Friday, 8 June 2012

Deep Space Nine - Season Five

Apocalypse Rising written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by James L. Conway

What’s it about: Heading into Klingon space, Sisko has to expose the Gowron changeling…

Single Father: In exactly the same way Janeway and Neelix failed to do so in The Killing Game, Sisko makes a very impressive Klingon and seems to relish the chance to let his hair down and grunt some! He enjoys throwing his weight around in the Hall of Warriors, putting his wrestling skills to good use and paying some old debts for people he knows that have been killed by Klingons present.

Tasty Terrorist: I remember there was quite a verbal onslaught at Kira’s ‘dumbing down’ in season four with her new spray on uniform and almost subservience to Worf in episodes such as Starship Down. It feels as thought writers agree since season five opens with Kira making her mark and telling Worf that whiles Sisko is away she is in charge of the station.

Unknown Sample: Odo is not adjusting well to life as a solid and can be found lounging around at Quark’s indulging in the seductive pleasures of food and drink. He thinks he is pretty useless these days now that he cannot shape shift to infiltrate. Poor Odo makes a very slim and ineffective Klingon but he still has a go! ‘But they sorely underestimated Odo here!’ ‘Thank you’ – there is something so apologetic about his response this moment always makes me chuckle.

Mr Wolf: Its amazing how comfortable Worf feels already in season five after an entire season where he uncomfortably adjusted to life on the station. Perhaps the writers have learnt how to handle him better or Michael Dorn feels like his character finally belongs but there is definitely a feeling that Worf is at home on this show now. Heading off into Klingon territory gives Worf the chance to have his own marching parade of faux Klingon officers and to abuse them for acting like nancy boy DS9 officers! Worf gets the chance to try and kill Gowron for all the humiliation he has caused him and his family to suffer and he leaps into the fight with absolute relish.

Everyday Engineer: O’Brien can’t help giggling like a child who has just discovered pornography as he and Odo fail to make convincing Klingons!

Slimy Snake: Dukat’s face when he learns that O’Brien is the father of Kira’s baby is priceless! Damar’s return appearance leads me to believe that he is going to have a role to play in this series but I never could have predicted quite how big a role. You know something classy is going to happen when Dukat turns up and the way he destroys a Klingon ship because he has more faith in his weapons than Worf’s ability to lie is priceless. He scarpers as soon as Sisko has left to begin his mission since if they succeeded the war will be over and if they fail they’ll all be dead. Either way he is not needed anymore and he refuses to compromise his position.

Noble Klingon: Its wonderful to see General Martok make a return appearance and it would be the first of many in this incredible season of transition. Of course this isn’t quite the Martok we would come to know and love and JG Hertlzer seems to relish the chance to play the baddie. The Martok changeling is a clever git, spinning a tale that throws even more suspicion onto Gowron and forces Sisko and Worf to take the only course left open to the – to assassinate him. I guess he figures with Gowron killed there will be anarchy and he can fill that role and control the whole Empire unhampered. There’s a glorious moment when Martok walks along a corridor and thoughtlessly stabs two guards at the same time – what a legend! We learn that it was the Martok changeling that pushed for the attack on the Federation, the Dominion living up to their promise in The Die is Cast.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Why? Because I’m willing to spill a little Klingon blood to get the job done?’

The Good: So let me get this straight; Starfleet wants Sisko and his team to be turned into Klingons, head into the heart of the Empire and expose the Gowron changeling by blasting him with fatal radiation that could kill them all? Great! When do we begin? It has exactly the same kind of tension that Voyager lacked for the most of season four. Bringing Dukat and his Klingon ship back as a part of this espionage is a great touch; its another example of how serialised storytelling can produce some interesting results. The Klingon bachelor party scenes are rowdy and violent just as I expect them to be with Klingons singing, drinking, head butting each other and boasting about the people they have killed! Gowron is always welcome and Robert O’Reilly’s crazed eyes and excitable performance never fails to make me smile. Some bridges are built here between the Federation and the Klingon Empire again but the ships being attacked and squabbles over territory continue.

