many sagas to a close, while still keeping a "life goes on" atmosphere around in the final minutes. A fair amount of what happened on Cardassian soil was also solid -- while I think Damar's death was still something of a waste, the horrors of Cardassia's fate were made pretty clear, and Garak's bittersweet farewell to Bashir alone was worth most of the act it was in. Odo's fate worked just about perfectly -- one might disagree with the choices he makes, but it's difficult not to feel that he's doing what he thinks he must, and to be moved by his faith in what's to come.

On the other hand, the multi-fleet battle didn't do all that much for me, though seeing the Cardassian ships save the day was neat. The Sisko/Winn/Dukat material utterly failed to live up to its previous promise, hitting bottom with a resounding <splort> during the confrontation in the fire-caves. (A few moments in the caves were good, particularly the look in Dukat's face as he watches Winn spill her drink.) The Dominion still acts like idiots a bit too much, the chronology within the episode doesn't seem to make much of any sense (unless Winn stands there chanting over Dukat for days straight), the Prophets are turned about as uninteresting as they were originally interesting, and there's a sense that a lot of important things (a final Sisko/Kira conversation, Jake's fate, Garak's fate, Bajor's entry into the Federation, and so on) were left unsaid or completely unfinished.

I still don't think it's a bad episode per se -- too much of it works to be that. It is, however, unsatisfying when you dig deep, and that's a shame.

Final rating: 6.

[Note: It takes an awfully long time for the Jem'Hadar to drag Broca outside to kill him, doesn't it? Look at how many scenes are scattered in there.]

[Note #2: Odo's Link with the Founder seems less annoying in retrospect. I still think a line or two of dialogue might have helped clarify things, but I'm willing to accept that Odo told her he'd cure her people if she surrendered.]

[Note #3: We're told that even if the Dominion is bottled up on Cardassia Prime, they could rebuild their forces quickly. How? The shipyards are on other worlds, aren't they?]

Whew. If you're still around, congratulations. For those interested in some numbers, here are the stats (counting the finale as two votes, since it's double-length):

             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
SEASON 7 6.5 +/- 2.2 7

Season 7 is tied for season 6 with the least number of episodes scoring 9+, though there are enough 8's to put it in the middle in terms of 8+'s. It's just behind seasons 3 and 6 for the most low-scoring episodes, with 5 earning less than a 5.

Numerically, the season looks as though it's a bit of an upturn from season 6 ... but emotionally, it doesn't feel that way. Why not? For that, we turn to...

II. DS9 Season 7 -- General Commentary

Two years ago, DS9's fifth season came off feeling like surprisingly more than the sum of its parts, particularly in its second half after Cardassia joined the Dominion. Season 6 showed some of the cracks in the idea of a DS9 Grand Epic, and season 7 continued those in many ways, being the first season to date that feels like much less than the sum of its parts -- probably because we expected it to be so much more. Now, in fairness, some of the problems were due to constraints imposed from the outside world, but that doesn't excuse things entirely.

For starters, there's the war. The war doesn't need to be the focus of every single episode, certainly; a constant diet of "The Siege of AR-558" clones would get old really fast, even for those people who thought the episode was near-perfect. I think it's even possible to have the occasional "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" with no real problem -- everyone needs a break from the war, and if the episode is basically announced as such I don't see the difficulty. ("Badda-bing, Badda-bang" would have worked much better, in fact, had the justification been that everyone was going stir crazy over the war than having everyone claim that Vic was just their neatest bestest friend.) What is a problem is having several episodes in a row where the war basically doesn't seem to exist. When a team of mutants can get an easy transport to DS9 ("Chrysalis"), when Ezri and O'Brien can be gone for weeks at a time ("Prodigal Daughter"), and when Quark isn't tossed in the brig for impeding the war effort ("The Emperor's New Cloak"), that doesn't track. For too many shows, it seemed as though the war wasn't so much in a lull as completely absent.

