Thursday, 12 April 2012

Deep Space Nine - Season Four

The Way of the Warrior written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by James L. Conway

What’s it about: The Klingons are determined to bring the Dominion down…

Single Father: Wow is this really Sisko? Talk about have a kick up the ass! With his head shaved, drunk on love with Kassidy and barking orders in Ops this really is the point where the Captain starts to show up his competitors. His continuing relationship with Kassidy really gives him the edge, he feels like a normal bloke having a great time courting a beautiful lady. Johnson and Brooks have a very special chemistry that makes their scenes come alive. Sisko is now the sort of man who will let off a warning shot at an ally in order to stick two fingers up at their harassment of other vessels (especially when it is commanded by the woman he loves!). His and Kassidy’s timing is terrible and they keep missing each other and I like how this shows his work getting in the way of his live life but he still has time for a snog at the airlock. Sisko has the balls to open fire on a Klingon ship but is still smart enough to force the Cardassians they are saving to undergo blood screenings just in case the Klingons are right (I bet he seriously hopes they aren’t). Sisko is an tremendously commanding force when snarling threats at Gowron – I certainly wouldn’t want to face him in battle! Bloody, sweating and tired, Sisko tells Gowron to piss off in his greatest moment of triumph yet. We learn that after Jennifer’s death that Sisko also considered leaving Starfleet thinking he could take off the uniform, wrap the pain inside it and toss them both away. Running away might help for a while but the pain will always catch up with you and the only way to fight it is to stand your ground. Wearing the uniform does remind him of what he has lost but it also reminds him of what he has gained and who he is. Sisko rocks.

Tasty Terrorist: There’s a great little moment when Dax is trying to get Kira to unwind and she brings up the Occupation again as an excuse and even Kira realises it is about time she put that behind her and let herself relax. I wonder if Kira thinks the Cardassians are getting their just deserts?

Unknown Sample: Odo’s trick refilling the coffee cup is absolutely disgusting but I love the follow up to his inviting Garak to lunch in The Die is Cast. Odo is smart enough to know that Worf has found out something devastating about the Klingons and is empathetic enough to sympathise with his position of choosing between his people and his friends but that doesn’t mean he will take Worf’s attitude and he gives him a (deserved) earful on the Promenade.

Mr Wolf: I’ve heard it said that the introduction of Worf is handled with the sketchiest of reason but considering Deep Space Nine is surrounded by a Klingon armada, ships are being hassled just outside of Bajoran space and Sisko is actively threatened by Martok I would say that is more than enough of an excuse to ask for the advice of the only Klingon in Starfleet. You could take this is a sign that the show is in hot water and bringing over one of the most popular characters from TNG is nothing but an excuse to up the ratings (it worked) but a few seconds thought reveals that Worf actually fits in far more on DS9 which is the haven of various cultures waifs, strays and exiles. Over the next four seasons he is given some of his best ever material and his relationship with Dax proves to be one of the best relationships in Trek. In short, his introduction works and for the most part he gets some fine development. Worf has spent most of his life amongst humans and it has never been easy for him but since the destruction of the Enterprise it has become even more difficult. Wonderfully he throws a dart like a javelin and almost splits the board in two! Naturally Worf first goes for the violent approach to extract the information of the Klingon operation but when that fails he goes for a more manipulative approach, getting a friend of his fathers drunk and calling in a favour. Being manoeuvred into the position of discovering his peoples plan to invade Cardassia is a very awkward one because he now has to make his final decision in the tug of war between the Federation and the Klingons. Your career or your heritage? Making his decision even harder is Gowron turning up at the station and offering him a place at his side during the invasion of Cardassia. The consequences of his refusal is great and his family will have to suffer to keep his honour intact. Cut off from his people has fits in on the station with Odo, Garak, Quark and all the others. He considers his time on the Enterprise as good years but feels it is time to move on. 

Nine Lives: From their first meeting it is clear that Dax has her eye on Worf and when she heads to the holosuite and promises to go easy on him in the training programme it is obvious that sparks are going to fly between these two.

Community Leader: Quark’s casual racism regarding the Klingons extends to Worf who he never makes feel at home as long as he is on the station. At least he is consistent. Quark reckons he should have listened to his cousin Gaila (hop forward to Business as Usual to see why this might be a very bad idea) and gone into the weapons industry but the lure of the public was too much because he is a people person.

Plain and Simple: Poor Garak is the first target of Klingon aggression (and I loved the way the Klingon literally punched the audience in the face). Sisko’s brilliantly naughty way of using Garak to let the Cardassians know that the Klingons are on the way is great fun. Garak is right – who would have thought that he and Dukat would be fighting side by side. Things must be desperate.

Slimy Snake: Dukat saw which way the wind was blowing on Cardassia and changed sides and now he is having to deal with the safe keeping of the Detapa Council.

What’s Morn up to: Even poor Morn is being subjected to Klingon bullying tactics! He very quickly leaves the bar (with his drink of course!) when Martok’s son starts throwing his weight around.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Actually I’m not sure Constable Odo has a mother…’ – I’d love to know what the Klingon insult was!
‘Well let me guess! You’re either lost or desperately searching for a good tailor!’
‘They broke seven of your transverse ribs and fractured your clavicle!’ ‘Ah but I got off several cutting remarks which no doubt did serious damage to their egos!’ ‘This is serious Garak’ ‘I am being serious! Thanks to your ministrations I’m almost completely healed but the damage I did them will last a lifetime!’ – Garak rocks!
‘Nice hat.’
‘The peace treaty between the Federation and the Klingon Empire has ended…’
‘I find this hand to hand combat really quite distasteful!’ ‘I suppose you prefer the simplicity of an interrogation chamber!’ ‘You have to admit its much more civilised!’ – Garak and Dukat find time to bicker even as they cut through a swathe of Klingon warriors.
‘Maybe now Gowron will be in the mood to talk…’
‘This is exactly what the Founders want! Klingon against Cardassian! Federation against Klingon! The more we fight each other the weaker we’ll get and the less chance we have against the Dominion!’

The Good: Opening on an impressive tracking shot along a corridor and a pan across the promenade, Conway knows how to grab your attention from the off. Nice to see that they aren’t just sitting on their hands and waiting for the Changelings to make their move. Surprise drills are being performed regularly but it is still taking the crew over 3 hours to hunt down Odo. Whilst it is great fun to see far more activity around the station during the theme tune now it is the three guys floating through space working on the upper pylon that makes me squeal each time I watch it. How gross (and might I say unhygienic) is the bloodletting over the conference table? With Klingons parading up and down the Promenade and Birds of Prey surrounding the station there is definitely a feeling of unease. I know I keep rabbiting on about the camerawork but watch the sweep as Sisko storms from his office once Kassidy is in danger, the movement is so fluidic and vibrant it really shows up the usual efforts. Martok is an eye opening new character and it doesn’t surprise me that he was brought back again and again even when it appeared that his story was over. J.G. Hertlzer always gives a full-bloodied emotive performance and my eyes always draw to him when he is in a scene. Even if there have been shifts in political power on Cardassia it is still the filmiest of excuses to invade but who cares because this series is now taking place on a genuinely epic scale where the chess pieces being moved are entire planets. Suddenly the Alpha Quadrant is where it is all happening. Fear of the Dominion has led to this and thinking back to the Changeling’s prophetic words in The Die is Cast this is has their grubby fingerprints all over it. Worf explodes the crap out of a Klingon Bird of Prey and the Defiant swoops through the flames in a moment of punch-the-air cool.

The Bad: I cannot believe the studio were thinking of cutting the awesome Quark/Garak scene but didn’t batter an eyelid at the ridiculous Kira and Dax in bikinis material. This is one of the very few times I would say DS9 completely sold out to titillate for no other reason but to get horny boys watching. For a second they must have thought they were making a TNG episode because they use the Enterprise holodeck doors noise rather than the usual holosuite one! There is an attempt to mimic a scene in The Best of Both Worlds Part II when the Enterprise discovers the wreckage of a number of ships at Wolf 359 which does have some of the former scenes emotion but also a feeling of been there, done that.

Moment to Watch Out For: The last twenty minutes of Way of the Warrior are blissfully exciting and features one of the most impressive space battles I have ever seen a TV series deliver. Weapons systems grind their way out of the stations exterior, photon torpedoes send up Klingon ships like fireworks, phasers tear through space and rip through their hulls and in a moment of stupendous nausea we are literally following from the POV of a torpedo as it flies through space and destroys a cruiser.  Add to that the violent hand to hand action, the way we sweep around various parts of the station to see that violence is breaking out all over and the incredible stunts (the guy who takes a dive from the Promenade with the laser bolt in his chest deserves a massive round of applause) it is actual pandemonium and I was literally on the edge of my seat. I love that there is a kiss to the pilot episode when Kira threatened the Cardassians with 5000 torpedoes and this time it isn’t a bluff. Pleasingly we get to see this battle from both sides with sudden cuts to the interior of the Nevark and Gowron and Martok issuing orders. The result: plenty of ships destroyed, a minefield of corpses, Kira stabbed and O’Brien bloody. Even now ten years on this is a stunningly kinetic and expensive action sequence.

Teaser-tastic: The Captain is having a long term relationship and a fleet of ships surrounds the station – this is where DS9 starts leaving the other Trek shows behind.

Only DS9: There is a phenomenal scene between Garak and Quark that would have only taken place on DS9 considering they take the Federation and expose its flaws. I love how the alien characters on this show can take dominance of proceedings and how the human race can be examined for their many failings. ‘What do you think?’ ‘Its vile!’ ‘I know. Its so bubbly and cloy and happy…’ ‘…just like the Federation’ ‘But you know what’s really frightening. If you drink enough of it you begin to like it’ ‘Its insidious’ ‘Just like the Federation.’

Fashion Statement: Time to discuss aesthetics. Bashir, O’Brien and Odo are pretty much the same as they were in the previous year. Sisko looks amazing with his head shaved and a proper beard – its like there is a new guy playing the character and Avery Brooks has never come alive like this before. I know some people hate his dress sense but I adore the shirt and waistcoat he is wearing when Kassidy comes to dinner. I don’t know if I have ever fancies a Trek character more. The least impressive innovation is Kira’s new bouffant and spray on costume which is obviously an attempt to make her look more feminine but really wasn’t necessary. Penny Johnson looks gorgeous in the turquoise dress. Was it my imagination or is Quark way more orange than usual in this story with heavier eye make up?

Orchestra: I love the new version of theme tune although I think it is tweaked again slightly from the next episode onwards. It’s punchy and memorable and sees a show about to kick some ass.

Foreboding: It’s only a small moment but Kassidy grows suddenly cold when asking about the cargo bays being retrofitted which makes a lot of sense after the events of For The Cause.

Result: This is easily the most impressive reformatting of any of the Star Trek shows this far into their run and suddenly DS9 is the place to be. With dramatic direction, expensive effects work and the grand scale of the story Deep Space Nine has never felt more cinematic. Everything about the show feels edgier and pacier from the look of the cast, the title sequence and theme tune, the political situation and the stunning action sequences. But this isn’t an excuse to neglect the characters and everybody has a moment to shine, no one more than Michael Dorn as Worf who hops shows as though he has always been here. Having spent the first three years building up the cast (including the impressive guest characters like Garak and Dukat) into a formidable ensemble and with the Alpha Quadrant now suitably fleshed out this is definitely a case of the show being in the right place at the right time and its time to have some real fun with the show. However my favourite thing about The Way of the Warrior is Avery Brooks’ outstanding performance as Sisko. With his head shaved and new kick ass attitude he comes alive like never before: 9/10

The Visitor written by Michael Taylor and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: An accident on the Defiant takes Sisko from Jake and we follow his life that follows…

Single Father: Sisko’s love for his son has always been the strongest element of the character and the domestic scenes have always brought the best out in Avery Brooks’ performance. With the great season four renaissance for the character you might think that this element would be left behind but not a bit of it – they only knock out what is easily the strongest examination of the relationship between father and son. When Sisko dies the Bajorans took that as a sign that the Federation wont be able to protect them from the Klingons. When he gets the chance to meet Jake’s gorgeous wife he is more charming than ever, grabbing her hand and asking about grandchildren. And he expresses such pride to see that Jake has gotten on with his life and published his novels. I don’t think I have ever loved Sisko more than when grins and tells Jake just because he isn’t around not to think that he doesn’t want grandchildren.

Starfleet Ferengi: I like how this story follows the timeline of other characters into the future to offering a realistic view of Nog once he has joined Starfleet and made a success of his career. He’s confident and mature and still a great friend to Jake. Its exactly how I hope Nog really ends up.

Young (and Old) Sisko: Tony Todd is such a modest actor and whenever I hear him talking about some of the stunning role he has done he always seems to suggest there is somebody who could have played them better. Its astonishing because his turn as the older Jake is so nuanced and beautifully judged I cannot imagine anybody bringing this much to the role – it is one of my favourite guest turns in the entire Trek franchise. That’s not to undersell the work of Cirroc Lofton, often overlooked because he is squeezed into amusing subplots and now given some potent material to bring to life. His heartfelt ‘don’t leave me!’ when his dad vanishes from the Infirmary chokes me up. The older Jake makes the assertion that you never know when it might be the last time that you sit before a fire and enjoy a cup of tea and only agrees to tell Melanie his story because he has already committed suicide. This is the only time to tell his tale and under any other circumstances he would have turned her away. Usually Jake knows better than to disobey his father but this time he didn’t and thank goodness for that otherwise his father might have been lost forever. You can only imagine what Jake must be going through inside to have lost his mother and now his father too and his sudden reappearance in his bedroom for second really winds him. The Visitor takes such a realistic approach to losing a loved one – once Jake is forced to leave the station and moves to Earth he starts thinking less about the past and more about the future just as everybody does when dealing with a bereavement. When he realises that there might be an opportunity to bring his father back Jake turns his back on his career and again there is a lovely mention of how Karenna was supportive at first but his obsession and drive pushed her away. This all feel very real.

Melanie: Having to match up to Tony Todd’s sterling performance as the older Jake must have been daunting but Rachel Robinson is more than up to the task and manages to mirror the audiences reactions to the story unfolding without it once feeling manipulative. The Visitor is full of wonderful observations on life and I particularly loved Melanie’s observation that she had finally found a writer she admires and wanted to read everything they have ever written. I’m exactly the same when I discover a writer that really grips me and I always feel sad when I have read their entire opus because I want to be able to go back and start all over again. I don’t know if it is Jake’s grateful smile or Melanie’s quiet ‘thank you’ but I always well up when she gives him the kiss before leaving.

What’s Morn up to: Morn is at the funeral for Sisko and consoles Jake at the bar a few months later. When Quark leaves the station who else could take over other than Morn? Talking his customers eras off and drinking himself out of business!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You are my favourite author of all time’ ‘You should read more.’
‘When my dad and I came here this place was just an abandoned shell. He turned it into something. Everywhere I look I see a part of him. If I leave…I wont have anything left of him’ – this is so beautifully performed by Cirroc Lofton it makes me well up just writing the words.
‘If you publish posthumously nobody can ask you for rewrites.’
‘I want you to promise me something. While you’re studying my stories poke your head up every once and a while. Take a look around, see what’s going on. Its life Melanie’ ‘And you can miss it if you don’t open your eyes.’
‘I’ve been dragging you through time like an anchor.’
‘Don’t you see? We’re going to get a second chance…’

The Good: Possibly my favourite opening of any Trek episode with the storm lashing outside and the fire crackling inside and Jake takes the very poison that the episode hinges but you don’t realise that until the end. There is something so wonderful and melancholic about two people sharing story in front of a roaring fire that this episode revels in. The Memorial scene on the Promenade is beautifully staged and filled with extras and the pan across the forlorn regulars and settling on a speechless Jake has a hundreds times the effect as a similar scene about Janeway in Coda which pushed too hard. I love the intimacy between the characters, it really feels as though they are a family without driving the point home with words. Dax strokes Jake’s hair and tries to get him to sleep and Kira embraces him close to try and convince him to leave the station. In fact the shot of Kira and Jake silhouetted in starlit is so evocatively done it is practically artful. The effects shot of Jake leaving the station from the window of a runabout is exquisitely shot so it feels he is losing a part of himself by being torn away from his home. Imagine being able to keep a manuscript of your favourite writer with handwritten notes on showing the changes that they made – that would be like the Holy Grail for me! You realise at the same time as Melanie that Jake is going to cut the chord between himself and his father by committing suicide and it breaks my heart every time I watch it. It is performed so understated by both actors and their restraint makes it so much more affecting. I haven’t even mentioned Jake’s study which is a gorgeous clash of styles and winds up looking both old fashioned and modern and very much a place I would enjoy hanging out.

Moment to Watch Out For: The scenes between Jake and his father get more and more emotional as the episode progresses and the moment when they are trapped within the white void together is an acting tour de force for Avery Brooks and Tony Todd. Sisko’s reaction to Jake’s admission that he has thrown his whole life away trying to save him is devastating. Not to mention the deathbed scene which I cannot watch too often because it turns me into a blubbering wreck. This is character drama at its most affecting.

Fashion Statement: I don’t know if it is the lighting or his new look but Avery Brooks looks practically edible when he appears at Jake’s death bed.

Orchestra: Dennis McCarthy’s score for this episode is phenomenal and I completely understand why parts of it were reused in What You Leave Behind. The opening theme of Jake as a lonely old man in his house is so instantly emotional it brings tears to my eyes mere seconds into the episode. There are moments when the strings fall away and a solitary woodwind instrument plays such as after Melanie leaves and Jake settles himself down for his fathers final visit that is extremely poignant.

Result: If you thought Deep Space Nine was all spectacle after Way of the Warrior think again, this is just about the most powerful character piece the show produced. Some episodes transcend their genre and go beyond being great Trek to being great television and this is a fine example of what DS9 can achieve. The direction, design, performances and writing are all completely in sync and the net result is a piece of work that will reduce you to tears several times before the closing credits. As a piece of writing it is practically flawless with a cleverly constructed narrative that offers us a strong glimpse into the future of the regulars and examines the relationship between Ben and Jake with real delicacy and profundity. Its never maudlin or sentimental, it manages to have a great deal to say about life and love and what happens when you throw both away. David Livingston has proven over on Voyager that he is a fantastic action director but his handling of the character drama here is second to none. Avery Brooks, Cirroc Lofton, Tony Todd and Rachel Robinson deserve massive kudos for bringing this story to life so vividly. In every sense of the word – beautiful: 10/10

Hippocratic Oath written by Lisa Klink and directed by Rene Auberjonois

What’s it about: Bashir and O’Brien are caught on opposing sides of a Jem H’adar dilemma…

Everyday Engineer: Listening to O’Brien and Bashir discussing Keiko like two grouchy bachelors is very funny. Compare and contrast their relaxed posture and intimate conversation here to the stiff and awkward silence in The Storyteller and you can see these two have come a long way. Only O’Brien could think that he would get away with a ‘little workshop’ in the bedroom but his wife thinks its his way of pushing her out of his quarters. O’Brien stresses he wishes Keiko could be more like a man when Bashir agrees with everything he is saying. Now the bromance of the century has begun these two reach a level of intimacy that is hilarious to watch. O’Brien really is a nasty piece of work in this story even when you are completely on his side with regards to not helping the Jem H’adar. There is a real sense that he thinks his opinion is worth more than Bashir’s and that he can bully him into getting his own way. After ruining his equipment and expressing disobeying Bashir’s orders he at least has the dignity to look guilty for what he has done and steamrolling his friends opinion.

GE Doctor: The very nature of the Jem H’adar is the antithesis of everything Bashir considers to be right – they are forced into an addiction to revere their Gods and with the slightest moment of weakness they commit suicide. He is a healer and I cannot understand the morality of their culture where death is such a loose concept. 

Mr Wolf: Worf is trying to make his mark on DS9 by observing Odo’s apparently loose security tactics…it’ll all go wrong I tell you! Quark makes a very good point about Starfleet having a non discrimination policy but its clear that Worf is a special case who is prejudiced against who he likes. It’s a shame that they made Worf so humourless in these early episodes because he seems to be something of a black cloud walking around the station and it takes Jadzia to bring that laughing monkey persona back out of him. When Worf stumbles into Odo’s smuggling operation he is made to look like a right idiot – I get that he is supposed to be trying to fit in and leave his old life behind but there is no need to embarrass the character whilst doing so.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘No it is not complex. It is simple. Those men out there are Dominion soldiers. If we help them we may end up unleashing the Jem H’adar against the Federation and that is a risk I am not willing to take! So we do not help them and that’s the end of it!’

The Good: When things go bad for O’Brien they go really bad and not content with piloting the shuttle into the middle of a forest (literally tearing through the trees) but it also seems to be the same patch as a group of rogue Jem H’adar. It feels like it has been ages since we last saw a Jem H’adar – has it really been since The Abandoned? Showing the latest nasties shivering with withdrawal from the White and purring with contentment once they have been given a dose of the drug visualises this slave race as something that is both sympathetic and tragic but also more scary because they are literally a race for hire if you can feed their addiction.

The Bad: This is something of a dead end for The Jem H’adar because we never hear of any more rebellious factions again so I wonder what the logic was of suggesting a revolution in the ranks of the Dominion. I’m not sure if it is Scott MacDonald’s stiff delivery or Rene Auberjonois’ unusually undramatic direction but the scene where O’Brien is strangled is astonishingly ineffective. Few Trek forests feel more like a cramp and ineffective set than this one and I would have used wider angles and more atmospherics to give this piece and even creepier look.

