Monday, 26 March 2012

Deep Space Nine Season Three

The Search Part I written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Kim Friedman

What’s it about: Sisko returns from Earth with a little surprise for the Dominion…

Single Father: There’s a wonderful moment between Sisko and Jake when they discuss that DS9 is not only where they are stationed…but they have come to think of this Cardassian monstrosity as their home. Sisko has finally moved his collection of African art from their home on Earth to the station, adding lots of personal touches. Add to that an even better scene where Sisko talks about going back to Starfleet Command and having meetings with the very same Admirals that used to give him a thrill of delight earlier in his career but now he thinks that they just don’t see things how they actually are. He doesn’t agree with the decision to have a Federation security presence on the station but he does understand it – Starfleet likes team players and the chain of command and so does he.

Tasty Terrorist: The relationship between Kira and Odo continues to shine as she tries to convince him to come along to the mission to find the leaders of the Dominion and make him feel as if he still has a use to Bajor, even if the Federation can’t see how good he is. When she goes to his quarters to drag him out of his slumber, Odo’s line is almost a piss take of all those times when Troi turned up at peoples quarters because they broke a nail: ‘Are you the ships counsellor now?’

Unknown Sample: Once again leave it DS9 to follow up on promises of the past and I was only saying a few episodes back in Tribunal that there had been a number of security lapses of late. Odo feels that his hands are tied because he is not able to issue a curfew and enforce more regulations but the Federation is run under martial law. They see his efforts as mildly incompetant and send Commander Eddington to co-ordinate with him. His ego easily bruised, Odo resigns as soon as he hears the news. I laughed my head off at Odo’s growling rant at Quark (‘Stay out of my way or you’ll regret the day you ever met me!’). The way Odo is hypnotised by the view screen of the Omarian Nebula is superbly played by Rene Auberjonois and when he tells Kira it is calling to him you never doubt that he is 100% sincere.

Community Leader: After his last experience with the Dominion Quark refuses to go along with Sisko but he is blackmailed by the Commander by using the sceptre of the Grand Nagus in a wonderful scene. In his dealings with the Karemma Quark manages to sell half the Bridge of the Defiant and Kira’s earring.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘She may have flaws but she has teeth’ – Sisko on the Defiant.
‘What the hell is wrong with Starfleet?’ – Kira’s diplomacy still needs a little tweaking!

The Good: The one major drawback to DS9 was that it didn’t have a sleek looking starship to explore other worlds and we were stuck in tiny and ineffective runabouts if we wanted to leave the station…now there is nothing holding this show back because the Defiant is a kick ass warship which is highly manoeuvrable, built to fight and packing in some serious weaponry. It even has a cloaking device! It kicks the Enterprise and Voyager out of the pool with its awesomeness. A ship without families, science labs and luxuries of any kind built to counteract the Borg threat. The design is very different from any Federation ship we have seen before with tactical stations all around the perimeter of the Bridge, cramped quarters and tight angled corridors – the designers have really thought through how to pack us much function into as little space as possible. When the ship cloaks the Bridge darkens and a red light flashes – it feels like a claustrophobic submarine under fire. It is long past time DS9 boasted some kind of conference room because it was ridiculous how every meeting was taking place crowded around that central console in Ops. It’s a shame that T’Rul wasn’t kept on as a regular because she is played by the inestimable Martha Hackett (Seska) but we would be seeing plenty of the Romulans before the series is out so it doesn’t matter too much. Eddington is a different matter altogether, a new Security Officer who seems on the surface to be another Starfleet drone but actually has a big secret he’s hiding. His character would develop significantly over the next three years. The camera never stops moving when Dax and O’Brien beam down, it gives an unnerving feeling that they are being watched. Conduits exploding, blasts of fire suppression gas, Dominion ships being torn in two by a volley of torpedoes, ceilings collapsing, sparks flying, flames raging, Jem H’adar soldiers storming the ship and kicking the crap out of the crew…this is one breathlessly exciting five minute action sequence that really raises the game as far as this sort of thing is concerned. Our first view of the Great Link is through the eyes of Odo and his awe at an entire lake of shape shifters merging together mirrors our own. Is he really going to leave the show?

The Bad: It’s very sweet that the Federation think they can head into the Gamma Quadrant and open diplomatic channels with the Dominion but I think that option was squandered in the last episode. Besides sneaking into their territory in a cloaked ship was hardly the best approach.

Moment to Watch Out For: The sequence with the two Jem H’adar ships approaching the cloaked Defiant is almost unbearably tense.

Only DS9: The Search convinces you that the Dominion threat is going to be wrapped up in Federation diplomacy but this is just wrong footing the audience that thinks that they know how Star Trek works. To be fair that is an understandable notion – the Borg threat was tied up with talk in Descent and so was Species 8472 in In The Flesh. DS9 on the other hand is playing a long game and using Trek clichés to convince you otherwise. I really like that.

Fashion Statement: Sisko would go through several image changes this year before they finally settle on his look at the beginning of season four but for now his severe haircut is a great start. He’s starting to look like he means business. Dax sports a really unusual haircut for this opening two parter which I’m pleased to say they didn’t keep…it’s a bit too twee for Jadzia.

Foreboding: When the crew talk about defending the station against a Jem H’adar attack in this episode it is great to see that even though they do have the Defiant on hand there are defence systems installed in the meantime. Check out Way of the Warrior to see a fully armed DS9 kicking some serious Klingon butt.

Result: The Search opens DS9’s third season with a new mission statement to be a more dynamic, less static show and the introduction of the Defiant really ups the ante. Ronald D. Moore moves over from TNG and freed from the constraints of the parent show finally gets to do some very bold things with Star Trek. He will be responsible for some of this shows very best episodes in the years to come. A Starfleet battleship sounds like a dreadful idea but it is pulled off with such class and the moment it unleashes a volley of torpedoes it is simply the coolest thing I have ever seen any ship do in Trek. There is a strong reminder of the great double acts this show has invested a lot of time in (Odo/Quark, Odo/Kira, Sisko/Dax, Sisko/Jake, Kira/Sisko) and there some wonderful character scenes for all of them. DS9 never likes to get too comfortable and this episode does some very effective things with Odo, stripping him of is authority but allowing him to gain a new focus with a teasing, fairytale cliffhanger. We have never seen action scenes of this sort on Star Trek before and the giddy handheld camerawork as the Jem H’adar attack the Defiant is staggeringly dramatic. All in all The Search builds on the promise of season two’s finale and then some: 9/10

The Search Part II written by Ira Steven Behr and directed by Jonathan Frakes

What’s it about: Odo finally gets some answers from his people…

Single Father: Sisko isn’t afraid to mouth off to Admiral Nechayev the way Picard was and when things go too far he storms in on her Borath and unleashes a torrent of abuse that actually makes her flinch!

Unknown Sample: Rene Auberjonois said that he thought Odo’s character would come to an end if he ever discovered who his people were but he was underestimating the writers on DS9. Whilst the mystery surrounding his character has gone, the discoveries he makes about his people in this episode would go on fuelling his character with some blistering drama right through until the very last episode of the show. Odo has so many questions for his people he doesn’t know where to begin and being the man that he is he sounds as though he is gruffly interrogating them. It needs Kira to remind him that this is the moment he has been waiting for his entire life and he should enjoy the moment. The look of pure contentment on his face when the female shape shifter links with him is one of pure bliss. Like having sex for the first time, this is a defining moment in his life. ‘To become a thing is to know a thing’ is the byword for the shapeshifters and Odo has trouble understanding that at first and finds his attempts frustrating. Even in their isolation the Founders wanted to know more about the other races in the galaxy and Odo was one of a hundred infant changelings sent out to gather knowledge and born with a desire to return home and share it. Thanks to the wormhole he is the first to return but they weren’t expecting him for 300 years. That’s actually a well thought through and interesting explanation for how he spent his childhood amongst the Bajorans. He doesn’t hide the fact that he wants to stay with his people to Kira and rather than convince him otherwise she tells him she has enjoyed working with him. Theirs is a refreshingly unpretentious relationship where they understand each other. Odo turning his back on his people and admitting that he already has a link with his friends from DS9 is a crucial moment in his life – its lovely to hear him admit his feelings at last and it is a bold step for him to walk away from the peace the Founders could offer him.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘An alliance between the Dominion and the Federation will be beneficial to both our people.’
‘I don’t believe it, I’m talking to a tree.’
‘After years of hemming women’s dresses a little action is a welcome change of pace!’
‘Many years ago we set ourselves the task of imposing order on a chaotic universe.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Why would shapeshifters need a door?’ – spell out the mystery why don’t you?

The Good: The whole nature of the Great Link and the Founders is fascinating to me. How they exist intermingled with no understanding of the idea of time and spending their lives study and understanding what it is to be other life forms is such a departure from the norm on Star Trek it makes for the most refreshing change. Chalk up another superb returning guest actress in Salome Jens who brings a sense of ethereal calm to her role as the female shapeshifter and yet when she shows her teeth is the scariest thing on two legs. The good thing about suggesting that there are ‘big things’ happening on the station with regards to the treaty between the Federation and the Dominion is that this episode tricks you into thinking that with tedious inevitability the conflict has been resolved through talk. When you discover that the whole thing is one big scam by the Dominion you are finally seeing a long term conflict that isn’t going anywhere and that is just what the Trek universe needs. Whilst my Vorta of choice will always be Jeffrey Combs, Dennis Christopher gives a superb, slimy performance as Borath and manages that trick of being both charming and sinister. Even when he is a holographic fake Garak is still a delight and he gets most of the best lines (Andrew Robinson excels, as usual). I kind decide if two shapeshifters melding together is intimate or disgusting but the special effects are fantastic. Watching the Jem H’adar playing Dabo is very funny and so is O’Brien being picked up and thrown over the bar! There’s some real fun phaserplay as our motley heroes head to the runabout to collapse the wormhole. At least there is a good reason for the Founders to have created this elaborate fantasy – they wanted to know how Sisko and the other would react to the kind of changes they want to impose on the Alpha Quadrant.

The Bad: The bad thing about trying to convince us that diplomacy has succeeded is that we are only convinced for about five minutes. I know DS9 likes pushing developments but to have Dax transferred, the Romulans excluded from the treaty and going to war with the Federation, Garak die and the wormhole destroyed is far too much and the audience figures out the con very quickly. What I would have done would be to have the twist revealed halfway through the episode so we can go the rest of the way knowing that they are being tested and enjoying seeing how far they can go. Plus the dual plotlines of Odo with his people and the Dominion politics on the station have to be tied up at some point so the rulers of the Dominion are easily guessed. When the female shapeshifter mentions their distrust of the solids ten minutes into the episode I guessed the truth. The Arboretum set is like something from a pantomime and subdued lighting is all that saves it from being a total write off.

Moment to Watch Out For: The last scene sees Kira holding Odo’s hand and gently touching his comm badge as they leave the planet and his people behind. Having declared his feelings for Kira and the others there is a powerful feeling of intimacy between them now.

Myth Building: The Founders went out into the universe to meet new races and add to their sum total of knowledge of other species but they were beaten, hunted and killed.

Foreboding: ‘No changeling has ever harmed another’ – nice to see the season finale set up in the opening two parter.

Result: It’s a disappointing climax to last weeks incredible set up but there is still plenty here to enjoy. Jonathan Frakes makes his DS9 directional debut and adds a stylish touch to the proceedings. He’s very keen to keep the camera moving and it gives the piece a fluidic pace. Also the exploration of Odo’s history and the dilemma he faces at the climax gives his character a whole new direction to explore. What really lets the episode down is the predictable Star Trek plotting – dual narratives that outs the shapeshifters as the Founders way before the episode reveals it and a fantasy plotline that pushes things too far and fails to convince. Still Garak is on hand for some quality moments, the performances are sound and the continuing threat of the Dominion allows the show to break away from its TNG roots and forge its own identity. Flawed but essential for all the great Odo material: 7/10

The House of Quark written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Les Landau

What’s it about: Quark becomes the leader of a Klingon house!

The O’Brien’s: The Dominion threat is reaching out and affecting more than just the families of the officers who are fighting them. Families are moving away from the station because of the suggestion of war and there aren’t enough children around for Keiko to keep the school open. This is a shame because I always found it added quite a nice touch to the station but its refreshing to see this new threat worked into the established setting in interesting ways. Keiko is devastated that her project has folded but tries to keep a stiff upper lip for her husband but there is only so much you can do around your quarters before you are bored as sin. The meal that O’Brien prepares for Keiko (with an extra helping of nookie for desert) looks delicious and the continuing exploration of this relationship is a great strength of the show. Who wouldn’t do anything that they could for the person they love but no matter how many meals or hobbies you arrange that doesn’t change the fact that there is fundamental problem. Even Bashir can see that O’Brien arranging an arboretum on the station will only sort the problem of her having no job for a couple of months. His gift to his wife, asking her to go on a six month work trip to Bajor, is an entirely selfless act and makes you wish you had a Miles of your very own!

Community Leader: Probably the best vehicle for Quark in the first three years of the show, The House of Quark gives him so much strong material you can see why the creators fell head over heels for the character. Quark gives us his person view of the tension between the Dominion and the Federation – he blames Sisko for playing it tough where the Ferengi would have happily sold them a slice of the Alpha Quadrant (and given them a little something for their trouble, say Betazed). Trust Quark to try and make a profit out of the accidental death of a Klingon customer, every scene in this plot is steeped in character and its rather wonderful how his sense of theatre gets him in this situation…and ultimately out of it as well! Watch how he plays the crowd (‘the next thing I knew he pulled a knife on me! ‘GASP!’), he’s a master at this sort of thing. Once he has recouped the losses in the bar he wants to keep the story going because his customers now look at him with some respect (something that baffles Rom!). When D’gor shoves Quark against a wall and demands to know how his brother died I was laughing myself silly…not only because Quark tells two completely irreconcilable versions of the same story but also his terrified attempt to say ‘K’pla!’ I’m sure that Quark always wanted to get married at some point but I’m almost willing to bet he didn’t think it would be at knife point to a Klingon woman who despises him! Naturally Quark’s first instinct when his life is threatened is to run but when Grilka points out the lack of honour in run away he has to quickly think up a plan b.

Secret Genius: Rom is such a funny character and Max Grodenchik knows exactly how to pitch him, cute and just a little bit devious. As soon as Rom learns that his salary is going to be cut he leaps to Quark’s explanation suggesting that he fought a desperate hand to hand battle with the Klingon and was forced to kill him in self defence! I love the way Rom stares at Quark as his brother tries to convince himself to leave…he is practically willing Quark to stay and do the right thing despite what he is saying.

What’s Morn up to: He’s pulled the hottest bird at Quark’s and gives his favourite bartender the thumbs up when he walks out with her on his arm!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Actually there is…defend yourself!
‘You must be quite a liar’ ‘It’s a gift!’
‘I really am very grateful for everything you have done Quark. That is why I’m going to let you take your hand of my thigh instead of shattering every bone in your body.’
‘I thought you were different. I thought you had something in here. But all you have in there is a piece of latinum and it’s a pretty small piece at that.’
‘If that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get: an execution. No honour. No glory. And when you tell your children and your grandchildren the glorious story of how you rose to power and took Grilka’s house from her I hope you remember to tell them how you heroically killed an unarmed Ferengi half your size.’

The Good: Nothing could have prepared me for the sight of Quark leaping over the bar and scattering gold pressed latinum everywhere and grabbing a tray to defend himself from a knife wielding Klingon! Hilarious! Klingon society is much like that of the 16th Century where dying without a male heir means that you have nobody to bequeath your property too. There are clearly two marriage ceremonies of choice – the full on church wedding with the best men beating you up with clubs after you have said your vows (as seen in You Are Cordially Invited) and the registry office version where you say a few words and have a quick snog (hopefully not followed up by spitting out your husbands saliva as Grilka does here!). Quark entering the Klingon hall of honour and curtseying before the High Council is so funny it hurts and so is the look on Gowron’s face as Quark tries to take him through D’Gor’s financial plot. The episode is framed by two lovely scenes of Quark and Rom where the camera slides slowly along the bar towards them.

Moment to Watch Out For: Quark’s speech to the Council by making them realise that by satisfying honour that they are attending an execution is superbly written and performed. It allows both races to understand each other better and provides the perfect climax to this culture swapping tale.

Foreboding: So good that it deserved a sequel and in some ways that is even better – I look forward to Looking for Par’Mach in all the Wrong Places in season five.

Result:A brave Ferengi. Who would have thought it possible?’ A Klingon/Ferengi comedy? Who would ever think such a thing could work? Ronald D. Moore takes this insane concept and writes a massively enjoyable culture clash episode with lots of funny moments but also grounds the whole piece in character which gives it a lot of depth too. It’s a fantastic episode for Quark because he gets to be a hero in every sense of the word, honouring his marriage to Grilka and saving her lands whilst keeping his dignity intact and never once raising a weapon. His greatest weapon is intelligence and it shines through. The Keiko subplot should jar but again the material is treated very sensitively and it continues the wonderful exploration of this marriage on the station. There’s no sign of this show running out of steam, this is another fine piece of entertainment from the most consistently enjoyable Trek show: 8/10

Equilibrium written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Cliff Bole

Single Father: Perhaps in contrast to how crazy Dax is acting, Sisko really seems to come alive in this episode and as we progress throughout the third season he will be getting more and more confident before exploding in series four onwards. He’s a slow boil character for sure and there were moments in the first two seasons where you wanted him to turn on the aggression a little more but come Way of the Warrior there is no stopping the guy and from season four-seven he is my favourite Starfleet Captain. Its only now he’s scared that Jadzia is going to die that he realises how much he has come to feel for her, the same way he used to feel about Curzon.

Unknown Sample: When Kira tells Odo that he looks cute stirring the mixture he goes at it with renewed vigour. She’s isn’t wrong, he looks adorable.

GE Doctor: Considering his vocation it is ironic that when he was younger he was terrified of Doctors because they seemed to know everything – when you come to learn his secret that makes even more sense. The friendship between Bashir and Dax is quite an interesting one because if Worf hadn’t come along its clear that he and Dax would have got it together (and indeed Ezri admits as much in season seven). There is an intimacy between them that goes beyond friendship and yet they aren’t lovers, its something quite precious.