In a related vein, the timing of several aspects of the war seemed to be off. The revelation of the Founders' disease in "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River" was all well and good -- but we then didn't see Damar, Weyoun, or the Founder again for almost half the season. Damar's discomfort at his role was somewhat well established, at least in hindsight -- but the jump from him manipulating Weyoun in "Treachery" to his once-again-subservient role in "Penumbra" is jarring. Having Dukat lure Winn to the path of the Pagh Wraiths is okay to a fault (and certainly had a lot of great scenework, especially early on), but when you've reached your penultimate moment in that story four episodes before the finale and have to resort to blinding Dukat as a plot device to slow things down, it chafes. (Why is it a plot device and not something more? Because we never got to see Dukat while he was out on the street, that's why.)

You get the idea. In essence, while the DS9 staff had the entire season to lay the groundwork for the series' end, only about half of the season was so used, and that in a manner that was a little hard to follow. (Now, I do know that they were told they couldn't have a full-season arc the way they tried to use the last ten hours for, and that's not their fault. Even so, I think things could have been planned a bit more.)

There were a lot of other plot situations which felt as though they should have knit together and didn't. A minor example is Section 31, which did in fact tie into the major story in terms of the Founders' disease, but which never developed beyond that. The major example, and certainly the one that everyone's already been discussing without any help from me, is the lack of connection between the Dukat/Winn/Wraiths plot and the end of the war. The only real connection the two had is that they both came to a climax in the series finale, and that's just too coincidental for my tastes. Given that the Prophets were instrumental in turning the tide of the war once, having the Wraiths somehow influence the war later on actually makes for a bit of parallelism; unfortunately, it looks like the Wraiths' main job was to give Dukat something to do and to give Sisko a tragic end. They, and especially the Kosst Amojan from which Winn read, turned out to be little more than a MacGuffin.

That's a shame, because the Wraiths could have been a lot more. Once or twice, there were hints that the Prophet/Wraith conflict might have had issues underlying it: Dukat and others said on more than one occasion that the Prophets "abandoned" Bajor during the Occupation and that the Pagh Wraiths wanted to interfere on the Bajorans' behalf. If that turned out to be true, the final conflict between the two could have turned out in a much more interesting fashion. (Among other things, picture Sisko and Dukat having a no-holds-barred struggle within the Celestial Temple -- but a struggle of ideas, not FX flames.) Unfortunately, if Dukat's final ravings are anything to go by, the Pagh Wraiths want nothing more than universal destruction, fire and brimstone, chickens sleeping with sheep ... you get the idea. Ultimate evil is a lot less interesting than villains with ideals of their own; I've said that time and again, and I wish it had turned out differently.

There are some other plot red herrings over the course of the season -- they were set up as though they were implying something, but either turned out not to imply anything or to imply something that didn't make a lot of sense. For example

-- Admiral Ross's Section 31 connections. Used to good effect in a particular episode, then completely ignored every other time. Even sweeping it under the rug would have been better than this. (Ross was basically a chameleon character: he had whatever attitudes needed to be rejected at the time. That's not really a character; it's a set of straw men.)

-- Virtually every "major" episode in the season, even early on, seemed to be filled with claims that such-and-such an action would "change the course of the war." The wormhole reopens, the Romulans and Bajorans have a spat, the Founders get sick, the Breen show up with a new and powerful weapon ... sheesh. Whoever the writers wanted to need a desperate victory had to be in desperate straits, regardless of the past -- I've never seen a war with that many drastic shifts in momentum. Would someone just win, please? (Along with that, both the Founders and Dukat were mentioned as "more dangerous than ever" early in the season. Okay, guys, we get it: we're supposed to worry. Move along.)

-- Everything about the Breen. They produced a weapon which put the Federation on the defensive for a few weeks, but that's it. If the good guys could beat the Jem'Hadar and the Breen so handily, why didn't they beat the Jem'Hadar and the Cardassians equally easily months ago? The refrigeration suits, the static language, the what's-under-the-helmet mystery ... none of them meant anything. They were just filler. (It's been argued that perhaps a new series is being set up with the Breen as the big villains. The problem with that is that it's still dull. When the Cardassians were introduced in TNG to set up for DS9, they were a fascinating race. When the Maquis was introduced in DS9 to set up for Voyager, potential oozed out of every episode with them. If the Breen are the next step ... brr.)