Moment to Watch Out For: The angry tension between O’Brien and Bashir is the crux of this episode and the only reason to switch on and watch. The trouble is this is one of those situations where you can see both sides of the argument. Bashir is offering a new hope that the Jem H’adar can be tamed and freed from their drug addiction and O’Brien is frightened that once of the leash the killers will go marauding through space. Both are potentially right and with Bashir’s morals giving him fire in his argument and O’Brien trying to bully him into compliance the resulting conversation is very tense to watch.

Result: Hippocratic Oath is a dark and uncomfortable episode that explores the relationship between a Jem H’adar unit and the friendship between Bashir and O’Brien. At times it feels as though we have been manipulated into a situation to cause tension between the Doctor and the Engineer but their arguments are so well scripted and performed I’m not objecting too much. What lets the side down is the irrelevant subplot taking place on the station that puts Worf in a bad light (probably not wise so soon after his introduction) and the static direction which means that the episode isn’t as fluid or dynamic as it should (odd because Rene Auberjonois would go on to direct one of my favourite episodes this year). Any script that allows Colm Meaney to be this vicious has got to be worth watching at least once: 6/10

Indiscretion written by Nicholas Corea and directed by Levar Burton

What’s it about: Kira and Dukat join forces to find a crashed Cardassian ship with Bajoran prisoners long reputed missing…

Single Father: Indiscretion continues the terrific work that has been done with Sisko over the last dozen episodes and here he is at sea in a wonderful sitcom subplot where he has to decide what exact is going on between him and the missus. Its fantastic to see Kassidy back so soon and to watch Sisko flopping about like a fish out of water trying to cope with being in a relationship again. His dumbfounded reaction to Kassidy’s news that she is after a job in the Bajoran system and might be looking for quarters on the station is hilarious – he wasn’t looking at this becoming so serious, so quickly and it is written all over his face. As soon as the words ‘that’s a big step’ came out of his mouth regarding her moving onto the station I knew he was in for a whole heapful of trouble! In fact that entire dinner scene is so well done, both Brooks and Johnson play that awkward silence when you’ve both gone too far in what you’ve said and its either apologise or somebody storms out. Unfortunately in this case it is the latter. Even better is the scene where Sisko turns to Dax and Bashir for help and they criticise his every statement and even Quark chips in with some outrageously sexist advice – this is amiable domestic drama at its best. It seems to flow very naturally from the characters. Sisko tries to pass this off as one of those times when things get complicated between men and women to his son but Jake isn’t having any of it. He knows his father is skirting around his commitment issues. When issuing his apology Sisko admits he was afraid and nervous because he hasn’t been in a serious relationship for a long time. It was his job that killed Jennifer and if anything ever happened to Kassidy he wouldn’t be able to live with himself. ‘You’re a good man Benjamin Sisko but you’ve got a lot to learn about women. Especially this one…’ Note to other Star Trek series – this is how to write domestic drama. You don’t need to have to characters floating through space running out of oxygen to admit their feelings for each other. The way Kassidy teasingly denies him a kiss before she leaves is the perfect end to a perfect subplot.

Tasty Terrorist: Kira is on this mission for personal reasons, she had a friend aboard the Ravenok and she wants to know what happened to him. Kira saves Ziyal’s life which is one of the reasons she winds up living under her protection on the station. I think she is genuinely surprised that Dukat embraces his daughter rather than killing her and for a moment wobbles on her conviction that he is an evil man.

Unknown Sample: Kira and Odo are seen here relaxing in his office and having fun going through this weeks criminal activity reports and laughing about the general ineptness of the stations criminals. This comes in quite important in Crossfire later in the season.

Slimy Snake: If anybody other than Dukat had beamed onto that transport pad I would have been really disappointed. As far as I remembered there had been a certain charge between these two since the first series but re-watching the show has proven that it didn’t actually kick off until season four (with a brief foray in Civil Defence last year courtesy of Garak). This is the emergence of the creepy charmer that I’m sure Marc Alaimo has always wanted to play and his continued presence only benefits DS9. He tries to flatter Kira by describing her as an embodiment of the New Bajor, a Bajoran born out of the ashes of the Occupation and tempered with Cardassian steel but Kira figures he just likes the sound of his own voice! We learn that Dukat had a personal reason for wanting to find the Ravenok too, he kept a Bajoran mistress called Lora Neprem with whom he fell in love with during the Occupation. Sitting at her grave and discovering the pledge bracelet he gave her the writers have achieved what I thought was impossible, I actually felt sorry for the man. Unbelievably Dukat is actually considering murdering his own daughter in order to salvage his family and career.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Bajor and Cardassia must learn to work together’ – whilst there are still resentments (naturally considering what was done to them) by the Bajorans the show seems committed to drive forward the peace treaty between the two planets.
‘The voice of the new Cardassia. So compassionate, so understanding. Almost makes you forget that five years ago he was working Bajorans to death in forced labour camps and shooting anybody who tried to stop him. Almost makes you forget.’
‘Women are the enemy and we treat them accordingly. The key is to never let them get the upper hand. If she says she doesn’t see you enough, threaten to see her even less. If she wants more gifts, take back the ones you’ve already given her. Its all about control’ ‘What if your woman leaves you?’ ‘ That’s what holosuites are for’ – note to self, never seek Quark out for advice about women!
‘You’ve been talking to Jake. He’s a smart boy. Must take after his mother.’

The Good: Roy Brocksmith gives a master class in taking little screen time and making the most of it. He creates a very likable rogue in Razka and I wish we had been able to see more of him. What Dukat says about Bajor, however harsh the lesson, might just have some validity. They were a weak, contemplative race before the Occupation but thanks to the passion that erupted in kicking out their oppressors they have a new confidence, a sense of purpose and a key role in the future of the Quadrant. Kira suggests they accomplished this in spite of the Occupation but I think she is a little deluded in that thinking.  Deep Space Nine is such a dark show usually so it is a nice contrast when they get out in the nice sunny weather and this bleak desert is a visually stunning location. They stage the wreckage of the Ravenok as though they have the budget of blockbuster movie, seeing Kira and Dukat walk down a dune amongst the debris is an awesome image. I love the little touch of the Bajoran prisoner who is shocked to discover Kira and Dukat working together and realises that the Occupation is over – how awful to have been a prison for the four years since the horrors came to an end and not even know about it. Dukat holding a gun on his daughter is a tense moment because we have seen how far his devotion to his career and family extends. For a second I really thought he would kill her.

The Bad: I’m not sure what the comedy business of Dukat sitting on the spike brings to the episode (it features one of the rudest camera framing of any scene in Star Trek as it looks as though Kira is doing something very naughty to his ass whilst he thrusts animatedly!) and there is already the enjoyable subplot to keep things entertaining.

Moment to Watch Out For: Any of the scenes concerning Sisko’s balls up with Kassidy.

Result: A far more effective two hander than Hippocratic Oath because there is so much fascinating history between Bajor and Cardassia and it is encapsulated and explored through Kira and Dukat. It’s a story that deals with big images (the wrecked ship, the graves, the labour camp) but never forgets to make the material personal and Kira is there to remind Dukat of what his people have done initially and his responsibilities as a father towards the climax. Its great to push Dukat’s character forward and we have a new semi regular in Ziyal who would go on to provide some of the shows most dramatic moments. There is quite a bit for this episode to accomplish but it never feels rushed and despite the strong production values it still feels as though the performances are what count. The Sisko/Kassidy subplot is an absolute peach and has some golden moments – I can’t wait to watch this relationship develop: 8/10

Rejoined written by Ronald D. Moore & Rene Echevarria and directed by Avery Brooks

What’s it about: A rare thing indeed – a Star Trek romance that isn’t trite! Dax meets up with her ex wife and their feelings prove too hard to resist…

Single Father: The Dax/Sisko scenes are the lynchpin of the episode and all those shows building up this friendship (since way back in season one’s Dax) are really starting to pay off with some dramatic results. Sisko proves to be a very good friend by giving her tough advice precisely when she doesn’t want to hear it. He then betters that by offering to support her no matter how bad it gets. Everybody needs a friend like Ben Sisko.

Nine Lives: In her six years in the show this is the story that showcases Jadzia Dax at her best and affords Terry Farrell the chance to really get her teeth into some emotional material. Whether it is right or not that it should be the case it was very brave to attempt an episode of this nature at the time where homosexuality was still emerging into the public consciousness and Farrell was extremely brave to tackle this subject matter with such commitment. What I don’t understand is how people can call Dax’s dalliance with Lenara a one hit wonder because the relationship is so intimately played by Farrell and Thompson that I never once got the impression that this was a lesbian relationship and more that it was two people who were irresistibly drawn to each other. Besides Dax goes on to flirt outrageously with the Vanessa Williams character in Let He Who Is Without Sin (fandom has probably forgotten this because they have collectively tried to forget that this episode ever existed!) and was seen hanging out with Kira in Way of the Warrior in kinky leotards. I always get the impression that Dax was feeling her way into her joining in the first two or three seasons and coming to terms with all those memories rattling around in her head. Is her character bisexual? I don’t give a damn but how she unapologetically pursues both men and women is a wonderful statement for Star Trek to make.

One of her previous hosts Tobin used to dabble in the sleight of hand and as such Dax knows some mean party tricks involving boiled eggs! She is determined to stay and greet Lenara because she has never let her past lives interfere with her job and she isn’t going to start now. You know this is going to be a mistake the second they lay eyes on each other and the charge between them is instant. She’s picked up her tardiness from Curzon (who was even late for his 100th birthday that took Sisko three months to prepare!). I love the dinner scenes because they are like two teenagers that have already had a contratante and are trying not to look at each other to give the game away. Their forced politeness is extremely awkward and yet the chemistry between them is unmistakable no matter how much they try and hide it. Once they have made their formal introductions they cannot resist one last look at each other across the room. How well performed is the scene where Lenara and Dax decide not to talk about the past – every time they cross eyes it looks as though they are going to kiss. I was strongly reminded of when I met my husband twelve years ago when Dax takes Lenara out for dinner and drags a friend along so it doesn’t look so obvious – I asked Simon to the cinema and we both took one friend each because we were too scared to be alone together in a dark room! Our mates looked about as thrilled as Bashir does watching these two flirt and reminisce. Curzon would be horrified to learn that Dax was a scientist because the idea of doing research made him ill. Terry Farrell will break your heart as she asks Lenara to stay with her but the moment she starts talking about going back to Trill and thinking it over she knows that if they walk away from each other now, its over. Time to think about the consequences just makes them more apparent and the relationship less worth it.

Community Leader: Moore and Echevarria cleverly uses Quark to explain Dax’s lineage right back to Leela to the audience without ever feeling like he is doing so. The whole thing gives him a headache but it does get all the dull information over with very quickly and in a fun way.

Mr Wolf: Poor Worf was saddled with the least effective pretence and when he says he is looking forward to the groundbreaking artificial wormhole project his tone says he would rather make love to Quark. When he does his ‘Defiant’s Log’ its all he can do not to yawn. Interesting to see Worf in the background as Dax and Lenara hug each other excitedly when the test wormhole works considering she will wind up being his wife in a few years.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘She swallowed the egg before she came into the bar and then regurgitated it on cue. Quite disgusting actually.’
‘I know he. She used to be my wife.’
‘I don’t understand how two people who have fallen in love and made a life together can be forced to walk away from each other just because of a taboo.’
‘Dax I am not like you! I don’t have a little Curzon inside me telling me to be impulsive, to ignore the rules, to give up everything that I’ve worked for!’

The Good: The scenes between the regulars feel so affectionate and natural these days its pretty much like hanging out with good friends – go and watch the first scene of this episode which is gently played and warmly lit. The gag of Broik staring in to Quark’s ear to find out where all that latinum is coming from is perfectly timed. Look at the framing of the scene of Kira and Bashir in the entrance to Quark’s bar, its beautifully shot and it is perfectly clear that Nana Visitor and Alex Siddig are desperately in love with each other at this point. They’re body language screams that they are barely holding back. Like the best episodes of Star Trek Rejoined is posing as science fiction whereas it is actually exploring a contemporary issue – homosexual relationships. They dress up the fact that they are talking about gay relationships in a Trill taboo about re-associating with people from previous lives which seems perfectly acceptable to me. Its odd how the people that complain the most about this episode are the gays themselves because they don’t explicitly state that this about gay love – get over it, its how Star Trek always does this sort of thing! When Kira states that no taboo should stop a couple from being in love I was cheering, again that is a wonderful message to have broadcast on a show as widely watched as this one. When they talk about exile from the Trill homeworld it reminds me of stories of friends who have come out and been shunned by their families because of it. It’s a tender subject and it is discussed in some depth. The special effects where Dax tippy toes across a force field to reach Lenara looks flawless and at first I questioned whether the moment of jeopardy was needed but it brings Bejal on side and makes Lenara’s final decision all the more heartbreaking now that her brother is coming around to the idea.

The Bad: There is one downside to this episode and that is technobabble which is present in droves to remind us that we are not only watching a sensitive drama unfold but also Star Trek as well.

Moment to Watch Out For: The exquisite scene where Lenara bombs into Dax’s quarters shaken after her conversation with her brother and they finally reveal how they feel about each other. Its all the subtle moments that count with Dax stroking her face as she ask if she understands the risks, how they stroke faces almost to avoid the kiss that will seal the deal and finally the way the kiss is so tentative and resistant at first before they finally let go. Its not titillating at all (unless you care to see it that way) – astonishingly it is a kiss that is delicately performed.

Fashion Statement: During the dinners scene both Terry Farrell and Susannah Thompson look dazzling, their eyes literally sparkle. Lenara’s brother is quite the hottie.

Result: A controversial episode that isn’t going to please those of the action adventure crowd but should thrill those who are seeking something more thoughtful and sensitive from Trek. Tackling homosexuality was always going to be a tough one because Trek has ignored it for so long but thanks to the outstanding performances from Terry Farrell and Susannah Thompson and the intimate direction from Avery Brooks what transpires is one of the most touching romance stories in Trek canon.  I’m so pleased that Avery Brooks handled this episode because he has an intimate way with both the actors and the camera that sells the emotional nature of the episode sensitively without it ever feeling melodramatic or embarrassing. I could have done without the amount of technobabble that was thrown at me but I have filter now that turns those scenes into a chorus of blah blah blah. I’m not sure that this is a story that needed picking up at a later date because the tragic final scenes have a sense of finality about them. Dax has never been better and Rejoined proves symptomatic of the confidence of season four that the show is continually taking some big risks. A beautiful episode: 9/10

Starship Down written by David Mack & John J. Ordover and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: The Defiant is under fire by a Jem H’adar ship and so the crew use the time to deal with their personal issues…

Single Father: Sisko has never been one of ceremonies especially when he is the centre of attention and he has never embraced the role of Emissary whole heartedly because it conflicts with his ‘other job’. Kira suspects that he has scheduled these negotiations to avoid a ceremony that celebrates him becoming the Emissary. Season four takes hold of the concept of Sisko as an uncomfortable religious leader and pushes it in a pleasing new direction and its great to have the reminder here before the he comes to terms with his arrangement in Accession. He’s a gutsy bloke that is willing to make difficult command decisions – he orders Bashir to seal off a bulkhead with Dax still behind it to save the ship. Such a wonderful risk taker, he goes with his instincts and fires the deadly probe without actually knowing that there is a Jem H’adar ship within 50 metres!

Tasty Terrorist: I was very pleased to see the Kira/Sisko relationship given some focus in this episode and it’s a season that sees them become firm friends as well as work colleagues as well as religious icon/devotee. Its nice to see Kira using tricks she picked up as a terrorist to aid their escape from the Jem H’adar. What’s great about the scenes between Sisko and Kira is that usually their uneasy relationship is held in check by all the politics and crazy shit that is going on on the station but now all those distractions are out of the way and she simply has to talk to him. Not as a spiritual leader or a Starfleet commander but as just as a person. Its something that they have never had to do before. She admits that because she considers him the Emissary it is hard for her to relax around him. When the sedative fails and she can’t keep him awake with her (very dull) story Kira decides that her only option left is to pray – I love the fact that a Star Trek character can be seen making that sort of personal decision in a desperate situation. Its great to enjoy a religious character without all the nasty undertones that usually comes with the territory, she has strong believes and the writers embrace that. In a way that is more surprising than the gay kiss in the last episode. Sisko asking Kira to a baseball match is a delightful scene and there is a cuddly feeling that they have gotten closer because of this experience.

GE Doctor: Had Bashir tries to save Dax a year ago she would have assumed he was trying to be a hero or get into her knickers but it is a comment on how far the character has come in a short space of time that neither of those are even possibilities anymore. He’s just a nice bloke that wont let one of his friends die needlessly. Dax admits that he came on so strong and never let have the chance to get to know him (all true) and he laughs at the absurdity of their life or death situation because that was exactly the sort of crazy fantasy he used to have dreaming about the pair of them trapped alone together somewhere!

Mr Wolf: The biggest complaint about the episode in the Dreamwatch article was that Worf seemed to have had a personality transplant and lacked any tact when it comes to dealing with people. I actually prefer Worf this way than the fluff ball that got along with everybody on the Enterprise. Its natural that he would reschedule drills because the response time is unacceptable and his handling of the Muniz situation is awkward because he is a Klingon warrior under pressure and not a Betazoid counsellor. O’Brien is naturally better suited to getting along with these people because he works below decks with them all the time but to Worf they are merely a resource that isn’t delivering the goods. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of tension between the regulars as long as it doesn’t step out of character. Worf learns a good lesson here about having a command position and it will help him as he furthers his career.

Community Leader: Frankly I would say that Sisko was a bit of a dumbass in trusting that Quark would deal fairly with the Karemma! I would be looking over his shoulder at every stage of the negotiations to see what extra money he is trying t siphon out of them. On one cargo drop alone Quark has added a 4% surcharge to check of changeling infiltrators and 6% tariff to help the loss of earnings for Tarkalian sheep herders! Quite enterprising, actually! So is how he tries to blame all the swindling on Rom. I’ve said it before but every show needs a character like Quark. Rather than apologising for his actions Quark suggests that they join forces to bleed even more money out of the Federation! Quark laughing his head off at the thought of detonating the torpedo and killing everybody on the ship makes me howl every time I watch it! ‘I think we have a winner’ indeed.

What is Morn up to: This week he is boring Bashir to death with a depressing tale of having 17 brothers and sisters whilst nursing a drink.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Something tells me they maybe closer than you think…’
‘We’ll worry about that tomorrow’ ‘Sure, that’s easy for you to say its your day off!’ – naturalistic dialogue of this nature is not often heard in Star Trek and its great to see DS9 affording banter amongst its lower ranks.
‘This can’t happen! You can’t die! You’re the Emissary there’s still much for you to do!’ – doesn’t Nana Visitor ace these emotional scenes?
‘Maybe I should offer them a refund?’  is a great punchline to all the toing and froing between Quark and Hanek as we discover that the Karemma are a bunch of rogues too!

The Good: There’s a glorious shock moment as a character wanders along a corridor and a hull breach blasts him off his feet and releases toxic gases onto the ship. Another great effect comes as bulkheads explode towards the camera and the poor crewman who was standing in that corner with them! It’s a great punch the air moment as the probe tears through the gas cloud and destroys the Jem H’adar ship. It’s a small detail but I do love how they follow up on Kira’s four shift rotation and make several mentions of it after this! There’s a great crazy moment when one of the engineers informs them of the distance of the incoming torpedoes and when he reaches 50 metres he just squeezes his eyes shut as it impacts.

The Bad: ‘I don’t think there’s anyone left alive up there!’ declares O’Brien without knowing any such thing. What a drama queen.

Result: I remember when Dreamwatch used to run their season guides and had five Americans judging each episode and scoring them out of ten as they were broadcast and Starship Down was absolutely panned. No it isn’t one of the best DS9 episodes and yes it does remind you a little bit of Disaster but there is certainly more to recommend this episode than a measly 1/10! There’s an evocative submarine under fire atmosphere that pervades the episode and once they are damaged beyond repair I love the stillness as they try and avoid enemy fire. The special effects are once again excellent and it highlights how much more interesting the characters are on DS9 in the individual character vignettes. The Dax/Bashir scenes tie a little ribbon around their flirting and leaves her open to pursue Worf, O’Brien teaches Worf a lesson or two about personal interaction with your staff and best of all the Kira/Sisko scenes highlight what a strength their relationship is to the series. However my favourite scenes belong to Quark and Hanek trying to disarm the torpedo because they manage to be both very funny and very tense. It’s a little choppy in places and isn’t always as tense as it should be but its still a fast moving, entertaining piece: 7/10

Little Green Men written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by James L. Conway

What’s it about: Want to know the truth about Roswell? Keep watching…

Unknown Sample: It seems that Odo is the only person who remembers that Quark is a swindler these days and he can see through his generous offer to take his nephew to Earth in an instant. He’s so good that he smuggles aboard the ship and as soon as they wind up trapped on Earth he disguises himself as a dog that you can see running about during the outdoors sequences.

Mr Wolf: Worf’s racism concerning Ferengi at the academy is exactly what Nog is going to have to face when he moves to Earth to study. At least he gets to purchase a tooth sharpener, another little thing that gets mentioned several times hence.