Nine Lives: I never thought I would say this but Terry Farrell overacts dreadfully in the first act as she tries to show us how aggressive Joran’s influence is making her. Her spat with Sisko over the chess match and the way she threatens Kira is not only out of character (which it is supposed to be) but a wee bit too melodramatic for me tastes. The music has sparked off a memory that has brewed so much anger inside Dax and she doesn’t know where it is coming from. She spent three years desperate to escape the Initiate Complex on Trill and after she was joined she promised herself she would never set foot in there again. When she discovers that the Dax symbiont was accidentally given to a killer for six months she chooses to embrace those memories rather than hide away from them.

The Good: Trek always does dream sequences well (except for Night Terrors with the terrifying shots of Troi’s butt as she is flying) and these are some of the best. I love the spooky music and the imagery of masks within masks is very scary before finally opening up to reveal a pair of mad staring eyes…brrr. The episode takes the unique approach of giving you all the clues you need in a series of memories that Dax experiences, a sinister figure, a man murdered and Dax being restrained by men wearing uniforms from over 100 years ago and through that you can piece together the accidental joining of Dax and Joran before the episode explains it for you. There are some very nice sets for the symbiont pools (I love the stone staircase) and the shots of the little symbionts chasing each other in the water are so cute! The twist that nearly half the population are capable of being joined but there simply aren’t enough symbionts to go around and so they put the candidates through such torturous testing to ensure on the best of society get them is a great on but it’s a shame that it takes such a plodding route to get to it.

Moment to Watch Out For: The moment where Dax accepts Joran into herself in a very symbolic hug. It helps that the guy playing Joran is a hottie when up to has waste in white water too.

Only DS9: Why is DS9 so great? Go and watch the teaser which is the best ensemble scene since ‘everybody says goodbye to Kira’ in The Circle. Odo is devastatingly cute stirring his bowl, Sisko is enjoying cooking for everybody, Bashir is appalled at the sight of beets, Kira is grinning her ass off and Dax can’t get a tune out of her head. They work so well together.

Fashion Statement: Bashir’s blue stripy pyjamas look incredibly geeky and have the opposite effect, he actually feels quite normal for once in clothes that are so…dreadful.

Result: Equilibrium definitely has its moments and enjoys more of that DS9 brand of character magic but I feel it needs a bit more edge to it to make the (very good) final revelation really hit home. I think the biggest problem is that Trill seems like such a dreary planet in the familiar Star Trek mould I can’t imagine ever wanting to visit again. On the plus side the mystery surrounding Dax’s hallucinations is superbly done and the implications for her character now that Joran’s presence has been revealed will return to haunt her several times throughout the shows run. I just wish the conspiracy story was told with a little more drama – this is a secret that could turn the planet on its head but you get the sense that perhaps it should be made public knowledge just to spice the place up a bit. Decent enough but Echevarria’s debut script isn’t a patch on some the classics he would pen in later years and with a character study that reveals some of Dax’s shady past whilst at the same time blowing the dust off a long buried secret it feels just like the season one episode Dax, only not as good: 6/10

Second Skin written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Les Landau

What’s it about: Is Kira really a Cardassian?

Single Father: There is a very gentle exchange between Kira and Sisko before she heads off to Bajor that shows how far these characters have come from their head butting in the first season.

Tasty Terrorist: Kira hates the holosuites because anything worth doing in them can be done better in the real world. Its great to see Kira and Dax spending some leisure time together – that’s one relationship I felt we could have seen more of in this show. I love how this episode stacks up its revelations for Kira to face; first with evidence that she was in a Cardassian prison, then that she is a Cardassian and finally that the person she thought she was is dead. To have an episode where a character questions their entire sense of self and convince the audience too is a big ask of any actress but Nana Visitor (who has already proven herself to be extremely versatile) is more than up to the task. She tears at her Cardassian face as though it is a mask that she wants to rip off – if you spend so long despising a race and suddenly found yourself looking like one of them I cannot imagine the degree of self loathing you would experience. Kira takes in all the detail about Iliyana’s childhood and declares as we all would that Ghemor is very good at playing the doting father…its so impressive that we are fooled into thinking this is all a lie when it is the truth. It just doesn’t apply to Kira. She has great fun revealing station intelligence, appalled at how she wasn’t even allowed into Ops and the 30-40,000 strong Starfleet personnel (‘Don’t tell them I told you…’). The look on her face when he tells her she will be hurt if she doesn’t co-operate is priceless. Kira is seen to be quick thinking too and as soon as she figures out that Ghemor is a dissident she unravels the whole plot before him. Admitting that Ghemor is an honourable man is another important step in Kira’s journey to accepting that not all Cardassians are evil.

Plain and Simple: Why should I care what the Bajoran government thinks of me?’ Another mention of the Dominion threat, this time how it is affecting Garak’s business. When he was younger travelling was something of a passion but since his exile he hasn’t left the station once (apart from his brief excursion to Bajor with Bashir) because space is dangerous. Garak is so used dripping feeding Sisko information through Dr Bashir that he is completely thrown when the Commander insists they are taking a trip to Cardassia to retrieve Kira. Naturally he refuses and Sisko uses the one thing he can to blackmail him into it – his safety amongst his enemies on the station. Sisko is right, a Bajoran space station under Federation command is the only safe place for him. The way he barks orders at Gul Benil and later shoots Entek down with the parting line ‘a pity, I rather liked him!’ make you want to give him a big kiss. Rather wonderfully as soon as Garak seems to be working for the good guys there is a warning from Ghemor to never trust him.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘It was just something I overheard whilst I was hemming someone’s trousers’ – Odo’s reaction to this is a scream!
‘You’re my daughter Ilyana. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you. Even if it means losing you again.’
‘Major I don’t think I’ve ever seen you looking so ravishing!’

The Good: A small observation but one that I feel is worth making – the Replimat actually looks like a pretty cool place to have your dinner these days with funky neon strips and bubbling water features. Its more touches that make DS9 feel less of a way through and more of a home. Gregory Sierra is fantastically wily as Entek, a true scheming politician and compellingly realistic in the lies he is trying to make Kira believe. But even he can’t top one of America’s finest character actors, Lawrence Pressman and his dazzling turn as Kira’s adopted father and throughout you are convinced that he is in on the ruse too and are waiting for the punchline of his obvious concern for her and it impressed me even more when that never came. It made me want to go back and watch the whole thing over with fresh eyes and hindsight. You think throughout that Ghemor deserves the bile that Kira throws at him but when you realise the truth you can only imagine how hurt he was by the things she said. I was perfectly convinced that this was all a set up (even Ghemor) until Kira finally broke down and he told her he was going to help her to escape Cardassia because he would do anything for his daughter. Whilst I never believed that Star Trek would do something quite this bold with one of its regulars (I was wrong – DS9 did just that in Dr Bashir, I Presume) the fact that just for a few minutes I was wrapped up in the excitement that actually this might be a possibility goes to show how strong this script and the performances are. They had already laid the groundwork with the interrogations, Kira’s body and the fact that we know they could have extracted the information by force if they needed to and once Ghemor does something which simply cannot be part of this staging my head spun with possibilities. Its made more interesting by reading that the writers were considering this to be reality and not a con (although I’m glad they didn’t). The revelation that Ghemor is a dissident fighting against the total control of the Obsidian Order and the Central Command has over Cardassia is a fascinating reveal and the Cardassian situation will take on much greater meaning throughout the season in the episodes Defiant and The Die is Cast. Its such an interesting planet to visit with a rich structure that we will see destroyed before the series is out. Suddenly we realise we have been wrong footed throughout and this episode was never about Kira, it was all about Ghemor. This episode is gorgeously directed by Les Landau but I particularly like the dramatic close up on Kira and Ghemor when Ari is shot dead. The closing scene between Kira and Ghemor feels very natural because they have been through so much together – I never thought there would be a closing scene with Kira holding hands with a Cardassian and the two of them holding back tears at their parting but the script and the actors have done all the work to make this possible and very touching.

The Bad: Reusing old footage from Duet…

Moment to Watch Out For: The scene where Kira finally stops fighting the lie of her appearance and breaks down in her fathers arms – it’s a stunningly performed scene that uses the mirror to show that Kira has literally cracked.

Foreboding: Ghemor will be back in season fives Ties of Blood and Water where Kira would have to confront the loss of her real and adopted father. Garak says that he is stretching his legs because he felt claustrophobic in the quarters…which would wind up being a very important part of his character in later years.

Result: Anybody comparing this episode with Face of the Enemy is doing it a disservice because the idea of turning Kira into a Cardassian is so horrific it has far more implications than anything Troi goes through. Not only that but Nana Visitor is ten times the actress Marina Sirtis is and wrings every ounce of horror and sympathy out of the script. Its an excellent mystery because the one thing we obsess about (Kira as a Cardassian) is one of the best played red herring in Trek history and the when the truth is revealed it is entirely satisfying and makes you look at the piece in a brand new way. The guest actors are very well chosen and make their parts really count and there is some more magic with Garak who gets better with every appearance. It’s an excellent script and it holds your attention throughout. Why is it that when DS9 heads off to other worlds the stories feel more detailed and meaty? This is a magnificent drama: 9/10

The Abandoned written by D. Thomas Maio & Steven Warnek and directed by Avery Brooks

What’s it about: Quark buys a child which grows at a rapid rate into a Jem H’adar…

Single Father: Sisko cooing over the baby is very sweet, it taps into the strongest element of Avery Brooks’ performance at this point and that is Ben’s affection for Jake. There are times when he would give anything for the days where he could make Jake happy just by lifting him over his head. Now he has to deal with the fact that his son is dating an older woman (who just happens to be a Dabo girl) and he wants to put a stop to it…and so he invites her over for dinner to size up the competition. Oddly this never seems to stray into sitcom territory even though it feels like its perfect for that brand of popcorn television, its pleasantly written and very nicely acted. Instead of discovering Mardah’s weak points to exploit Sisko winds up learning that Jake writes poetry and is quite a hustler!

Unknown Sample: The Odo/Kira relationship continues to make me melt as she visits his new quarters and offers him a gift. Here is a chance for Odo to play about with some of the skills he learnt when he was with his people at the beginning of the season, somewhere where he can practice shape shifting skills in private. When she apologies for encroaching on his privacy he very sweetly tells her she is always welcome. It’s a far cry from the gruff police officer we met in Emissary, you get a real sense that these two are firm friends by now. You can understand why Odo feels compelled to help this boy – he himself was a ‘well treated laboratory specimen’ and would go out of his way to prevent anyone else suffering the same fate and he also feels obliged to help undo the damage that his people have done to him. Introducing Odo to his people is already yielding some dramatic material but this is nothing compared to what is to come. Interesting that Odo considered taking the Jem H’adar and never returning to the station – it’s a healthy reminder that these characters might not always be around. The last scene is very powerful because Kira takes no joy in being right about the Jem H’adar because it has hurt her friend so much.

Community Leader: Isn’t Quark brilliant – he tells the Boslik Captain that he isn’t in the market for her kind of salvage but is more in the mood for entertainment. He’s such wonderful sleaze, Star Trek needs more characters like him.

Young Sisko: Another example of why I can buy Jake as a young character on Trek far more than I can Wesley – he hangs out at the local bar and watches his extremely hot girlfriend in her gambling job! Jake is turning into an extremely attractive young man it seems right that such a hottie should pull somebody as gorgeous as Mardah. Jake did mention something about having Mardah over for dinner…in Shadowplay! Its no wonder he forgot, that was nearly a whole season ago! Even when Jake has a strop it isn’t the whiny sort that Dawn on Buffy seemed to enjoy but more a genuine issue with his dad interfering in his love life.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You bought a child?’
‘Seems a pretty cold blooded thing to do’ ‘My people don’t have blood, Chief.’

The Good: The clues are all there as to the nature of the Jem H’adar soldier but because we don’t know how they are created or grown it proves to be a useful learning experience for a race that will be with us until the end of the series. Why would somebody programme this child with an addiction to a drug...a potent reminder of the loyalty that the Founders expect from their slaves and a controversial subject matter that will receive some thorough examination in later episodes (Hippocratic Oath, Rocks & Shoals). ‘Then I told them what I thought of there lives and then we stopped speaking’ – sounds like me with my brother and sister! There is something rather wonderful about Mardah’s gentle honesty that impresses me and clearly Sisko feels the same way. As soon as the Jem H’adar looks at his people fighting on the monitor you know Odo has already lost him – he was born to fight and there is a feeling of catharsis when he sees what he is capable of. The scenes in the holosuite are gorgeously lit and filmed – Odo walks around the set as he is teaching the teen about saving your aggression for places like this and the stunts are extremely good as they get faster and more frenzied.

The Bad: Unfortunately for a slow burn episode like this there is no option but to end it abruptly once the running time runs out but that doesn’t stop the sudden change of heart in sending the Jem H’adar to be studied and his subsequent defection any less shallow. Its such a pity because I could imagine this being a very rich relationship had the teen stayed on the station to be mentored by Odo.

Moment to Watch Out For: Odo trying to teach the Jem H’adar boy to smile should be twee beyond stomaching but its actually hilarious. ‘Well we’ll work on that.’

Foreboding: This is the second of three appearances for the Boslik Captain – she set off a chain of events in The Homecoming, causes a stink for Quark here and leaves Odo to his death in Broken Link. Its nice to see some returning faces who aren’t big name guest stars, it helps to make the station feel alive with traffic.

Result: I like how The Abandoned looks let to be a ‘Quark holding the baby’ episode but twists into something a lot more interesting. One thing I have noticed with the Avery Brooks directed episodes over the years (beyond the fact that most of them are exceptionally good) is that he brings a rare sensuality to the Trek universe and provokes some very gentle and natural performances and The Abandoned is a great example. The difference between what is currently playing out in Voyager and DS9 (beyond the fact that this show is building on things it has introduced rather than writing them out for no good reason) is that this material means something because it is grounded in character all the time. The Sisko/Jake dinner scenes, the Odo/Kira friendship and Odo trying to teach the boy…this isn’t the best ever material on DS9 but it works a charm because we understand the characters more because of it. Voyager is bumbling along with no direction or characters worth mentioning but DS9 is continuing to explore these people, their beliefs, hopes and their lives. It makes all the difference. This is a serviceable episode that is more enjoyable for its insights and performances: 7/10

Civil Defense written by Mike Krohn and directed by Reza Badiyi

What’s it about: A Cardassian programme threatens to destroy the entire station…

Single Father: Sisko has the rather brilliant and simply solution to simply tell the security programme that they surrender but since they are still trapped and nobody has the Cardassian authorisation codes it turns out to be the worst thing he could have done and they are nearly gassed to death! He never knew how much Dukat’s voice annoyed him until he goes on and on in his lecturing speeches to the Bajoran rebels.

Tasty Terrorist: I love Kira’s less subtle approach to the programme when they cannot get the doors to Ops open, she pulls out her gun and blasts away at the door controls! When it comes disabling the life support system gung-ho Kira once again pulls out her gun fires happily at the console! Naturally she refuses Dukat’s demands made under a death threat and tells him in no uncertain terms that she will destroy the station before she let it fall back into Cardassian hands.

Unknown Sample: Quark is perfectly right that the reason they are trapped is because Odo is such a honourable man and if he knew the Cardassians were planning on murdering the Bajoran workers and their families he would step in and help.

Community Leader: If you are going to play out a gloriously fun and irreverent piece like this you could do much worse than trapping Odo and Quark in a room together and watching the ensuing fireworks! Quark informs Odo that he has everything from levels one through seven in Cardassian security which is very galling because the constable only has levels one through six! Alas being trapped with his nemesis puts Quark in a depressing mood and he starts questioning just how successful he has really been (especially in comparison to Gaila who owns his own moon!).

Plain and Simple: For some reason he can’t begin to fathom Gul Dukat chose not to trust him his top level security codes! Whilst he is rewriting a Cardassian security code he informs Bashir that the pants he wanted are ready to be picked up. He’s such a delightful character I am glad that we will be seeing more and more of him as the series progresses.

Slimy Snake: Dukat stands in Ops with phaser blasts firing around him and basking in his own glorious ego as he sees everybody cowering under consoles. He takes wonderful joy in seeing Garak grovelling and again we are reminded of the unpleasant history between these two characters. It seems that Garak is directly responsible for Dukat’s fathers trial (where he admitted his ambition outweighed his patriotism) Only Dukat would order a nice cup of tea when surrounded by such carnage and would attempt to exploit the situation to negotiate for a Cardassian garrison on the station.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You’re telling me I’m stuck here…with you?’ ‘No, I’m stuck here with you. Believe me a far worser fate.’
‘I’ve met a lot of Ferengi’s in my time and the truth is though some of them may have been more wealthy I’ve never met one more devious’ ‘Really?’ ‘Would I lie?’ ‘I guess not. Thank you Odo that means a lot to me.’

The Good: Because we are so used the station being a place of alien visitors and commerce it is sometimes easy to forget what it was actually built for and so the trips to the mirror universe Terok Nor and this episode go some way to reminding us of the torture the Bajorans must have suffered processing ore. Every show I can think from the X Files to The New Avengers has attempted a ‘the building is alive’ storyline and it was a moment of genius to have the station literally working against out heroes (I love the scenes of the heavy doors slamming shut in the ore processing unit and Ops) and root it in the grip of terror of freedom fighters the Cardassians felt when they were exploiting the Bajorans. It is just like the Cardassians to plan out a workers revolt in such insane detail and I bet Gul Dukat adored making all of those recorded messages. Reza Badiyi is clearly a very good find and the camera never stops moving in this episode with some very sly and pans towards people that suggests a pace even in the slower moments. The image of Dukat lecturing away as gas pours from a nozzle is a very potent one and a great example of the extreme measures of the Cardassians. It is highly amusing the way this episode logically progresses from calamity to the next and whatever way the crew jumps there is another ‘counter insurgency measure’ to outfox them simply because they aren’t Cardassian. Only the Cardassians would consider pumping a poisonous gas into the habitat ring to slaughter the families of the revolters as a viable option! Once the self destruct system is initiated I thought that things couldn’t possibly get any worse and then the rampaging weapons device appeared in Ops and began shooting phaser beams across the area like a crazed firework! When Dukat appears in the middle of all this madness was the point where I was laughing my head off at the glorious insanity of it all. Pretty much the only way to beat this programme is to shake the station to pieces!