The Bad: Umm…shouldn’t Worf have changed his appearance slightly before walking into an area where he is bound to be recognised? At least by Gowron and Martok!

Moment to Watch Out For: There’s a wonderful moment where you can see just how well this cast has gelled together by this point and have fun revealing some behind the scenes romance too – Kira complains that the baby in her stomach is all Bashir’s fault mirroring Nana Visitor and Alexander Siddig’s relationship.

Fashion Statement: Kira’s new uniform is much better this season but because of her baby weight it is more like a smock! But as soon as she has her baby you can see that it is a much better design than last years tantalising look.

Result: An exciting espionage tale that opens the season on a strong footing, Apocalypse Rising isn’t quite to the standard of last year’s epic icebreaker but still provides enough great moments to pass an hour admirably. Its lovely to get behind the lines and enjoy some bawdy Klingon atmosphere and there is a real feeling of claustrophobia and excitement as the crew try and bring down the Gowron changeling. The twist works extremely well in the shows favour by removing Martok from the action for now and allowing the writing team to bring him back as a semi regular later in the season. Also by bringing the changeling threat to the Klingons means that the season four diversions from the Dominion arc can be worked into it as they try and stir up tensions that make their conquest of the Alpha Quadrant even easier. James L. Conway delivers some cinematic direction and there is some fine work from the regulars – notably Avery Brooks who chews the scenery as a Klingon and Michael Dorn who suddenly feels as though he has always belonged on DS9. A good solid start to the year and a great continuation of the story: 8/10

The Ship written by Hans Beimler and directed by Kim Friedman

What’s it about: The battle for a crashed Jem H’adar warship has begun…

Single Father: Sisko is excited about the idea of bringing a Jem H’adar ship home with him because it could the most impressive intelligence find in the last ten years. I love it when Sisko loses his rag, somehow he is more terrifying than Kirk, Picard and Janeway put together when he goes off on one! In fighting amongst his crew forces him to step in and give them all a piece of his mind and I especially liked his retort to Dax. You get the sense that Sisko feels the loss of every officer like a powerful weight on his shoulders and he confides in Dax that he has to get the ship home to at least make their deaths mean something. It hits him like a ten ton rock that had he and the Vorta just trusted each other they could have avoided the massacre that took place. Sisko torturing himself over the loss of five officers makes him far more than a Starfleet drone, he’s a real person that has made a connection with the crew he has assembled on the station.

Mr Wolf: Worf’s attitude towards death brings him into sharp conflict with O’Brien. Its pretty clear that Muniz wont be able to survive and Worf thinks he should be allowed to prepare for death but Miles firmly warns him away from his friend. Proving that he isn’t returning to his aggressive ways of the previous season Worf makes amends with O’Brien by sitting with him and helping to keep the predators away from Muniz and to allow his spirit to walk free.

Everyday Engineer: Another show which shows just how much the everyday engineer O’Brien really is as he enjoys banter with his workers and tries to do anything in his power to protect them. I love Muniz’s assertion that he is only following O’Brien’s example by kissing up to the officers because that is my one complaint about this character – he can suck ass and then some! O’Brien wont allow for the suggestion that Muniz is going to die, not from Worf and not even from Muniz himself. You feel that through his sheer sense of will that his friend is going to make it. He’s caught between trying to tend to his friend and get the ship working properly.