Community Leader: Quark loose on the Quadrant with a ship (and one that can outrun a Romulan interceptor at that!) is a terrifying prospect so we should ne thankful that it is defective merchandise. Cousin Gaila clearly has an issue with Quark that we don’t know about and it give me great pleasure to think we will get to meet him next year after this failed assassination attempt. Quark always knew primitive humans lacked intelligence but he had no idea they were as stupid as this lot – he likes the odds of the three of them against millions of human because he knows he can outsmart them! The way he barks orders at Rom and Nog leads the scientist and his missus to think of him as their mother! The description of Quark as a used car salesman is absolute genius – it’s the closest I have heard to an accurate description of his attitude and way of life. Only Quark could think that changing the entire history of the planet Earth as a means to fill his pockets with cash was a good idea and he offers all kinds of 24th Century technology, medical knowledge and weapons in exchange for precious metals. Its so refreshing because we always go through the same rigmarole in these time travel episodes with pious Starfleet officers doing their damdest to prevent the timeline from being corrupted but here we have a character who stamps all over what is right in order to ensure he comes out on top. It can’t think of anybody I would want to send back in time more! Quark uses all of the things he has picked up from his human customers over the years (baseball, root beer and darts) to suggest the Ferengi have been watching humanity for some time. He’s always been a Ferengi with big dreams but now he wants to create a brand new timeline where he is running the Earth – he plans to establish an economic empire beyond even Grand Nagus Zek’s wildest dreams!

Secret Genius: ‘I’ve always been smart brother, I’ve just lacked self confidence!’ As usual Rom is around the get Quark out of whatever bother he is in this time. However this time he cracks under pressure and starts wailing that he wants to go home to his Moogie!

Starfleet Ferengi: Its nice to see as Nog heads off the academy that we can stop and reminisce about how far he has come – Kira finding her Springball racket reminds us of his thieving ways and the lovely scene on the Promenade took me back to all those early season episodes where Jake and Nog just used to hang around. I love hoe Nog looks around at the spot as though he is saying goodbye to his childhood and heads off grinning at the challenges ahead. He really has grown up. Its so lovely how the regulars and semi regulars have gelled together into a family (and unlike Kathy on Voyager they don’t need to remind the audience every other episode) and O’Brien and Bashir giving Nog a going away present is very sweet. Its almost as if Nog has been watching some godawful 1950s b-movies as he spins out an elaborate yarn about the Ferengi invading Cleveland (or ‘this blue blob’) and taking all the females to mate with!

What’s Morn up to: Insanely Quark is leaving Morn in charge of the bar because he is the only he can trust. He has been left with three instructions – don’t extend any lines of credit, don’t touch the Dabo girls and to keep his eyes on Odo because he’ll be keeping his eyes on him.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The Kemosite! If we vent plasma from the warp core into the cargo hold we may be able to start a cascade reaction in the Kemosite! Then we can modulate the reaction to create an inversion wave in the force field and force the ship back into normal space! If I time it just right I should be able to get us close enough to Earth to make and emergency landing!’ ‘Rom you’re a genius!’ – I love this scene with every fibre of my being. For one thing it is taking the piss out of technobabble in an almost Douglas Adams type way by making the speech so tongue twistingly incomprehensible. Secondly the look of fear that passes between Quark and Nog makes me crack up every time. Thirdly my wonderfully geeky husband can quote this speech word perfect and does so every time I feel down because it always makes me chuckle. The only piece of technobabble I cherish.
‘So if they don’t have universal translators…why are they banging their heads?’
‘What’s that disgusting smell?’ ‘I think its called tobacco. It’s a deadly drug. When used frequently it destroys the internal organs’ ‘If its so deadly then why do they use it?’ ‘Its also highly addictive’ ‘How do they get their hands on it?’ ‘They buy it in stores’ ‘They buy it? If they’ll buy poison they’ll buy anything. I think I’m going to like it here.’
‘They irradiated their own planet?
‘We’re helpless, we’re harmless, we just want to sell you things!’
‘Stay back or I’ll disinnigrate this hostage!’ ‘With your finger?’ ‘With my death ray!’ ‘Looks a lot like a finger to me!’
‘Who’s he?’ ‘My hero!

The Good: Notch up another great tradition for the Ferengi – when their young leave home they sell all of their personal belongings to help them make a start in life. What a great gag about the Bell Riots and Gabriel Bell looking exactly like Captain Sisko – nice for the fans and a harmless little mystery otherwise. As soon as we are transported back in time to 1947 the attention to detail is extraordinary and the whole piece takes on a gloriously evocative tone. The insistent clouds of cigarette smoke are a constant reminder of the time period and I love the fact that Quark actually takes the piss out of our ability to willingly kill ourselves. Take the universal translator problems faced in season two’s Sanctuary and take the piss out of them spectacularly and what you get are some screamingly funny moments as the human race try and communicate with ‘the Martians.’ The comic timing in these scenes is just perfect (‘did you understand a word of that?’) and its fascinating to see the effect on both species when the translator breaks down (oh and the head banging made my poor old mum run to the toilet she was laughing so much the first time she saw it!). Its great how they trust the audience to know what Oo’max is, that’s how they manage to get away with slipping in a gag about Quark asking to be wanked off! There is even space for a little optimism about the Star Trek universe as Nurse Garland dreams about exploring new worlds and new civilisations.

Moment to Watch Out For: Where else are you going to see a Ferengi ship flying into a nuclear explosion?

Fashion Statement: Connor O’Farell is one of those actors who is greying around the temples and absolutely gorgeous.

Result: Quark, Rom and Nog as the Roswell aliens? Does anybody still think that there is any other Trek show can rival DS9? If you are looking for a show juggling Empires and the complexities of war skip forward a few years, this is a slight but blissfully funny interlude that wants nothing more than to give you a great time and leave you with a smile on your face. And it achieves that admirably. There’s jokes about time travel, Roswell, smoking, universal translators, the ethos of Star Trek, capitalism…it’s an extremely witty script that doesn’t stop giving. Max Grodenchik and Aron Eisenberg are exquisite support but this episode is held together by a supremely charismatic turn by Armin Shimmerman who as Quark gets to do all the wrong things in a time travel episode. Its wonderful that a Star Trek show can produce something as daft and eclectic as this and it wont long before we get another gem with the same tone. This is the Ferengi episode that everybody should love: 9/10

The Sword of Kahless written by Hans Beimler and directed by Levar Burton

What’s it about: Dax, Worf and Kor head off on a mission to find the fabled sword of Kahless…

Mr Wolf:Worf, son of Mogh and thorn in Gowron’s side!’ Worf has been so stiff and grumpy so far this season that he needed somebody like Kor to come along and get him totally shit faced so he can loosen up a bit. Its interesting to see the series bringing up Worf’s sparing of Toral after all these years and it once again highlights what a unique Klingon he is. There is a lovely moment where Worf learns that harsh lesson that you should never meet your heroes as Kor and Dax figure out how to elaborate the story of catching their lunch. He feels a true warrior has no need to exaggerate his feats. Worf seems to think that he has been chosen by Kahless (who apparently visited him in a vision when he was younger) to embark on this quest and bring the sword home. Methinks his stab wound given him delusions of grandeur! Worf has turns good and loopy by the sword and tries to convince Kor to drop to a ledge that would never have held his weight – the sooner they junk the sword the better! 

Nine Lives: Dax is more like a referee between Worf and Kor in this episode having to keep them from slaughtering each other! Terry Farrell has really found her groove this year, tossing away all of Dax’s insecurities and playing her as confident good time girl. She’s still a scientist (indeed her skills come in very handy here) but she can hold her own in a fight (verbally and physically) and has a real love for the Klingons and affection for Kor. She gets the best moment in the whole episode where she has had enough of their bickering and she shoots them both! I would have done it much earlier but I still cheered when she pulled the trigger.

Community Leader: Quark isn’t that keen on Klingon stories because lots of people die and nobody makes any profit!

Rousing Hero: If there was ever a guest character that deserved to show up again then surely Kor qualifies. He’s a fantastic scoundrel, noted for winding people up and exaggerating his stories (‘The entire mountainside was covered with dead so that not one square metre was clean!’) and he can’t help boasting about their quest to find the sword of Kahless to Worf. I love the way he casually tips another drink into his when he thinks nobody is looking. He’s so theatrical that he cannot resist giving a little speech (with some poetry) before they head off to find the sword. Kor is so mouthy he tipped off the House of Duras before he even reached the station. When Worf suggests that Kor’s mind has been poisoned by blood wine and age there might just be something in that, trading on glories of old.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Worf the traitor! The pariah! The lowest of the low! It’s a pleasure to meet you. Any enemy of Gowron and the High Council is a friend of mine.’
‘Try to bring it back in one piece’ – nice to see DS9 commenting on the frequent loss of runabouts!
‘What is it?’ ‘Lunch!’

The Good: More so than continually being told what a sacred object the sword is it was far more interesting to see the effect it had on both Kor and Worf, fighting over possession of it like a pair of kids and both wanting it for their own purposes. As a symbol of power it seemed to bloat their egos and turn them against each other – if this is what can happen to two men imagine the effect such an object could have on the Empire. Tossing the thing into space is the best thing they could have done to it.

The Bad: The way they try and tie this story into the main arc of the season by having two Starfleet officers bringing the sword home and restoring peace between the Klingons and the Federation is tenuous at best. They should have just gotten on with the quest story if they wanted to tell one and not worry about excuses. For a story that is supposed to be rousingly epic it is a shame that they couldn’t afford to set it anywhere other than stock Star Trek caves. Blood Oath impressed because its final set piece looked like nothing else this show had ever given us. I wonder if Star Trek is a bit too slow to try something as Lara Croft as this – it needs fast editing, exciting stunts and real pace to pull of the effect. Watch how lazy the direction is when the Duras clan catch up with Kor and his posse – its like two groups of friends meeting for a gossip! The fight scenes that ensue aren’t very well done either, they are slow paced, overly theatrical and some of the responses are delayed. With talk of the Kahless clone, meeting Toral and discussion of Worf’s dishonour this feels like a love letter to Klingon episodes gone by at times. How long was it going to be before the stock Star Trek cave ravine showed up? There is so little that is visually distinctive about this episode it starts to grate after a while.

Moment to Watch Out For: ‘You better hope I exaggerate because when they start signing songs about this quest and come to your verse it will be “and Worf came along…”

Result: Klingon episodes are one sub genre that I don’t feel DS9 does particularly well and it has to be something very special indeed to keep me interested. I get the impression that the writers and directors can be a little relaxed when it comes to these episodes almost as if the fact that they are dealing with the Klingons is enough to give it a pass in the eyes of the Trek fans. Not on my watch! Sons of Mogh, Soldiers of the Empire, Sons and Daughters…they do nothing for me I’m afraid. I love John Colicos’ Kor and Michael Dorn’s Worf but they both deserved a better vehicle than this, a leisurely stroll through some caves to find a Bat’leth that is more trouble than its worth. This is more like watching theatre than an action movie with lots of stirring speeches and plodding from room to room with the sword being so easy to find it is less of a quest and more a shopping trip. Things do get more interesting when the artefact starts to affect Worf and Kor’s behaviour and the episode explores the hurt to be found when you meet your heroes and they fail to live up to your expectations. The dialogue is quite fresh and witty but Levar Burton’s slothenly direction fails to allow this episode to engage as it should. There is no real reason why their behaviour heads quite this out of character though and I was waiting for an explanation that the sword had some kind of mind control powers! I get what they were trying to do with this episode (an Indiana Jones style quest) but you can’t attempt something that should be ambitious half heartedly: 4/10

Our Man Bashir written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: ‘I think its safe to say that Julian Bashir, secret agent, will return…’

Single Father: What a magnificent turn by Avery Brooks as the fruit loopy Dr Noah who wants to destroy the entire world and build it again in his image. If anybody thought he was holding back in the part season four has shown just what a force of nature he can be when he plays his part for all it is worth. Noah is a nut job, plain and simple but Brooks imbues him with so much glorious comic potential (his eyes simply glint with insanity) I was howling by the end of the episode. Bashir might get the girls and save the day but everybody forgets the most fun part to play is the villain. The moment he turns his gun on Bashir in the most wonderfully over the top fashion (‘I on the other hand have no pretensions about the ideals of being a hero!’) had me applauding. His little comment ‘I didn’t expect to win…’ is perfect.

Tasty Terrorist: Is it hot in here or has Kira just turned up as Colonel Komonov, KGB? Nana Visitor has an absolute blast with her cod Russian accent and outrageously sexy character, every move she makes being one of pure seduction and danger. I believe this is the point where Nana Visitor and Alex Siddig got together and if the way she salivates over him in this story is anything to go by they must have had a great couple of years together!

Mr Wolf: Michael Dorn gets to deadpan it good and proper as Duchamp, Dr Noah’s henchman. He puffs away on his cigar and mans the gambling tables that guarantees Bashir access to his boss.

Everyday Engineer: Colm Meaney is such a fine character actor that her slips effortlessly into the role of Falcon, Dr Noah’s heavy and milks it for every chuckle it is worth by playing it so straight. 

GE Doctor: I’ve never found Alexander Siddig especially attractive (although I accept that he is a handsome man) but there is something about him being squeezed into that tuxedo that really raises my eyebrows! Bashir is annoyed that Garak has invaded his privacy but also a little embarrassed by the programme that shoehorns him into the role of the womanising spy with all the answers. He enjoys flirting with Kira and Dax and has great fun defiantly standing up to Sisko as Dr Noah. You almost get the impression he is enjoying it even more now the characters have the faces of his friends.

Plain and Simple: Another phenomenal showing for Garak who proves that his character is malleable enough to work in both intense dramas (such as The Die is Cast) and out and out comedies such as this. It appears that Garak is a little jealous that Bashir is spending a lot of time in the holosuite with his new programme and wants to find out what it is all about. Imagine his surprise when it turns out he is living a fantasy version of Garak’s old lifestyle – there are just too many opportunities for Garak to take the piss! I love Garak’s put out look when Bashir tells Komonov that he knows nothing about the earthquakes, he’s like a naughty school boy who’s been told to shut up. He really shows his teeth as he is willing to sacrifice some of the crew to ensure their safe passage through the programme. He understands that real intelligence operatives have to make tough choices.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘If I were in your shoes I’d grab a bottle of champagne and shoot me!’
‘Another decorators nightmare!’
‘There comes a time when a house has been so demolished by termites that you must not only kill the termites…but demolish the house and build again!’ and ‘The surface of the planet will shrink…just like letting air out of a balloon!’ and ‘We will repopulate and start a new human race! Pity you wont be able to join us!’ – Dr Noah gets all the best lines!
‘I don’t know if I’ve made it explicit to you or not Doctor but I really don’t want to die chained to a 20th Century laser!’
‘I must say Doctor this is more than I ever wanted to know about your fantasy life!’
‘That was awfully close…what if you’d killed me?’ ‘What makes you think I wasn’t trying?’ ‘Doctor, I do believe there’s hope for you yet!’
‘Interesting, you saved the day by destroying the world.’

The Good: The opening sequence is one of the most outrageously daft and wonderful things ever – Falcon smashing through glass in gorgeous slow motion and being knocked unconscious with a champagne cork whilst Bashir gets off with a foxy lady! DS9 has well and truly found the fun this year! You can’t say that this episode pretends to be anything other than it is, it kicks off in exactly the right style to let you know you are in for a fun filled hour. Garak might mock the art deco designs but a lot of work has gone into making these camp 1960s sets as visually distinctive and as stylish as possible. The Hong Kong city is a gorgeous backdrop for Bashir’s base and I love the way the bed slides around from the bar area (I don’t think I have ever seen a bed make such a seductive entrance before!) and the mirror turns into an arsenal of weapons! The bed that Kira turns up on is worth a moment of praise all by itself! So does Dr Noah’s mountain retreat which a vast space with a giant fireplace, snowy slopes out of the window and an entire wall that turns into a map of the world which is due to be destroyed. Despite the fact that it comes with a deluge of technobabble I rather like the subplot that forces the crew into the holosuite programme for several reasons. One; there is the great ‘oh shit’ moment where the runabout blows up and the senior staff explode into smoke on the transporter pad. Two; Rom gets to show everybody what a smart ass he is again which pre-empts his bid of freedom in Bar Association which is just around the corner. Three; it reminded of how Eddington has managed to insinuate himself into the crew and has been turning up at regular intervals without ever having an episode that focuses on him (unlike the other guest characters – that is a big clue that he is up to something that we shouldn’t know about…yet). Four; the culprits of the terrorist attack, The True Way, are introduced and are back to cause more mischief in Crossfire. As soon as Kira turns up as the slinky Russian agent a game begins as you anticipate the arrival of the rest of the senior staff in various roles. The crazy gadgets are great fun; earrings that turn into bombs and shoes that turn into guns! It strikes me as the sort of daft scheme that the Master is always trying to pull off in Doctor Who – penetrating the Earth’s crust with lasers to shrink the planet and create an empire! Isn’t it brilliant the way that the whole Earth is destroyed in about five seconds?

The Bad: Garak’s stunt double in the fight scene is obviously not Andrew Robinson. In fact he looks rather like Marc Alaimo!

Moment to Watch Out For: The moment when the dangers of the episode get too much for Garak and he decides to quit and Bashir shoots him to stop him. The dialogue is outstanding – managing to be both funny, thoughtful and say something about both characters and to top it off Sid and Robinson sell this scene for every nuance it is worth. This is the moment where Bashir steps out of Garak’s shadow and stands on his own two feet.

Only DS9: Fuck off Captain Proton, nobody does comedy like DS9!

Fashion Statement: Mona Luvsit (what a great name!) wears the shortest skirt suit known to womankind and flaunts a couple of very pleasing attributes.

Orchestra: One of my favourite ever Trek scores and one that is perfectly in tune with the camp fun the episode provides. You wouldn’t think that regular DS9 style music and Bondian cues would work well together but the fusion creates something that is truly unique. The saxophone keeps slipping into the action to ensure that it is a sleazy and sexy as possible. I would love a soundtrack of this episode! When Bashir and Garak are struggling through the tunnels there is a track that dazzingly mixes the DS9 theme tune with Bondian cheese and it might just be my favourite bit of Trek music ever. Its awesome.

Result: A James Bond spoof written by Ronald D. Moore and starring Bashir and Garak…what could possibly go wrong? Somehow (and I’m really not sure how) Moore manages to merge a technobabble show with a holosuite show and produce an absolutely sparkling piece of entertainment which puts the characters in the most absurd situation and in genuine danger! Our Man Bashir explains exactly what I was trying to say about The Sword of Kahless – if you are going to do something you have to go at it wholeheartedly and boy do they do that here. Its Bond heaven all the way with the design, costumes, music, direction and script all going the extra mile to provide a massively entertaining lurch from the norm. As good as all those elements are I think the real credit has to go to the actors – Alexander Siddig (who is a smooth as whipped cream in coffee), Andrew Robinson (who is the master of pithy one liners), Nana Visitor (sex personified), Terry Farrell (the hottest geek in town), Colm Meaney (‘I’ve always been a romantic at heart’), Micheal Dorn (finally getting to have some fun) and the irreplaceable Avery Brooks (mad dictator extraordinaire). Having Way of the Warrior, Rejoined, Little Green Men and Our Bashir in quick succession reminds me why DS9 shits all over Babylon 5 (watch as the 40 hardcore B5 fans come out in hives) because whilst DS9 can juggle empires, flaunt space battles and intense character drama it is also an eclectic portmanteau of storytelling styles that knows how to have fun. It doesn’t have a one track mind and it makes it a far more flavoursome experience. This is a witty, devastatingly enjoyable piece that continues season fours confident run: 10/10

Homefront written by Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Sisko returns to Earth to deal with the Changeling threat…

Single Father: What has happened to Sisko this year? Avery Brooks has always been a reasonably reliable performer but in this half of season four he has positively shone. Its time to meet the elder statesman of the Sisko clan and it pleases me to say that even a man as formidable as Benjamin Sisko cannot keep his cantankerous old dad in check! Just talking to his dad brings Sisko out in smiles. The chemistry between Avery Brooks, Brock Peters and Cirroc Lofton is something to behold and I think I could happily watch these three just hanging out together for an entire episode. Its nice to meet the man who recommended Sisko for the job on DS9. With his father and mentor turning up in one episode, more layers of Sisko’s character are peeling away. His homecoming is to be made acting head of Starfleet Security because he knows more about the changeling threat than anybody. The only way this man can be elevated anymore would be to take control of a Quadrant wide war! Oh wait… I like how they place the weight of Earth’s security on Sisko’s shoulders but Brooks convinces that the scenes with his father as the ones that are really weighing him down. His love of his family has always been the strongest aspect of Sisko’s character and nothing is changing now he is a powerful man. 

Unknown Sample: It would appear that Odo does have his peoples need for order but it comes out in the form of OCD in his domestic arrangements. Odo sneakily shape shifts from a briefcase before the President’s eyes to prove that Earth has every reason to be paranoid about his people. Sisko tells Odo that there are times when he wishes they had never found his people and rather than react badly he actually sympathises with him.

Nine Lives: Dax is enjoying her sadistic streak this year and takes great pleasure in causing chaos in Odo’s perfectly organised quarters by moving furniture out of alignment. He has always thought that humanoids have no sense of order and that Dax is the most humanoid person he knows!

Community Leader: ‘Hew-mons, all you care about is yourselves’ – as ever Quark does make a good point.

Starfleet Ferengi: What a lovely way to re-introduce Nog to the show. Joseph is the only person who is willing to serve live tube grubs on Earth and he eats there practically every night, adding Nog to the mix of personalities gives him and Jake the chance to catch up. Some of the cadets at the Academy are a little standoffish and Nog thought it was because he was a Ferengi at first but other cadets have been complaining about the arrogance of Red Squad too. Starfleet Academy must be one of the few schools where being the best of the best is celebrated rather than mocked! I love the way that Nog (who is kind of Sisko’s little project anyway) manages to manipulate him into recommending him for Red Squad.