Moment to Watch Out For: The sniping between Dukat and Garak is clearly a the highlight of the episode and proves once again how much enjoyment the recurring character bring to this show (Voyager writers please take note). ‘Its not going to work you know’ ‘What are you babbling on about now?’ ‘I’m talking about Major Kira. She’s much to busy trying to save this station to be impressed with your incessant posturing!’ ‘Garak!’ ‘And even she weren’t she has much better taste than to be attracted to you! You, a married man!’ ‘I should have executed you years ago!’

Result: We’ve its ‘access all areas’ nature, its glorious pace and moments of inspired comedy and excitement, Civil Defense is a unique episode of DS9 which owes quite a lot of its irreverent nature to its parent spin off show. The main difference to this episode and something like Disaster on TNG is that it is still rooted in the backstory of this show and the character moments are far more amusing. The Cardassian guest stars continue to be an absolute delight and there are some gems of moments between Garak and Dukat. There is little to Civil Defense than to provide an hour of top quality entertainment and it fulfils that remit beautifully, it is brilliant, brilliant fun and completely bonkers: 8/10

Meridian written by Mark Gehred O’Connell and directed by Jonathan Frakes

What’s it about: The planet that kept going away…

Single Father: Dax saying goodbye to Sisko is a surprisingly tender scene. There is a real feeling of family amongst these characters now – odd that it should be the strongest in the show that purports to have the most conflict.

Unknown Sample: Just imagine Odo trying to eat something…he says the experience was very unsatisfying because he doesn’t have taste buds. And messy. Ugh! Still come Way of the Warrior he has though of an ingenious way of sharing a dining experience with people. Odo plays along with Kira’s charade to get Tiron off her back but the way he looks at the hand she was hoping so longingly is heartbreaking.

Nine Lives: Its time for Dax to have a doomed romance (everybody has to have one at some point) but at least with this one they cut the romantic twaddle down to a minimum and focus on the more important things. Like how far down her spots go (all the way apparently). Dax can’t remember the last time she simply enjoyed herself in a garden and made love on the grass but now she gets to enjoy both (although this being Trek we only get to see the former whilst leaving the latter to our imaginations). She is a work first, count each others spots second sort of girl but from this episode alone you can see what a horn ball Dax can be and so Worf had better watch out…he is in for a world of pleasure!

Community Leader: The lengths that Quark goes to to try and get a holoimage of Kira really made me chuckle. He goes to the trouble of staging that she is his one millionth customer and has won a complimentary visit to the holosuite! Nice try Quark but you’re going to have to do better than that!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘This is Odo…my lover.’
‘The things I do for money’ – Quark the holographic pimp!
‘They want to imagine themselves fending off a Cardassian attack or facing a fleet of Jem H’adar ships!’ ‘Naked, I assume.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘I guess I was waiting for the right woman to fall out of the sky’ – I could fill a book with the copious amounts of nauseating romantic dialogue Trek provides in its many slush fests.

The Good: The first appearance of the unstoppable Jeffrey Coombs in his least compelling role in the series but this guy could act his way out of any character. Give him Harry Kim’s character and he would do something interesting with it. Tiron is such a wonderful slime ball you can’t help but quite like him – all he wants is a good roll in the hay with Major Kira but she would rather get it on with Odo! The location work in the gardens is absolutely stunning, the wildlife is lush and glowing – it looks like the sort of place I could happily spend a whole day by the lily pond with a good book taking in its beauty. The much anticipated sex scene between Tiron and Kira turns out to be very funny…what a way to turn the tables on Quark! Imagine if this scene was where you switched on, you’d think you had accidentally turned on the extraterrestrial porn channel!

The Bad: ‘Despite the Dominion threat I have convinced Starfleet that we must continue our exploration of the Gamma Quadrant’ – what the fuck? Has Sisko taken leave of his senses? The biggest military badasses that control an entire Quadrant and Sisko wants to head off exploring in their space…that’s just ridiculous. A planet that appears out of nowhere…its Aldea! Get away now before they steal your children! So let me try and get my head around this…a planet and its people who shift into an non corporeal state for years and age within that existence but then they reform every 60 years or so exactly as they were so they can get their end away and have a nice meal. What a peculiar way of life! I can’t say it would be for me! What are the benefits exactly? Everybody you know would age and die within a couple of shifts and you can’t have any kind of long term relationship if you only exist for a couple of days! Why are they wasting their time climbing trees when they should be making music together? I can’t believe this episode went down the route of trying to convince us that Dax was leaving and settling on the planet that time forgot – Trek characters do not leave midway through the season (hmm except Tasha Yar but that was a mercy killing) and they certainly don’t leave in episodes of this nature. So we spend five minutes of uninspiring predictability saying goodbye to everybody before some daft technobabble explanation cause her heart to break and every thing returns to normal. Do you sometimes wish that season could be about a third shorter so duds like this could be excised and we only got the good stuff?

Moment to Watch Out For: Proof that you can find some joy even in the worst of episodes; the scene where Quark is pointing a holoimager at Kira is absolutely delightful. I love Odo’s crescendo of ‘hah!’ and Kira can see right through Quarks bollocks. The performances are sublime. ‘If I catch you pointing a holoimager at me again you’ll end up eating it!’

Result: Meridian really rubs me up the wrong way because I know that DS9 is capable of much better than this. Saying that there are some compensations to counteract the flaws (which are manifold) such as the glorious location work, some natural chemistry between Dax and her doomed romance victim and an amusing subplot that sees Quark’s latest customer wanting to turn Major Kira into a whore. However that doesn’t excuse the preposterousness of the premise and the insanity of Sisko flying the Federation flag in Dominion territory. At least if they had to ignore everything they set up with the Dominion threat they could have thought of a more interesting story than this. There is a bucketload of technobabble to cope with along with the usual Trek romance clichés and whilst they do manage to highlight the Sisko/Dax relationship with some efficiency there is little development for her character since this event will never be mentioned again. This is the second so-so episode Jonathan Frakes has been asked to direct and again acquits himself rather well (his romantic shots of the pond and gardens are stunning and he has a pleasing habit of shooting through things and framing his scenes imaginatively) but it would be his third assignment where he really proves himself. Meridian is a TNG episode and it’s a pretty bad TNG episode at that: 4/10

Defiant written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Cliff Bole

What’s it about: The Maquis manage to steal the Defiant and a cat and mouse game begins…

Single Father: Sisko knows everything that is going on his station and warns Riker away from Quark’s because his Dabo wheel has been a little stingy of late and one of his Dabo girls is dating his son! Sisko admits that he would have taken precautions to protect Federation secrets had the hunt taken place on the station and his line that he would have been more discreet about it is a gem. Sisko proves his worth as a military tactician (handy because those skills are going to come in very handy later on) by spotting that the Cardassian fleet is being lure away from an outpost by a fake warp signature.

Tasty Terrorist: Kira is stuck in something of a bureaucratic nightmare and judging by her reaction to the latest Federation demands she was better off fighting in the hills! I love how she gets snappy with Bashir (‘What do you mean I’m off duty?’) but when she realises he does have the power to order her to rest her whole manner changes. I’m not sure if Kira is more angry that she has been outsmarted by a terrorist (her raison d’etre) or because he managed to pour on the sexual chemistry to achieve his goals. Either way this is the fiery Kira we all remember from season one on a mission to stop the Defiant before it can do any damage and it is a role that suits her very well. She very clearly defines the difference between herself (fighting to protect her home) and Tom (trying to make a name for himself as a hero). Kira admits that if she had had possession of the Defiant during the Occupation she would have destroyed DS9 and hit the Cardassians so hard that they would be begging for peace. I love that this show has characters that can admit things like that and mean it.

Nine Lives: Dax becomes famous later on for her ability to coax all the latest gossip out of everybody and spread it around and it all starts here. She laughs like a naughty schoolgirl when Kira admits that she and Riker chatted for the entire evening.

Slimy Snake: Gloriously Dukat continues pouring his Kanar as Odo spells out the plot to Second Chances, he’s taking it all in but he wont give them the satisfaction of his attention. He suddenly snaps to attention when he realises that one of the most heavily armed warships in the Quadrant is in the hands of Maquis terrorists. Its great to learn about Dukat’s son and how his duties prevent him from keeping his promises to him. He and Sisko find a little common ground on this score.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘They wont believe your story about transporter duplicates and security failures! They will assume that Starfleet wanted the Maquis to have the Defiant and they will respond accordingly!’ – Isn’t it wonderful to see a character taking the piss out of the outrageous high concept ideas that Trek deals with? If only Dukat had been around in the last episode!
‘You want to prevent a war then you come back to Cardassia with me and you help me destroy the Defiant.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘You shouldn’t go fishing today. You wont catch anything’ –melodrama overdrive!

The Good: I really like how the clues are all there that Riker isn’t quite what he claims to be (not recognising Dax, trying to avoid O’Brien who might recognise who he is, deliberately bumping into Kira for access to the Defiant) but all of these things could be explained away quite easily. You kind of know that something is coming as soon as Kira releases the security lock on the Defiant but that doesn’t make the moment when Thomas pulls out his phaser so casually and shoots her down any less delicious. I wasn’t a massive fan of Second Chances but it pleases me greatly to see something this dramatic being done with the idea of the duplicate Riker and with Ron Moore in the writing seat we get some great insight into why he has turned to terrorism to set himself apart from his doppelganger. It is most unlike Star Trek to having a continuing threat like the Maquis that reminds us of the darker side to the Federation but I am really glad that they return here and in subsequent episodes. It gives the Alpha Quadrant an edge that it has lacked for many, many years. This is precisely the sort of excuse the Central Command has been waiting for to eliminate the Maquis and there is a strong feeling of a Quadrant that is on a razors edge and could tip into war at any minute. Having both Dukat and Korinos on hand gives us a distinct representation for the Central Command and the Obsidian Order and we get to see the strong rivalry and disrespect between the two organisations. Cardassia continues to be the most interesting planet to visit on this show. The lights are brought right down on the Defiant and the red light strobes through the ship – it feels like a submarine at war and the result is quite claustrophobic. The Maquis getting their hands on a suspected military build up in the Orios system sounds like propaganda but the episode uses that as a springboard to reveal that it is genuinely happening and not even the Central Command know about it. This is an invasion fleet that only the Obsidian Order knows about and it has its sights on bigger targets than the Maquis. DS9 is starting to get into the habit of using episodes that would otherwise be throwaway dramas to build up to some exciting surprises later in the season. You’ve got a Federation Commander attempting to bring down a Federation ship and Cardassians threatening to destroy their own warships if they enter a particular region of space – there is so much marbled loyalties its very exciting. The ending is extremely satisfying because Tom Riker has something that Dukat desperately wants – its not a cop out Trek ending that sees the Cardassians giving up simply because.

The Bad: At this point in the series they like to watch space invaders rather than show the space battles to save a little money – I’m glad it is a policy that they changed. It’s a shame that Tom Riker’s fate was never followed up on, it looks like this was being set up for a sequel. Still I definitely think they made the right move by turning over the sequel to the mystery of the Cardassian fleet.

Moment to Watch Out For: The Defiant opening fire on the Cardassians – I literally scream with joy every time I see that ship let loose a volley of phaser blasts! It must be the boy in me…but that is so cool! And as for the torpedoes…woah mama!

Teaser-tastic: Another lovely teaser that sees Kira lose her rag and ordered to have fun by Bashir with all manner of treats at her disposal (gambling chips, a jumba stick, a holosuite token, crackers and a drink!). The thing that gets her smiling though is the thought of a night with commander Riker, the dirty mare. The way they can barely look at each in Ops makes me wonder if they didn’t play footsies under the table!

Foreboding: The follow up episodes to the revelations in Defiant are extraordinarily good – Improbable Cause and The Die is Cast.

Result: After two duff TNG episodes, two duff VOY episodes and one really duff DS9 episode it is a great relief to finally watch something decent! The premise of Sisko helping an enemy to hunt down a Federation ship is so good you have to wonder why nobody has thought of it before. Defiant sees the return of the Maquis threat and a return trip to Cardassia and they are both massive plus points in its favour. The further exploration of this Orwellian culture continues to fascinate and the idea of terrorists in command of a Starship must be enough to have Gene Roddenberry spinning in his grave. Its always a pleasure to see Dukat and the more we see of him the more layers he peels away but this is a great episode for Sisko and Kira too. What you have is an exciting, engaging drama full of great performances but also strong hints of some terrifying revelations later in the season. The secret Cardassian fleet is being assembled for a reason and I cannot wait to find out what it is: 9/10

Fascination written by Peter Lazebnik and directed by Avery Brooks

What’s it about: The love bug hits Deep Space Nine…big sigh

Tasty Terrorist: Its pretty hard to reconcile the Kira who opens the Gratitude Festival and the feisty trouble maker from the first episode – she is so much more feminine these days (and I don’t just mean because she is leaping on Bariel at every opportunity) and the transition has been a very rewarding one.

Unknown Sample: Odo is finally making the effort to explore humanoid customs and chooses to attend the Gratitude Festival. As soon as Lwaxana turns up on his doorstep thrusting her hips in his direction Odo tries to shelter in the company of one of his deputy’s! After being ‘a lap to melt in’ Mrs Troi is under the impression that she and Odo are soul mates and whilst she is the official representative for Betazed she has actually come to help Odo through the pain of discovering that his people are rulers of the Dominion. Which is actually quite sweet when you think about…but Odo is so frigid he just doesn’t know how to handle her amorous and predatory advances!

The O’Briens: O’Brien is really looking forward to having Keiko home but she just wants to chill and Molly is sick – seeing the pair of them argue is probably not what people want to watch but it is (again) one of the most realistic relationships in Trek. The scene where the two of them are both being really unreasonable and arguing for the sake of it…who hasn’t been there? Missing Quarks is something that Keiko never thought she would say out loud but she really does which shows how fond she has grown of the station. Working away from home causing problems, jealousy…this is all very natural characterisation. The fact Miles is willing to move to Bajor to be with Keiko is desperately sweet and again proves that the station is just a way between for some characters as much as they have settled in.

GE Doctor: It turns out that Bashir and O’Brien have been developing a close friendship since Keiko has been away…and behind our backs too! Its lovely to hear that the two of them have been enjoying so much time together whilst Keiko is absent as their friendship that blossoms from hereon is one of the standout relationships in Trek. When Bashir says that he is a poor substitute for O’Brien’s wife I couldn’t help but chuckle…when Keiko returns home in Accession they pine after each like a pair of love sick puppies!

Community Leader: I really liked Quark’s reaction to the criticism of Ferengi relationships – there are no arguments, no divorce and no broken homes…you really can’t argue with a hit rate like that!

Young Sisko: Probably the worst written Jake ever was and the only occasion that I can remember that he actually seemed like a brat of a child who has thrown his dummy out of the pram.

What’s Morn up to: Morn has the longest renewal scroll of anybody and Dax advises him to get it burnt and start enjoying his life!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Then sway with me Odo! Sway with me!’ – its funny more for the uncompromising position Mrs Troi puts him in as she spins him around and around.

Dreadful Dialogue: Most of the episode…

The Good: Molly throwing up over O’Brien really shouldn’t be very funny but it did make me chuckle!

The Bad: A shame that we had to lose Marta as soon as we met her – she was a very cute new character and it would have been a lot of fun to explore her relationship with Jake. Is it my imagination or has Bariel become less interesting this season? He feels a bit like a has been and I feel perhaps its time for him to bite the bullet. The chats between Sisko and Jake regarding his crush on Kira feel as though they belong on a really dreadful sitcom. Kira and Bashir snogging looks more like two paint rollers rolling all over each other! Sisko standing between Dax and Bariel and the subsequent fight is painful to endure.

Moment to Watch Out For: The camerawork for the Festival scenes on the Promenade is exceptional, it cranes up slowly and glides along to show all the colourful entertainment on offer. Even when he has a less than stellar script to bring to life Avery Brooks ensures that it looks a fabulous as possible.

Fashion Statement: I’ve never noticed all those padded chairs and carpets at the entrance to the passenger dock before? Is that a new feature? What the hell is Mrs Troi wearing? It looks as though she is going camping and wearing the tent! Plus that isn’t her finest of wigs… Lets not lie to ourselves…Dax and Kira look so flaming hot in the clothes that they wear to the Gratitude Festival its almost enough to alter a guys sexuality! Sisko’s waistcoat is gorgeous but Bashir is walking around in his pyjamas.

Result: Mrs Troi comes to the station and gives everybody the love bug – I have been dreading this episode. I was quite surprised because the first 15 minutes are rather wonderful, it is fantastic to be able to see the DS9 crew loosening up this much and once again I was struck at the sensuality between the actors. Its when everybody starts acting wildly out of character that it becomes something of a bad French farce and we’ve never seen Jake, Bariel and Quark act so embarrassingly before. For some the O’Brien’s marital problems is an unwelcome touch of realism but I really appreciated its inclusion because it anchored this overdone comedy to something that was worth watching. What’s worrying is the latent attractions we learn about – Kira/Bashir, Quark/Keiko, Dax/Sisko…is this show going to turn into Deep Sex Nine? Far better than The Naked Now but still miles away from being something I would recommend, Fascination was probably far funnier on the drawing board than it is in its execution and this is precisely the sort of road the show shouldn’t be going down: 4/10

Past Tense Part I written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Reza Badiyi

Single Father: When Sisko is revealed to be something of an expert on the dark underbelly of Federation culture it is far more believable than Tom Paris’ many hobbies on Voyager. There is something about Sisko’s gentle unassuming nature that makes his horror at the world that is unfolding around him all the more disturbing. He doesn’t judge like Bashir because he knows that something good will come out of this horror but at the same time his guard is up because he knows that they could be preyed upon at any minute. Once again we are reminded that the usually placid Sisko is absolutely terrifying when he bears his teeth and throws punches that literally knocks people off their feet and grabs a shotgun and fires into a crowd! The closing scene is a beaut because it suggests a fantastic role for Sisko in the next episode.

Everyday Engineer: Smartly O’Brien stayed as an unlisted man so nobody expects him to turn up for official dinners like those with ‘Droner’ Drassman.