Nine Lives: Even the usually cool, smart ass, unflappable Dax is worn down by the constant bombardments and loses her temper. Even Dax’s harsh but true statement that the five deaths they have suffered were worth it because they might save five thousand lives in the future rings true. The dialogue in this episode really is exceptional.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘A very interesting position but I’m afraid that the Dominion doesn’t recognise that…tradition. What may be even more to the point we have you completely surrounded. And outnumbered.’
‘It seems we’re approaching an impasse’ ‘We’ve already arrived.’
‘I can’t feel my legs…’ ‘Don’t worry they’re there.’
‘It may have been the Vorta’s computer console. I found it in one of the upper compartments but the power but the power is offline in that part of the ship’ ‘So you ripped it out the wall? Very nice! So what do we do now – use it for a doorstop?’
‘I’m not some bloodthirsty Klingon looking for an excuse to murder me friend!’ ‘No, you are just another weak human afraid to face death!’
‘Tough guys, a little pressure and they buckle…’ ‘Dax maybe you haven’t noticed but no-one’s laughing!’
‘We will both keep the predators away.’

The Good: Its always lovely when the studio based DS9 gets out on location and by all reports it was absolutely sizzling temperatures and that blistering heat really comes across well on screen. The opening scenes have a freshness and vibrancy to them that makes them very easy on the eye. Muniz appeared twice last year so his re-appearance and central role in the episode is far more effective than just bringing in a random engineer that we have never heard of. The teaser really is excellent with a hook – a chance to see inside one of the Jem H’adar warships – that really sucks you in. Kim Friedman’s handling of this reveal is excellent with a genuinely staged crashed ship on location and a terrific crane shot that sees the Federation officers approaching their find. Rather than go for the obvious tour around the ship it crashes upside down so once inside everything is shown from a skewed perspective and with the lights flashing and smoke filling the screen it is a claustrophobic, visually arresting expedition. With bodies hanging from the ceiling and new equipment to explore this is everything they managed to achieve in Scorpion except it is the second episode of the season and its all original. There’s no viewscreen and no chairs, this is a purely functional ship of war. Some of the Ariel shots of people crawling over the underside of the ship are cinematic in their scope. I love the fact that for once it isn’t a downed runabout, the Jem H’adar just blast the crap out of it killing Sisko’s support crew outright and preventing their escape from the planet. With the inadvisable developments of Hippocratic Oath put aside in To the Death, finally the Jem H’adar are back to what they should be – terrifying killers who look great on location gunning people down. Meeting a female Vorta is fascinating since I thought they were an all male species! I’ve heard bad things about Kaitlin Hopkins’ performance but I think she’s fine, I like the way she issues threats with a smile on her face and she has just the right amount of sex appeal and charisma to pull off the scheming villainess. With lives at stake and a general feeling of being trapped in a confined space, The Ship reminds me of one of those old Troughton base under siege Doctor Who adventures. How nasty is that scrap on the ship with the Jem H’adar? Women beaten, knives drawn, guns fired! Its typical brutal Dominion policy that the Jem H’adar ammunition has a built in anti coagulant so that if you happen to survive the blast you’ll end up bleeding to death anyway. I like the black humour – the weapons are working but the turret is stuck so the Jem H’adar will have stand stock still in its way in order for them to get a direct hit! As predictable as it might be the changeling reveal is still a great moment and when its dying scream is played over the Vorta and Jem H’adar standing in reverence the episode takes on a whole new meaning. This wasn’t a case of protecting their secrets, it was personal and the couldn’t risk killing one of their Gods. I love it when a changeling crumbles to black soot, it’s a marvellous effect. When Sisko talks about his dead crewmen and the impact that they had on his life (especially Rooney and his trumpet playing in Quark’s) you get a real sense that we have moved on from the days of TOS red shirts and that these were real people that have been lost. 

The Bad: I would have thought Sisko would have figured out that it was a changeling they were after long before the reveal.

Moment to Watch Out For: What really impressed me about Muniz’s death was that the episode focussed on him for a long time but suddenly the hope of breaking the ship free of the ground and escaping distracts us – he slumps down at the end of their attempt to escape almost as an irrelevance and suddenly the cost of this mission suddenly hits home. Colm Meaney and Terry Farrell do exceptional work here without a word of dialogue. 

Orchestra: Tense, foreboding music as they explore the ship.