Head Chef: Introducing the marvellous Brock Peters as Sisko’s father Joseph, a strong willed, fun loving restaurant owner and a man that will go the extra mile to not do as he is told! The Doctor’s say he is a medical marvel and that in a year or two there wont be an original organ left in his body! He refuses to be molly coddled and will keep working until he drops. At his age staying healthy is a full time job and he is too old to have two jobs so ignoring his Doctor seems like the best approach. Joseph is not above insulting his son in front of his subordinates and finds the very idea of forcing people on the street to undergo blood screenings takes away their civil rights (in particular rights to be as stubborn or as thick headed as they want to be!).

Young Sisko:My friend the writer always looking for a good story.’ Jake is not happy to be staying with his grandpa whilst he is vacationing on Earth because he will expect them to wait tables! As soon as Jake starts trying to look after his grandpa he is threatened with the job of cleaning an entire vat of crayfish!

What’s Morn up to: He’s having terrible trouble trying to get his head around Quark’s latest dirty joke.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Then the Andorian says “That’s not my antenna…”
‘I haven’t seen people this nervous since the Borg scare…’
‘We’ve created a paradise here and we’re willing to protect it.’
‘Now you take these two vampires and tell them to either sit down and grab a menu or get the hell out of my restaurant!’ ‘Jake get them a menu!’
‘The only time you should be in bed is when you’re sleeping, dying or making love to a beautiful woman!’

The Good: ‘I was hoping that this would never happen but it appears it has. The changelings have reached Earth…’ That’s a premise that would get anyone’s blood pumping and a high level conference going up in flames is a taster of the havoc that can wrought. Also the wormhole is opening and closing at random almost as if cloaked Dominion ships are entering or leaving the quadrant – is this the first stages of a Dominion invasion? I love the fact that Joseph’s restaurant is in New Orleans because I have long considered it the most interesting American city. The sight of O’Brien and Bashir dressed up as Battle of Britain flyboys is enough to make me chuckle, especially when they threaten to smash their pint glasses on Quark’s bar! Robert Foxworth makes an instant impression as Admiral Leyton (I hear that JMS was so cross that he took this assignment on DS9 he wrote his character out of B5 – oh well their loss is our gain). The grounds of Starfleet Headquarters look as idyllic as ever. There is a fantastic atmosphere in the restaurant when Sisko turns up to meet his father – the trees are swaying in the courtyard, music is playing and Joseph is charming his customers into ordering the bread pudding soufflé! And how awesome is the alligator hanging from the ceiling! The way the writers introduce Red Squad into the story (via Nog’s desire to join them) is clever because they become much more important in the second episode. I’m not sure it is very well directed (it could have been a lot more violent than giving Odo a gentle shove) but exposing a changeling posing as Leyton really helps to sell the idea that these creatures are everywhere. You can start to see a glint in Leyton’s eye as he suggests that Jaresh Inyo would be an excellent President in peace time and that humans are tougher than he thinks. Just saying the word humans suggests a feeling of racism and paranoia regarding aliens. The thought of filling the streets with armed troops is disturbing and ends the episode on a discomforting note.

The Bad: The Alternate definitely suggested that Sisko’s father was dead so this is backtracking at its worst. I’m not certain what sealed the deal when getting Jaresh Inyo into office but I doubt it was his sparkling personality! A less charismatic leader I have yet to meet! 

Moment to Watch Out For: Sisko stepping forward to check that his fathers blood is normal when he cuts himself on a knife. You can talk about how paranoid people are until the comes come home but here is a family man sneakily checking to see if his own father is who he says he is.

Foreboding: There is a wonderfully odd moment where Bashir quickly dismisses the idea of Odo dropping in on his family when he reaches Earth. This might have been a random moment thrown in but it makes perfect sense when we reach season fives Dr Bashir, I Presume and learn the secret that he and his parents share. Sisko suggests that blood screenings and phaser sweeps have been very effective on Deep Space Nine but we learn that that is not true – we later learn that Martok in Way of the Warrior was a changeling and he managed to enforce a blood screening and fool them. Joseph has the right idea when he says there isn’t a test out there that a smart man can’t work his way around.

Result: Criticisms that this episode is padded are fair (it takes almost 15 minutes for us to reach Earth) but it is practically all gorgeous padding so I’m not really complaining, it’s the character material that gives Homefront some of its best moments. The three generation Sisko clan is worthy of some considerable praise and their scenes together range from warm domestic bliss to vicious arguments. There has been so much fun and frivolity in season four (not that I am complaining) that the Dominion threat has been pushed to one side and it is lovely to see the series follow up on the ominous threat at the end of series three. Moving to Earth gives the episode and atmosphere of its own and there is a phenomenal scene where the two plotlines converge and Sisko is so paranoid about the changeling threat that he is actually convinced his father is one of them. My biggest gripe is that whilst all the elements are in place for a great family piece, the paranoia aspects of the show aren’t directed quite as dramatically as they could be. The cliffhanger is frightening in its implications but could have had a stronger impact both visually and emotionally. A fine attempt a completely different DS9 episode, Homefront proves that season four never stops trying new things: 8/10

Paradise Lost written by Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Reza Badiyi

What’s it about: The Dominion doesn’t have to invade the Earth…we’re doing a good enough job of it for them!

Single Father: Sisko tries the soft approach with Nog to get the names of the Red Squad members that he knows but when that doesn’t work he becomes something of a dictator demanding the information! I love how mouthy he is when questioning Sheppard (‘Are you contradicting me, Cadet?’) but then this particular Cadet is particularly annoying so I would have had some fun winding him up too. Its nice to see Sisko in this kind of dilemma. Had it simply between a Dominion invasion (although there is nothing simple about that as we will soon learn) he would have had a clear enemy to fight and there wouldn’t be that much emotional turmoil to face. But revealing that his own people have set up this state of emergency to frighten the people into wanting increased security on the planet means he is far more conflicted. The fact that Leyton was once his mentor and friend and he is the one Sisko has to bring down gives this concluding episode a pleasing personal sting. He is angered when Leyton wishes he had taught Sisko more about loyalty – he can’t believe the cheek of the man after he has lied to the people of Earth so brazenly. 

Unknown Sample: I love the way Odo looks at things because he always provides and unique and fresh perspective on what is happening. His assertion that Sisko has not turned against them but they have turned their backs on the Federation is very true and much needed advice at a troubling time for the Captain. I bet he’s feeling just a little bit smug with regards to the human race causing their own problems especially after all the hate directed at his people and how he has had two lots of Starfleet security officers looking over his shoulder. Odo admits that all his sneaky security tricks he learnt from Quark! His concerns at the end of the episode are very funny: ‘Am I the only one who’s worried that there are still Changelings here on Earth?’

Mr Wolf: I realise he is being provoked but it takes a lot of guts for one Starfleet officer to fire on another. Kudos to Worf. 

Young Sisko: I do sympathise for Jake, the curse of your grandparents trying to get you to do chores for them is not an uncommon one.

Starfleet Ferengi: Nog is so sweet in trying to get to know the members of Red Squad and is humble enough to admit that they only like him because he was sponsored by Sisko.

Head Chef: He’s got no time to sit around being bored and wants to open up the restaurant as soon as possible…especially since he has a whole new list of clientele in the form of Starfleet security agents! The scenes between Joseph and his son are vital in this episode because those are the moments when Sisko can really admit how he is feeling and his pops can gives advice that only family can offer. The sequence when Joseph reminds his son of the crush he once had on Neffy Beaumont is gorgeous because you can feel the weight of history between these two characters and the chemistry Brooks and Peters share is palpable.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘These aren’t evil people, Odo. These are people I’ve worked with. They’re my friends, people I respect. How can I turn against them?’
‘You’re willing to destroy paradise in order to save it?’
‘But don’t kid yourself Ben. This Pandora’s Box of yours…we’re opening it together.’
‘Don’t you see, Admiral - you’re fighting the wrong war!’

The Good: DS9 really struck gold with the Changeling threat because it has given the writers a chance to not only explore the idea of an invasion (and they certainly exploit that in later seasons) but also to see how various races in the Alpha Quadrant react to the idea of facing the military might of a race that can change its shape. Way of the Warrior changed the political landscape as the Klingons used the Dominion threat as an excuse to return to the ‘old ways’ and now we are getting to explore the Federation response which is one of pure paranoia and military action. Odo spells out very clearly that the message his people gave him that ‘we are everywhere’ had a profound effect on Leyton and those who think like him and that was the exact moment they began mobilising their plan to turn Earth into a planet governed by martial force. Whilst I understand that practically every Admiral in Starfleet is as nutty as a Squirrel’s larder Leyton is one of the more effective examples because he isn’t a raving egotist or unthinking racist, he’s just a man that is frightened of an attack that is already underway and he wants to protect the planet as best as he possibly can. Unfortunately in order to achieve that aim he has to commit treasonable acts and that isn’t a problem. Robert Foxworth gives a masterclass in understated paranoia as he tries to remove the threat of Sisko from his plans. Conversely the Captain knows what has to be done but the waters are muddied by the fact that he can still see the man that he used to respect and admire but now he has been damaged by the constant suspicion of Dominion threat. I like the fact that it isn’t so much a case of good versus evil but something far more interesting – the truth is we don’t know that Leyton’s security measures wont be necessary in the future and with his iron fist surrounding the planet perhaps the terrorist attack in The Changing Face of Evil might have been prevented. All the treasonous acts that Leyton has committed (even down to framing Sisko as a Changeling infiltrator) are reprehensible and yet understandable but as soon as he orders the Lakota to destroy the Defiant he has crossed a line. If he has to murder in order to keep control then what he is fighting for no longer seems that relevant. It might be a short sequence but the special effects as the two ships try and tackle each other are gorgeous.

The Bad: Its not a criticism as such but I was shocked when Sisko contacted Kira halfway through the episode because it made me realise most of the main cast had been absent throughout this two parter and I haven’t missed them one bit! It might have gutted the story emotionally but wouldn’t it have been great if Sisko really had turned out to be a Shapeshifter? The scene where Odo breaks Sisko from jail is quite awkwardly handled (although I do like the sarcasm of the ‘vampire’). Watch Bashir behind Worf looking all stern as the Lakota approaches the Defiant – what a hilarious pose! I remember when I first watched this my mum and I paused it and laughed our heads off!

Moment to Watch Out For: ‘What if I were to tell that there are only four on this entire planet. Think of it…just four of us and look at the havoc we’ve wrought!’ In the midst of all the political strife and emotional drama there is a wonderful moment of pure X-Files paranoia as a shapeshifter sits next to Sisko on a bench and reminds him (and us) that the threat is very real.

Teaser-tastic: The teaser is awesome because the story suddenly lurches from a Dominion invasion into something much more insidious – the facts don’t add up and it appears that Starfleet itself might be responsible for the power failiure. Lots of questions to be answered.

Foreboding: To show what attention to detail DS9 takes when Red Squad returns in the controversial episode Valiant in season six David Drew Gallagher is recast to play Riley Sheppard.

Result: If you don’t like Sisko then this episode might not be the one for you because it takes the threat of a Dominion invasion and brushes it aside and instead becomes a personal nightmare for the good Captain. Fortunately I love Sisko so I found much of the material riveting and was reminded once again just how much gravitas and charm Avery Brooks is bringing to the role this year. I remember at the time I was disappointed that this didn’t herald a Dominion invasion but in retrospect (knowing that a full scale war does indeed play out) it is a fascinating new spin on a threat to Earth with Leyton turning into a paranoid general that is willing to protect the planet even if it means destroying its integrity. The idea of a war being fought by the Federation against the Federation is a gripping one and there are some wonderful moments of Sisko and Leyton’s stooges dancing around each other before the violence breaks out and we see one Federation ship firing on another. Robert Foxworth is the key to this episodes success, he gives a beautifully understated portrayal of paranoia eating away at a powerful man and the scenes between Leyton and Sisko are some of the best because they clearly don’t want to be on opposing sides but there is a nasty threat lingering that is wedged between them that has forced them to turn on each other. Not only that but this story had given us a marvellous new character in the shape of Joseph Sisko who is gorgeously brought to life by Brock Peters and would return several times before the show ends. The strength of this two parter is in its powerful acting and how it allows us to see the frightened reaction to the Dominion threat. As it transpired it was a pretty bang on response: 8/10

Crossfire written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Les Landau

What’s it about: Kira and Shakaar grow closer and Odo moons on in the background…

Tasty Terrorist: Almost as a slap in the face Kira turns the lights on full as soon as Odo enters her quarters and Shakaar leaves. And then to embrace him and tell him what a good friend he is…how much can you torment a character in one episode?

Unknown Sample: There’s two ways you can view Odo’s characterisation in this episode – as a complete wet drip or as something a lot deeper. Fortunately the end result is the latter thanks to Rene Auberjonois’ touching performance – he really taps into that feeling of longing for something that is out of his grasp which I am sure we have all felt at one point. I love the way he fastidiously tidies up the Security Office before she turns up and has her drink ready and is more concerned with her sigh of relief once she has had her first gulp than the criminal activity report they have come together to discuss. He really has got it really bad. Kira thinks the belt he used to wear really suited him and so he immediately shapeshifts another one. Of all the people Shakaar could have chosen for a confidant! As he spills out his feelings for Kira the look in Odo’s eyes is screaming for him to stop because it is too painful and the camera lingers on him agonisingly as Shakaar talks about filling the hole that Bariel left behind. Frankly I think Odo needed the assassination attempt as a wake up call after strolling around the station in a dream – you could even accuse him of ignoring potential threats to eliminate a rival if you were dramatically inclined. The way he stands vigil outside Kira’s quarters imagining what must be going on in there must have been torture.

Mr Wolf: There’s a fantastic scene between Odo and Worf where they realise they have a great deal in common by them both being unsociable bastards! They both enjoy a sense of order (which is tough to find in the chaotic atmosphere of DS9), set out their quarters in a definitive way so they could move around it with their eyes closed and don’t enjoy people dropping by socially unannounced. This is how you do it, Voyager, its funny and loaded with character.

GE Doctor: Bashir and O’Brien continue their bromance as the former compliments the latter on his figure in his dress uniform.

Community Leader: ‘You could hear that?’ ‘Hello?’ Odo has assigned himself to quarters right above Quark so he can irritate the hell out of him by shapeshifting into various creatures. As puerile as that sounds its actually pretty amusing because Odo is usually so straight laced. Quark has always been Odo’s surrogate brother (especially in the rival sense of the term) and he proves that he really does care when he is the one who notices Odo’s pain as Shakaar and Kira start to form a relationship. If Quark wanted to he could use the information about Odo’s feeling to embarrass him but he chooses instead to advise him – that is the work of a friend, not an enemy.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I’ll tell you what else to do. Make sure everyone knows they can’t just drop by your quarters to say hello. If someone does, whatever happens don’t make them feel welcome…’ ‘Of course not! That would only encourage subsequent visits!’ – Odo and Worf having a curmudgeonly gossip!
‘Don’t stay too close’ – such painful words…Shakaar lets Odo know that he is going to try to get closer to Kira not realising that he is deeply in love with her. I would hate to hear those words if I were in love with the person.
‘I’ve been working with the Federation for a number of years. They claim to be open and understanding but somehow they’re always convinced that they’re right.’
‘Funny for a minute there I thought you were talking to me as a friend’ ‘Nah.’

The Good: I used to think the scene where Shakaar visits the Temple showed Odo as a complete paranoiac but it actually makes a great deal of sense when watching these episodes in order. The sequence is filmed in a very similar way to the assassination scene in In the Hands of the Prophets with the Bajorans crowding on the Promenade and with one shady looking character emerging from the crowd. It makes a lot of sense to be jumpy in a scene that mimics the near death of a Bajoran politician (which Shakaar is also). The assassination itself turns out to be quite low key (a freefalling lift) but then that isn’t what the episode is about and the sequence itself is very nicely directed. I remember there was a collective gasp of breath in the Ford household when it looked like Odo was going to reveal his feelings to Kira. It was a great moment watching with my mum and hubby.

The Bad: It might just be because my sympathies are entirely with Odo and because he seems to be completely oblivious to how much he is hurting him but I didn’t find Shakaar half as interesting or as likable here as I did during his debut episode.

Moment to Watch Out For: I love the scene where Quark consoles Odo in his smashed up quarters with every fibre of my being. It shows how special this relationship is and how much these two rely on each other no matter how much they might object to the contrary. Of course Quark can’t show genuine affection so he has to give his advice in a way that it seems he will benefit from but his advice telling Odo he needs to  tell Kira how he feels or get on with his life are just about the finest words the Ferengi has spoken. When you hit rock bottom sometimes you need a friend to slap you out of it and Quark does that here. It expresses the ‘family’ feeling of this show without the Voyager need to constantly ram it down your throat. The little touch of the work crew installing soundproofing for Quark is just gorgeous.

Foreboding: The Federation have agreed to cut the timetable for admittance by half which will be followed up in season fives superlative The Rapture.

Result: Love stories in Trek don’t have the best track records and yet Crossfire is the second triumphant romance this year and this time because our attentions are with the pained observer rather than the happy couple. The emotion that Rene Auberjonois can express with his eyes and his tone of voice is astonishing and anybody who has seen somebody they love fall in love with somebody else can empathise with the nightmare he faces here. When you consider the Odo/Kira that follow this one (Children of Time, Behind the Lines, His Way, Chimera) you go on an incredibly emotional journey with them and Crossfire and season threes Heart of Stone are the agonising first steps that ultimately lead to some exceptional payoff. There is barely an excuse for a plot but this episode is character, character, character all the way and as well the intense look at Odo’s dilemma there are some gorgeous moments from Worf and Quark too. This isn’t going to please the thrill seekers but for those of you who enjoy good character drama this might just be the episode for you: 8/10

Return to Grace written by Hans Beimler and directed by Jonathan West

What’s it about: Kira and Dukat take on the Klingons together…

Tasty Terrorist: Its great to be able to see the fire back in Kira’s eyes after half a season of her enjoying a softer approach to the role. The spray on uniform and fluffy hairdo are my least favourite look because she looks far too comfortable – I much prefer her style and attitude in the last three seasons of the show. There was a strong emphasis on Kira’s terrorist lifestyle in the first couple of years of this show and how she coped afterwards but seems to have been forgotten this year as she has gotten more comfortable in her role as liaison officer. Until now. Suddenly the Kira we know and love is back, improvising like mad and making snap decisions that will save lives. I love seeing the tactical side to her personality, its proof that she is far more effective than a simple administrator. I love the tough dialogue as Kira trains Ziyal in the art of Federation and Cardassian weaponry and her advice at how to win a knife fight (‘don’t get in one’) is spot on. Typically the Federation rifle is sophisticated, complicated and useless as a field weapon because too much can go wrong with it. What Dukat wants from Kira is forgiveness and that is the one thing she can never give him. Its not that she has a hard time accepting compliments, she has a hard time accepting compliments from Dukat. His pleas to Kira to come with him and fight their own little private war with the Klingons is outrageous but the way he approaches it makes it sound extremely romantic and appealing. I’m sure that despite her instant refusal there was a little part of her that thought re-igniting that passion would have been stimulating.

Slimy Snake: You know what they say…knock ‘em down and they just get back up again. Dukat has been relegated to carrying freight rather than advising the military because of the very public disgrace following the revelation about his affair and half Bajoran daughter. His mother disowned him and his wife took their children and left him – everything he has lost he intends to get back again and with somebody as wily as Dukat you know they wont be able to keep him in a subordinate position for long. He is extremely frustrated about the inadequacies of the vessel he has been given to command but all it takes is a few tips from the good Major to turn into a deadlier kind of freighter. Dukat is still laying on the charm and Marc Alaimo is really going for the smooth suitor role and despite his efforts the fractious chemistry between them still remains (and greatly entertains). When it comes to Ziyal Dukat regrets nothing. He is going to have to start shedding a lot of traditions if he is going to start fighting the Klingons and that includes shoving the cargo out of an airlock and losing his cut. Dukat finds himself thinking more and more of Gul Moret, a dashing rising star and a new member of the Detapa Council. He’s made it off with Dukat’s job and wife and the first thing he plans to do when he is returned to power is to reassign him to some dreadful post. Once he has secured that Klingon ship and intelligence Dukat is horrified to learn that he is still impotent because the Detapa Council is looking for a diplomatic solution to this latest skirmish.

Cross Breed: It’s the first episode to truly exploit the character of Ziyal and there clearly is a great deal of dramatic mileage in a character who embodies what a lot of what the Bajorans and the Cardassians still despises – a union between the two races. Living on Cardassia didn’t work because the majority of those she met could not see past the Bajoran ridges on her nose. Of course he wants to get his position back but he also cares about his people and wants to avenge their deaths. Dukat has told Ziyal that the Occupation was a mistake and the terrible things he did to the Bajorans bothers him…but I don’t know if that is the words of a repentant man or somebody who wants to convince his daughter that he has changed. Moving Ziyal to the station would prove to be a wise move where she make some controversial choices of friend and create some real fireworks in the future. She reminds Kira of herself at that age and she doesn’t want her to go through the kind of things that she went through following her father on some insane revenge mission against the Klingons.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘If I recall correctly you were the only female in his resistance cell that he charm…at least until now’ ‘Is that what you kept track of during the Occupation? No wonder you lost.’
‘Dukat you need to stop thinking like a Cardassian military officer!’ ‘And more like you?’ ‘More like a resistance fighter. You have got to make use of what you have. If you need a hammer and you don’t have one use a pipe!’
‘I’m a lot more complicated man than you give me credit for’ ‘If that’s true I guess I prefer simpler men.’
‘Maybe losing made him a better person’ ‘Then a lot of innocent people died for his education.’
‘No one wants to fight!