GE Doctor: Its wonderful to be able to get up close and personal with Bashir, to show how far he has come from the naïve and irritating youth in Emissary. Whilst I think season four is his breakout season (with episodes such as Our Man Bashir and the Quickening where he goes from being a good character to a great one) a lot of the ground work is done in season three which sees his friendship with O’Brien solidify, his dynamic with Garak confirmed as one of the shows highlights and a general sense that he has built himself a good life as the CMO of DS9. In Past Tense he comes face to face with poverty and suffering at its most distressing and he cannot get his head around the notion that the government has forgotten how to care for its people. It’s a real eye opener for the raw young Doctor, a time when he has to look on as people endure hardship and recognise that there are no easy answers. Its nice to see Bashir bring up the old Doctor Who dilemma of having foreknowledge of a terrifying disaster and an insurmountable death toll and to not be able to do a thing to warn these people, it adds a very human dimension to the tale.

Nine Lives: Dax is extremely fortunate to have been rescued by her own knight in shining armour and proves to be very charming in her scenes with Chris. I like how much attention her spots are getting this year, it is such a quirky yet beautiful feature that men are falling head over heels for her and here they are described as Japanese tattoos.

Community Leader: The scene with Quark is added to simply give Armin Shimmerman a chance to appear in the episode but it at least allows him to remain in character and exploit Sisko for helping him in the past.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Just people. Without jobs or places to live’ ‘And so they get put in here?’ ‘Welcome to the 21st Century, Doctor.’
‘If push comes to shove, if something disastrous happens to the Federation, if we are frightened enough or desperate enough how would we react? Would we stay true to our ideals or would we just stay here right back where we started?’
‘It’s the only way to keep those people off the streets.’
‘If that’s all its for then why is there a wall around it?’

The Good: The opening shot of the Defiant orbiting Earth is gorgeous and pretty much par for the course for the model work standard at this point in Trek’s development. Set design is all important in a show like Past Tense and this is one time that the Paramount backlot is given a complete makeover to become something completely unique and discomforting. Out side the Sanctuary district you have the technological façade of the promenade and the entrance to the transit tubes which contrasts neatly with the interior of the district. The chance to visualise poverty on this scale gives a lot of credence to the dramatic idea at the heart of this story, the thought that one the government will just sweep its less desirable elements under the carpet and out of view. People stare hopelessly out of windows many storeys high, tents, rubbish and clothing litters the streets, people huddle by fires to keep warm starving, hungry and ill and there is a huge grey gate locking them all inside. Even the city scapes out of the window of Chris’ office are visually stunning (especially during the night sequences where the windows are lit up). Dick Miller gives a superb performance as Vin, a tired and overworked security guard in the Sanctuary and they manage to pull off the uncomfortable feeling of being easily intimidated by this character whilst at the same time sympathising with him. Sisko soon realises that the date of the Sanctuary riots is fast approach and suddenly the danger to him and Bashir is not being lost in the system of social anonymity but a deadline to a very violent danger. Giving the residents names like Dims, Gimmes and Ghosts shows the amount of detail this world has been thought out in. This is a place where even the nicest people are dangerously protective of what they have and the nastier people are violently aggressive. The evening scenes in the Sanctuary look even better with a blinding spotlight cruising through the District and fires raging in dustbins. Frank Military is another very impressive addition, a man with violence behind his eyes who is ready to snap at the slightest provocation – as a mouthpiece for the Ghosts he is pretty terrifying. Bell’s death takes this to a whole new level as we realise that Sisko is going to have to get involved now to ensure that history runs along the correct course. In order for him to do this he is going to have to tread very carefully through some brutal people.

The Bad: Considering the effort that goes into making his son and father so real it is a real shame that we never get to meet Sisko’s sister. Unfortunately in order to give some justification to the time travel storyline O’Brien spouts more tongue twisting technobabble than ever! Chris Brannagh’s friends are both a little blandly performed.

Moment to Watch Out For: The lead up to the riots shows a sudden release of violence that gets out of hand beginning with Bashir being beaten, Sisko throwing punches, Gabriel Bell being stabbed, helicopters screaming overhead and soon petrol bombs are being thrown and hostages are taken. It is a gripping sweep of action and mob violence that erupts in a way that there is no going back for these people.

Only DS9: Past Tense features a social commentary so scathing it could only come from the writers of DS9 and much the material is imbued with a sense of reality that this show excels in.

Fashion Statement: Thank goodness Sisko and Bashir change their clothes halfway through this episode because compared to the down to Earth attire of the Sanctuary residents they look as if they are wearing pyjamas more than ever! Bashir looks awesome in the long coat, it’s a great look for him. How gorgeous does Dax look in a suit with her hair tied up? It’s a very masculine look but it is absolutely stunning.

Orchestra: I find the majority of the music for the first three seasons of DS9 pretty underwhelming if the truth be told but and it is from season four onwards that there is a real effort to make the scores much more dynamic. Regardless Dennis McCarthy’s music for this episode stands out as being one of the more memorable scores of the season, really capitalising on the wealth of dramatic scenes on offer. Gabriel Bell’s murder is a great example of the rising panic in the music.

Result: Past Tense is dark, depressing and utterly absorbing television. Te poverty stricken world of the Sanctuary District is so believably conceived and executed there are times when I forgot I was watching a drama and I thought I was watching a fly on the wall documentary. Beyond the dramatic and biting social commentary there is an excellent opportunity to take the two characters that struggled to find their way in the first two seasons (Sisko and Bashir) and to give them some dramatic material and fine development. Visually this is an expensive looking piece and for the most part worthy of a Trek movie and for once all the money has been spend in the right place not on effects but on creating this social hell. The final fifteen minutes are absolutely stunning featuring some of the most uncomfortable scenes in any Trek episode and the way the story builds to that jaw dropping cliffhanger is both surprising and inevitable. This is one of the best ever openings to a Trek two parter: 10/10

Past Tense Part II written by Ira Steven Behr & Rene Echevarria and directed by Jonathan Frakes

What’s it about: Sisko has assumed the role of Gabriel Bell and has to try and prevent the deaths of the hostages…

Single Father: How commanding does Sisko look tackling Vin and slinging a shotgun over his shoulder? Like I said previously he is really starting to come alive in the third season and this is one side of him that I would not like to meet. Its very lucky that there was somebody with Sisko’s stature and forcefulness there to restrain B.C. otherwise he probably would have murdered all the hostages in one of his rages. The blazing anger we see in Sisko’s eyes when he shoves Vin against the wall is far beyond anything we have ever seen from Picard and Janeway (‘Now you get back in that room…and you shut up!’). Sisko’s pained reaction to Webb’s death is haunting to witness.

Tasty Terrorist: To disguise her Bajoran heritage Kira has a huge grey sticking plaster over her nose…surely there was a more subtle way of covering this up?

GE Doctor: Bashir’s scenes with Lee show just how sensitive he can be with people even when he is under great strain himself. I loved his volunteering to stay with Sisko to try and keep the hostages alive rather than head to safety with Dax. This really is a coming of age story for the good Doctor because he is barely recognisable from the arrogant young flibbertigibbet from the first season.

Nine Lives: Dax crawls through the sewers to reach her friends only to be told that they wont leave with her. There is a great scene where Dax convinces Chris to turn over his channel to the criminals to tell their story, she unwaveringly never breaks eye contact with him and makes her case passionately.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Somehow Sisko, Dax and Bashir have altered Earth’s history…’ – you’ve gotta love the way Star Trek has these sweeping statements in its logs.
‘I really think we should kill this guy…’ – love B.C!
‘Its not your fault that things are the way they are’ ‘Everybody tells themselves that. And nothing ever changes.’
‘You don’t know what any of this is about, do you? You work here! You see these people every day! How they live! And you just don’t get it!
‘I’m asking you to give these people a voice!’
‘How could we have let this happen?’

The Good: Past Tense are the sort of Star Trek episodes that attract very different sort of actors than you usually get and to my mind features one of the strongest ensembles. Dick Miller is again superb as the downtrodden Vin (‘I called you a loser because that’s what you are…and this time you’re going to lose big’) who is trying to maintain his dignity in the hostage scenario but comes to see the right of what is happening. Bill Smitrovitch is very much the everyman who needs to get his story to the outside world. Tina Lifford has some extraordinary moments, I really felt for her when she had a panic attack after a shot was fired and her story about letting the woman who was wanted by the police into the Sanctuary district (‘What happened to her?’ ‘I don’t know…but I think about her all the time’) shows her kindness. Even smaller parts such as Deborah Van Valkenburgh as Detective Preston are impressive, you really feel the weight of the situation on her shoulders. However as good as all these actors are nobody comes close to the violent charisma of Frank Military as B.C (‘Jobs? You guys want jobs? When are gonna get it there are no jobs!’) who probably gives the performance of the season. We need the Dax scenes because it is important that the viewer sees how the riots are being reported to the outside world and it is exactly as you might think, they are shown as criminals and opportunists. Preston says that breakfast for 10,000 is a lot of take out so does that mean they were under feeding the residents before? Look at her face when she has to tell Sisko and Webb the Governors lousing offer of a compromise – even she is disappointed with his response. How good is Clint Howard in his little cameo (‘Whoosh! I’m invisible!’ ‘If you say so…’ ‘You can see me?’ ‘Just barely…’)? The way all those involved in the hostage scenario start talking sports after the people have had their say on the net is heart-warming – you can see that the honesty of the Sanctuary residents has really made a difference in the relationships. I love the low angle shot of the survivors leaving the building and vowing to never let this happen again.

The Bad: The scenes of O’Brien and Kira materialising in various time zones on the same street feel oddly cheap with minimal redressing…however I will forgive anything for the ludicrous sequence where they meet the hippies because it makes me chuckle every time.

Moment to Watch Out For: When the soldiers storm the building and start shooting through the characters we have come to know so well the release of tension is like a balloon going pop. Dramatically executed and hold your breath tense.

Result: Ditching the social commentary for some powerful drama, the second part of this dramatic storyline caps things off in near flawless style. When handled properly hostage dramas can be gripping television and this is a great example where both the prisoners and the criminals are characterised really well. The dialogue is again full of contemplative moments and the episode refuses to end on an easy solution. Good people die and there is still a long way to go before the Earth sorts out these social problems for good. You have never seen Sisko this alive before and he gets some of his finest moments and Jonathan Frakes’ direction is nothing short of masterful (watch the camerawork closely as there are some imaginative pans and low angle shots that really give this an impressive visual look) because he manages to create a sense of stifling claustrophobia amongst the hostages and sieves out some really dramatic moments (especially Sisko berating Vin and the terrifying sniper attack at the end). If only we could snip out some of the Kira/O’Brien scenes and tone down the preachy last scene this would be just about perfect but taken as a whole Past Tense is a huge success. It captures your attention totally, is superbly acted and really makes you think: 9/10

Life Support written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Reza Badiyi

What’s it about: Bariel is dying and negotiations between the Bajorans and the Cardassians are at a critical juncture…

Tasty Terrorist: Kira’s reaction to Bariel’s death is one of mute acceptance and she needs to go back to work in order to keep herself together. It is a very natural reaction to grief and you can imagine her doubling over with grief the second she lets herself relax. How exactly would you react if you were told your lover was dead and then a little while later ‘oops sorry…actually he’s alive again’ – this would b the ultimate head fuck surely? Nana Visitor’s pained performance in the last scene is very poignant.

GE Doctor: This is another good episode for Bashir in a season that is really ironing out his character flaws in a positive way (wait until season five) and the way he sensitively breaks the news to Kira proves why he is so good at his job. It is no nonsense but gentle. Threatening to have the Kai thrown out of sickbay is no small threat. He bravely asks Winn to tell Bariel that she doesn’t need him so he can spend his last days in peace and when she refuses he brandishes her a coward who is a afraid to stand alone in case the negotiations fail. At the climax he knows that it is time stop replacing Bariel with fake parts and let him die.

Young Sisko: Look at Jake’s face when Leanne tells him that she has split up with her boyfriend, if there was ever and expression that said ‘I’m in there’ that is it!

Starfleet Ferengi: This is the last time we ever get a chance to see Nog as the lovable little scamp before he decides to change his life for good so its nice to see him at his most sexist and obnoxious. Jake has a date so he automatically invites himself along and because he thinks he might be onto a winner he even considers washing his lobe (ugh). He is so outrageously rude and sexist during their dinner (‘here make yourself useful…cut up my food for me!’) I was laughing my head off and siding with Jake absolutely until Sisko pointed out that Nog was simply acting like a Ferengi. How many times have we been told that they like their women naked and submissive? It turns out that Nog was actually behaving himself because he didn’t ask his date to chew up her food because he knew Jake would be disgusted.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Money is money but women are bet-ter!’
‘If he dies then peace with Cardassia dies with him.’
‘You forgot? For most people the lobes are a dead giveaway!’

The Good: At least this episode manages to package the idea that Bajor has been seeking peace with Cardassia as a surprise because this really has come from nowhere. My first reaction was that this was a terrible route for the show to go down…then I reconsidered and thought given the nasties that Cardassian would get into bed with in the fifth season and the old wounds it would open up the pretence of peace is actually a pretty good red herring. Peace with Cardassia is certainly a bold vision for Winn and Bariel and it is no wonder it is being kept secret – when it leaks there would be anarchy on Bajor. The negotiation scenes are a lot of fun because the Cardassians are clearly trying to get more out this than they should and Winn is a much better spiritual leader than she is negotiator.

The Bad: Reports say that Louise Fletcher was very ill during the making of this episode and personally I feel it should have been rescheduled considering she is the most prevalent guest star. Usually such an immaculate performer, you can see that she is struggling with the material at times being too throaty and gentle. Add to that the general feeling that Winn is being characterised a little too pleasantly (certainly unlike the wonderfully conniving politician of The Circle and The Collaborator) and she feels a little watered down in this episode. I’m not too worried, she’s back at her devious best in Shakaar and her best appearance are still yet to come (Rapture, Strange Bedfellows). It would appear that if you focus on an episode with Bashir in sickbay then you swap the technobabble for medicalbabble and there is a wealth of nonsense about neurons and synapses to make the most devout medical student pleasure themselves for months. When Bariel came back to life I really wanted Bashir’s assistant to scream ‘he’s alive!’ Dr Frankenstein style but she didn’t so big raspberry. Bariel…the robot? When he starts talking in a drab monotone after his artifical brain has been activated I thought I had wondered into a low budget b movie! Quark and his Kai Winn soufflé is about as bad a nonsensical contractual appearance as you will see.

Only DS9: Its nice to see DS9 not resting on its laurels and taking steps to kill off characters every now and again to keep things interesting. I would go as far as to say that Bariel had outlived his usefulness at this stage and needed to go…but who ever perceived it would be like this!

Fashion Statement: Those all in one red body stockings that the Doctor’s wear make them look absolutely ridiculous.

Myth Building: ‘The news has sent a shockwave through the quadrant…’ – do we ever hear about the Bajoran/Cardassian treaty again?

Result: There is some decent material in here but it pretty much exposes that the Kira/Bariel romance was a blind alley and it touts a peace treaty between Cardassia and Bajor that never really amounts to anything once the Dominion gets a foot in the quadrant. It is written by Ronald D. Moore so the character stuff is all very nice – Bashir in particular gets a great scene with Winn and Kira once again proves her strength when has to deal with this tragedy. What fails to work is the all the medical nonsense that comes with this kind of medical drama and the ridiculous concept that Bariel might have his brain kept running like a robot – you are almost approaching the lunacy of Spock’s Brain for a few minutes. Ultimately this should have been far more hard hitting and exciting than it is and considering it features the return of Winn and the death of a semi regular it is pretty flat stuff. When the best material comes from an amiable comedy sub plot with Jake and Nog something has gone a bit awry: 4/10

Heart of Stone written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: Trapped on a moon, Odo is forced to confront his feelings for Major Kira…

Unknown Sample: A lot of people will tell you that this episode is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things but I actually think it is one of the most essential character episodes of DS9 because it gets Odo’s feelings for Kira out in the open for the first time. I know we have been aware of his affection since The Collaborator last year and it was also touched upon briefly in Meridian (eek!) and Fascination (bleugh!) but here Odo actually says the words out loud for the first time and when he does he almost collapses under the weight of the secret he has been holding in for so long. Its an awesome running character arc that kicks off properly here and runs through some real dramatic highs (Crossfire, Children of Time, His Way, Chimera, Tacking into the Wind and right up until What You Leave Behind) and by far the finest romance angle to Trek in any of the five series. Theirs is a friendship and then relationship of rare depth in television and especially considering it is Trek it is surprisingly lacking in overdone sentiment and syrupy dialogue.

Odo is very angry that Kira didn’t take his feelings into consideration when refusing a dinner request but she figures since he doesn’t eat and hates socialising it would hardly be his cup of tea! For very early in the episode you realise that Odo is not going to leave Kira to her fate and the desperation in Rene Auberjonois’ performance grows with each scene. Its nice to see that the criminal activity reports come in handy! The thought of Odo and O’Brien kayaking together singing ‘Louie Louie’ makes me howl with laughter! We learn that Odo’s name literally means nothing and he kept that because he thought it was highly appropriate given he didn’t who he was or where he came from. Until he found a family on DS9 and now when he hears his name he doesn’t think of himself as nothing. When fighting Kira’s insistence that he should leave Odo genuinely looks as though he is in pain – this is the only woman he has ever loved and it would hurt him more to leave her than it would for him to stay and die. Heart of Stone reveals Odo’s skills as an investigator too but whittling out all of the flaws in the female shapeshifters scenario.

Starfleet Ferengi:I know that I have something to offer…I just need the chance to prove it!’ Another character thread that gets kicked off in this episode is Nog’s desire to better himself and join Starfleet. Its dealt with extremely amiably here and this subplot is a joy to watch and it is another season three episode that is starting to look at the characters and find interesting new directions for them. Who would ever guess that it would be the former of Nog and Jake who would want to join Starfleet? A huge round of applause for taking a leap with such an insignificant character and as a result of the next couple of years of development making him one of the most important characters in the last season (Nog’s trials in The Siege of AR-558 and Its Only a Paper Moon really bring the war into sharp focus in a very personal way). I am a massive Nog fan and think Aron Eisenberg is positively delightful in the role and its nice to see his hard work start to pay off.