Foreboding: What’s especially impressive about this episode (and I will keep on repeating it until somebody invents a time machine, ties up Brannon Braga and Jeri Taylor and injects a little of it into Voyager) is that it has consequences. The sacrifices that Sisko suffers here are worth it because the ship he manages to take back with him is spruced up and turns up at the beginning of season six when they head off on a mission to infiltrate Dominion space and destroy a Ketracel White facility with it.

Result: ‘And you, Mr Muniz, your orders are to stay alive…’ Tense and exciting, The Ship is a great 100th episode for DS9 and a fine character tale to boot. F J Rio gives a winning performance as Muniz and the fireworks that spark between Worf and O’Brien over his injuries is the sort of conflict that DS9 is well known for. His death when it comes is very affecting with O’Brien and Dax’s reactions proving particularly heartbreaking. Production standards are extremely high with some sunny location work, outstanding design work for the cramped and upturned Jem H’adar ship and it features some great action sequences to boot. Sisko comes across very strongly as a tortured leader but there are great moments for all the crew and the coda gives the deaths suffered some real meaning and poignancy. Atmosphere, surprises, arc relevance, action and depth…what more could you ask for?  If DS9 can keep up the standard of its first two episodes this is going to be a humdinger of a season: 9/10

Looking for Par’Mach in all the Wrong  Places written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Andrew Robison

What’s it about: Sex, sex and more sex! Deep Throat Nine is open for business!

The O’Brien’s & Tasty Terrorist: I remember reading a lot of complaints at the time about the Miles and Kira subplot as if the idea of the two of them finding each other attractive was out of the question. Of course it isn’t! Who hasn’t found themselves in a relationship and then trapped in the awkward situation of being attracted to somebody else.  This is a direct result of the developments in Body Parts (where Kira finds herself carrying the O’Briens’ baby) and stuck living together with plenty of time talk during soothing massages, Kira and Miles find themselves relaxing a little too much into each others company. Keiko is the innocent party here who trusts her husband so absolutely she cannot see how close her husband is getting with the woman carrying her baby. Lately O’Brien has been getting homesick and thinks he’s getting nostalgic and I love the way he suddenly stops the massage when he agrees that he could think of worse things than being stuck in Ireland with her. Its like they suddenly realise they have crossed a line and it goes from relaxing banter to awkward subterfuge. That’s some very clever character dynamics playing out in that little scene. Keiko is so trusting of her husband that she insists that he goes with Kira to one of the most romantic spots on Bajor just in case she goes into labour! The only point where this doesn’t quite work is on the runabout when it looks as if Kira and O’Brien look as if they are physically restraining each other from tearing each others clothes off! Still I really like how they are both sensible about this arrangement and decide to do what is right put their feelings aside for the people they really love. Its remarkably adult and the world might be a happier place if more people had that kind of restraint!

Unknown Sample: As Bashir teases O’Brien about his relationship with Kira so Odo pokes fun at the good Major.

Mr Wolf: Worf arguing with Dax about Klingon opera singers, being beguiled by Grilka and pursuing her to the bar…he feels so relaxed now on DS9 and it’s a great feeling. Dax has a point – for a Starfleet officer who drinks prune juice Worf isn’t exactly a traditional Klingon! Worf is disgusted that Grilka is a friend of Quark’s and seeks to try and steal her from him straight away. You have to give Worf points for effort but considering how well his seduction techniques go down it is a little cringeworthy for him. You definitely get the sense that this less about Worf helping Quark and more about him proving that he has what it takes to court Klingon women. Worf does talk about Grilka as though she is a precious thing to be put on display and dusted every week! Nobody can live up to those expectations of perfection.

GE Doctor: More fun interaction between Miles and Julian as the good Doctor teases his friend about living with two attractive women and helping the one who isn’t his wife out of the tub! Bashir is highly disturbed as people start piling into the Infirmary with sex based injuries and he decides he’s going to stop asking what is wrong with people and simply treat them for his own sanity!