The Good: The teaser is great fun with Kira revealing Shakaar’s seduction techniques to Bashir (its astonishing how much more palatable their relationship is now Odo is not in the background pining) and Worf tries to get in his reservations about the Cardassian conference before Kira runs off to throw up! I’m really glad that someone seems to remember that there is a Klingon threat this season – actually that’s not entirely fair there have been mentions in practically every episode this of things happening off screen but there hasn’t been an episode to remind us of the developments in Way of the Warrior for an age. Fortunately from this point on the writers begin to exploit the idea (Sons of Mogh, Rules of Engagement, Broken Link, Apocalypse Rising, Nor the Battle to the Strong…). The Klingon ship that saunters off arrogantly as slow as they possibly can is hilarious and angers Dukat’s bruised ego causing him to fire on them and nearly get them all killed. Fortunately they decline the invitation considering them too insignificant even to destroy (‘Lucky for us’ coos Major Kira). I love the idea of avoiding a fight by transporting the Klingons from their damaged but repairable ship to the freighter on its last legs. Dukat slaughtering all of the Klingons when they are helpless is a great moment – only on DS9 could somebody seen to be this charming and a mass murderer.

Moment to Watch Out For: Dukat’s assessment of the Cardassians is that they were once a race whose very name bred fear into those who mentioned them and now they are a beaten people too frightened to fight back in case they lose what little is left. It’s a fascinating view considering how powerful and frightening they were in Emissary and shows how the developments of Way of the Warrior has damaged their reputation (mind you after their pact with Bajor I think they had started that themselves). Unknowingly Dukat has put his finger on the crux of the entire series which when you look at it as a whole the Cardassians turn out to be as important as the Bajorans and the Federation over the seven year span. Developments next year would see them regain their once mighty reputation only to watch them fall greater than ever before by the end of the last season. It’s a fascinating, bloodthirsty process to watch.

Foreboding: The first appearance of Damar whose role will grow and grow and grow until he becomes one of the most important characters in the shows last season. A lot of what we know about him later can be seen here – he is intensely loyal to Dukat and would follow him anywhere and considering he is in such a lowly position (as he would be in the final arc) he is an amiable sort of fellow. Its only when he gets a sense of power that he turns corrupt. His journey through the series would be one of the most satisfying.

Result: Have I stumbled in on an episode of Moonlighting by mistake? Return to Grace is a superb episode that takes everything about the Kira/Dukat relationship that worked in Indiscretion and plants into a more engaging story. The dialogue is tough and memorable and the characterisation so sharp as the two old enemies are forced to work together to avenge both their people. The return of Ziyal is a plus because it shows the gentler side of Dukat which muddies the waters because Kira only wants to see him as the once tyrannical murderer of her people. Her move to the station makes perfect sense since she can join the rest of the waifs and exiles that end up there. Going after the Klingon ship allows us to see a step by step approach to attacking a superior foe in an inferior craft and the action when it arrives is very dynamically directed. Once again we are seeing another pairing of characters emerge that would development into something truly memorable before the series finishes and it would do well to remember this episode when it comes to stories like Ties of Blood and Water and A Time to Stand. Return to Grace is a quiet episode for the most part but it is packed full of substance: 9/10

Sons of Mogh written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: A disgraced Kurn turns up to ask his brother to kill him…

Single Father: Its not often that a bloody knife turns up on his desk and one of his senior officers is accused of pre meditated murder. Sisko really chews out Worf here (its marvellous to learn later that Worf is really intimidated by him!) and says there is a limit to how far he will accept cultural diversity on the station and he has reached it. Every man and his dog tries to support Worf but Sisko basically tells them all to piss off.

Unknown Sample: How it must hurt Work to tuck his tail between his legs and ask Odo for a favour. They might enjoy having a chitchat together but there is still a certain level of friction between them and its all in the Security Chief’s voice that he is loving this turn of events. Worf is indebted to him and Odo tells him he will collect on that debt one day.

Mr Wolf: At last Worf has consequences for his actions in The Way of the Warrior although he does not apologise to his brother for destroying his life. Its an odd contradiction because he clearly regrets the chain of events that has followed his decision to turn his back on Gowron but finds that he has acted honourably so he has nothing to apologise for. Did Worf honestly think that he would be able to kill his brother and get away with it? What did he plan to do with the body? When Odo tells you that you need a sense a humour there is a serious problem! He is disturbed by the fact that he has lost the ability to look into somebody’s eyes and see they have made the decision to kill. Don’t worry Worf, there will be an armada of Jem H’adar soldiers along next season and your instincts will be better than ever after the slicing and dicing through that lot for three seasons! He realises that he no longer has a place in the Klingon Empire and that his only home is with Starfleet now. That has been the case since the beginning of the season but I think it has taken him this long to dump the romantic idea of one day returning home. 

Nine Lives: Dax flirts outrageously with Worf in the beginning of this episode and you can already see that this would be a great pairing as she can criticise all of his absolute certainties with glee. She wears a hot outfit to train with him – he knows it, she knows it but she still has great fun suggesting otherwise when he says she wore it to distract him. It honestly looks as though they were going to kiss as Dax looks deeply into his eyes and if it wasn’t for Odo’s interruption this relationship could have begun a lot sooner!

Community Leader: I really enjoy the Worf/Quark animosity and it pleases me to remember that it continues to simmer right up until the very last episode when Quark is delighted that he is finally leaving the station.

Oh Brother: I was surprised at how much of Worf’s side of this episode that I enjoyed but I still find Kurn to be an unlikable, self effacing bully who thinks little about what other people go through and more about himself. Its nothing to do with Tony Todd’s performance which is strong and he does everything that script asks him to do but I just don’t like the character. It amuses me to think that Kurn could wake up in Worf’s quarters and think he is in a holding cell! Surely he hasn’t decorated it that minimalist? He opposed the decision to break the treaty with the Federation because he knows they aren’t as weak as Gowron thinks they are. Fortunately it looks like Kurn has been written out of Star Trek for the foreseeable future and I can’t say I’m sad. He has a new life written for him to wipe clean his disgrace, a vital member of a small family where he can be useful and honourable without ever stepping into the limelight. Its as satisfactory an ending that we could have hoped for but still feels unexciting.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Does he know how to use the stun setting on a disruptor?’
‘What if there was a way for you to kill your brother without killing him?’

The Good: The make up for Kurn’s torso is extraordinary. Its not often that you see a suicide attempt where a man voluntarily stabs his own brother in the chest and the scene itself is very powerfully done (with a particularly dramatic score). Its another Klingon contradiction though; because they wont get into Stovokor if they commit the act themselves they get a family member to murder them – it seems both cowardly and a way of regaining your honour by acting dishonourably. David Livingston once again experiments with his extreme low and high angle shots; look at the way he shoots the scene in the Infirmary when Kurn first wakes up.

The Bad: The subplot about the Klingons mining the Quadrant is extremely dull, full of agonising technobabble and doesn’t lead anywhere particularly exciting. If this had been a relevant plot point that came to fruition at a later point I could have accepted its inclusion but its only ever relevant in this episode and fails to generate any excitement. I would have stuck in a charming character subplot (like in Accession coming up) to make this depressing episode a little more palatable but as it stands you have two dilapidated stories playing out back to back. 

Moment to Watch Out For: What the hell? Kira is laying all over the console in the runabout like some submissive Trek porn star! I knew they were a little more relaxed on this show but not this relaxed! She doesn’t even get seven hours sleep on the station so O’Brien figures it must be the company!

Fashion Statement: Kurn hates the Bajoran security uniform and that’s a good thing because he looks like a right nancy in it!

Result: Strangely I found myself sympathising with Worf in having to deal with a wayward family member and try and find a direction for him  - it reminds me of somebody in my family who didn’t fit and went out of their way to make every possible career path fail. I don’t particularly like Kurn but I can see the logic in bringing his story to a close after the developments at the beginning of the season. Unfortunately I never felt sympathy for his plight so my favourite moments were at the start of the episode when Worf tried to kill him. It’s a grim, bloody sequence and proves again that DS9 is not afraid to take risks and deal with issues such as suicide. Apart from that this a pretty dull Klingon piece with all the usual bollocks about honour and duty except this time it is told in a particularly depressing way. This show needs to stop talking about war and show it – I’ll happily make that criticism because I know one is brewing and will explode in the next season. Even the subplot which could be the saving grace of many early season DS9 episode lacks any interest. TNG was the expert at Klingon episodes with only the occasional misfire and DS9 is the flip side of that – they score the occasional hit (Once More Unto the Breach) but on the whole their Klingon episodes are unengaging, slovenly dramas which add little to the mix. Some nice characterisation of Worf aside, this didn’t really interest me: 4/10

Bar Association written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe & Ira Steven Behr and directed by LeVar Burton

What’s it about: Sick of being exploited by his brother, Rom starts a union…

Single Father: What with his tirade in Sons of Mogh and his furious response to the scuffle between his senior officers, Sisko must feel as though he is running a nursery rather than a space station! He gets to have his revenge here by ordering Odo to realise his men from the holding cell…in the morning.

Unknown Sample: The intriguing relationship between Worf and Odo continues as he insults the Security Chief by suggesting security lapses did not happen on the Enterprise and Odo starts reciting numerous occasions when they did. What’s funny about this scene is that Odo seems to have all the information prepared to have this conversation with him…so I guess he knew the sulky Klingon would be whinging on his doorstep at some point!

Mr Wolf: Dax is flirting with Worf again at the start of this episode declaring that he is in love (he looks shocked)…with the Defiant! The sooner these two jump each others bones the sooner we can get on with loosening Worf up a bit. The grumpy git is moving his quarters to the Defiant so he can get away from all the niggly annoyances on the station, all alone. ‘Perhaps in the end it will be all of you who have to adapt to me’ – oh piss off back to the Enterprise!

Everyday Engineer: We learn some very funny things about O’Briens family in this episode namely that he is descended from King Brian Barue who fought in the Battle of Britain and Sean O’Brien lead the Pennsylvanian coal miners on strike. Both of them died in bloody ways but at least they died for a good cause! Its brilliant that O’Brien acknowledges how bored he used to get on the Enterprise hanging around in the transporter room waiting for something to happen! On the station he has half a dozen new problems every day. I had no doubt that O’Brien who has always had an affinity with the lower ranks (Starship Down) would be on the side of labour.

GE Doctor: When exactly did Leeta and Bashir become a couple? Its not that I mind off screen romances but to suddenly start referring to these two as a couple seems a little odd since there has been no hint of such other than a little flirt in Explorers.

Community Leader: The only thing the Bajoran cleansing ritual has cleansed is Quark’s profit margin and so to recoup his loses he decides to cut everybody’s wages by a third. You would hate to have this guy as your boss, wouldn’t you? Quark is so unused to his employees speaking up for themselves he laughs his head of at their little union but the joke is on him when they all walk out on him and the smile is wiped clean off his face. Quark thinks that all Ferengi see things the way he does so he offers Rom a bribe to end the strike (something that Quark himself would snap up if he was in his brothers situation) but he forgets about his brothers compassion for his fellow workers.

Secret Genius: I honestly do not know why some people have a problem with Rom because to me he is one of the cutest characters on this show and considering the rest of the regulars are fighters, security officers, administrators and scientists (how exciting) its lovely to have such an adorable character waiting in the wings. Its been a lot of fun watching the Ferengi family dynamics change over the last two years and with Nog having fulfilled his ambitions and off at Starfleet Academy its now time to turn our attention to Rom. He has been slowly gaining some independence (confronting his brother in Facets after he tried to destroy his sons dreams and his technical knowledge came in handy in Little Green Men and Our Man Bashir) but this where he finally breaks free of his brother and starts to build his own life. He patronises Rom and insults him whenever he gets too clever for his own good but he oversteps the mark when he tells him he wishes he was an only child. It’s the knife in the gut hurt that he needs to finally start fighting back. He’s a little nervous to start off with but he becomes quite the public speaker, venting all that frustration that has built up after years of abuse from Quark. What I love about his union meeting is that he whips everybody into a frenzy of excitement and then looks shocked that it has actually worked! Bless him, he really doesn’t have a lot of faith in his own abilities but he has taken a stand now and doesn’t intend to back down. Interestingly it is when his life is threatened by Brunt that he gains the confidence he needs to really see this through and begins to sound not only confident but charismatically so. Rom’s reaction to being kissed on the forehead by Leeta is gorgeous. Rom finally gets to tell his brother that he is sick of being bullied and in a moment of extraordinary characterisation he doesn’t show pity for him when Quark is beaten up, he pretty much says you had it coming. He proudly announces his new job to his brother as one of the stations repair technicians and he (and the audience) realise that there is no going back for this Ferengi. He has had a taste of independence and he likes it. Rom has realised that he does better for himself when Quark is not around and thinks that this time apart will be really good for their relationship. You see writers of Voyager – its called development and even the semi regulars are blessed with it! The last shot of Rom at the bar looking really proud of himself works a charm.

What’s Morn up to: Morn is like the rose between two arguing thorns as Quark and Leeta tear strips out of each other, looking at each of them a little lost!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘It wasn’t much of a brawl, really. I grabbed you, you shoved me and Julian was tossed over a table!’
‘I always cared about you. I tried to protect you, save you from yourself!’ ‘How by telling my I was an idiot all my whole life?’ ‘I had to be tough on you I was trying to make you a better Ferengi!’ ‘What you were trying to do was make yourself feel important. Making me feel dumb. Make you feel smart. Well I’m not dumb and you’re not half as smart as you think you are!’ – there’s Rom and Quark’s relationship in a nutshell and the moment he finally tells his brother it isn’t going to be that way anymore.

The Good: Rom tipping that solution down his ear is both yucky and hilarious at the same time. It turns out all Ferengi labour contracts are the same and their generous employee packages include no sick days, no vacations and no paid overtime! The trouble is it doesn’t change because the Ferengi workers don’t want to stop the exploitation, they want to become the exploiters. When Rom tells his fellow workers that they are going to form a union it is their reaction that is funny – they step back as if they have been slapped! Its Leeta’s fourth appearance in DS9 and she definitely feels like one of the family now. Quark’s insane solution to replace his missing staff is to use holographic versions of himself which keep malfunctioning and breaking things. Cue amusing scenes of multiple Quark’s in the background. I would accept any excuse for Jeffrey Combs to appear in DS9 and his return appearance as Brunt is something to treasure. He relishes every line of dialogue and can switch from grotesquely comic to menacing in a heartbeat. The simple fact that Rom manages to strike a blow for the workers by refusing to be intimidated makes me smile every time I watch this.

Moment to Watch Out For: The story takes a dark when Quark is beaten to a pulp to prove a point to Rom. What I love about this scene is that you despise Quark for a second because he is happily going through all the people that Rom knows who could be hurt until he realises that Brunt is talking about him. Suddenly you feel very scared for him. Any scene that can manipulate its audience that deftly is doing something very right.

Only DS9: ‘And I’ve probably been getting too much Oo’max’ ‘Really? Who’s the lucky female?’ ‘No female, just me’ Only this show would dare to have such blatant masturbation humour! ‘Exposed to the twisted values of the Federation!’ – nobody really has anything nice to say about the Federation on this show do they. Its so refreshing.

Fashion Statement: Somehow Bashir and O’Brien get away with hulking through Quarks as a pair of hairy Battle of Britain warriors!

Foreboding: Rom and Leeta are head over heels in love with each but Bashir stands in their way. But not for long…

Result: What a marvellous antidote to all that Klingon nonsense in the last episode! Bar Association blends comedy and drama with some skill, its an episode with a message for its audience and it approaches the subject in a dramatic way but there are loads of fun, quirky moments to make the overall story as enjoyable as possible. This is exactly the sort of show LeVar Burton should be directing because he gets the chance to get the best of his actors and to experiment with some idiosyncratic camera techniques and it doesn’t contain any action which is where his work usually falters. I loved the scrap between Worf and O’Brien. I loved the fact that Quark had his ribs punctured for his arrogance. I loved the return of Jeffrey Combs as Brunt. I loved Leeta’s gentle feelings for Rom emerging. But most of all I loved Max Grodenchik’s star turn as Rom as he takes on an gorgeous journey of discovering his confidence. I understand that the writers loved this one and the studio hated it – its further proof that the studio really don’t have a clue what they are doing because this is precisely the sort of diversion from the norm that made DS9 such an enjoyable show to watch. You never quite knew what you were going to get each week…and Bar Association is one unique little gem: 9/10

Accession written by Jane Espenson and directed by Les Landau

What’s it about: A Bajoran light ship comes through the wormhole and its occupant claims to be the Emissary…

Single Father: In the teaser Sisko looks as he has always looked as a religious icon – deeply uncomfortable. To have a meeting interrupted to be asked to bless a couple on their wedding day is not exactly what he signed up for. Kira almost looks embarrassed for him as he stumbles through the ceremony. Sisko is more than willing to give up his role of the Emissary to Akoram and thinks the prophecies surrounding the role make more sense for him – after all they never gave him back his life. Dax points out in that wonderfully blunt way of hers that they might not have saved his life but they did give him a purpose again. Akoram ticks all the boxes and Starfleet would be thrilled as they have never been comfortable with the situation. Almost as if to stamp his mark on the role Akoram grabs Sisko’s ear and proclaims that his pagh is strong and he can understand why Opaka thought he was the Emissary and why Winn fears him. Sisko is furious about the hypocrisy of the Starfleet who were always trying to get him to distance himself from being the Emissary but now that he has and the Dejaras have been enforced they have as good as told him that he has failed in his mission to bring Bajor into the Federation. After people start dying he decides enough is enough and questions Akoram’s right to the role. The Prophets reveal that they sent Akoram into the future for Sisko and that he is ‘of Bajor.’ Given the twist that comes in season seven’s Image of the Sand about his parentage this is a good early indication. This episode has been a real learning curve for Sisko, opening his eyes to the fact that him being the Emissary is a positive thing and from this point on he embraces the role. There are some great moments to come (The Rapture, Favour the Bold, Penumbra) where he is connection to this planet is explored in some depth.

Tasty Terrorist: Upon learning that the mysterious traveller is one of Bajor’s most famous poets Kira treats Akoram with great respect and so when he reveals that he is the Emissary it is no great leap for her to accept him. She has the unenviable task of explaining the entirety of the Occupation to him, having missed the last 300 years of Bajoran history. I love how Kira explains to Odo that faith is what allows her to believe that Sisko was the Emissary last week and Akoram this week but as soon as the new Emissary declares a return to the Dejaras there is a subtle close up on her face exposing how uncomfortable she is with the idea. She doesn’t want to become an artist but know because of her faith she will have to. Because she has a high ranking Dejaras Kira feels uncomfortable with all the bowing and scraping she receives from fellow Bajorans with lower ranks. There is no doubt about it – those are the worst sculpted birds I have ever seen!

Unknown Sample: ‘Two days ago you thought Captain Sisko was the Emissary’ ‘Well he made it clear he wants to step aside’ ‘Does that mean he never was the Emissary?’ ‘No’ ‘But they can’t both be…’ ‘I don’t know what do you want from me Odo?’ ‘Forgive me Major I don’t wish to be difficult but your faith seems to have led to something of a contradiction…’ This is gorgeous dialogue and Odo is just the sort of hard hitting character to say it how it is, exposing the hypocrisy of religion that can rewrite something that was considered sacrosanct last week.

The O’Briens: The adorable subplot features Keiko coming home after a year away and O’Brien and Bashir’s year of bachelorhood coming to an end. The first scene sees them clearing up the wreck of his quarters which Bashir considers a monument to his year as a bachelor but O’Brien knows if he doesn’t tidy up Keiko will dismantle him! Keiko has some news…she’s pregnant again! O’Brien almost looks disappointed because he thought that once they started trying for a baby he would get lots of extra nookie! Bashir can be found nursing a drink in Quark’s all on his own literally jumps on O’Brien when he walks past on his way home. Miles knows once he holds his little baby in his arms he will be the happiest man in the world but he was hoping that now Molly is a little older he would be able to go out at night with Keiko. She discovers his Battle of Britain jacket to her horror and Miles tries playing darts with Molly but its not the same as his time with Bashir.

What’s Morn up to: He’s dreadful at darts but has two ladies on his arms as compensation! O’Brien suggests that Bashir should take Morn to their weekly Battle of Britain re-enactment on the holosuite! Could you imagine him in the cockpit of a Spitfire?

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘No more ceremonies to attend. No more blessings to give. No more prophecies to fulfil. I’m just a Starfleet officer again. All I have to worry about are the Klingons, the Dominion and the Marquis. I feel like I’m on vacation!’
‘Quark did you hear? Chief O’Brien is having a baby!’ ‘I thought your females carried your young?’
‘Did you hear…Keiko’s going to have another baby!’ ‘Now?’ – Worf is horrified to learn that he may be called upon to deliver another child!
‘Its an original Kira Neyrs. It could be very valuable some day’ ‘I hear she didn’t make many.’