Naturally Sisko is shocked to hear that Nog would like to purchase an apprenticeship for him and thinks that this might be one of his little schemes. And you can understand why when he simply asks for a uniform as soon as he has paid Sisko off! The way Nog keeps shaking Sisko’s hand is very cute. We get a great example of Rom’s lowly position in Quarks and how condescendingly his brother treats him which gives great credence to Nog’s wish to aspire to something greater. What is nice is that even we aren’t sure of Nog’s motives until the end of the episode so we he grins at being left alone in the cargo bay it could very well be so he could filch some equipment but he ultimately proves himself as a very hard worker. For Nog to admit that he doesn’t want to end up like his father and that he doesn’t have the lobes for profit is a big deal for him and it is this stolen moment of honesty that earns Nog his recommendation from Sisko. I love the moment where Rom tells him he would be proud to have a son in Starfleet – its interesting to note that the show that is often touted for having the most character conflict in Trek also has the highest hit rate of melt-your-heart moments too.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘So your name is unknown sample?’
‘She is never going to love you. How could she? You are a changeling.’

The Good: When you think about the methods the female shapeshifter uses to lure Odo and Kira to the moon (faking a Maquis raider under fire) it proves how much attention they are paying to the politics of the Alpha Quadrant. When we learn that Kira was the female shapeshifter all along the daft crystal suddenly makes sense and so does the fact that Kira has been finding out so much about Odo’s life in the episode. It is perfectly natural for the Founders to want to know why Odo stayed behind and what exactly he gets up to. It’s a twist that is not only a genuine surprise but also makes perfect sense on a character level. Reasoning that Odo would return to the Link if he thought Kira was dead is logical.

The Bad: My biggest problem with this episode is the ludicrous growing crystal that Kira gets stuck in. They would have had to have spent good money on that crazy effect and Nana Visitor must have been in some discomfort. This is one time I would much prefer that they went down the clichéd route of something like a room filling up with water because this is just daft looking. It’s the performances of Auberjonois and Visitor that make this threat very real.

Moment to Watch Out For: Two fantastic character scenes – Odo telling Kira what his name means and Nog owning up to why he wants to join Starfleet. Both scenes should be very sappy but are impeccably written and performed and are very touching.

Result: Heart of Stone comes in for some flack from some quarters but it is an episode that has grown on me over the years. It has exemplary performances, some real character growth and killer twist and an adorable subplot. It shows the real strength of this show is the characters and one thing I have realised watching season three is how it brought to fruition much of the superb cast so that when the war kicks in from the next season onwards the stories are pretty much self perpetuating. Odo admits his love for Kira and Nog expresses a desire to join Starfleet and in both cases the show is richer for it: 8/10

Destiny written by David S. Cohen & Martin A. Winer and directed by Les Landau

What’s it about: When the river wakes, stirred once more to Janir's side, three vipers will return to their nest in the sky. When the vipers try to peer through the temple gates, a sword of stars will appear in the heavens. The temple will burn, and its gates will be cast open…

Single Father: How brilliant is Odo? You’ve got to love the way he cuts through all the pretence and says it how it is and when he tells Sisko that he has an agenda to distance himself from the role of the Emissary I wanted to applaud him. Sisko can’t deny that he is right and suddenly doubts his dismissal of the Vedek’s warnings. He struggles with his role as a religious icon and he needs something solid (something Starfleet) to call off the mission, something other than the metaphorical scribblings of a long dead prophet.

Tasty Terrorist: It is very healthy for Kira to meet two such amiable Cardassians and despite her initial reservations (the way she spits out ‘peace’ in her greeting to them leaves us of no illusions that she is unsure about it) she is quite charmed by the two scientists that visit. Once again this is a show that deals with Kira being torn between her faith and her uniform and she continues to be one of the most dignified religious characters in any ongoing drama show because her plight is dealt with so sensitively. She believes that Sisko is the Emissary but doesn’t want him to know it because it would get in the way of their working relationship.

Everyday Engineer: Gilora the Cardassian scientist spars wonderfully with O’Brien because in her experience men make lousy engineers. Its wonderful to watch Miles panic as Gilora starts coming on to him in a very obvious way – she figured that his overt irritability towards her was a sign that he wanted to jump her bones. His ‘I’m not remotely interested in you!’ makes me crack up ever time!

Community Leader: Riding high on the news of the peace treaty Quark is excited at the thought of Cardassians being back on the station with their gambling and drinking habits as bad as ever and ready to be exploited.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘As the 34th Rule of Acquisition states “Peace is good for business”’ ‘That’s the 35th Rule’ ‘Oh you’re right…what’s the 34th?’ ‘”War is good for business” – its easy to get them confused.’
‘Starfleet code requires a second backup?
‘Its hard to work for someone who’s a religious icon.’
‘I assure you I am quite fertile.’

The Good: I love this episodes intelligent handling of the interpretation of religious texts. It’s a subject that is very close to my heart as I have had many long conversations with Christian friends of mine and we have chatted in the wee small hours discussing the veracity of religious iconography and literature. It must be so easy to look at a prophecy or story and see what you want to see to fit your feelings and ambitions. The way destiny reveals the Vedek to be opposed to the Cardassian peace treaty and using the prophecy as a warning against them and yet still treating his character with dignity is very nicely done. Erick Avari is one of those actors that turns up in many cult TV shows and usually in the same sort of role but the reason for that is because he is so good at playing these obstinate authority types. As soon as we learn a third scientist is on the way it suddenly gives the Vedeks interpretation some credence and starts a spiral of doubt. There is a very positive message about misinterpreting the prophecy and yet every part of it comes true – the show manages to throw light on how you can use these things to your advantage whilst also giving credence to the idea of a prophecy coming true.

The Bad: The reveal of Dejar being a member of the Obsidian Order and a saboteur is so lackadaisically handled it might have been just as well been a technical fault.

Moment to Watch Out For: The relationship between Sisko and Kira continues to be one of the most thoughtful and watchable on Trek and it has wonderful to watch them softening towards each other and earning each others respect. The scene on the Defiant where they discuss her belief in him and his lack of belief in the prophecies is a great example of this considerate relationship at its best.

Myth Building: I hadn’t realised that there had been so many mentions of the peace treaty between Bajor and Cardassia and it turns out that there are many elements of both races who are opposed to the treaty.

Result: Like Sanctuary last year this is one of those pleasant DS9 episodes that isn’t aspiring for greatness but rises quite a way above being merely average. This time it is a piece steeped in the shows mythology and has some terrific character development of both Sisko and Kira. There isn’t a great deal of tension but there is an pleasing amount of intelligent discussion regarding religious determinism and the malleable perspective of prophecies. If that sounds dry as dust there is an amusing sub plot where O’Brien catches the eye of one of the Cardassian scientists and the some fascinating character reveals as Sisko and Kira are finally honest with each other about they perceive their relationship. Oh and the Defiant shatters a comet with its awesome weaponry. Destiny is a favourite of some and whilst I don’t hold it in that lofty regard it is a fun piece with plenty of meaning: 8/10

Prophet Motive written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Rene Auberjonois

What’s it about: Zek is back and is planning on rewriting the Rules of Acquisition!

Everyday Engineer: Wey-hey! It’s the introduction of the dartboard! No we know that Bashir and O’Brien are a pair of blokes! Seriously though it is wonderful to see such a normal recreation being enjoyed and unlike Voyager which abandons its best holodeck programme (Sandrines and the pool table that goes with it) DS9 remembers what works and uses it as a symbol of their friendship. Given the secret about Bashir that is revealed in Dr Bashir, I Presume it is clear that he is deliberately playing shite in this episode. O’Brien is completely unaware of what a crafty shite his friend can be.

GE Doctor: Bashir is up for the lifetime achievement award because his work on bio replication was both audacious and groundbreaking…at least that is what everyone has been told. Nobody but a medicalbabble geek like Bashir understands it. He refuses to get excited about something that should be the crowning achievement of his life’s work when he is so young…and yet starts working on his acceptance speech anyway. Despite appearances when he doesn’t win the award (a nice change from the foregone conclusions to these sorts of episodes) he really isn’t okay about it.

Community Leader: When it comes to delaying the finalisation of a deal in order to coax some nookie out of a client Quark is a very unusual Ferengi.

Secret Genius: ‘Zek likes me…on the other hand he barely acknowledges your existence…’ Having Quark and Rom moving in together takes this show firmly into sitcom territory for five minutes and gives Rom the chance to stand up to his brother for a change. Clearing up their quarters is Nog’s job and since he is away it will have to wait and when Quark forces the issue (and notices that everything in his quarters is from his stockroom!) Rom points out that at home he is the boss. The look on Rom’s face as Quark starts licking the spine of the revised rules makes me laugh every time, he must think his brother has gone insane. Rom is such a wonderfully devious toad – I am willing to be that he sympathises with the Nagus’ newfound generosity but at the same time he is embezzling his own little retirement fund from him!

What’s Morn up to: With Zek’s generous offer to buy everyone a drink at the bar naturally Morn is the first in the queue!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘If never keep prophet a good smile honesty!’ ‘What does it mean brother?’ ‘It means…absolutely nothing!’
‘Actually I’ve lost my taste for beetle snuff. It might be fun for you and me but its no fun for the beetles!
‘I can’t help myself! I like you!
‘Your argument is specious. Changing you will not result in the termination of all corporeal existence’ ‘Alright so maybe I exaggerated a little!’
‘Argh! You’re wrinkling my suuuuuittt!’ – best line ever!
‘Father would be proud…’

The Good: The episode starts with Quark looking like he is having an orgasm and it turns out his sexual areas are being stimulated! Is this the filthiest opening to a Trek episode ever? This is the season of some my favourite subplots in DS9 and Heart of Stone (Nog wants to join Starfleet), Prophet Motive (Bashir is up for the Carrington award), Explorers (Bashir is snubbed by his old rival and gets wasted with O’Brien), Family Business (Sisko succumbs to Jake’s dating plans) and Facets (Nog takes his Academy entrance exams) all qualify for having extremely likeable b plots which make the episodes so much more enjoyable. I would have Zek turn up in every single episode if I could, Morn style, but then that wouldn’t make his infrequent visits as special as they are and this one of the best. Wallace Shawn has taken hold of this outrageous character and turned him into something so adorable it is hard to think that in the hands of a less sympathetic actor Zek could have been nothing but a sleazy lecherous nasty. His plan to rewrite the Rules of Acquisition is hilarious (especially Quark and Rom attempting to find a hidden code in them somewhere) and the way he starts giving away money and giggling like a schoolboy on heat at the slightest provocation makes me crack up! Poor Maihar’du is seen at the close of many scenes appalled by the Nagus’ behaviour and crying in a corner or downing a pint of liquor! The Ferengi Benevolent Association? What an appalling idea! The Nagus in a sack slung over Maihar’du’s shoulder is gigglesome (‘Don’t worry Quark, I forgive you!’). It makes sense that the Prophets would restore Zek to an earlier, less adversarial nature of existence since in that respect he wont want to come and visit them again.

The Bad: It might shift into a gorgeous orb experience but Rom and Quark squabbling over the Orb box is a very awkward moment of direction.

Moment to Watch Out For: The scene where Odo indulges in a moment of gossip and rumour with Bashir over the Carrington Award is gorgeous. This is how to write a contractually obliged scene.

Result: It would be a toss up between Prophet Motive and Family Business if I had to decide what my favourite Rene Auberjonois directed Ferengi episode was (Ferengi Love Songs doesn’t register) and this might just edge it because of the phenomenal turn by Wallace Shawn who turns every line of Zek’s into an absolute gem. Just like Rules of Acquisition it bubbles along pretending to be a lightweight comedy but turns out to have some real significance when the wormhole aliens appear for the first time since Emissary. The very idea of Quark trying to outthink these omnipotent beings makes me laugh but his actual speech is one of the finest moments of the season. Prophet Motive sees an increasingly confident show recognising it has created its own sub genre of Ferengi episodes and is now basking in the joy of them. If you can’t roll with them that is a shame but I love them and they always leave me with a massive smile on my face. All the performances are gorgeous: 8/10

Visionary written by John Shirley and directed by Reza Badiyi

What’s it about: O’Brien leaps forward in time and sees some terrible things that are coming…

Single Father: I love it when Sisko dishes out threats and his promise to take down the Romulan warbird with 50 photon torpedoes is a mild glimpse at what would become the norm in later seasons. Can’t wait.

Tasty Terrorist: After asking her to be diplomatic with the Romulans and their probing interrogation Kira turns very nasty under pressure and threatens to rip the cloaking device out of the Defiant and help Odo kick the two of them out of an airlock so they can float back to Romulus. I say put her on the Federation council.

Unknown Sample: There’s a very sweet moment when Kira tells Odo that Romulans have insinuated that he might have feelings for her and he tries to brush it off as quickly as possible. Watch out for the scene where Odo takes Sisko step by step through his investigative process – you can tell that he really gets off on this kind of puzzle and that he has had great fun pulling it all together for the Commander. ‘Sometimes I have to remind you how good I am’ indeed.

Everyday Engineer: I reckon O’Brien gained his reputation as such a brilliant engineer because he has always had this talent. He has been hopping forward for five hours ever since the show began, seeing what is about to break down and then coming back into normal time and fixing it.

GE Doctor: Now they have their dartboard up in Quark’s these O’Brien and Bashir are inseparable. Keiko had better watch out when she gets back, she might have a fight for her husband on her hands! Bashir doesn’t just take advice from anybody but when he learns that O’Brien’s diagnostic has come from himself in the future he is happy to run the scan.

Community Leader: Always as good as his word, Quark lets the Klingons into his bar because they offer to pay him triple the usual fee for the use of the holosuites. It serves him right when they start tearing his place apart but that doesn’t stop him writing a manifest of things that have been broken in the scuffle (whilst ducking flying glasses).

What’s Morn up to: He’s sitting harmlessly at the bar when three badly thrown darts wind up stuck in his chest! Morn, ever the professional bar lizard, pulls them out and continues drinking. Later you see him in the bar swirling around a drink in a glass and hypnotised by it.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You think Quark had something to do with this?’ ‘I always investigate Quark!’
‘I hate temporal mechanics!’

The Good: The pre titles sequence reveals some rowdy Klingons and businesslike Romulans which suggests a disastrous day for Sisko. The Romulans state that the Dominion is the greatest threat to the Alpha Quadrant in the last century which is an over statement at the moment but would be very true come the end of season five. To answer their questions… How many ships do they have? Thousands. Where are they deployed? Currently deployed around the Founders homeworld waiting to attack a joint fleet of Cardassian and Romulan ships. What are their plans for the future? They plan to turn the Federation and the Klingons against each other and start their own war on the Alpha Quadrant. Are they planning an attack? Oh yes. Its nice to see that allowing the cloaking device to be placed on the Defiant wasn’t just a ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…’ moment of inspiration and the payback to the Romulans is now being dealt with. The sudden cut to the bar fight is very funny…its almost as if O’Brien is so bored by Dax’s technobabble he would rather daydream about a violent altercation at the local bar! I love the way that Badiyi frames the moment when Odo checks the wall panel with his hand reaching towards the camera and Sisko and O’Brien peering around the corner.

The Bad: I’m willing to accept it because it is a pretty fun episode but there is awful lot of technobabble in Visionary and as usual I switched off during those moments. I don’t think Dax had a single moment of characterisation in this entire episode, she was just there to delivery technical doublespeak. I think the episode is trying to be a bit clever at the climax when the older O’Brien comes back to the past but it just left me going ‘eh?’

Moment to Watch Out For: Imagine watching yourself being shot in the chest and feeling for a pulse that isn’t there. Brr… Plus the destruction of the station is brilliant eye candy and the only chance we will ever get to see such an event. It looks like the tech boys had great fun blowing the model to pieces!

Result: What could be a standard TNG style episode becomes something a lot more fun as the revelations stack up when O’Brien keeps leaping into the future (a bar fight, a murder, his corpse and then the destruction of the station). It all leads to a very satisfying conclusion that ties into the main arc of the series and sees that the Romulans aren’t going to sit idly by and allow the Dominion to attack the Alpha Quadrant. Colm Meaney is precisely the actor that you want in this sort of sci-fi puzzle because they come tethered to a whole load of technobabble and you need a actor with some charisma to bring some heart to these scenes. DS9 again proves what a strong ensemble can bring to a standalone show with great moments for Odo, Quark and Kira too. Reza Badiyi continues to prove that he is perfectly suited to this series with both the dialogue and action scenes shot with some imagination. Season three notches up another high quality episode, not an absolute knockout but quirky, clever and rewarding: 8/10

Distant Voices written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: Bashir hits a milestone and celebrates in style…

GE Doctor: Bashir is about to hit 30 and it is a birthday that he would rather forget. When you hit three decades it becomes harder to forget about the passing of time. Throughout this episode Bashir steadily ages and it remains one of my favourite ‘old age’ make up and performances – Siddig holds his body in a very frail, delicate way and his cleverly his clothes get better to make it look as though his frame is getting smaller. It highlights how Siddig is maturing as an actor because the last time he was asked to act out of character (The Passenger) it was a disaster but as geriatric Bashir he is completely convincing. Just wait for the next episode where we are introduced to the cockney badass alternative universe Bashir! Dax has always represented his sense of adventure and in this scenario O’Brien is his doubt, Kira is his aggression, Odo is his sense of suspicion and fear and Sisko is his professionalism and skill. Bashir realises that he should have headed for the Infirmary rather than Ops because they are in his mind and that is the centre of his world. He admits he does have feelings for Dax but the important thing is that she is his friend and he wouldn’t exchange that for anything. As far as his career is concerned he might have been a good tennis player but he know he is a great Doctor.

Nine Lives: It looks like Dax is nominated as the person who throws the surprise parties on the station.

Plain and Simple: Hemming women’s dresses may provide him with a modest income but provides little exercise. Rather than being perturbed that within Bashir’s head he is cast in the role of the villain he considers that there is hope for the good Doctor yet.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I’m not some figment of your imagination!’
‘This station is in worse condition than we thought!’

The Good: I love the idea of a Cardassian enigma tale where all the suspects turn out to be guilty and you have to try and figure out who is guilty of what – that sounds like the kind of labyrinthe storytelling I would really enjoy! Alexander Siddig has a little way to go before he looks convincing having a psychic attack but the make up and the way the creature seems to draw energy from the brain is pretty awesome. I don’t think this sort of episode would work on any of the other Trek shows but the DS9 sets are so visually impressive that all you need to do is turn the lights down and introduce bizarre elements to create an atmosphere. Quarks Bar looks particularly impressive drenched in shadows and I love the whacky Ops with tennis balls instead of circuitry! There’s a great sequence as the lights snap off and darkness appears to pursue Bashir down a corridor. Its great how the episode doesn’t even bother to pretend that Kira, Dax, Odo and O’Brien are behaving normally and Bashir thinks back to previous episodes and asks the computer to scan for anomalies to explain away their irrational behaviour! When we realise Bashir is in a coma it is fun to try and figure which part of his personalities his friends represent. Tennis on the Promenade – brilliant! Its quite a shock to see Kira highlighted as a corpse and Odo turning into a great puddle of goo…the episode starts to generate a sense of claustrophobia as Bashir is hunted down piece by piece. Given his battered, frail state I would like to place a wager that Bashir will definitely wind up as a corpse on a slab in Quarks – what a truly bizarre sequence.