Nine Lives: Poor Dax can be seen following Worf as he lusts after another woman doing her absolute best to try and get him to notice what hot property she is! She likes a man riddled with contradictions so Worf is perfect for her. I love the way Dax growls with pleasure when she tells Quark how Kahless and Lukara ended up in bed together after their battle.

Community Leader: Quark’s massive ears prove an excellent tool when it comes to eavesdropping. Even though war is good for business is one of the Rules of Acquisition Quark (who is an atypical Ferengi) thinks its good for nothing. When Grilka invites Quark for dinner he wants to know if Klingon mating is complex or whether they can just leap on each other like a pair of crazed voles! Listening to Quark work his charm with Grilka he’s actually quite adept at offering some charming compliments (‘I am a Ferengi! And that means I have a talent for appreciating things of great value…’). We get to see Quark really thinking on his feet when Worf breaks the link with him and he makes the most dreadful love poem up on the spot to woo Grilka!

What’s Morn up to: In a scene that made me laugh until my sides hurt when I first saw it (and still makes me chuckle now) Morn is violently thrown from his bar stool in Worf’s attempt to seduce Grilka. What makes me die is the very Oliver-like way he pleads with Quark for another drink holding his cup out before finding himself on the other side of the room!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Such language! I hope Molly’s not around!’
‘I am a fool’ ‘You’re in love…which I suppose is the same thing.’
‘You know its attitudes like that keep you people from being invited to all the really good parties!’ – Quark to Worf!
‘This is ridiculous! I’m surrounded by corpses! My shoes are dripping with blood and you want me to feel romantic?
‘If I were in your shoes I would be looking for someone a little more entertaining, a little more fun and maybe even a little more attainable’ – come on Worf, Dax is literally throwing herself at you here and all you can say is ‘you are not in my shoes…’

The Good: I love how DS9 proves to be the most dramatic of Trek shows but also the most domestic and funny too – I couldn’t see any other Trek opening so naturally on Dr Bashir eavesdropping outside the O’Brien’s quarters and being caught by Quark only to discover it is Miles and Kira fighting and not Miles and Keiko! The House of Quark was such a fun episode so to have Grilka back is a welcome sight – Dax explains the plot to Worf in her usual gossipy fashion and his deadpan questions are hilarious. Its great how the episode jumps from the Replimat to Quarks to Ops to the Defiant…we get a great overview of all the great sets on this show exquisitely shot by Andrew Robinson as a backdrop to the most unlikely of romances. I especially enjoyed that scene that opened on the viewscreen of the Defiant bridge with opera music playing and panning across the room to Worf singing his heart out! The idea of Worf taking on the role of Cyrano and teaching Quark to court a Klingon woman should be ridiculous but it works a charm because the episode is so fluffy and domestic everybody feels comfortable in its warm embrace. Worf puppetering Quarks moves during his fight with Grilka’s bodyguard was a great idea and must have taken some rehearsal to get so perfectly in sync. Even the moment when Dax turns off the connection between Worf and Quark and sheer bulk of Grilka’s armour tips him over so they can make love makes me howl with laughter!

The Bad: Worf says that he has never pursued a Klingon woman before but what about K’Ehleyr? I know she was only half Klingon but surely the point still stands. Odo and Kira seem to be discussing the criminal activity reports but I thought Odo said he didn’t have time for that anymore in Crossfire? Obviously he couldn’t keep away from the love of his life for too long.

Moment to Watch Out For: Its possibly my favourite Dax moment to date when she gets tired of throwing herself at Worf and calls for a sword and makes the aggressive move towards getting her end away with him! After their little skirmish she leaps on him as though she hasn’t had sex for months, straddling him like a thing possessed and going in for the kill! It’s a glorious moment of female empowerment and damn hot too!

Only DS9: Only this show would flaunt sexuality in such a convincing way. There was always something very sleazy about the bonk’ahoy Captain Kirk getting his rocks off on every planet and space me the first couple of seasons of TNG where Commander ‘poker face’ Riker had his way at every port of call! On DS9 it springs very naturally from the characters and that is why it is so satisfying.