-- The Romulan presence in the war seemed to mean nothing apart from having more ships. They contributed nothing in terms of strategic advances or tactical advice; apart from one really good episode on Romulus (which was only peripherally related to the war), they were almost as faceless as the Breen. Why use 'em? Just because they're there?

-- The Alamo. Need I say more?

I've just spent an awful lot of words griping about the stories of the season. Was there anything to like from a plot standpoint?

Hell, yes. Many of the "finish lines" for various parts of the war were worthwhile goals, and several of them were well established.

First and foremost: Cardassia. No one can argue that this ending was envisioned seven years ago when the series began, but watching the Cardassians turn once again from fiendish villains to oppressed rebels was a neat trip indeed. Though it was a stretch to see the Bajoran resistance paralleled quite so closely (as I said in the capsules, I'd have loved to see the Maquis brought in to fight alongside Damar and company), the Cardassians have truly come full circle: if they do appear in another Trek series down the line, they'll be in much the same situation Bajor was at the start of the series: a recently-occupied, beaten world in need of assistance. I regret that we weren't able to see an "epilogue" to the war, showing what exactly was going to happen to Cardassia next, but I can live with what we got. Damar's realization that his people were the victims of a bloodless invasion, the Dominion's casual brutality in dealing with their rebellious "allies," Martok's gloating victory over millions of Cardassian corpses, Garak's shattered dreams ... this was good stuff most of the time.

A lesser example comes in the form of the Klingon Empire. Some years, I've been very tired of Klingon stories -- DS9's fourth season, when Worf first arrived on board, was especially bad that way, as we got a slew of questionable ones like "Rules of Engagement" and "Sons of Mogh." It seems that what we needed was a "regular" Klingon with a perspective different from Worf's. When Martok came along, that's exactly what we got -- and from season 5's "Soldiers of the Empire" on, Martok has reinvigorated a lot of Klingon episodes. "Once More Unto the Breach" spoke to heroism, and "Tacking Into the Wind" spoke to corruption, both fairly well. Watching Worf play kingmaker again, undoing the very leader he brought to power years ago, carried a lot of resonance for those who remembered some of the solid Klingon episodes of the mid-TNG years. Unlike Cardassia, though, Q'onoS's situation doesn't make me eager to find out what's happened next -- rather, it seems as though it's had its run of stories and needs some time to rest. (And yes, this means I am resolutely not in favor of any all-Klingon series in the future, not that I think it's particularly likely anyway.)

Ferenginar, on the other hand, is a good example of a world and a culture that didn't particularly need closure. After "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River" and "The Siege of AR-558" hinted at a few ways in which Ferengi philosophy might be a valid alternative to Federation values on occasion, "The Dogs of War" decided "ahh, the heck with it; let's just shift everything around and make Quark rant about the decay of his society." While I admit to being vaguely amused at seeing Rom in charge of what's supposed to be a decent-sized galactic power, I really wonder what the point of this one was.

One sizable argument DS9 fans (and Trek fans in general) have made over the years, though, is that at its core, Star Trek is about characters and the human condition. Okay. Let's take a look at the character situation. How did they fare over this final season?

As in the case of plot points, the characters' fates are decidedly mixed. Some characters fared very well, some were badly mistreated, and some simply dropped off the face of the plot.

The big winner this season: Odo. Besides the fact that he had the lead role in the best damned episode of the year, his final rapprochement with his people was a very long time coming -- arguably five years (ever since we met the Founders), and almost certainly at least four and a half ("The Die Is Cast," when we learned how desperately he wanted to be with his people. Odo's fate was tragic, and perhaps made all the more so by Kira's presence: Odo was conflicted and resolute at the same time, and that's difficult to manage. The main exception to this was the issues brought up by Section 31: while Odo's reactions were completely justified and interesting, we never got to see any more than that initial reaction. That's more an issue of not following up something good than it is doing something bad, though -- Odo certainly had the best dose of good material of anyone this year.