The Bad: The only point when the make up lets the side down is when Bashir is in the lift and it looks like he has a badger on his head. We haven’t seen hair this groovy since the Peladonian miners! Dax screaming ‘Julian!’ as she is dragged off by the Lethian is one of the campest things I have ever seen on Trek!

Moment to Watch Out For: Ops looks gorgeous spruced up with balloons and who wouldn’t want a ‘Happy Birthday Mr President…’ of their very own?

Result: I’m rather keen on Distant Voices because even though it is a another TNG style episode (season three is the year most guilty of those), it shows how the DS9 production team go the extra mile to make it as entertaining as possible. The sets are redressed imaginatively, the make up is fantastic and Singer’s direction remains visually impressive throughout. Don’t get me wrong this is a nonsensical camp bit of old nonsense but its also an imaginative skip through Bashir’s head and its far more interesting than the next time the same thing is attempted in season 7’s Extreme Measures. Rather than just being an exercise in oddness (and there are some wonderfully bizarre sequences in there) we actually learn a fair amount about Bashir and where his life is at the moment. This is the point where Bashir’s character rocks: 7/10

Through the Looking Glass written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: Sisko steps from through the looking glass and has to pose as his rough and ready counterpart…

Single Father: The look on Sisko’s face when he realises that Jennifer is still alive in this universe says everything you need to know about why he chooses to stay and help. In sharp contrast to Picard in Captain’s Holiday (which is at exactly this point in TNG’s run), Sisko is perfect to play up to the macho stereotype and does so with some relish. Picard’s mid life crisis made me cringe but Sisko getting his end away with both Dax and Kira is hot in a way that Trek rarely achieves. Watch how he objects to Dax trying it on with him for about three seconds before giving himself over to her…the sense of freedom for the character in this universe is very welcoming. The second he walks through an airlock onto Terok Nor Sisko snogs the face of the Indendant and manages to score a reprieve by offering his body to her. There is a definite frisson between Brooks and Bell during the scenes where Sisko tries to convince his dead wife that he is there to rescue her. These scenes are vital because they give the show its heart and ensures it isn’t just camp menace. Because he is a decent, honest man Jennifer can see through the Sisko deception almost immediately – she knows this isn’t her husband. I’m sure it must have been tempting to stay with Jennifer but Jake acts as an anchor back to his own universe and these interesting dynamics are picked up again Shattered Mirror to even more devastating effect.

Tasty Terrorist: What a gorgeous character the Indendant is. The first we see of her is draped in the arms of a muscle brained hunk being fed grapes by a woman that she flirts outrageously with whilst being fanned by two Vulcans. Everything about her screams pleasure and indulgence and she doesn’t care who is offering it as long as she is enjoying herself. When Jennifer asks if there were any other Terrans killed with her husband she mindlessly murmurs ‘a whole ship full’ as though discussing the weather. I love the way she teases O’Brien the tinkerer when he sets foot on the Station, she enjoys making people suffer. The only reason she can think of to keep Sisko alive is to infuriate Garak and she knows that eventually she will have to kill him but she is willing to keep him around for a while as her plaything. How grand is she backed up by a unit of trigger happy killers spitting out threats to Sisko and his friends trying to escape? She’s not used to being outfoxed so you can only imagine the undignified punishments she has planned for Sisko once he has escaped. Probably involving his bollocks and rusty knife, after she’s sucked the life out of them.

GE Doctor: Siddig’s dreadful cockney accent is an absolute joy because rather than tiptoeing around the fact that this is a fun romp he simply goes for it. I cheered when Sisko knocked Bashir over the table and almost strangled him with a bloody nose.

Nine Lives: Fuck me! I’m gay and even I think the alternative universe Dax is horny as hell! She’s got some real attitude, she looks great and she’s gagging for it.

Community Leader: Quark claims that he and Morn were painting numbers on Voles because they were counting them when anybody with half a brain realises that they were getting ready to stage a Vole fight.

Plain and Simple: The alternative Garak is sadistic, brow beaten and super camp. Frankly he is rather wonderful to be around so it surprises me to learn that these were Andrew Robinson’s least favourite episodes because he is so good at playing up the pantomime aspects of the character into something so over the top its quite sinister. His ‘PURSUUUUUUUE!’ is sublime!

Secret Genius: This butch, aggressive version of our lovable Rom is great fun and boy does he go out in style!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Lets start with him, him and her!’ ‘And do what?’ ‘Execute them! I think you’ll find that random and unprovoked executions will keep your work force alert and motivated!’
‘Remind him where he belongs…’
‘I will hunt you down. I swear it.’

The Good: Sisko held at gunpoint and kicked through into the deliciously dark and sexy mirror universe is just what the series needed to give it a shot of adrenalin. I love the bold, sinister lighting that sets the other universe apart from ours. Its nice to see that Kira and Bashir’s visit last year has had some consequences and the news that there is a unified rebellion against the Alliance now means there is a whole new playground to have some fun in. There is no denying the Star Wars parallels with all this talk of crushing the rebellion and a dark force in control of this universe but that just adds to the crazy fun that these episodes flaunt. Its Star Trek letting its hair down in a very masculine, sexy way, something that I would have thought was impossible. It is great that they managed to get Felecia M. Bell back as Jennifer not seen in the series since the pilot episode and she plays the character with a cool detachment that keeps the piece grounded in reality. What a fantastic excuse to run around with guns and blast the crap out of Cardassians! The Klingon disrupters are especially fun with great bolts of light knock their victims a few feet in the air!

The Bad: Whilst is nice to see a crossover of DS9 and Voyager the only actor who isn’t let off the reins in Through the Looking Glass is Tim Russ which figures given the show he has been leased from. This is the dull old Tuvok that sours the sister show.

Moment to Watch Out For: Rambo Rom gets possibly the least dignified exit of any character in Trek, skewered to an airlock door to prevent his friends escape.

Only DS9: Another chance for a waltz around the DS9 sets but it feels entirely different from Distant Voices. It just goes to show that the designers have done a fine job because with a little redressing and different lighting it feels like a new location.

Fashion Statement: Once again Nana Visitor’s butt is squeezed into those eye watering tight leather trousers.

Result: A glorious mixture of action adventure, sensuality and violence, Through the Looking Glass is another awesome trip to the alternative universe with plenty of memorable scenes. If this doesn’t quite have the intensity of Crossover there is the heartfelt relationship between Sisko and Jennifer to enjoy and it is just a joy to be around these skewed versions of the regulars again. Nana Visitor in particular devours the scenery whole and makes me squeal with excitement but there are fantastic moments with Bashir, Rom and Garak too. There is some fancy gunplay and the usual terrific quips and the whole piece moves at a tremendous pace. These periodic visits to the alternative universe are proving to be a real treat and what I particularly like is the loose sexuality on the display. This is Trek really letting its hair down, forgetting all the pious moralising and enjoying some filthy fun. Top notch entertainment: 9/10

Improbable Cause written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Avery Brooks

What’s it about: An explosion in Garak’s shop leads to an investigation with far reaching consequences…

Unknown Sample: Odo’s heckles are up straight away and he refuses to believe that a conduit behind Garak’s shop should just happen to explode. He knows the man with his past must have enemies and he is practically salivating to start the investigation into the past of this walking enigma. The look on his face when Garak suggests he has already looked through Odo’s security files is priceless. Odo has an awesome approach to forcing assassins into revealing their methods, in this case mixing together the deadly poisons harmlessly pretending he is look for a perfume for a friend until it threatens to overwhelm the Flaxian. Who said he could do pretence? He’d rather not elaborate on his contacts within the Cardassian Empire but its further proof of what a useful guy he is to have around. He always acts from a sense of justice and there is no emotion in what he does beyond a certain distaste for loose ends – Garak sums him up rather well. Is there one person that Odo cares about? We already know that there is which gives us great insight.

GE Doctor: Some people smirk at suggestions of a homoerotic friendship between Bashir and Garak but how many men do you know that pop by their place of work of a friend and give them expensive chocolates? It’s a gorgeous relationship that the two actors have grown into and would continue to reap rewards right up until What You Leave Behind. At the same time there is a scene between Bashir and Kira where they flirt outrageously with their body language, its easy to see the flutterings of romance between Siddig and Nana Visitor.

Plain and Simple: One of the best ever Garak episodes and for those of you in the know of how good this character is that is quite a statement. The dinner scenes between Bashir and Garak are loaded with character and charm – I love his assertion that humans have a ‘fear of starvation amid plenty’ and that somebody should do a study. In the face of a devastating explosion that could have taken his life Garak is as flippant as ever, naming and shaming his angry customers and Major Kira as potential assassins. He even tries to blag his way through the reason he was exiled from Cardassia by suggesting that it was a failiure to pay his taxes (‘Do you think that I would lie about a thing like that?’). Halfway through the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf and he has been praised for scaring away the animal Garak is delighted – ‘Clever lad, charming story Doctor!’ Garak always manages to do the thing you least expect so when he turns up on the runabout waiting for Odo I couldn’t help but chuckle. When you realise that Garak destroyed his own shop to enlist Odo’s help he goes from being one of the finest Trek characters to the finest. Who would have ever suspected? He’s such a devious bastard! We learn that Garak was once an associate of Enabrin Tain, the only head of the Obsidian Order to have lived long enough to retire. When he talks to Mila it is possibly the only time we have ever seen Garak drop all the masks and speak from the heart. However he isn’t down for long and spends a good couple of minutes outside the airlock covertly telling Bashir to eat an isolinear rod if he shouldn’t come back. This guy know how to take the piss in style. Why does Garak care enough about Tain to risk his life for him? You would almost feel as though the writers had the series planned out in advance but all of this material sets up a beautiful revelation in the fifth season knockout In Purgatory’s Shadow.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Tragedy is not the word I’d use. Farce would be more appropriate’ – Garak and Bashir discuss Shakespeare in some of their finest crafted dialogue yet.
‘Are you sure that’s the point, Doctor?’ ‘Of course. What else could it be?’ ‘That you should never tell the same lie twice.’
‘Considering those uniforms of theirs you’d think they’d appreciate a good tailor.’
‘I do know that you are investigating a very insignificant piece of a much larger puzzle…’
‘I’ve had enough of your dissembling Garak! I am not Dr Bashir and we are not sparring amiably over lunch! Now you dragged me into this investigation and you are now going to co-operate!’ ‘Dragged you in? I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ ‘You blew up your own shop Garak!
‘Besides I think you secretly enjoyed destroying your own shop’ ‘Well I have to admit watching it burn wasn’t exactly tragic…
‘You’re going to attack the Dominion, aren’t you? You’re going to stage a first strike against them before they can come into the Alpha Quadrant.’

The Good: I love the way Avery Brooks pans along the table towards Odo and the Flaxian in the Ward Room. The episode never quite goes where you think it is going to – Garak’s shop going up in flames is the first surprise and the destruction of the Flaxian ship is another. Through thorough examination (which for once sees technobabble used in an interesting fashion) the Romulans slip into the episode and suddenly a simple investigation starts to feel like the start of something much more epic. Scenes of Odo being watched in the moonlit caves and his contact silhouetted in the cave mouth see Brooks at his finest, wringing every drop of tension and subterfuge out of the script. Cloaked Romulan ships have been detected on the Cardassian border, troop movements and communication activity all happening with the Cardassian Central Command in the dark (you would never suspect the Cardassian involvement which makes the twist all the more powerful). More great twists…five other operatives killed! At this point you wonder what on Earth could be going on to make this necessary. A Romulan Warbird in Cardassian space with Tain in command? Could this episode be any more unpredictable? A fleet of Romulan and Cardassian ships heading off to the Gamma Quadrant to wipe out the Dominion – fuck me! I want to watch the next episode now! Finally we know what was going in the Orios System in Defiant – the Obsidian Order have building up this fleet without the Central Command’s knowledge and with the knowledge Starfleet shared with the Romulans in Visionary about the Dominion they now know the location of the Founders home planet. Clever stuff, seeded in the third season almost invisibly. Brilliantly this episode doesn’t end on the revelation of an impending war with the Dominion but scales it right back to a decision to be made by Garak and his future amongst his people and that feels very right.

Moment to Watch Out For: The gorgeous moment where Odo reveals that he knows Garak blew up his own shop. The interaction here is devastatingly good. So are the scenes between the two of them on the runabout as we realise that they are both outcasts from their people and actually have a great deal in common.

Teaser-tastic: One of the best ever teasers with an explosion tear through Garak’s shop with fires blazing and a brilliant pithy one liner from the best tailor in the galaxy.

Result: The script for this episode alone is a piece of art and practically every line is a gem that simply reading it would give me great pleasure but brought to life by these phenomenal actors Improbable Cause is an treat to watch. The way the story unfolds is extremely engaging, always being channelled through the characters with lots of twists and turns to keep things exciting. Rene Auberjonois and Andrew Robinson are two of the strongest actors in this fine ensemble cast and treated to material this strong we are spoilt with numerous classic Odo and Garak moments. Improbable Cause develops from the intimate to the epic throughout its 45 minutes and climaxes on a very exciting development that shows while we have been enjoying character tales on the station Empires have been preparing for war behind the scenes. Magnificently put together by Avery Brooks who proves with his handling of this drama that he is one of DS9’s most extraordinary directors. One of the best ever DS9 episodes: 10/10

The Die is Cast written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: The Romulans and the Cardassians are off to attack the Dominion taking Garak and Odo in tow…

Single Father: For me this is the point where Sisko really starts to impress me. Up until now he has been a quiet, unassuming sort of leader who supports his staff and ensures he has a life of his own. Now he is starting to take risks, to defy orders and to shit on the Prime Directive. As Sisko approaches Captaincy he starts to kick some serious ass.

Unknown Sample: Odo is furious with Garak for his decision to return to his people but the tailor reminds him that he never pledged his allegiance to the Federation or Odo. However the shapeshifter is a keen observer of humanoid behaviour and can tell that Garak is feeling guilty for what he has done. The make up job when Odo is forced to remain in a humanoid state is revolting, he is scabrous and peeling and Auberjonois ensures that we feel every second of his pain, shivering and screaming. The secret he has been keeping is that he wants to go home to the Founders. As much as he has tried to forget and ignore the pull of the Great Link he has an irresistible urge to be with them again.

Everyday Engineer: His mother always said if you end up talking and eating you’ll end up doing neither very well! O’Brien looks like he is going to murder Eddington after he has repaired the ship. He better watch out the next time O’Brien catches sight of him at Quarks because he will probably glass him with a pint of Guinness.

GE Doctor: Mirroring this episode with the last we open with Bashir having his lunch and discussing literature but this time his lunch companion is O’Brien who isn’t interested in anything except eating. It just goes to show Garak cannot be replaced, he has taught Bashir to think of lunch as an arena for philosophical debate.

Plain and Simple: There is a lovely, relaxed chemistry between Andrew Robinson and Paul Dooley that ensures you can feel the history and weight of their relationship. We learn snippets about Garak’s past in the Obsidian Order and it sounds like he used to have quite a temper. He would invent charges of treason just so he didn’t have to hear peoples voices and stare at those charged for hours on end with ‘those eyes’ until they confessed everything. There are a number of people he intends to look up when he gets back including Dukat who be the tone of Garak’s voice will be made to suffer for his humiliation in Civil Defence. Whatever betrayal Garak inflicted on Tain he still proclaims his innocence and I am glad that we never got to find out what it was. Great characters have an air of mystery that shouldn’t be resolved. Interrogating Odo is such a painful assignment for Garak because on the one hand he is eager to regain his standing with Tain and relishes the chance to get back to work but on the other hand he clearly has feelings for Odo and his time amongst the Federation really has softened him up somewhat. Its fascinating to watch him because he looks like he genuinely relishes the chance to extract that one nugget of secrecy from Odo that he wouldn’t share with anybody but as soon as he sees how much pain he is in he cannot bring himself to watch him suffer. This is the point where Garak goes over to the other side for good, literally begging Odo to lie as if he is the one being tortured. Which inside he clearly is. Garak sighs as he picks his way through the remains of his shop and in a moment of breathtaking forgiveness Odo seizes the opportunity to asks Garak if he would like to join him for lunch one day even though he doesn’t eat. Garak has lost any chance he might have had of returning home to his old life and this small moment of kindness from the man he tortured sends shivers down my spine.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The only common enemy that you and I share is Enabrin Tain. The difference between you and I is that you don’t know it.’
‘Oh no you’re going to torture me, aren’t you? How I’ve been dreading this. Please have mercy Garak’ – said with Odo’s unique (and hilarious) brand of sarcasm.
‘So much for the Dominion!’
‘I can certainly understand your desire to return home.’
‘Do you know what the sad part is Odo? I’m a very good tailor.’

The Good: ‘It sounds like you’re hoping Tain will succeed’ – Of course that is what the Federation is hoping regardless of their protestation of peace. By having this joint operation risk life and limb in a genocidal attack on the Founders the Federation can just sit back and watch the fireworks and then reap the rewards once it succeeds. David Livingston films an impressive pan around the Bridger of the Defiant to show that everybody did volunteer for the mission (its one of the few times I will let it slide because not only did Sisko cut in with ‘don’t volunteer yet’ because he knew they all would but also there is a saboteur on board pretending to go with the flow). A 6 hour bombardment on the Founders home planet wiping them from the face of existence? That is one seriously cruel genocidal plan. Lets not underestimate the gravitas that Paul Dooley brings to this episode in his portrayal of Tain. It is a complex and nuanced turn by an experience actor who makes some of the episodes most powerful scenes sing. Livingston’s direction of the torture scenes is nothing short of masterful – I especially like the way he settles the camera beneath Odo so he reaches out to the audience when he tries to change his shape. In this modern world of cuts and edits we rarely get a chance to see people act on television but Livingston gets the camera up close and personal to Robinson and Auberjonois and they produce a truly intense moment of theatre on the small screen. I love the way the scabby bits of Odo that have fluttered away also turn into globules of goo when he regenerates. The hints are there that Lovak might be a changeling (shocked at the news of the device, waiting to take Odo back to Romulus) but nothing that reveals him. The downfall of Tain is beautifully judged with his smug victorious attitude wiped off his face as 150 Jem H’adar ships make themselves apparent. Suddenly, shockingly we realise that the big boys in the Alpha Quadrant don’t cut the mustard anymore. The planet is deserted, an armada is waiting and they have a Founder in their midst who orchestrated this whole affair to wipe out the Obsidian Order and the Tal Shiar so their conquest of the Alpha Quadrant can begin. As a twist of fate it is very exhilarating and the ramifications for the series really excite me. Ships blast the crap out of each other, consoles explode sending extras flying and the Defiant literally tears a ship into pieces with its awesome weaponry – DS9 hasn’t been this dynamic since The Search. The framing of the last scene is indicative of Livingston’s handling of the episode, Odo silhouetted in the mirror that Garak cleans.