The Good: It’s the only episode of Star Trek written by Jane Espenson who was one of the finest writers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one of the principle writers on Torchwood Miracle Day. Judging by the quality of this episode (especially the dialogue) she definitely should have been asked back to write more. Having Akoram Laan the famous poet from 300 years ago  claim that he is the Emissary opens up a massive can of worms that needs to be addressed. For a while I was convinced that his story about meeting the Prophets was a fake but the truth is far more interesting than that. Dejaras are a strict caste system that Bajor used to have before the Occupation which dictated by which family you were born into what your occupation would be. Akoram is shocked to learn that people no longer follow them, they were abandoned when the Cardassians invaded. They always manage to pack the Promenade full of extras for the crowd scenes, don’t they? There seems to be hundreds of people attending Akoram’s initiation ceremony! It seems the writers are ready to tackle the Bajoran admittance into the Federation since it was brought up in Crossfire and now is threatened by Akoram’s controversial innovations of Bajoran society. Caste based discrimination goes against the Federation charter and if they go ahead with the Dejaras their application will be rejected. Its lovely to see Opaka back even if it is only for a brief dream sequence. She’s still on that planet Sisko – go get her! Religion is such a difficult thing to get right on television because so many writers go for the religious lunatic angle but with DS9 they have always shown a great respect for religious beliefs by having one of the regular cast a devout believer and good person. Watching this episode play out is fascinating because you can see it through the eyes of two Bajorans – Kira, who struggles with the new role the Dejaras force upon her and Vedek Porta who goes to extreme lengths to enforce the new law. Even as far as killing somebody whose Dejaras is unclean. Seeing this from the point of view of two very different personalities reveals how this process can be life changing and very scary. The way Porta smiles so warmly about pushing the victim off the balcony is terrifying. The four shift rotation brought up in Starship Down seems to be working as there are less mistakes due to fatigue – it’s a small mention but another tiny example of DS9 following through on an earlier promise. The sequence with the Prophets besides being well directed gives us some interesting titbits. They declare that ‘we are of Bajor’ which we have never heard before.

Moment to Watch Out For: There is a gorgeous, gorgeous moment where Kira tells Sisko she is going to resign and follow her Dejaras and he admits that he could never replace her. In an episode that is screaming with character development this perhaps my favourite because when I think back to season one when these two were literally tearing each others throats off and now they are welling up at the thought of not working together anymore. Its beautifully acted by Avery Brooks and Nana Visitor and its another pairing that gives this show real strength. The ending of the Bashir/O’Brien plot is a peach too. People who moan that Keiko is a moaning Minnie should stick this episode on where she gleefully manoeuvres her husband and his best friend into having some time together having noticing that O’Brien is pining after him. Its so cuddlesome it made me pick up the cat and give her a squeeze.

Result: Accession is a fine Bajoran episode that I didn’t really appreciate at the time but has aged beautifully like a fine wine. Its another show that reveals massive character growth with Sisko finally accepting his role as the Emissary and it kicks off a whole new strand for the character as he starts to consider Bajor to be his home. The whole set up is a massive con by the Prophets so Sisko comes to terms with being a religious icon. Richard Libertini deserves real credit for his totally convincing turn as the fake Emissary, he’s a gentle, unassuming man but his moral from 300 years past threaten to tear down the Federation/Bajoran alliance. Its one of those episodes with a main plot that fascinates and a subplot which makes you feel all cuddly and I cannot believe how far Bashir and O’Brien have come now that they are longing to be able to spend time together. The scene where Keiko sweetly manipulates them into having an evening together makes me smile every time I see it. The characters are in such fine shape by this point that when you add in an interesting premise like this one the stories practically self perpetuating. Accession asks tough questions about religion and yet manages to remain a light and amiable affair. Its another knockout in the consistently strong fourth season: 9/10

Rules of Engagement written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by LeVar Burton

What’s it about: Worf is put on trial of the murder of a civilian transport…

Single Father: Somebody get Avery Brooks lined up for a legal show because he seems very suited to shouting out ‘objection!’

Mr Wolf: The interesting thing about this dilemma is that if it were true and Worf did kill all those innocent civilians then his precious sense of honour would mean that even he would think he deserves to be punished. Jadzia has often seen the killer instinct in Worf’s eyes when they fight but it always goes away because he knows how to stop. He’s a very private man who doesn’t share an awful lot with his bartender, especially one he hates as much as Quark. I do think it was brave of Worf to admit that if he had to do it all over again he would still fire because if he faltered he would have been negligent especially in the face of O’Brien’s confession that he wouldn’t have fired. Ch’Pok suggests that Worf is hated by Klingons because he was raised by humans not because he sided against them in the invasion of Cardassia. It was nice to see Sisko chew Worf out at the end for making such a dreadful mistake in firing on the transport ship. Nobody is getting away with anything in this season with Sisko watching over them and he tells Worf he was lucky this time.

What’s Morn up to: Dammit we almost get to hear Morn speak but Ch’Pok interrupts at the last moment!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Worf is about to present us with something we never have won in battle: sympathy.’
‘I’m always suspicious of people who are eager to help a police officer!’

The Good: The opening dream sequence might just be the best thing about this episode. Filmed in slow motion on the Defiant, Worf runs around the ship and discovers both human and Klingon corpses covered in bloody lesions. Ron Canada is another one of those actors that has turned up in everything and he certainly makes a very energised debut in DS9 as the lawyer Ch’Pok. Can you imagine him telling his mother and father what his career choice is going to be…it must be like coming out on Kronos. ‘So son are you going to be a good, strong warrior like your brothers?’ ‘No, I want to be a lawyer’ ‘Oh dear, we always knew one of you would be different…’ I loved Ch’Pok’s assertion that the human justice system emphasises procedure over substance – that is a harsh reality of many court cases. The framing device is fascinating with the normal set up scenes being told in flashback and the character directly addressing the audience like Shakespearean conspirators. Its an interesting approach that is almost enough to justify another excursion a into Trek courtroom. Quark’s evidence is great fun because he can’t settle on the details and the flashback keeps altering depending on his story. Paying out the same scene again with O’Brien in command gives us the opportunity to see how it might have been played out differently.

The Bad: The Klingon Empire figures that if they can accuse a Federation officer of committing a massacre it will put them on the defensive and whilst they are trying to repair a badly damaged reputation they will find themselves with certain opportunities. Don’t get me wrong that is a pretty good strategy and once again I am glad for the increased focus on the ‘Klingons as nasties’ story arc but I wish Ch’Pok hadn’t revealed that five minutes into the episode because it leaves very few surprises as to what they are up to to last the rest of the episode! It would be like Dukat at the beginning of Cardassians going ‘Well Commander if only I can get these charges against my political rival to stick my plan to leave Rugal at that orphanage when we pulled out of Bajor will have worked!’ Ch’Pok’s evidence of Worf enjoying a holodeck programme where he massacres and entire town is tenuous at best…I enjoy reading crime novels but that doesn’t make me a criminal! Watching the destruction of the convoy ship in flashback isn’t half as dramatic as it would have been in real time because we already know what the consequences are – it might have been better to have let this be the pre titles sequences because it would have been a really meaty way to kick start the episode. Worf isn’t the brightest spark in the book is he? Surely he could see that Ch’Pok was trying to rile him and yet he rose to the bait anyway and attacked him in front of the judge! The reveal that the transport ship was empty is a good one but again it would have been more dramatic to have played this out with some real investigation rather than just talking about in a courtroom.

Moment to Watch Out For: Canada is wonderfully over the top during the hearing sequences giving them some energy and watchability. Otherwise this could have been particularly dreary.

Result: Rules of Engagement used to be my least favourite episode of season four but having watched it again it wasn’t as dreadful as I remembered. LeVar Burton experimented with some intriguing flashback techniques which made the interminable courtroom scenes a little more exciting and Ron Canada gives his all to the rather thankless part of deconstructing Worf’s character. What bugs me is that there is a really exciting story to be told here and the basic structure of the transport being destroyed and the investigation of the debris and the victims would have made for a fantastic episode but confining all of its dramatic moments to waffle in a court of law and flashbacks guts the story of any shocks. Like Sons of Mogh there are some insights into Worf’s character that are worth seeking out but it does worry me that Way of the Warrior aside all the of the Worf episodes have been the weakest of the fourth season when he was supposed to have been brought in to pep things up. He seems to have had an odd effect on the show – everybody is at the top of their game whereas he isn’t quite working out yet despite the odd moment of brilliance in episodes that aren’t about him. Still they rectify that in the next season. For now, Rules of Engagement is a plodding affair and lacks the dramatic strength of the best Trek courtroom tales: 5/10

Hard Time written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Alexander Singer

What’s it about: O’Brien is accused of espionage and given 20 years in prison…

Everyday Engineer: Of all the people they could have given this episode to O’Brien was a given because Colm Meaney makes him so easy to feel for. His admission that the experiences in prison were real to him give you an idea of what is about to play out in this episode but I don’t think anybody could have guessed the intensity at which it would do so. He used to dream about being in a runabout and going back to the station and now it is actually happening he keeps expecting to find himself back in the cell again. You wonder why O’Brien would lie about something like his cellmate until you realise the agonising truth. O’Brien seeing Ee’char instead of Keiko is fascinating from a psychological standpoint because he must have felt extremely guilty about leaving her for 20 years and he also feels guilty about what he has done to his fellow prisoner and the two are interchangeable. It had been so long he had forgotten that Keiko was pregnant. He is haunted by his guilt and keeps seeing Ee’char around the station. Miles has always hated counsellors, he doesn’t understand why somebody needs qualifications to listen to his problems and to be forced to sit there and spill everything is not something that comes easy to him. There is so much anger and regret locked up in him it only takes a simple ‘how are you’ to set him off (Odo) and when he cannot get what he wants he gets physical (Quark) or threatening (Bashir). Hard Time confirms what I have long suspected and that is if you encounter O’Brien in the wrong sort of mood he can be quite frightening. Its only because he is usually such an amiable chap that we never notice. He tells himself he is home and happy but the fact that Ee’char keeps haunting him is telling him otherwise. There are demons that need to be put to rest that he refuses to face. His anger builds and builds until he does the one thing that would hurt him more than anything – he almost hits his own daughter when she wants some attention. The thing he cannot get over is the fact that he wanted Ee’char to die when he killed him – he was so hungry and so lost he wanted to snap his neck for the scrap of bread he was hiding.

GE Doctor: As good as the characterisation for O’Brien is in this episode, there is similarly superb work done with Bashir who has come so far from that arrogant youth in the first two seasons. The way he looks after O’Brien here despite the torrent of abuse he gets from his patient goes far beyond professional interest and is where they go from being very good friends to the best of friends. When O’Brien realising that Bashir has been talking to Sisko he heads to the Infirmary and releases a torrent of fury saying that they are no longer friends and he wants him to leave him alone. Bashir looks genuinely pained but still isn’t ready to give up on him. He calmly and gently listen to O’Brien’s heartbreaking confession and then helps to begin his healing. In that moment he is the best damn Doctor Starfleet has ever seen and the best friend a man could have.

Young Sisko: The irony of Jake having to teach O’Brien what all the tools of the trade are when it took O’Brien so long to teach him is not lost on me.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Hello Miles. Welcome to Hell.’
‘If there’s one thing I haven’t missed in the last twenty years its your smug, superior attitude!’
‘When we were growing up they used to tell us humanity had evolved. That mankind had outgrown hate and rage. But when it came down to it, when I had the chance to show that no matter what anyone did to me that I was still an evolved human being – I failed. I repaid kindness with blood. I was no better than an animal.’
‘The Agrathi did everything they could to strip you of your humanity and in the end for one brief moment they succeeded. But you can’t let that brief moment define your entire life. If you do, if you pull that trigger then the Agrathi will have won. They would have destroyed a good man. You cannot let that happen my friend.’

The Good: Its such an ingenious concept and a hellish punishment for committing a crime – to be given the memories of an Agrathi prisoner who suffered a dreadful 20 years in prison when in reality you have only undergone a procedure that lasted a few hours. In your head you have lived out those 20 years of disgusting food, terrible conditions and hardship. Its much more effective than maintaining a prison system and much more effective. There is a shot through the viewing window of a runabout of the station which is absolutely gorgeous – they really capture that moment of O’Brien coming home again. Craig Wasson deserves a lot of credit for bringing Ee’char alive so vividly considering he was never a real person in the first place. He gives the character a distinct personality and proves to be warm and wonderful company whilst O’Brien is stuck in prison. I love the fact that Bashir cannot do anything about the prison memories. So often in Trek they skip over logic and perform miracles (the Doctor de-evolving Janeway and Paris in Threshold for example – how the hell did he do that?) but memory seems to be one area they still can’t stray into without affecting the person seriously. There some beautifully observed moments of prison habits still affecting O’Brien’s life from saving food in a napkin for later and curling up on the floor to sleep. The prison set is brilliantly designed, its moodily under lit, cramped with horrifying screams calling out in the distance. There is an astonishing moment when O’Brien loses it completely in prison and sets all the other prisoners off too. Its remarkably intense and what fascinated me was that there was no violence involved, it is all down to Colm Meaney’s riveting performance. The revelation that O’Brien snapped Ee’char’s neck because he thought he was hiding food from him is truly shocking especially when we discover that he was holding back food for both of them. It’s a feral, powerful fight that ends in the spine tingling sound of Ee’char’s neck bones cracking.

The Bad: it does irritate me that these prison memories are never referred to again. Just a small moment in a couple of episodes would have sufficed.

Moment to Watch Out For: The painful moment when O’Brien pulls a phaser from a weapons locker and holds it under his chin. There is something about the simplicity and violent method that he chooses that makes this far more disturbing than a similar scene with Neelix in Voyager’s Mortal Coil. The episode has systematically trapped O’Brien in a depressing nightmare where all the certainties in his life have been snatched away. He’s no good at his job, he can’t relate to his family and he feels disconnected from his friends. He’s being continually haunted by the guilt of what he did in prison and at his lowest ebb he can only think of one way to end the pain, suicide. Its astonishingly hard hitting for Star Trek and I am very pleased that let this play out in as naturally way possible. 

Orchestra: Hard Time has one of the more emotive scores for DS9 and one of the best. There is a subtle sense that things are very wrong when O’Brien waits in the Infirmary for Keiko to arrive. His life feels as though it is slipping out of his hands as he leaves Sisko’s office and the music suggests a wave of anger is about to escape. The music when O’Brien snaps Ee’char’s neck and slavers hungrily over to the food he has been hiding still gives me the shivers.

Result: Simply stunning. You wouldn’t want every episode of Star Trek to be this depressing but Hard Time is a no holds barred psychological drama that studies the horrors of depression, post traumatic stress and attempted suicide through the eyes of our everyday engineer, O’Brien. The episode opens with subtle discomfort as we watch O’Brien adjust to prison life and to his life back at the station and as one becomes more and more disturbing so does the other. Colm Meaney gives one of the all time best performances from any Trek episode here, he is simply mesmerising to watch and he takes O’Brien on a spiral of depression that grabs the viewer and never lets go. Alexander Siddig provides excellent support too as Bashir gently tries to talk O’Brien out of pulling the trigger and ending his life. If you are going to try and pull of high concept episodes then this is the way to do it – you have to show that these imaginative ideas have consequences rather than simply basking in the fact of how clever the ideas are. Beautifully written, acted, directed and scored, this is one of the best DS9 episodes: 10/10

Shattered Mirror written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by James L. Conway

What’s it about: Imagine coming home and finding your dead mother grinning at your from the sofa?

Single Father: Sisko is distracted by a load of Bajor bollocks while his son is bewitched by the woman who looks like his ex wife…this is not going to be a good day. Hottie alternative Dax gives Sisko a good slap and waves a knife in his face for making love to her under false pretences. Whatever connection might have been made between Sisko and Jennifer in Through the Looking Glass is severed when she exploits the one thing he cares about most. From that point on Sisko is decidedly frosty towards her. Somehow it doesn’t seem like Sisko’s style to duck out of a fight so it came as no surprise to me that he headed the attack on the Klingon warship. Sisko and Jake have to lose their wife/mother all over again and that is enough to break anyone’s heart.

Tasty Terrorist: As good as everybody else is at playing their alter egos nobody can hold a candle to what Nana Visitor does with the Indendant and I was surprised they waited so long for her to make an appearance (almost halfway through the episode). At least she turns up in style, being tortured by Bashir and asking for the pain device to be turned up to a higher setting! She could never make Garak and the alliance fools realise that violence is a precision instrument, it’s a scalpel, not a club.

Unknown Sample: It was a given that Odo and Quark would appear in the pre titles sequence since they have both been killed in the mirror universe. Contractual obligations and all that. Actually its quite a cute scene for all that and once again proves that Odo and Quark are the best friends each other has. If Sisko helps her to escape she promises she will be very grateful and considering what a dirty bitch she is I bet that is almost an offer worth taking up.

Mr Wolf: Its ironic that Michael Dorn’s best episode in season four is the episode when he isn’t actually playing Worf! His camp, psychotic, wonderfully comical turn as the Regent is one of the highlights of this season. He loves being in charge and rips off Picard’s sayings (‘Make it so!’) but also enjoys torturing his prisoners and indulging in almost homoerotic wordplay. Its delightful to watch and when you throw in Andrew Robinson’s desperately theatrical alternative Garak you have some highly gigglesome scenes. The Regent enjoys having Garak on his knees with a collar around his neck so he can yank him close whenever he wants to abuse him.

Everyday Engineer: Its not so much a comment on this episode but the actor but just look at how different Colm Meaney’s performance is in this to what it was in Hard Time. The suicidal O’Brien from the last episode and confident Smiley are very different characters but he plays both with absolute conviction. A great actor. 

Young Sisko: Jake has been pining after Nog on their spot on the Promenade ever since he has left for the Academy. As a small consolation Odo admits that he never used to chase Jake away he was always after Nog…he just always happened to be with him! You cannot underestimate the shock of coming home one day and finding your dead mother looking radiantly beautiful having a drink with your father. That’s a moment that would screw anybody up! Jake is mesmerised by this woman who looks like his mother, it’s the closest he will ever get spending time with her as an adult and it’s a clever psychological hook to get Sisko to cross over. Its certainly more manipulative than O’Brien holding a gun on Sisko is Through the Looking Glass. When Sisko catches up with his son he has a look of thunder and I’m not surprised – his son is hanging out with his mother in a sleazy bar with his arm around the waist of a lady of night! When Jake started making plans to get his father and his mother’s alternative version from another universe together I was laughing my head off. Perhaps he had recently seen a copy of the Doctor Who episode Doomsday and was using the Tyler’s as a model of how this sort of thing can work!

Starfleet Ferengi: In this universe Nog is a like a even dodgier version of Quark, a opportunist with a busty babe on each arm.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You are attempting to shift the blame away from yourself!’ ‘Am I succeeding?
‘The Indendant was bad enough. She was irrational, accusatory, unappreciative…but at least..’ ‘At least what?’ ‘At least I was able to please her now and then…’ ‘You are not my type!’ – I never thought I would see the day when Garak came on to Worf but I’m glad that day has come!
‘Me help you fight the alliance? What a perverse idea. I have better one – why don’t I cut your throat.’
‘You sentenced my wife to death’ ‘Isn’t that a co-incidence I was hoping you wasn’t married.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘What am I supposed to do with these torpedoes?’ – bloody funny for all the wrong reasons!

The Good: At first I thought it was a little co-incidental that there is a prototype Defiant in the mirror universe but then they threw in the line about Smiley grabbing the schematics when he was last there which ties that up quite nicely. Even though it was her scheme to get Jake over to their universe and force Sisko to follow I like the way that as much as he is seduced by her appearance, she starts to enjoy the idea of being a mother. When the episode is full of great comedy performances it gives it some real heart (‘I look at Jake and all I see is the son I’ll never have…’). If you aren’t a fan of the Ferengi characters on this show then these alternative universe episodes must be tailor made for you. It seems that you cannot have one of these episodes without one them being killed and this time it is Nog’s turn, shot down by the Internet after saving her. There are some of the best effects this show has offered since Way of the Warrior and the fire fight is almost as good. Dazzling shots of the Defiant and a Klingon Bird of Prey dancing around the station, ducking beneath the docking ring and hiding behind the pylons as they fire on each other. There has been a massive shift in the quality of the space battles this season which is all to the benefit of the show and nothing looks better than the Defiant when it lets rip its weaponry. Shots of the Defiant weaving through phaser blasts as it uses the underbelly of the Klingon ship for cover are stunning.

The Bad: There is something very casual about crossing over to another universe these days. It feels more like popping out to the shops for some milk! In Crossover it was a huge moment and a dramatic reveal but now the premise has been set up its just like walking from one room to another. They haven’t made a great deal of difference to stock sets this time around and anybody switching on halfway through might think we are still on our DS9 and everybody is just acting a little strangely.

Moment to Watch Out For: The whole sequence where Worf accuses Garak of swallowing the key to his manacle and stabs him in the gut to try and find it. Its bloody funny - superbly performed and written with some knockout lines (‘Perhaps you swallowed it!’ ‘Impossible! I’m most very particular about what I eat! / ‘The key sir! Somehow it fell into…my boot.’)