(And yes, I'm aware of how odd it is that I found the Odo/Kira relationship so fulfilling this year, considering how much I bemoaned the billion-year leadup to it. I still think most of the leadup was terrible, but at least once we got there it was put to good use.)

Second place is harder, but it may well go to Damar. Damar started out as nothing more than a sardonic aide-de-camp back in season 4, and in most of season 6 was an interesting thug, but a thug nonetheless. The year started off slowly for him, but the last half-season turned him from a beaten, self-pitying man into a legend, and in reasonably convincing fashion. (I would have liked to see it evolve a little more gradually, but there we are.)

Then there's the list of "abused" characters. I think the recipient here is obvious, too: everyone's once-favorite Gul, Dukat. At first he was hurt by his absence: he was mentioned only in passing when Jadzia's death came up, and no one on the station seemed particularly interested in making him pay. Then he's turned into a cult leader, in an episode that ostensibly makes him "more dangerous than ever" but in reality suggests that his new-found belief in the Pagh Wraiths is deceptive. He had some marvelous material early on with Winn -- deceptive, yes, but in amazingly adept and intelligent fashion. Alas, it's all for naught, as he's turned into a strutting, possessed, blathering corpse consigned to the flames of bad effects. That's just sad. The complex, fiercely independent and honorable-according-to-his-own-code Dukat was replaced late in season 6 by a pod person, and his ending barely lived up to the one dimension he had left.

(As a moral note ... many people have noted how odd it is that Dukat, who's arguably still unhinged from Ziyal's death and not entirely responsible for his actions, is consigned to a fate worse than death, while the female Founder, who consciously ordered genocide and achieved it in part, is "allowed to stand trial" while knowing she's gotten the one thing she truly wanted, namely Odo. I completely agree.)

Second place goes not so much to an individual character as to a group: the Prophets. Interesting, nonlinear, impersonal, only vaguely aware of humanoid perceptions, "of Bajor" ... just about all of that was swept away. Instead, we make Sisko half-Prophet so that his "mother" can become the spokesProphet for the season -- and a single spectral figure in whom we have no emotional investment is a pale, pale shadow of seeing the Prophets speak through images of other characters (and often very good choices of images at that). The Prophets mostly carried the signs saying <FOREBODING ALERT> during this season, and they were capable of so much more. And what's more ... after all this, do we know why they're "of Bajor"? Do we know why they wanted Sisko? Do we know why they sent the Orbs? Do we know why they established the wormhole? A resounding "nope" to all of the above: they were mystical White Hats who helped Ben out and warned him of the dangers of being happy. Sigh.

As for the characters missing in action, it's easy to see where to begin: one Jake Sisko. Once a marvelous foil for Sisko's obsessions and for Nog's bouts of dishonesty, then a journalist-writer who was often willing to see past surface features, Jake this season was almost completely absent, not even meriting a goodbye from his own father. Jake's best line was a throwaway about planning a bachelor party, and the best Jake-centered moment occurred when he wasn't even there ("The Siege of AR-558," when Sisko orders Nog into danger.) I've seen one episode of Cirroc Lofton's new series, "The Hoop Life," and I've no doubt that he'll have a healthy career for a while. I only wish he'd gotten to appear more as Jake.

Second place: Miles Edward O'Brien. Once a passionate engineer, devoted family man, and all-around decent guy who could be counted upon to do what's right, now he's a frequent buddy for Bashir and occasional spouter of technobabble. Given Colm Meaney's wealth of talent, that's another shame.

In a new category this year, there are also two major characters who are new or fairly new: Ezri Dax and Vic Fontaine. One of them was a good idea handled problematically, and the other was a bad idea occasionally handled well.