The Bad: I love the fact that Eddington sabotages the Defiant because I have long suspected him of some kind of deviousness but there is a scene wedged between the torture scenes to show the passing of time. Its an entirely unnecessary moment and I would have let the torture scene play out as one long, deliciously uncomfortable scene.

Moment to Watch Out For: Tain sitting on the exploding Bridge as Garak pleads with him to leave is one of the all time great DS9 scenes. ‘Next time we should be more careful…’

Teaser-tastic: Another fantastic teaser with a stomach punch shock – a fleet of Cardassian and Romulan ships decloaking around the station and heading through the wormhole with a hello. There will come a time when fleets of ships will be commonplace on this show as it steps up a gear next season but at this stage in the game this is genuinely epic.

Only DS9: At this point in Star trek history had we ever had such a clear continuation of events play out like this? The Jem H’adar revealed the henchmen of the Dominion, The Search introduced us to the Founders and their home planet in the Omarian Nebula, Defiant saw a build of a fleet of Cardassian ships for some unknown reason, Visionary saw the Federation reveal the location of the Founders homeworld to the Romulans and Improbable Cause ties all these elements together as the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order head off to wipe out the Dominion. There is a giddy sense of the show building a mythology for itself in this continuing storyline and that the scale of the show is getting more and more ambitious. It’s a great time to be a DS9 fan.

What If: In his message to the Alpha Quadrant Tain says that they expect the Jem H’adar to weaken and die once their supply of the drug has run out. Imagine if their attack on the Founders had been a success? The Jem H’adar would have wrecked bloody vengeance on the Alpha Quadrant before they died out.

Foreboding: ‘No changeling has ever harmed another’ – this becomes very important in the season finale. ‘After today the only real threat to us from the Alpha Quadrant are the Klingons and the Federation and I doubt that either of them will be a threat for much longer…’ – this is dealt with in Way of the Warrior and Apocalypse Rising.

Result: This is dark, twisted, violent and epic – Star Trek as we have never seen it before. I don’t understand people who find this conclusion a disappointment because it is packed full of great performances, quality effects work, knockout dialogue and some jaw dropping twists. David Livingston’s handling of this episode matches Avery Brooks’ sterling work on Improbable Cause and in juggling intense character scenes, dynamic action and visual storytelling he really proves his mettle in the directors chair. The Die is Cast manages to wrap up this ambitious storyline with some breathtaking moments and kicks the show in an thrilling new direction that will see it launching some major arcs from this point on. A dazzling two parter: 10/10

Explorers written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Cliff Bole

What’s it about: Sisko is off on an adventure in a Bajoran Light Ship and Bashir has to face an old rival…

Single Father: Sisko walks into his quarters with a new beard, a plan to build an ancient Bajoran Light Ship and it is like a new breeze is flying through the station. Sisko feels like a new man after the epic exploits of the last couple of episodes, one who is determined to enjoy himself. It is very in character for Sisko to want to build an ancient Light Ship, he clearly has an affection for old technology (the ships in his office) and has been seen building old clocks in the past plus if there was any word I would use to describe his character in this situation on Bajor it would be a builder. When Ben and Jen decided to have a baby it turns out Sisko went mad building a nursery for Jake but it turned out pretty damn well. When they are out in space he shuts his eyes enjoys the silence where not even the hum of engine can be heard. He’s a father that shows great interest in his sons creativity and I love the way he encourages him to do whatever makes him happy – his quiet ‘don’t think about, just do it’ always makes my heart melt. Sisko realises in Explorers what he did in The Abandoned, that his son is growing up and doesn’t share everything with him any more. Rather than feeling down about that he is thrilled to learn that Jake has been offered a writing fellowship. His reaction to Jake trying to set him up with a Freighter Captain is an absolute scream.

Tasty Terrorist: Kira and O’Brien butt heads brilliantly in the discussions over whether the Light Ship is space worthy with her telling him he sounds like a Cardassian for debunking the possibility of ancient contact (and you know how he feels about Cardassians) and he accuses her of being like a Romulan because they always claim to have invented everything first (and after Visionary we all know how she thinks of the Romulans!).

Everyday Engineer: In a Whiskey fuelled stupor O’Brien admits that he loves Bashir now but he cannot quite bring himself to say the words.

GE Doctor: If you are going to split an episode into two equally charming character tales then Explorers is exactly the way to do it. Bashir discovers that his old rival from school is about to dock at the station and suddenly his stomach is in knots. If it wasn’t for that pre ganglionic fibre Bashir would have been top in his class which is a constant stain on his character as he grows up. It’s a character point that has been brought up several times this year and come Dr Bashir, I Presume we learn precisely why he didn’t want to be first in his class. His biggest problem is that losing out to Dr Lense has always made him feel second best and so he crams in lots of reading before her arrival so she cannot catch him out. When he confronts Elisabeth she doesn’t have a clue who he is because somebody pointed out an Andorian at a party and said that it was Julian Bashir! They get on really well and she admits that she wishes she had taken his assignment because of his long term projects on Bajor.

Young Sisko: Cirroc Lofton is such a naturalistic actor I don’t think there is a single line of dialogue he says in the seven years this show was running that doesn’t ring true. One of the greatest strengths of this show was to portray Sisko as a father as well as a Commander/Captain – his home life really sets him apart from Picard and Janeway and this episode is like a love letter to the dazzling chemistry that has built up between Brooks and Lofton. Jake heads off on this little adventure with his dad with an agenda but like all excursions with the old man winds up enjoying himself anyway. Very sweetly Jake has decided to defer admission to Pennington because he wants to see his pops settled with a nice lady before he heads off for school.

Busty Babe: Introducing Chase Masterson as the gorgeous Dabo Girl Leeta whose role in the series would increase exponentially from season five onwards. She’s bubbly and fun and proves to be vital in Rom’s road to independence although you don’t realise this at the moment because she is too busy (unconvincingly) pretending to be ill so she can climb into bed with Bashir.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Why? Because it’ll be fun!’ – Sisko’s answer to why he is building the ship rather than using a computer model!
‘Do you know what I think’ ‘What?’ ‘I think she’s in love with you!’ ‘I don’t think so’ ‘It’s the only explanation! Unless she really ignored you because she can’t stand you!’ ‘Isn’t there some explanation in between?’ ‘Well, you’re not an in between kind of guy’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Well people either love you or hate you’ ‘Really?’ ‘I mean I hated you when we first met!’ ‘I remember’ ‘But now…’ ‘And now?’ ‘Now I don’t’ ‘That means a lot to me Chief it really does!’ Really! And that is from the heart! I really do…not hate you anymore!’ – quoted in full for its excellence!
‘Its been over a year since your last date! A year dad!’ – how comes your kids can crack onto your insecurities quicker than anybody else?

The Good: When humans were first sailing across the oceans, Bajorans were already going to other planets. Stick that in your pipe and smoke, Federation! Watching Sisko build the ship is surprisingly engaging and the when it is built the design is so elegant. The CGI sails billow outwards as the solar winds catch them and overall effect is like a gorgeous butterfly screaming through space. The end of this episode is a minor triumph as Dukat has to suffer the indignity of reading a speech about the bravery of Bajoran pioneers and Sisko and Jake’s journey to Cardassia has co-incided with the discovery of the wreckage of a Light Ship found on Cardassia (‘What an amazing co-incidence…’). And the fireworks are a lovely touch.

Moment to Watch Out For: The scene where O’Brien and Bashir get royally pissed together and sing Jerusalem. I cannot imagine any pairing on TNG or VOY where this would work at all and it manages to be hilarious and touching too. There is something wonderful about the way these two have become so close since Keiko has been away and now their friendship has blossomed. Throwing down Whiskey, sprawled over sofas and admitting their feelings for each other in a drunken stupor – it’s a wonderful scene.

Only DS9: Is this the first time Trek has featured a semi regular that sells her body for a living? Lwaxana Troi? DS9 is the first Trek show to mention the toilet and take the piss wonderfully at the idea of pissing in zero gravity!

Fashion Statement: Its only once Sisko (or rather Avery Brooks) grows his own beard that you realise what a botch job they did of his fake one!

Foreboding: The first mention of Kassidy Yates who would go on to become a lynchpin in Sisko’s life.

Result: For a show that is station bound it is astonishing how often DS9 adopts the optimistic approach to exploring the unknown than the other shows in the franchise. Of DS9’s quieter episodes this is one of my favourites because both plots feed on the strengths of the characters and contain some really charming moments and we learn some lovely things about Jake, Sisko, Bashir and O’Brien. O’Brien loves Bashir, Sisko has got some loving coming his way courtesy of his son, Bashir got a far better posting than his rival at the Academy and Jake is pursuing a writing career. After the fireworks of The Die is Cast it is lovely to boil back down to the thing that makes this shows heart beat – its characters. Featuring a drunken version of Jerusalem, Bashir cracking it on with two beautiful ladies, O’Brien and Kira in a racist argument and Jake wondering how he is going to have a piss…DS9 continues to be the unique child of the Trek family and long may it continue: 9/10

Family Business written by Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Rene Auberjonois

What’s it about: Quark returns home to wring a confession out of his mother and Sisko meets the woman who would become very important in his life…

Single Father: I love seeing Sisko cook in his quarters because it marks him out as a domestic bloke who enjoys cooking for his family. He is willing to meet Kassidy Yates but Jake (and the audience) are left with no illusion that he doesn’t expect it go at all well. It seems that Jadzia has met Captain Yates and she like what she sees and that’s one of the reasons that Sisko is glad that she isn’t Curzon anymore. In a couple of years that wouldn’t have stopped her so he should count himself lucky that he met her when he did. The reactions of the rest of the senior staff (all of who seem to know that he is off to talk to Kassidy) are hilarious – Bashir looks at the ceiling, O’Brien pretends he is really interested in the lock he is fiddling with after he spills that he knows and Odo just looks really humiliated! Penny Johnson has long been an actress I have admired (and would continue to do so after her turn in DS9 – her role as the scheming Presidents wife in 24 was a real highlight of that series. ‘David! You don’t just walk away from me!’) and it needed to be an actress this strong to play against Avery Brooks in a long running romance for the lead. Kassidy is independent, strong willed and feisty but she is also warm, loving and willing to take on a man with such overwhelming responsibilities (with regards to his domestic and professional life). Their relationship would go through some real highs (Til Death Do Us Part, The Dogs of War) and some dramatic bumps (For The Cause) but ultimately it is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable relationships to watch evolve because the chemistry between Brooks and Johnson is so good. Turns out Sisko grew up in a place of simple pleasures, New Orleans is a city of good food and great music. As soon as Sisko discovers that Kassidy’s brother is playing baseball on Cestus III he is head over heels in love.

Community Leader: Ferengi’s joining Starfleet? It’s the end of civilisation as they know it! Quark will be getting his thinking cap on to see how he can sabotage Nog’s desire to better himself and get him back behind the bar. At first Quark tries hiding some acquisitions from the FSA and then thinks better of it and blames Rom for their omission. He doesn’t want Rom coming along to Ferenginar because he will only take Moogie’s side just like he always does. There are moments when Quark comes across as really unsympathetic especially when he accuses his mother of being selfish and not caring for her sons. He’s trying every trick in the book to guilt his mother into signing the confession and only stops hacking away at her defences when he thinks he will get a share of her bounty. Its nice to see Rom coming to his brothers defence, telling his mother that he works hard (he also says he is headstrong, overbearing, insulting and rude but Rom has gotten used that that). Quark’s problem is that he is too much like his mother to get along and whilst they leave this episode respecting each other for that their rivalry will continue right up until the penultimate episode of the series.

Secret Genius: Nog is studying for his Starfleet exams and Rom seems very proud but Quark considers him a disgrace to his family and Ferengi everywhere. It would appear that all of Rom’s intelligence is centred on his technical knowledge but when it comes to common sense and pretence that was all left for his brother. He nearly exposes Quark’s secret fortune to Brunt and then mentions how their mother seems to have acquired a great many new things right in front of the Liquidator! Apparently Odo has never seen anything as convoluted as one of Rom’s special security locks. Very sweetly Rom is like a referee between his mother and his brother and he tries to protect both of them from each other. Rom gets to tell Quark what he needs to hear, that their father didn’t have the lobes for business and he discovered that because he bothered to stay at home when Quark went swanning off to earn his fortune.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Hard work. Bribes. Sucking up to the boss. Just like any other job’ –that’s how you become a Ferengi liquidator.
‘The rate we go through runabouts it’s a good thing the Earth has so many rivers’ – is Kira developing a sense of humour and taking the piss out of this unfortunate cliché?
‘Mother get undressed this instant!’
‘He couldn’t hold onto latinum if you sewed it into his pants!’
‘I sincerely hope I never see any of you again!’ ‘The feeling is mutual’ – a smiley Ferengi parting.

The Good: It’s the first appearance of Brunt and the second appearance by Jeffrey Combs but thanks to his recurring status he will not be away long. Brunt swings between being a comedy buffoon and a mob like gangster and Combs looks as if he finds it a joy to get his lips around the flowery language that his character spouts. Its lovely to finally get to visit Ferenginar where the weather is as inclement as its citizens say it is and the people live like little hobbits in house full of tiny round doors and basic furnishings. Andrea Martin gives a full bloodied performance as Ishka and it is shame that the heavy make up prevented her from returning (mind you Cecily Adams gives an equally strong turn as the same character so no damage is done). The dynamics in the Quark family household must be familiar to anybody – brothers who insult and look out for each other, a husband and wife who should have swapped roles because he was much better at looking after the family and she is far better at earning profit and parent/sibling rivalry that continues long into adulthood. The actors attack the dialogue with some vigour and Rene Auberjonois frames the scenes beautifully (I love how Quark and Ishka argue either side of the camera at the dinner table whilst Rom looks on helpless and upset in the middle). It turns out that Ishka is something of a financial genius (much to Quark’s disgust!) and has created her own little empire of profit! It’s a long way off but ultimately this first act would go along way to changing Ferenginar forever. It appears that Ishka has learnt her lesson but we learn that she has only revealed a third of her profits! Its going to take more than Quark and Brunt’s sexism to crush girl power on Ferenginar.

The Bad: If you don’t like Ferengi episodes the chances are you will hate this.

Moment to Watch Out For: If you are invested Quark and Rom’s relationship like I am then the scene where they argue and then throttle the life out of each other is a highlight of the first three years.

Only DS9: For such a throwaway episode three great DS9 characters are introduced here (and really well too – you pretty much know everything you need to know about them from their first appearance); Brunt, Ishka and Kassidy Yates.

Fashion Statement: For the scene where Moogie strips nude and cuddles Rom Andrea Martin has to be covered from head to toe in latex! Poor woman, no wonder she never came back!

Foreboding: Rom’s road to independence starts here…

Result: These Ferengi episodes are a literal interpretation of the Simpsons with grotesque yet heart-warming characterisations (Quark is like Marge who thinks he knows how to pull the family into shape, Rom is Homer the well meaning dolt and Ishka is Lisa standing up for women’s rights!), simple yet enjoyable storytelling and a real lesson to be learnt at the end. Family Business brings us into Quarks home on Ferenginar and is more like the cartoon than ever before but all the more enjoyable because of it. Like The Simpsons there are catchphrases and semi regular characters that show up (the string of Ferengi contains Brunt, Leck, Ishka, Gailia, Nog, Leeta…) and when you go into this witty sub genre of DS9 you know exactly what you are going to get. Some intelligent, witty dialogue, actors who are having fun and extending that enjoyment to their audience and a world that is slowly given more detail until it is one of the standout Trek worlds simply for being so quirky and less straight laced than the others. I love the Ferengi shows but I know some people really can’t get along with them – I would much rather enjoy what I am watching than fight against it so I watch me as I get dragged into the dynamics of this crazy idiosyncratic family and have a whale of a time! This is a mad sitcom episode but thoroughly engaging and the Sisko/Kassidy subplot is a real charmer: 8/10

Shakaar written by Gordon Dawson and directed by Jonathan West

What’s it about: Kira’s going home but this time she’s working for the Kai…

Single Father: Isn’t it great that Sisko would rather play a game of darts than taken another dreary message from the Provisional Government?

Tasty Terrorist: Kira is still mourning for Bariel and lights a candle and prays for him in the evening, something that Winn fails to understand given it has been three months since his death. But then the Kai had the best of him and reaped the rewards of his sacrifice so what should she care? I love how modest Kira is about her position on DS9 – I think she has something of an inferiority complex when it comes to her job and there have been several times when she has brushed off the fact that she does make important decisions for Bajor. Kira does understand that exporting goods from Bajor is a smart idea, the rest of the galaxy will starting looking at them as equals rather than poor refugees. Having been lied to by Kai Winn one too many times, Kira takes up arms against her own people to fight for her friends rights. There is clearly some sexual chemistry between Kira and Shakaar and I’m glad they followed up on that.

Unknown Sample: We never quite hear why Odo has reassigned two of his officers to separate parts of the station but judging by his tone I bet he caught them at something frisky! You can always count on Odo to cut to the chase and his observation that sometimes the result of giving people the choice is that they make the wrong one is as concise as ever.