Result: Very entertaining but not quite as good as the first two forays into the alternative universe, Shattered Mirror still enjoys a multitude of great moments to savour. The backbone some with the idea of Sisko having to deal with the return of his Jennifer in Jake’s wife and this provides some nice reflective scenes and poignant ending. But what we really want is the sort of action and performances that we can’t get in our universe and on that score Shattered Mirror delivers spectacularly. I’m not sure what I prefer…the delightful two handers between the psychotic Worf and his toadying slave Garak, Nana Visitor’s super sultry Indendant or the dazzling special effects as the Defiant swoops into action and takes on the Klingons. There’s plenty to enjoy but what worries me is how little the set designers have done to distinguish the two universes when that was a priority and one of the standout elements of the first crossover. Still there’s plenty of sleaze on display and for the chance to see Garak come on to Worf I can recommend this episode. This would turn out to be the last truly great alternative universe episode and should be savoured as such: 8/10

The Muse written by Rene Echevarria and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Lwaxana turns up at the station pregnant and marries Odo. Prepare yourselves…

Unknown Sample: Whatever good comes out of this episode is thanks to the talents of Rene Auberjonois who can pretty much overcome any material and make it sing. Odo admits that he is happy for Kira and Shakaar to be together, its almost a release so he can get on with his life. One of the best moments comes when he feels the baby moving in Lwaxana’s stomach and the look of wonderment on his face is a joy to behold. The way he replicates a blanket over her as she sleeps in his arms is really very sweet. Listening to Odo saying how much fun he is having and smiling just feels wrong – you just know that something is going to swoop in and snatch away this happiness for him. Before he met Lwaxana his world was a much smaller place, he kept to himself, he didn’t need anybody else and he took pride in that. He was ashamed of who he was and if people saw how truly different he was they would recoil from him. Lwaxana saw how different he was and she didn’t do that – she wanted to see more. It changed him forever to know to know that there were people out there who want ed to know him as he was. He has gotten used to having Lwaxana around and tries to convince her to stay but because she is still in love with him she knows she has to leave.

Young Sisko: Sometimes you have to wonder if Jake is a little bit simple. Along comes a woman who knew a famous Cardassian architect with a spectacular career that cut short by his untimely death and then she offers him a chance to unlock his potential…and he doesn’t put two and two together. Its not often we are this far ahead of a regular on this show, this early. I guess we had to see Sisko going away so Jake is alone and ready to be corrupted by this older, mysterious woman. I’m not sure what this side of the story is trying to say about Jake. Onaya suggests that Jake has great storytelling potential locked inside of him but we already knew that.

Mrs Troi: Am I the only one who finds it highly unlikely that Lwaxana would ever be a prisoner in her own house. Lets say for a moment that we accept the sitcom miracle that she has fallen pregnant and the she has married a misogynist and try and get on with the episode. She is no wear near as obnoxious as usual as a character on the run which might make her more palatable to her detractors but it felt as though she was in a muzzle throughout.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘You mean I have to convince Jayal that I want to marry you?’ – yep it gets that bad. I thought we had outgrown horrific premises like this but here we are…

The Good: So it turns out we have Onaya to thank for the glorious design of the station’s sets. Her assertion that what an artist wants is to be remembered is very true and to achieve a great deal even if it does significantly shorten your lifespan might seem a tempting offer to a sort but this is still a woefully misguided concept to base a whole episode on. I love the idea that Betazoid women can sometimes hear their babies thoughts of contentment. Playing ‘where’s Odo?’ in his quarters actually looks quite fun!

The Bad: The pre titles sequence doesn’t inspire much confidence with Lwaxana (one of my favourite TNG cast offs, mind) announcing her pregnancy and Odo have a look of mock shock. Don’t worry, I thought, this is DS9…they’ll be able to do something with this…  I’m a bit confused by the child rearing processes of the Tavnian. Since the sexes are divided and the girls are raised by women and the boys by men and they don’t even find out the other exists until they are sixteen does that mean they are promoting homosexuality on Tavnia? Kids hit puberty at what, eleven, twelve? I’m surprised the race even managed to survive! The scene in Quark’s where everybody is affected by Lwaxana’s bad mood is agonising to watch because it is so broadly played – Michael Dorn looks like he is considering leaving the show before he has even settled in! When Odo stated that he was going to take Lwaxana as his wife to bypass some idiotic Tavnian law I was sinking into my chair with this idiotic turn of events. It’s the sort of ludicrous revelation that Voyager episodes regularly flaunt! You can imagine Majel Barrett getting excited as she dreams up a concept wherein Odo declares his undying love for Lwaxana and admits all the reasons why she is such a fabulous character. It might work for her but they seem to have forgotten that the reason this coupling worked so well originally was because Odo resisted her until the very last minute before melting into her lap. David Livingston tries to make the conclusion look like something exciting is happening with Sisko hunting down Onaya in the Jeffries tubes and the entity knocking out the nurse in sickbay but its done very half heartedly as if even the director knows that there is no chance of building any momentum here.

Moment to Watch Out For: Odo’s wedding confession really tugs at the heartstrings when you know that everything he is saying is true.

Fashion Statement: As if the episode wasn’t bad enough making Odo wear that ridiculous Tavnian wedding garb is an insult.

Result: With an average DS9 episode they can rely on a cute subplot to get them out of trouble but The Muse is one of those rare occasions when the main episode falls flat and the subplot is similarly dreary. My main issue is that both stories have some potential and I can imagine a Lwaxana is pregnant storyline that is far more riotous than the sitcom nonsense that we have to endure here. On the strength of this Rene Echevarria script I guess the production staff figured that Mrs Troi had been done to death which is a shame because her first appearance in DS9 was one of her very best but both subsequent visits have been the worst this show has been in each of the seasons they appear in. The best thing about The Muse is Meg Foster’s seductive performance and Odo’s confession at the wedding that appears to be false but we learn was all true. But its not enough to stop this being the least convincing and the most forced episode of season four and the one which confirms that no matter how consistently good the quality is this show can still produce an absolute stinker every once in a while: 3/10

For the Cause written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by James L. Conway

What’s it about: Is Kassidy Yates really a Marquis agent?

Single Father: Lets step back a bit and look at the relationship between Sisko and Kassidy because in terms of a regular television to have the main star in an ongoing relationship is something you would expect but for Star Trek it is revolutionary. Kirk, Picard, Janeway and Archer would never explore this kind of relationship and it’s a shame because this proves what a fertile recipe for drama it makes. Their flirtations in Way of the Warrior gave that story some romance and Sisko’s clench-your-teeth bad handling of the news that she might move to the station in Indiscretion made for blissful viewing. For the Cause takes it a step further by examining how strong the relationship is even if one of them did something that was apathetical to the other and would go on to develop beautifully in next years The Rapture. Just the sight of the Captain waking up in bed with Kassidy and trying to lure her back into his arms gives this show a touch of realism and elevates it that bit more above the others. The touch of him sniffing her cushion and tossing away his own shows how much he has fallen for her. There’s plenty of passion on this partnership but they also are a good match intellectually and I love the way they talk playfully with one another. Plus you can see the beginnings of a family starting to emerge in the dynamics between the two of them and Jake (which would be cemented magnificently in The Rapture). His initial reaction of absolute outrage and shock is very natural but what’s even more interesting is how he doesn’t let his feeling get in the way and allows the investigation. Its clear he has a lot of respect for Odo and Eddington’s security work. He’s trying to tell Jake in his own way about what is happening and he grabs his hand and promises that whatever else changes their relationship will always be the same. Perhaps he should be held accountable for trying to divert Kassidy out of the hands the law but I can understand why for once he is thinking with his heart rather than his head. Penny Johnson and Avery Brooks do a great job with this scene because despite what is coming out of their mouths their eyes are telling a completely different story – he knows and she knows he knows and neither one of them can back out of their commitments no matter how tempting. The only thing Sisko cares about more than Kassidy is Jake and when he thinks she might have put him in danger he dismisses her betrayal viciously for this far more important threat. Poor Kassidy is the only casualty in Eddington’s plan and she came back to prove to Sisko that she still loves him despite everything and she needs to know if he feels the same. She’s willing to risk prison to keep their relationship alive. ‘I’ll be back’ ‘I’ll be here.’

Tasty Terrorist: Kira’s threat to Garak proves that she hasn’t lost her fire after all. He better watch out with Ziyal because it looks like he is playing with fire.

Mr Wolf: I love the momentary look of embarrassment on Worf’s face when Eddington lists the damage his people have done to the Cardassians. 

Nine Lives: Dax tries to comfort Sisko when he discover that Kassidy is a Marquis smuggler but he is having none of it.

Plain and Simple & Cross Breed: Now this is  a development I was not expecting. Garak getting close to Gul Dukat’s daughter, surely that has got to lead to fireworks down the line! Still lets concentrate on the forming of this relationship as the two outcasts spot each other over a game of Racquetball and start to explore the possibility of being friends. A chance meeting in a lift leads to the two of them admitting they have nothing to fear from each other but doubts still linger in both of their minds. You wonder as an observer whether she will take this opportunity to kill her fathers greatest enemy or whether he will take this chance to hurt his nemesis in this most personal of ways. You can see that Garak is completely floored about Ziyal asking him to enjoy the sauna programme with her and the way she sets it up could be construed as setting a trap for him. Thanks to a chat with Quark (who Garak should never discuss these things again as Quark is the only person who might think through in even more nefarious detail than Garak) Garak goes to his date with Ziyal believing it is a double double bluff on her and Kira’s part to bump him off! Ziyal is an outcast back home, as is Garak and although she doesn’t need his company she has decided that they should spend some time together and share their stories. When Garak hears this he tosses away the gun he brought to their date! ‘So, what shall we talk about first?’

Background Player: I’ll tell you why Eddington has managed to slip invisibly into the background so well. Its because he is exactly the sort of character that you would find on TNG or Voyager, a Starfleet yes man who does exactly what he’s told. He’s seen sabotaging the Defiant in The Die is Cast because a superior officer told him too and he sucks up to Sisko at every opportunity (The Adversary) like all good Starfleet officers. He’s almost as plain as Harry Kim which on Voyager is acceptable but on DS9 means that there is something very wrong underneath all that obedience and duty. He even says in this episode to O’Brien that he would do whatever Starfleet tells him to do regardless of his feelings. The face that he turns out to be the leader of the Marquis and masterminding the entire plot to steal the industrial replicators right from under both Sisko and Odo’s noses makes him one of the best long term hidden surprises in Trek. What I love about his dull Starfleet is God attitude is that it is later revealed to be a fabulous theatrical act…I wonder if Harry Kim has some dreadful secret that he is hiding and he is putting on act too? The way he makes his move is brilliant, casually gunning down Kira and waltzing off with the replicators.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You are evil’ ‘I am a Starfleet Officer, the paragon of virtue’ ‘You’re more like a parody of virtue.’
‘Paranoid is what they call people who imagine threats after their life. I have threats against my life.’
‘I think she’s already made her delivery…and you were the cargo!’ and ‘What could be happening…happening on the station!’ are two great lines that see this immoral plans of the Marquis unravel before Sisko and the audience.
‘You know what Mister Eddington, I don’t give a damn what you think of the Federation, the Marquis or anything else. All I know is that you betrayed your oath, your duty and me. And if it takes me the rest of my life I will see you standing before a court martial that’ll break you and send you to a penal colony where you will spend the rest of your days growing old and wondering whether a ship full of replicators was really worth it’ – hooooo boy!

The Good: I love any kind of storyline like this where they point the finger at one character and then you watch to see if they are acting at all suspiciously. Its especially good here because it is the woman our lead character has fallen in love with and its fascinating to watch Sisko’s paranoia as every unusual move Kassidy makes becomes scrutinised. Its nice to see a game of Racquetball because it is a oft mentioned game on DS9 and reminds you that there are other things going on than ships docking and drinking at Quarks. I remember being shocked when Kassidy is seen altering her course and delivery goods to a Marquis ship – its simply not the way Star Trek works to introduce a semi regular and then reveal that they are criminal. It’s a disturbing turn of events and they are usually the best kind. I always enjoy the moments on DS9 when they let each character have their say about a tough subject – they often disagree and we get to explore the issue through many viewpoints and learn a lot more about the characters. Worf thinks the Marquis are terrorist and should be hunted down and O’Brien sympathises with them believing they are only fighting for something they believe in. The Cardassian sauna looks like it might be really relaxing – can I have one please? Kassidy turning out to be a red herring is an awesome twist that I didn’t see coming a mile off when I first watched this. Its probably the best example of making the audience look the other way DS9 has pulled off since season two’s Whispers and I was completely hoodwinked. As a diversionary tactic for Sisko it is probably the ultimate distraction and the fact that she is actually guilty and the Marquis are willing to sacrifice one of their agents gives even the red herring a real dramatic boost.

Moment to Watch Out For: Sisko and Eddington’s chat over the viewscreen is riveting viewing once his hand in events has been revealed. Eddington believes that the reason Starfleet is so determined to hunt down the Marquis is because they have left the Federation. ‘Nobody wants to leave paradise…everyone should want to be in the Federation. Hell you even want the Cardassians to join! You’re only sending them replicators because one day they can take their rightful place on the Federation council! You know in some ways you’re even worse than the Borg. At least they tell you about their plans for assimilation. You’re more insidious. You assimilate people and they don’t even know it.’

Result: Deep Space Nine does Sleeping with the Enemy and with this shows exciting brand of storytelling that refuses to take the easy route the result is a dramatic, satisfying episode. Sisko’s relationship with Kassidy comes under the microscope, we get to see how far they have come in a year and how he copes with the news that she is a Marquis smuggler.  At the time I thought that was the end of them and was extremely pleased that they picked up the relationship again in season five. Leave it to DS9 to enforce the consequences of her illegal actions and continue with a long term relationship for the lead character (unheard of in Trek). I really like how the two narratives play off each other; with the Sisko/Kassidy/Eddington one you are being guided in one direction and are completely floored at the end when they subvert that whereas with the Garak/Ziyal machinations they discuss all the possible traps he could be walking into and it all turns out to be as simple as it appears. In both cases I was pleasantly surprised. Ron Moore has written a nicely paced, deceptive piece that is packed with great moments and climaxes on one hell of an exchange between Sisko and Eddington. Sisko was expertly played by Eddington and this will lead into two knockout revenge episodes in season five: 9/10

To the Death written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by LeVar Burton

What’s it about: ‘So let me get this straight we’re going to work with the Jem H’adar to fight the Jem H’adar?’

Single Father: The writers seem to want to mould Sisko into a hardnut action hero but I’m not quite convinced about it in this episode which is odd because come next seasons For the Uniform he is far scarier and that had me completely riveted. Whilst Omet’iklan killing one of his soldiers for fighting with Worf might seem extreme in comparison Sisko sending Worf to his room for the rest of the trip does seem a little nancy in comparison!

Unknown Sample: Having Jem H’adar on the Defiant places Odo in the awkward position of being accused of being a God who has betrayed Heaven.

Mr Wolf: Has a seat that he likes in the Mess of the Defiant and gives anyone who takes it the evil eye until they move! He doesn’t like the idea of lying, even to the Jem H’adar. Worf cannot see the point of winning in battle if you can’t celebrate afterwards with good food and drink…and good women!

Everyday Engineer: O’Brien doesn’t fancy hand to hand combat with over 20 psychotic Jem H’adar soldiers and suggests simply levelling the area with quantum torpedoes! He records his eleventh goodbye message for Keiko just in case he doesn’t come back and is averaging two a year these days.

Nine Lives: Dax is such an old gossip she has to assure everybody that the Jem H’adar wont hear that they are looking to destroy the Gateway from her! Sisko wonders how Worf knows that Omet’iklan threatened to kill him: ‘You told Commander Dax.’

Dastardly Diplomat: One of the greatest gift DS9 gave to the Trek universe was Weyoun and it is no co-incidence that is heavy presence in the last three seasons sees a soar in quality of the show. Jeffrey Combs has already chipped his teeth on some minor characters and Brunt but this is his piece de resistance performance, a naughty, sinister Vorta with a great line in black humour. Once he is introduced the writers simply had no choice but to let the Dominion invade because we simply had to spend more time in this guys company. The whispering, almost seductive way he says his dialogue in this episodes meant I literally could not keep my eyes off him whenever he was on screen. In a moment of wonderful madness he offers to make Sisko absolute controller of the Federation if he helps them in their invasion plans. When he gives the white to the Jem H’adar he follows the exact protocol but its clear he has been doing this for many years because he sounds bored by the whole thing! When they wrote the script they obviously didn’t realise that Combs was going to do such a stellar job with the role and so they had to figure a way to rewind the ending of this tale where Weyoun is killed. Of course the Vorta are a clone race…didn’t you know?

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The Dominion has endured for over 200 years and will continue to endure long after the Federation has crumbled into dust…but we’ll leave that to history.’
‘So let me get this straight…no sleep, no food, no women. No wonder you’re so angry.’
‘You call that discipline?’ ‘A dead man can’t learn from his mistakes.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘I threatened to kill you and yet you were willing to sacrifice yourself to save my life!’ – laying on the war clichés a bit thick there.
‘So much for the Gateway!’ – how cheap is that? Instead of showing us the explosion Odo covers it with a throwaway line!

The Good: Talk about getting the audiences attention – one of the upper pylons has been blown to pieces by the Jem H’adar, dead bodies littering the corridors, Kira with her arm burnt, Quark desperately searching for Rom…it’s the most in-yer-face pre titles sequence of the whole year. Its so hardnut you can literally feel the testosterone wafting off the script! More quiet banter between Worf and O’Brien where the former thinks restricting the Defiant to guard duty on the station would be a mistake and the latter says that he wouldn’t say that if he had family on the station. Its interesting that the two big Jem H’adar episodes in season four (Hippocratic Oath and To the Death) both deal with breakaway groups. It feels as though the writers are trying to fracture the Dominion hierarchy but this episode puts a stop to that with some finality. The Dominion is not about to allow their own agents to go rogue and if anybody dares to try they will hunt them down and kill them. Brining back elements from Contagion all these years later is an interesting exercise and it’s a way of linking together DS9 and TNG in a more subtle way than bringing across characters from one show to another. Besides the ability to be able to step onto any world is an awesomely frightening idea and the thought of this ability being in the hands of rogue Jem H’adar who can simply step onto Earth and start killing…it chills the blood. I was laughing my head off at the differences between the Federation and the Jem H’adar tactics – O’Brien is appalled that the latter are willing to blow up the place with themselves in it if necessary!

The Bad: Whilst I do like some juicy tension between characters the verbal duel between Worf and one of the Jem H’adar soldiers is a bit embarrassing. There is a very funny shot of the Federation Officers coming to the rescue through the glass as the Jem H’adar fight each other with a bouncy ‘here we come!’ theme! Its not exactly the Starfleet way to destroy something as ancient and powerful as the Gateway…especially when they have killed all the rogue Jem H’adar! I bet there will be an enquiry after this…

Moment to Watch Out For: When you shove all the testosterone aside there is one very important scene in this episode that is a precursor to the finale. Weyoun talks to Odo in private and tells him that his people still want him to come home. The performances are fantastic and this is where LeVar Burton’s strengths lie as a director…not choreographing action scenes but holding the camera on the actors faces as hard choices are made. Its without a doubt the tensest moment of the episode and its all down to Rene Auberjonois and Jeffrey Combs.

Result: To the Death is a macho violence fest and not the sort of Trek episode that I am usually interested in but even I have to admit that this is done very well. By stirring up the red ants and the black ants (sorry I mean the Federation and the Jem H’adar) you have a great deal of friction and conflict to work through before they head off on their mission together. We learn quite a bit about these Dominion warriors and there are some macho insights into some of the regulars too (especially Worf and O’Brien) and whilst some of the tension is a bit strained at least it keeps things interesting. The introduction of Jeffrey Combs as Weyoun is the best thing about To the Death and he is hypnotically good, especially in the shows finest scene where he offers Odo a chance to go home. The mission itself reminded me an awful lot of the conclusion to Blood Oath – a sunny location, lots of corpses and some revelling in violence. Considering this assignment has been handed to LeVar Burton (who is to my mind the least successful action director) the results are pretty good; he’s learning how to use the camera get some interesting shots (I love the scene when the Jem H’adar beam onto the Defiant) and despite some awkward cuts the hand to hand stuff works up the adrenalin. Ultimately To the Death has an ulterior purpose – to cut dead the thread that has been emerging in season four of rogue Jem H’adar. From now on they are faceless murderers and that is just the way I like them: 7/10

The Quickening written by Naren Shankar and directed by Rene Auberjonois

What’s it about: The Dominion cursed a world and Bashir tries to undo their handiwork…

GE Doctor: Bashir is such an idealist its easy to see how you could take the character a destroy his faith. He looks out of a window and sees little points of light and wants to visit them all. Bashir walks onto this planet blazing eyed and ready to get to work on a cure. All this guy has ever known is success in his career and he isn’t going to let a society of lepers tarnish that record. He gets a good hard slap around the face (metaphorically) when Trevean tells him that they had sophisticated equipment once and that their world wasn’t always this way. His first shock is that somebody could curse a whole world like this and his second is when he realises they practice voluntary euthanasia. He show contempt for both ideas and has it fixed in his head that he has to do something about this or his conscience wont rest. Bashir has all the right facts at his fingertips for why they should at least try and help these people even if they don’t seem to want it. After he is dismissed in the streets Ekoria wonders if perhaps her people don’t deserve his help but he recognises that they have forgotten that things can be better. It’s the first mention of Kookalaka, Bashir’s stuffed bear who was his first patient and who we would later see in the episode Inquisition. You just knew Bashir was a teddy bear lover, right? Bashir discusses his failiure around wrapped up corpses to show the audience the consequences of his arrogance. There’s a look of defeat that flickers across Bashir’s face when he sees how Ekoria is after she’s quickened and he quickly changes the subject to the baby.

Nine Lives: Dax is superb in this episode and shows just how many ways that she can contribute to this show. She empathises with Ekoria whilst Bashir gets on with the work and she translates all of his techno speak into something the poor woman can understand! Bashir is frantically trying to save Epran’s life and it takes Dax to grab him by the arm and stop because she knows that he is dead. But where she really comes into her own is when everything goes horribly wrong and rather than molly coddling Bashir she gives him the cold hard facts. That’s the measure of a good friend, somebody who is willing to shake you and make you listen even when you are at your lowest ebb.