Ezri's sheer existence was due to outside constraints (namely, Terry Farrell leaving), and as such I was willing to cut her a little slack early on -- but as it happens, early on I didn't have to. When Ezri first showed up, I liked her: she was a bit immature, as cute and perky as they come, and as in need of Sisko's counsel as he used to be of Jadzia's or Curzon's. That was a nice role-reversal, and one I thought showed a lot of room for growth. Unfortunately, "growth" in Ezri's case consisted of finding her a prom date. Despite three separate episodes devoting substantial time to Ezri, we know very little more about what distinguishes her from her forebears that we didn't know three episodes into the season. On those rare occasions she wasn't talking to ghosts or deciding on her True Love, Ezri could be interesting -- as much as some people dislike "Afterimage," there was a lot in Ezri's relationship with Sisko to like, and her conversation with Worf in "Tacking Into the Wind" had comments that only she could make. I wish we'd had more conversations like that and less "kiss me, Julian."

As for Vic ... basically, I don't buy the character and never did. We're told, time and time and time again, that Vic is "not just another holosuite program," but a good friend. The problem is that we're expected to accept it pretty much solely on the basis of the very claims we're meant to accept. That's called "argument by assertion," and it's usually also called unacceptable. Vic wasn't an unbridled menace -- his music was put to decent use in "The Siege at AR-558" and he himself worked beautifully in "It's Only a Paper Moon" -- but those two episodes could have worked well without developing this huge Cult of Vic in the process. James Darren is an amiable enough player, but we didn't need two entire episodes and several episode-interrupting breaks full of Vic just because Ira Behr and Hans Beimler like that style of music.

On a more general note, some of the other characterization problems from season 6 were amplified here. I mentioned last year that a lot of episodes were solo runs for characters rather than true ensemble pieces: while that got no worse this time around, the number of connections any given character made seemed to lessen this season. Mostly, characters were defined according to their relationships to one or maybe two people: Sisko to Kasidy and Prophet-Mom (and not Jake or Kira), Kira to Odo, Worf to Ezri, Ezri to Worf and Bashir (and a little Sisko), Bashir to O'Brien and Ezri, and so on. Anyone remember the days when we had a reasonable idea how every character related to every other one? In the first season (maybe season and a half) alone, Jadzia was pretty clearly a mentor and friend to Sisko, forming a rapidly warming friendship with Kira, willing to tolerate Quark unlike any others, amusedly fending off Bashir's advances, and able to trade technobabble with O'Brien. There's nothing wrong per se with focusing on a few relationships out of several -- in some cases, such as (and I'm still amazed by this) Odo/Kira, the relationship is fleshed-out enough to feel very real and very adult. However, narrowing the focus in that way makes it very, very easy to force the characters into regular molds. Sisko gets to be confused or ticked off, Kira gets to be warm lover or cold resistance fighter and nothing else ... the list goes on. It's a convenient short-cut, but one I think short-circuits the characterization when not watched very closely.

So, all of that said, was the season a success or a failure?

Yes.

It was a success in that, for the most part, things that needed to end ended. Characters reached the end of their stories -- Odo has returned to his people, Worf has moved on, O'Brien has made it through the war with his life and his family intact, Martok is leading the Klingon Empire, and the bad guys are dead. We've understood a little bit more about what makes some of these characters tick, and while we feel for Jake, Garak, and some others in their sorrow, we also know that the station, and the quadrant, are in fairly good hands.

It was a failure in that it let some of the real triumphs and real meat slip away. In ignoring Bajor and the Federation, in ignoring Sisko/Kira, in glossing over Section 31 and its issues, and especially in butchering Dukat, it made a lot of the big story a giant "who'd win?" bar fight. The sense of tragedy is tinged with anger at how unnecessary some of it is. The sense of triumph is tinged with a nagging feeling that we're forgetting something -- something important. We care about a lot of what happened, and about those characters we leave behind -- but we know how much we could have cared had things been different.

It was the sum of its parts. It could have been more.

Thanks for reading, folks. Good night.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
tly...@alumni.caltech.edu <*>
"Oh, I'm sure we'll see each other again."
"I'd like to think so -- but one can never say. We live in uncertain
times."
-- Bashir and Garak

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