Spiritual Leader: Its so wonderful to have Winn back at her scheming best. She appeared in the lacklustre Life Support but Louise Fletcher was visibly ill in that episode and wasn’t able to give her usual standard of performance but now she has got her juice back she is really on form. How is it that Winn has the ability to sound so patronising even when she is grinning at you? ‘Patience, child’ she says to Kira like talking to a four year old. When Kira has to report back to the Kai she is all sweetness and innocence until Kira owns up to the fact that Shakaar wont give up the equipment and then watch as she turns bitter and sour – I really wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of this woman. Her reaction to not getting her own way is to send in the guards which shows you how badly she can misjudge a situation. Did she really think that oppression was the best way to go after what these people have already been through? Once the resistance spreads like wild fire she declares martial law and suspends all local governments. Sisko tells her as politely as he can that she can stuff it if she thinks that he will provide a security force to bring Shakaar in and she starts threatening to withdraw their application to the Federation! ‘If I may say so your entire response to this crisis has been an overreaction!’ Sisko tells her. Its worth watching this episode just to see the smug smile being wiped of Winn’s face when she realises that Kira and Shakaar aren’t being brought in as prisoners. ‘If I were you…I’d start packing!’

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You cut your hair’ ‘You let yours grow’ ‘I liked you the old way’ ‘I was thinking the same thing about you.’
‘The next time I start getting nostalgia for the old days…shoot me!

The Good: Kai Winn is power mad that she has not only taken over as the head of the religious movement but now wants to run the government too! Its bad news for Bajor but great news for me audience because I cannot get enough of the brilliantly conniving Louise Fletcher. Given that she is considered the woman who made peace with Cardassia (when it was in fact Bariel) there is massive support for her dictatorship…whoops I mean appointment. Duncan Regher makes an instant impression as Shakaar and it is a shame that over time he would suffer the curse of Bariel, a couple of great appearances before being neglected by the writers (although I am sure that the availability of the actor had something to do with it too) and leaving the show in a disappointing damp squib. But lets not talk of the future because in this episode Shakaar is warm and welcoming and shares fantastic chemistry with Kira and still shows the hardness and stubbornness of a freedom fighter when it comes to fighting for his rights. I always appreciate the effort the directors go to to make Bajor feel like a convincing world and the locations here are expertly chosen and the design of Shakaar’s hut suggests a hard, simple lifestyle. I love Furel and Lupaza and William Lucking and Diana Salinger are another example of superb casting on this show, lighting up any scene they appear in and managing to juggle moments of pathos and charisma. With Shakaar, Furel and Lupaza you have three rounded individuals that really give Kira’s past some real substance. When the fight begins this is ex resistance fighter against ex resistance fighter which proves to be an explosive combination. The scale of these scenes on location as they fill the valley with extras feels more akin to a feature film and the director wrings every drop of tension out of these moments in this dirty, vast location.

The Bad: I think this might be the first time we have heard about Bajor’s application for admission to the Federation in this entire season – what the hell happened to that considering it was supposed to fuel the series? ‘I wasn’t aware that our relationship needs solidifying…’

Moment to Watch Out For: There is a wonderful moment where Winn, drunk in her delusions of grandeur, holds her hands out in a supplicating way to the Prophets and promises to live up to all the powerful they want her to perform. Its deliciously camp and menacing and she is completely lost in her own vanity.

Teaser-tastic: ‘The new head of the Provisional Government is…Kai Winn!’ For once the overdone musical stings is fully justified!

Fashion Statement: Now Sisko has grown his own beard his fake one in Explorers is highlighted even more.

Myth Building: Its kind of sneaked up on us by surprise but when Winn says it is exciting times to be a Bajoran she is right. Over the first three seasons we have seen the Bajorans struggle with the scars of the Occupation and the xenophobia that has been instilled in them, face civil war and lose their spiritual leader and come through it all with a spanking new peace treaty with Cardassia, control of one of the most important way stations in the Quadrant and a newfound confidence and understanding of themselves. Its been a bumpy but rewarding ride but I can see why they left the Bajoran situation behind after this episode (with the odd piece turning up and reminding us how strong these Bajoran episodes can be – Accession, The Rapture) because they had pretty much taken the planet as far as it can go into hell and then back into a strong position. Now it is time to look at the wider universe and the emphasis really dawns on Cardassia from this point on.

Orchestra: The music for this episode is really off-putting, its full of these odd moments of trumpets sounding that is completely out of place. It was around season four that I felt the music for DS9 really received a boost but I would take the usual bland strings over this odd marching band style. Why, for example, is there a sudden snatch of the DS9 theme during the tense moment where Kira is going to have to fire on her own people?

Result: Even though I don’t consider Shakaar to be one of the finest episodes of DS9 it is still very enjoyable and proves my point that each episode of this series offers something to the overall painting of its landscape and characters. To visit Kira’s home and meet her fellow resistance fighters fills in so much about her background and at this point she might already be the most thoroughly explored character in the Trek universe. Placing Kira in these kinds of circumstances always creates some good drama, it worked in The Collaborator and it works here but there was never any real chance that she would choose the Kai over her old friends. Its nice to see that if somebody lights a match in a tense situation the Bajorans are still capable of fighting their corner and the chance to see Kira back in the terrorist role we have heard so much about is worth the admission alone. For once, though, a season three subplot is absolute garbage and all this talk of O’Brien being in ‘the zone’ is nothing but pure padding and I was irritated to by dragged away from the fascinating situation developing on Bajor to watch O’Brien play at darts: 8/10

Facets written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Cliff Bole

What’s it about: Jadzia meets with her previous hosts and discovers a lot about herself…

Single Father: Phew! Lets thank our lucky stars that Avery Brooks plays the hero rather than the villain (mind you as we head into the latter half of the series that is debatable) because he turns in a truly chilling performance as Joran in this episode. His light, fluting voice and sudden outbursts of violence were enough to give me the willies the first time I saw this. Sisko admits that Curzon was his confidante, mentor and teacher but he was also manipulative, selfish and arrogant and most of the time he let him get away with it because he was so charming but sometimes he would push him too far and he would stand up to him.

Tasty Terrorist: Every time I think I have seen everything that Nana Visitor has to give she ups her game again and surprises me. Her turn as Leela is wonderfully well observed and I could have happily have spent more time with this character. We learn that Dax walks with her hands behind her back because of Leela who had to control her emphatic gesturing. It seems that whatever role she is embodying – Kira, the Indendant, Leela, Colonel Komonov…Nan Visitor is at the top of her game.

Unknown Sample: The subtle work done with the make up, hair and uniform make all the difference once Odo has inhabited by Curzon. Amazingly considering everything we have heard about this man he doesn’t disappoint and is every bit as charismatic and gleeful as we had been led to believe. It’s a real mixture of Odo and Curzon’s personality which Rene Auberjonois runs with now he is given the chance to add a great deal of mad humour to the character. Curzon heads straight to see Sisko and the chemistry between the two of them really sells a relationship we have never seen before. ‘Did I ever mention you’re a magnificent scoundrel?’ he tells Quark before giving him a big kiss on the head! Joyfully Curzon admits that he got Tobin drunk during his J’antara. At first Curzon thought his feelings for Jadzia were just an old mans infatuation because he had always had an eye for the ladies but as they spent more time together he realised it was something deeper. And that was why he kicked her out of the programme.

Everyday Engineer: From Tobin Dax has inherited his nerves and anxiety which is exemplified in Colm Meaney’s rather wonderful impish take on the character.

GE Doctor: Alexander Siddig’s turn as the American jock Torias is probably the least convincing (he just doesn’t have the frame or the accent for it) but we learn that Dax acquired her sense of danger and thrill seeking from this risk taking host.

Nine Lives: Dax is visibly anxious about her J’antara, she has been avoiding it for some time but now the Symbiosis commission have forced the issue. Jadzia has always had the nagging feeling that she didn’t have Curzon’s complete confidence so when he tells her he let her into the initiate programme because he felt sorry for her it gives weight to those fears. Rather wonderfully Dax and Odo shared some unique experiences with each other – she has the memories of shape shifting and he knows what it is like to experiencing eating, drinking and gambling.

Community Leader: Quark finally gets his comeuppance as he is inhabited by one of Dax’s most maternal hosts and spends the time brushing her hair and talking about cradling babies to you breasts!

Secret Genius: Despite the fact he is only in a few scenes this is a great episode for Rom who finally steps out of his brothers shadow and confronts him with regards to his son. In his excitement he has bought Nog a cadets uniform which is really very sweet considering he will be issued one if he is accepted anyway.

Starfleet Ferengi: Nog has been studying really hard and his entrance exams to Starfleet are looming ever closer. Quark is trying to deflect him by suggesting that he and Jake write a holosuite programme (especially one of the more intimate variety) and he will put up the latinum for their first attempt. Nice one Quark, getting adolescents to plunge into the depths of their dirty little minds and think up some filthy material.

What’s Morn up to: He’s at the bar (of course) enjoying a drink and nosing at the Starfleet uniform Rom is hiding away for Nog.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘If you ever do anything to hurt my son again I’ll burn the bar to the ground!’ ‘You wouldn’t dare..’ ‘Oh yes I would! My sons happiness is more important to me than anything, even latinum. Remember that brother!
‘I was just oozing about the room…’
‘I was grateful when you reapplied. It let me off the hook.’

The Good: Lets forget about the science for the moment, the thought of experiencing Dax’s previous hosts through our regular cast is a really entertaining one and for me that is all that counts. It’s a chance to learn some more about Dax whilst also allowing the regulars to show what great character actors they are by embodying completely different roles. Mind you I am really glad that Quark pipes up and refuses to be involved – had everybody agreed I would have found this a mite unrealistic but you can always count on everybody’s favourite Ferengi to be selfish and put number one first. Its only when Dax flirts with him (and strokes his sensitive parts) that he agrees.

The Bad: Its great to able to see Leeta again (she’s a real spunky lass) but we haven’t really been around her long enough to justify a story that sees her behaving out of character. That clearly isn’t Avery Brooks that Dax is kicking the shite out of when Sisko is Joran. If Dax can access the memories of all of her previous hosts then surely she has to know that he was in love with her? How does a past life bury a memory like that?

Moment to Watch Out For: Auberjonois is outstanding in the scene where Dax confronts Curzon at the conclusion, he slips from drunken glee to patronising sexism to heartbreaking confession in about two minutes and works wonders with his eyes.

Orchestra: The music during the Joran sequence really stands out because it really scares the hell out of me.

Result: Facets goes to show what a couple of years working for the franchise can do to the quality of your scripts because whilst this isn’t a top drawer episode there is a great deal of fun to be had here and we learn a great deal about its characters – a far cry from the flimsy plot driven nonsense of Transfigurations. An appropriately schizophrenic episode which manages some chuckles but excels when it is dealing with deeper feelings and Curzon’s confession to Jadzia and Rom turning on Quark are both excellent scenes. Its an episode that is good on a moment by moment basis that never aspires to true greatness but with all this lovely character work gelling we head into the fourth season with a perfectly formed cast: 7/10

The Adversary written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: There’s a changeling on the loose on the Defiant and it could mean war…

Single Father: Some people think it was a mistake not making Sisko a Captain from the first episode but I feel that it gives his character a massive boost at just the right time. Its from this point on that both Sisko and Avery Brooks (both of whom have been solid to this point) really come alive and show what they are made of. Sisko finds Kassidy interesting, very independent and opinionated but with a nice sense of humour. He’s going to take her to a baseball game which is all Dax needs to know to prove he is falling in love. Sisko is such a hard bitch that he’s bleeding all over the floor and it doesn’t even register. He obviously feels he is lacking numbers in the ‘blow up the ship ‘ stakes compared to Picard and Janeway and sets the auto destruct for the first time.

Unknown Sample: As soon as the changeling is revealed suddenly the focus is on Odo its nice to see that tying this plot into his search for his people is now reaping such generous dramatic rewards. Odo reminds the audience that no changeling has ever harmed another to pre-empt his final solution at the episodes closure. He admits with some regret that he really doesn’t know his people well enough to anticipate the Changelings next move. Every time you think we have taken Odo’s character as far as he can go the writers introduce a new element to give him more dramatic opportunities. Odo has killed one of his own people now and that will have serious consequences in the future.

Everyday Engineer: Its great that O’Brien snaps at Eddington a little too forcefully when he suggests that if nobody else tests positive then he and Dax will be the prime targets – the Chief still hasn’t forgotten that Eddington sabotaged the ship in The Die is Cast and lets him know.

GE Doctor: No wonder Sloane has so many questions about Bashir’s allegiance with the Dominion in Inquisition – he is impersonated twice by two different changelings!

Nine Lives: Introducing Dax the gossip! From now on if you want to hear what is going on around the station (especially all the juicy stuff) then you need to take Dax out for a drink. She’s sniffing around Sisko for more information about Kassidy Yates which is lovely because the mention of her name gives us some hope that she will be back.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The changeling could be hiding anywhere…he could look like anything…’ – brrr!
‘I’ve got better things to do than play Choose the Changeling!
‘The Changeling, before he died he whispered something to me’ ‘Go on…’ ‘He said “You’re too late. We’re everywhere…”’ – I love the way the crew all look at each other after that line. What’s great about this is that it isn’t false promises. Changeling infiltration is vital to the beginning, middle and end of the next season of the show and shows the Dominion stirring up the major powers in the Alpha Quadrant into war.

The Good: Remember what I was saying about the now perfectly formed cast well just watch the first scene in which they are all present to see the kind of warm dynamics that they now share. Going into this episode having already watched it is a real eye opener because you want to shout at Sisko that Krajensky is a Changeling in the very first scene – it is a subtle reminder that this most insidious of species can slip into your life without you even knowing about it. Its always a delight to see Lawrence Pressman back and he gives a sterling performance as ever – especially as the silky voiced Changeling at the climax. How unusual to introduce a new set at the end of the season. The engineering section of the Defiant is just as awesome as the rest of the ship, compact and functional and the final shot before the title music of O’Brien being watched is creepy as hell. I love when subtle camerawork is used to create tension and the way it slowly crawls along the Jeffrey’s tube to settle on O’Brien is a nice case in point. The way the changeling intimates Bashir so convincingly is another example that they can mimic humanoids with far more detail than Odo. Who didn’t suspect Eddington of some nefarious behaviour after this episode? He’s invisibly slipped into the series and turns up every now and again butt licking those in authority – I can’t wait until we hit the Sisko/Eddington trio (For The Cause, For The Uniform and Blaze of Glory) because then fireworks truly fly! When Sisko declares that they are at war with the Zenkethi the changeling must have been cracking up inside to see them scampering around the Bridge around him. I love these kinds of episodes in any show – it’s a riff on John Carpenter’s The Thing where paranoia is rife and everybody is pointing the finger at everybody else. The X-Files did it superbly with its first season episode Ice, Doctor Who aced it with series four’s Midnight and this is Star Treks attempt and the tension they wring from the situation is unbelievable. Its exactly the sort of anxiety that the Dominion needs to bring to the series – who among us is the duplicate? Everybody is looking at each other suspiciously, hands are resting on weapons, two man teams are separated…I love this kind of atmosphere. The special effects throughout are outstanding and I love seeing the Changeling flying off through access panels but they save the best for last and the effects shot of Odo picking up his fellow Changeling and slamming him into the warp core is extraordinary. Even with his dying breath the Changeling issues a threat (and I love the pathetic little smile he gives as if to say he’s won regardless of the circumstances here). Watching him crumble into dust is another quality effect and Odo’s reaction gives it some very raw emotion.

The Bad: Isn’t it a bit suss that they took the most powerful warship the Federation has to the Zenkethi border on the word of an Ambassador? Did nobody check this out with Starfleet command? Who the hell are the Zenkethi anyway? Changeling or not Kira should have shot that irritating Bolian. He’s really mouthy for an ensign. I think somebody needs to work on the crews reaction times because the Changeling is standing right in front of them for about ten seconds before anybody decides to shoot!

Moment to Watch Out For: I love the blood test sequence because it is ripped squarely from The Thing but is given a terrific Star Trek twist of morphing into changeling goo.

Orchestra: The Adversary is the first of three back to back DS9 episodes with outstanding musical scores. The Visitor might just be my favourite score throughout the shows entire run (ooh I don’t know, Call to Arms and The Changing Face of Evil threaten to topple it) but the heart stopping music when the crew are searching the ship for the changeling has stayed in my head ever since I first saw this episode. I especially love the piece when Sisko is descending the ladder and attacked.

Result: A great episode that uses the Dominion as a genuinely insidious threat. The Adversary shows what an atmosphere of paranoia and tension one Changeling can create and proves that sticking with this adversary was a very smart move. Alexander Singer’s handling of this episode is exemplary and he wrings every moment of anxiety out of the scenario with his careful camerawork and rising pressure. Like season fours finale it is quite low key compared to what comes later but it works as a dramatic coda that ties up the introduction of the Dominion this season neatly and suggests some real fireworks are coming next year. I love the last line: 9/10


icewarrior67 said...

Hi, I just wanted to say how much I've been enjoying reading your blog - but particularly your DS9 reviews. I've enjoyed reading it som much I've decided to rewatch the series, after about 10 years. I agree with you so much specifically about the episode 'Improbable Cause' being a good time to be a DS9 fan. I was at Uni at the time and I would buy the new DS9 VHS tape on the first Monday of the month (I think). We had a half day and would all pile back to mine to watch it. 'Improbable Cause' went down very well. You blog is so good I'm gona read the Voyager reviews too. I only actually got round ti watchin the last few seasons of VOY, a few years ago. I had given up after some really terrible episodes, but season 5-7 was actually very good, although reading your Blog I think DS9 has the easiest, less variable in quality episodes compared to TNG & VOY. I'd never realised that before but with the beginning of Season Two and Necessary Evil being some of the best of the DS9 and it just keeping that standard afterwards, DS9 is actually amazing consistant, compared to other Trek. And I'm looking forward to revaluating DS9 Season One, which I'd always dismissed as weak, but your blog and time passed has made reconsider.

I can't wait to meet Kira, Bashir, Odo Garack Quark etc all again.

Roll on Season Four and thanks!

Doc Oho said...

Wow, thank you so much for your kind words! I have really enjoyed making my way through the various Trek series and I am almost at the end of both series. I've also reviewed the first 3 series of TNG which I will also finish and post at some point. You've really made my day with such lovely comments, thank you and I'll post DS9 4 before the end of the week...just for you! :-)

icewarrior67 said...

Oh Good, well thank you very much. I'm certainly looking forward to season four! It's not just DS9, I've hunted down EDA's and PDA's from reading bits of your reviews. So yeah - keep up the good work.