Community Leader: Its one of the best ever examples of having to contractually include a scene that features all the regulars that wont be appearing in the episode proper! In the very funny first scene Quark, O’Brien, Odo and Worf all feature – Quark has tampered with the stations communications net to create an advert for the bar (‘Come to Quarks! Quarks is fun! Come right now! Don’t walk…run!’) and has even gone to the trouble of having the replicator cups sing the jaunty tune much to Worf’s chargin! Its also a little touch of humour before the dark episode that follows. ‘If all your little advertisements aren’t purge from our systems by the time I get back from the Gamma Quadrant I will come to Quark’s and believe me…I will have fun.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I thought that this was a hospital. And that you were a healer…’ ‘I am. I take away pain.’
‘I’d invite you to my death be we don’t know each other that well.’
‘I’m going to tell you a little secret, Jadzia. I was looking forward to tomorrow, to seeing Kira again and casually asking “how was the nebula? Oh and by the way I cured that blight thing those people had.”’
‘Trevean was right, there is no cure. The Dominion made sure of that. And I was so arrogant I thought I could find one in a week!’ ‘Maybe it was arrogant to think that but its even more arrogant to think there isn’t a cure just because you couldn’t find one’ – that might just be my favourite Dax line ever.

The Good: Every time I see that opening long shot of Bashir and Dax beaming onto the planet it always takes my breath away. The camera pans back to reveal a stunning matte painting of a world that has been tarnished by the Dominion with live action taking place inside it. It’s a flawless effect and cinematic in its scope. It’s a fascinating exercise to see two healthy, well dressed Starfleet officers walking around a disease ridden town where the people toil without hope and cart the bodies of their relatives around. Never before has Federation luxury looked so uncomfortably privileged. I love the scenes in the hospital because they have an atmosphere all of their own that cannot be replicated elsewhere. It’s a beaten civilisation that has come to terms with the fact that they are all going to die horribly and try and make that moment as peaceful as possible when it comes with music, food and family. The way the script makes a suicide speech such a positive moment is astonishing, it convinces us that this is a moment of triumph and then reveals that the cup he was toasting with was filled with poison to make his suffering end. When this world was powerful they thought that nothing was beyond them and they could even defeat the Dominion. It’s the same fate that could so easily happen to Earth if they defy them – the Jem H’adar destroyed this world and left them with the blight that would condemn them all to a painful death. There is some shockingly good location work which for a change isn’t confined to a valley in the middle of nowhere but instead a decrepit town bustling with extras. It helps to sell the idea of an community far more effectively than the usual Trek matte shot. Set design is top notch too with Ekoria’s shared quarters a cramped, exposed space crammed full of possessions and lit by candles. It just feels as though everybody has gotten together to make this world come alive in as realistic way as possible. Her name might be an anagram of ‘rookie’ but there is nothing standard about Ekoria who emerges as one of the finest guest characters of the season. She’s willing to put her faith in Bashir and offer him the food that she was saving for her quickening all to try and protect the life that is growing inside of her. She’s lost the one man that she loves but the baby has given her something to hope for again. It’s a beautifully crafted character and as the episode progresses she goes through an emotional journey with Bashir that had me in tears by the end. Showing her what her baby looks like inside the womb is a wonderfully emotive moment where you can see how Bashir’s sophisticated equipment really can make a difference. The lesion make up is really very nasty, especially on Epran where they spider web bloodily across his entire (bald) head. The consequence of Bashir’s failiure is that people spit on the ground at his feet and run away from him as though he is some kind of monster, its little touches like that that make all the difference. I love how Ekoria’s quickening is not made into a massive dramatic event, it occurs after Bashir’s fall and is simply further proof of what he hasn’t achieved. Trevean is a great character because he isn’t an evil man and is never portrayed as such, he’s a kind man who is trying his best to deal with a horrible situation. And yet his method – to murder people might seem reprehensible in some peoples eyes. Is the twist that the antigen was all absorbed into the placenta predictable? Maybe but its still a gloriously emotional turn of events. The crane shot of Trevean holding the uninfected baby up to the crowd is spectacular.

Moment to Watch Out For: The episode convinces you in that Star Trek way that Ekoria will survive to hold her baby’s hand when he takes his first step because that’s how these things always go. Bashir will create a cute and everything will be hunky dory with the Federation once again being the good guys. This time things are very different. Bashir is so excited because he thinks he has found a cure but it transpires that he his instruments have accelerated the effect of the disease and he has to watch as his volunteers convulse and die around him. Those that survive are in so much pain that they scream hysterically for Trevean to poison them, anything to make the agony go away. It’s a truly astonishing moment where Bashir’s idealism is crushed and he stands, lost, amongst and sea of corpses that he has created. Shockingly adult, this graphic scene is executed peerlessly and deserves a massive round of applause for giving this episode a hearty shove away from Trek pleasantries. The pregnancy scene always gets me too because of the intensity of the acting. Ekoria cries and laughs as the baby is born – relieved to have been able to stay alive this long to give birth but she suddenly gives up as the baby is put in her arms as the act has taken all of her fight away. Bashir is ecstatic that the baby doesn’t have the blight but suddenly realises his patient and friend is dead. There are so many emotions on show its impossible not to get caught up in the moment. 

Orchestra: A superb, emotional score from David Bell that really sells the horror of the situation. The forceful, grinding horror of the quickening is brought to life superbly by Bell and he works wonders with a violin, making the music truly poignant rather than overly sentimental.

Result: Along with The Visitor and Hard Time, The Quickening forms a trilogy of knockout emotional episodes in season four that go above and beyond the sort of drama that Star Trek usually provides. It’s a real coming of age story for Bashir who steps onto this world as an idealistic youth and leaves it as a much more cynical adult after having only partially succeeded in his mission. Rene Auberjonois deserves massive credit for bringing this touching drama to life so vividly, the location work and matte effects are stunning but what really impressed was the intensity of the performances he provoked. You wouldn’t want the show to be this hard hitting every week but it seems that whenever DS9 attempts something this graphic and adult everybody involved gives everything they have to make it as good as it can possibly be. The ending which sees a hard future for those who have to help create a brighter one for their children is perfect because it offers no easy answers but still manages to provide hope. Season four is where the Bashir episodes suddenly got very good indeed and I don’t think there is a bad one now for the rest of the shows run. This is one of the dramas to show a non fan that think that Star Trek is all transporters and phasers: 10/10

Body Parts written by Hans Beimler and directed by Avery Brooks

What’s it about: Is Quark really going to die of Dorricks syndrome?

Tasty Terrorist & The O’Briens: I remember when this episode first aired and there was something of an outcry with the American fans that the Keiko to Kira pregnancy plot was absolutely ridiculous. I didn’t see any problem with it then and I don’t see any problem with it now. Yes beaming a child from one woman to another is far fetched but then so is beaming somebody to another planet – if you can accept one I don’t understand why the other is such a stretch! The storyline had several advantages as far as I could see. For one Nana Visitor didn’t have to be hidden behind consoles for half a year to disguise her pregnancy (otherwise known as Gates McFadden/Roxan Dawson syndrome) and they managed to get some dramatic mileage in the switch (especially in next years Looking for Par’Mach, The Darkness and the Light and finally when the baby is born in The Begotten). But also DS9 has always been a family oriented show (with the Sisko’s and the Ferengi’s) and this was another interesting strand that showed Miles, Keiko, Kira and Molly forming their own little family unit. For a show that is often said to be very dark there is an awful lot of enjoyable family moments – far more than TNG where it is recognised more. I think it was the best possible outcome as far as all the characters and actors were concerned so it earns a well deserved pass from me. Aunt Neyrs might not be what people wanted to see after Kira’s general softening in season four but it turns out to be great development for her character and especially so when her fire returns in season five.

O’Brien is like a clucking mother hen but apparently when good reason as the runabout carrying his pregnant wife returns from the Gamma Quadrant with serious damage. Kira tries to break the news a gently as possibly (‘The baby has just had a change of address…’) but I think Miles puts it more succinctly – ‘So what you’re telling me is that Major Kira is going to have my baby?’ Now all the awkward explanations are out of the way we can get on with the fun! Kira does the honourable thing and heads straight for Keiko, puts her hand on her belly and tells her that it is her baby and by Keiko’s relieved laughter you can tell she really needed to hear that.

Community Leader: When Quark walks into the bar in great humour and then announces that he is dying I wasn’t sure how this episode was going to progress. I don’t think we are ever supposed to believe that it is the case but what is fascinating about Body Parts is the corner that his declaration and reaction to this news puts him in. For once the story doesn’t take a comic route for Quark but a very dark one and its about time we saw him face some real hardship. Its very realistic to look back on your life when you get bad news like this and evaluate how you think you have done – Quark considers himself a lowly bartender with a domineering mother and idiot brother. Starfleet’s favourite bartender, the synthahol King! That’s he thinks his peers see him. Quark is quick to accept the massive bid of 500 bars of latinum for his remains believing that is an anonymous payment by the Grand Nagus but the truth is a lot more horrifying. When Brunt turns up to collect on his debts Quark is in an awful quandary – kill himself and fulfil the contract or break it and live but be ostracised from Ferengi society as a result. When Brunt lists all of Quark’s character flaws its fascinating to have his development spelt out because for the most part it has gone unnoticed because he is still the outspoken greedy Ferengi but hiding his mothers claims, giving his customers credit, secretly settling with his strikers and selling food and medicine to Bajoran refugees at cost are all philanthropic gestures. Quark has been influenced by the Federation but as far as the audience can see it is all for his own good however in the eyes of a Ferengi it is the worst possible crime. Its great to see Quark trying to talk himself out of this whole but only digging a deeper grave, unfortunately you cannot run away from who you actually are. I kept waiting for Quark to come up with some clever solution ala Bar Association to get himself out of this situation and when he eventually makes a cold hard choice to break the contract and suffer the consequences (which includes punishment for his family too) my respect for the character shot sky high. Its very intriguing that Quark now joins Odo, Ziyal, Worf, Garak as a member of his species cut off from his own people. The station has become last chance saloon for all the defectors of the galaxy! I love how Quark accepts his fate but still has the last word, threatening Brunt that if he ever walks into his bar again then he wont walk out. The sight of Quark sitting alone in his completely empty bar is a great visual of what he has lost and shows the character at his lowest ebb. Which makes the conclusion all the more beautiful (see Moment to Watch Out For).

Secret Genius: Its great Rom has emerged from his brothers shadow and found his independence just in time to be able to comfort Quark as he learns that he is dying of an incurable disease. He tries to remind him that he might not be the most successful businessman there has ever been but he is a respected one on the station with many friends but these are snivelling hew-mon values that mean nothing to Quark. Sweetly he is the only person to bid on his brothers desiccated remains and he devotes his life savings to the bid because wants to have something to remember him by when he’s gone.

What’s Morn up to: Morn can be seen in the background looking genuinely appalled at Quark’s announcement that he is dying. Who is going to pour his drinks now? Garak has added some extra padding to Morn’s seat which will make swivelling on his bar stool much more comfortable! I love Morn’s contribution to the end of the episode. Whilst everybody else is offering drinks, furniture and glasses, Morn offers himself! He plonks himself at the bar and that is the greatest sign that things are back to normal.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Bashir? How good can he be? He doesn’t even charge!’
‘It too me my whole life but I’m gonna die a winner!’
‘You don’t have Dorricks syndrome?’ ‘Do you know what that means, Rom?’ ‘It means you’re gonna live!’ ‘It means I get sue Dr Or’Pax for malpractice! And I’m gonna live. ’
‘You’re a disease, Quark. A festering tumour on the lobes of Ferengi society and its my job to cut you loose!’ – Jeffrey Combs just loves getting his lips around those juicy metaphors!
‘I don’t want to see it coming! Or hear it! Or feel it or smell it! I just want to go on with my life and then…I’m dead!’
‘I have some old clothes I was going to throw out’ ‘I’d rather be naked.’

The Good: When the story takes a turn for the macabre Quark turns to Garak to have himself killed so he doesn’t have to break the contract with Brunt and the black humour that ensues is very funny indeed. ‘You didn’t always used to be a tailor’ ‘You’re right, I used to be a gardener. Now if you want something weeded you let me know’ ‘Not something. Someone.’ The image of the fake Quark having his neck snapped and Garak shoving his face in his food is hilarious and when Quark says he wants to be surprised so he can’t prepare himself for death we get scenes of Quark tiptoeing around his quarters waiting for Garak to spring out at any moment!

The Bad: Its such a shame that the last scene is as good as it is because I would have loved to have had Garak come out of nowhere in the very last scene behind Quark attempting to kill him and cut to the credits just before he reaches him! The gaudily dressed, bronze lensed scenes in the fake Divine Treasury are a very rare off choice by director Avery Brooks. Unlike most of his work it lacks depth and looks cheap and tacky.

Moment to Watch Out For: Quark has nothing, not even the clothes on his back, to his name anymore and one by one all of his friends on the station turn up at the bar with brandy, (really ugly) glasses, furniture… Its an astonishing moment of intimacy as they give him the greatest gift they possibly could, their kindness. Quark realises with sudden clarity that his assets have been there all along – his friends and their support and he stands there as everybody starts contributing to bringing his business back to life, speechless and very grateful. It’s a very special moment in the series, I was blinking away tears!

Result: An atypical Ferengi episode that starts how you would expect with a big crazy concept (Quark is going to die) but develops into a strong drama with tough choices to be made a major development of Quark’s character. What I found really interesting was how much development of Quark’s character I hadn’t noticed over the past four years that was pointed out here by Brunt and plain to see. Also the story takes a wicked turn into very dark black humour that I am all in favour of and the dialogue surrounding Garak’s attempts to kill Quark is very funny. There were a few moments when I thought the pantomimic nature of the Ferengi fought against the nightmare that Quark had found himself in (that’s mostly confined to the dreadful Divine Treasury scene) but the performances were as strong as ever and Armin Shimmerman happily takes his character to new depths. The much derided subplot gets a thumbs up from me too – it always strikes me as odd when Star Trek fans can accept zany concepts like transporter technology but fail to appreciate anything quirky being done with them! Moving Kira into the O’Brien’s quarters is a great move and would cement a family feeling on the station in season five but nothing could top the last scene at Quark’s which pulls at the heartstrings like few Trek episodes have ever achieved. Its not the best character drama of the year but there is a great deal of strong material here: 8/10

Broken Link written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe & Ira Steven Behr and directed by Les Landau

What’s it about: A sick Odo needs to return to the Great Link and he returns with a few surprises…

Tasty Terrorist: Kira’s forced pregnancy is forcing her to sneeze uncontrollably at random and the senior officers enjoy guessing at what point she is going to stop! She doesn’t bring Odo flowers or try to keep him company, nope Kira knows Odo better than anybody and brings him this weeks criminal activity report!

Unknown Sample:You killed a Changeling Odo…’ Odo might be the sharpest law enforcer on the beat but when it comes to ‘humanoid coupling’ he is completely at sea and when Garak tries to set him up with the foxy owner of The Celestial Café he becomes stiff, uncommunicative and freezes like a statue! Nobody can quite demonstrate pain as well as Rene Auberjonois and when he collapses in Garak’s shop it looks and sounds agonising. Isn’t it glorious that Odo refuses to be aided in his long trip to the Defiant – he walks along the Promenade with pride despite the fact that he could turn into a puddle of goo at any minute. The Founders are not above hurting Odo to force him home and he realises they did this to him to hold him to account for killing one of his own kind. When he joined with his people for the first time in his life he felt he was home and that he understood his people for the first time and then it was all snatched away as they rejected him. Odo’s punishment is both ingenious and very cruel – to take away his shapeshifting ability and make him in the image of the people he chose over the Founders. I hope they explore the potential of this thoroughly in the coming season because there is plenty of opportunity for development.

Mr Wolf: Worf knows how much Odo values his privacy and suggests that everybody leaves him alone to get through this but Dax thinks its an act and that they must have been socialising when he said it! Michael Dorn feels like a very natural fit to the series now and slips into these group scenes rather wonderfully – it took them a whole season to find a place for him but from now on he really feels like he belongs on the station.

Everyday Engineer: Turns out moving Kira into his quarters might not be such a good idea since he thinks they are always talking about him behind his back and whatever they wee saying made Molly giggle when she saw him!

GE Doctor: Bashir wonders if this is a natural process for changelings like their version of puberty or the menopause – a theory that Odo expects the good Doctor to keep to himself! Bashir almost skimming a stone across the Great Link is very funny!

Community Leader: More of that Quark/Odo banter that reveals how they really feel for each other. This would be explore in much greater depth in next seasons The Ascent.

Plain and Simple:Personally I think Starfleet should allow their officers more latitude in accessorising their uniforms…you’d be surprised what a nice scarf can do!’ With Garak wanting to come along for the ride there is also some long overdue follow up from The Die is Cast when the Cardassians tries to attack the Dominion. It leaves open the big question of why Garak should be so concerned about the people who were on the ships they saw still standing leaving the battlefield and that question is most succinctly answered in season five’s In Purgatory’s Shadow. He is allowed to come along as long as he can entertain Odo for the length of the trip, promising innuendos, half truths and bald faced lies for the sick changeling to have to work his way through. There is the suggestion that Garak murderer Pro Counsellor Morot on Romulus where he was posing as a gardener – I wonder how many more little tasty titbits about his past there are! ‘Then again so many Romulan dignitaries died unexpectedly that year!’ This time Garak has gone too far and has to suffer six months in a holding cell for assaulting a Federation officer and attempting to incite war.

Malleable Enemy: I love Salome Jens as the Female Shapeshifter and I am pleased that she has such a pivotal role in series six and seven because she makes for an extremely unusual and effective villainess. She casually dismisses the Jem H’adar as if they are tools and not people and refuses to molly coddle Odo when she confronts him, determined to drag him back to the Great Link and face his punishment.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Its just being in a room with so many naked men!’
‘They’re dead. You’re dead. Cardassia is dead. You’re people were doomed the moment they attacked us’ – not only is this a real sit up and pay attention moment but its fascinating to consider the Female Shapeshifter’s words considering next years developments when Cardassia joins the Dominion. And yet she telling the absolute truth because that is how the series ends. A fascinating prophecy of the far future.
‘Don’t tell me you’d object to a little genocide in the name of self defence?’
‘They left it this way on purpose so I never forget who I was. What I’ve lost.’
‘Gowron, the Head of the Klingon Empire is a changeling!

The Good: The Klingons continue their bullish ways by refusing to give up their captured Cardassian colonies because they now consider them part of the Empire. They are also telling the Federation to leave their own bases in the Arkanas system – erm fuck off Gowron you great lumbering ape! Leslie Beavis returns one last time as the purple haired Freighter Captain and that’s the sort of invisible continuity that I really like. It feels like the writers are re-affirming the series’ central goal – a return to the founders and the Dominion plot rather than the Klingon diversion that has taken place this season (as entertaining as it has been the Dominion storyline takes a much bolder and format crushing approach next year). It always feels like an event when we see a viewscreen filled with Jem H’adar ships. Massive kudos for the effects work and make up that make Odo’s gradual malforming look as discomforting as possible. How many shapeshifters must their be in that massive sea of the Great Link? What must it feel like to be intermingled with your own people in such a personal, emotional way? The very nature of the shapeshifters fascinated me and their lifestyle is explored in great depth in series six’s Behind the Lines and series seven’s Chimera. Odo washes up on the shore of the Great Link mimicking religious iconography to give the moment gravitas. The way the writers tie both the Dominion and Klingon plots together in the last scene to explain that they have been inextricably linked all along (and followed up on the Changeling threat in seasons threes The Die is Cast) is very clever – they have this unnerving ability to make it look as if they have planned this all along when I know they had a habit of making it up as they go. It works a charm, gives us a massive kick into the next season with something to resolve and proves that the season four Klingon diversion was tied into the series central threat all along.

The Bad: Colm Meaney’s ‘I’m in pain’ acting lacks conviction – for a moment it looks like he is trying to strain out a really big poo!

Moment to Watch Out For: ‘Don’t you see we have an opportunity here, a chance to end the Dominion threat once and for all! We have enough firepower on this ship to turn that planet into a smoking cinder!’ I love Garak’s sledgehammer methods, attempting to take control of the Defiant’s quantum torpedoes and crack open the Founder’s planer like an egg. Cue a great deal of verbal sparring with Worf where he gets his best line of the season  ‘You fight well, for a tailor…’ This is the sort of high drama that DS9 thrives on and the episode could have done with more of.

Result: Broken Link is probably the most ponderous of DS9 finales but there is still a great deal of strong material here. When compared to the finales of the next couple of years it feels far more one track minded and lacks the same kind of devastating drama. There is a really feeling of transition here with some old plots being put to rest (The Die is Cast), continuing plots being seen in a brand new light (the cliffhanger shines The Way of the Warrior in a whole new light) and some plots are set up for the next season (Odo’s human dilemma). All of these are terrific developments but there is a sense of a mechanism clunking around to make all these possible (plus the show is confined to a few sets which suggests the money has run out) whereas A Call to Arms next year feels seamless. There are some fluffy character moments in the first half, a chance for Rene Auberjonois to once again show why he is one of the best in this stellar cast and a gorgeous role for Garak who steals the show in the episodes best scene. Massive kudos for bringing back the Female Shapeshifter too and Salome Jens is more terrifying with every return appearance. Badly paced but dense with content, Broken Link sees season four ending with plenty of intriguing possibilities for the future: 8/10

1 comment:

icewarrior67 said...

Excellent - thank you! Not read this yet, you've just sorted my evening out!