Foreboding: The Dax and Worf relationship would (after a bumpy start) go on to produce some classic DS9 moments and a memorable wedding episode.

Result: What a title! Is this the horniest episode of Star Trek ever? Andrew J. Robinson directs with a lightness of touch and a distinct visual style that makes hanging out on the station for this love fest an absolute joy. The dialogue is sharp and witty and the character dynamics are a joy to watch especially for Worf who gets to share some wonderful scenes with both Quark and Dax. I love how much natural contact you see between the characters (Miles massaging Kira, Dax hugging up to Worf, Quark flirting with Grilka) because it highlights the sense of family through sensuality without ever having to spell it out like another show I could mention. We’ve spent four years with these characters now and the writers have built up backstories, quirks, intriguing personalities and here in season five the stories are practically self perpetuating because the cast is so strong. Par’Mach spends an awful lot of time with Quark when the highlight is the sudden development of a relationship between Dax and Worf and in a moment of unexpected masculinity she literally jumps his bones after flirting outrageously with him for the entire episode. Add in a fun coda at the Infirmary that suggests that DS9 is the Quadrants new knocking shop and a final scene that concludes with Worf laughing and you have joyous piece of domestic drama that shows (along with The Ship) just how happy this show is to confidently walk into very different genres: 9/10

Nor the Battle to the Strong written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Kim Friedman

What’s it about: Bashir and Jake help out in a surgery under fire…

Single Father: There’s a rich amount of drama in Sisko being helpless to save his son and having to wait to find out how many casualties there were and if he was one of them. I’m sure the writers must have noticed this when it came to the end of the season because they find themselves in exactly these situations again at the end of Call to Arms. Despite the dangers as revealed here Sisko tells Odo that he doesn’t know what he’s missing by avoiding parenthood. Sisko’s gentle revelation that most people could read what Jake has written about his own cowardice and see themselves in it shows a great father being very honest.

Unknown Sample: Poor Odo limps his way into Sisko’s office after attempting to accost two Yuridians cheating at Dabo by turning into a Tarkalian condor and jumping off the stairs! Trouble is he forgot that he cannot shapeshift anymore! A shame would could have seen that scene, I bet it would have been a comic delight. 

GE Doctor: Jake has agreed to do a profile on Dr Bashir but unfortunately his anecdotes about panel discussions (which he thinks are riotous) actually turn out to be extremely civilised! You’ll never see relief like Bashir’s when he realises that Jake is alive (he doesn’t have to have that awkward conversation with Sisko…) but how awful for Jake who ran away and left Bashir to cope to hear him enthusing so much about his survival.

Nine Lives: Dax talks about the children her many hosts have had and how they put her through hell. Watch Terry Farrel’s performance here because she is exceptional at winning you over with the idea that she genuinely has so many other lifetimes worth of memories. She has relaxed into this role so much at this point she makes it look seamless.

Young Sisko: Jake finds himself lost in his thoughts as Bashir goes on and one about some horrendous medicalbabble and finds himself actually rooting for a plague to make his assignment more dramatic. He should be careful what he wishes for because sometimes what you want can turn out to be the worst experience of your life… Jake heads into a war zone as an idyllist teen thinking he can handle anything and completely unaware of what he is about to witness. Bashir makes some medical joke whilst cutting up his dinner which causes Jake to bring his up! He proves that he hasn’t quite got what it takes to be in Starfleet because he allows the foreboding of the approaching Klingons to cloud his every thought and plague his sleep. Jake running for his life and leaving Bashir to face the music is a bold step for the episode to take and one that I heartily approve of because it is so realistic. As much as other Trek shows like to show everybody as an unflappable robot that will walk into any danger life just isn’t like that and to see somebody terrified and running is a much more natural reaction. Jake railing at the Doctor’s for their dark humour in discussing how they would rather die is an eye opening scene, Lofton really goes in for the kill and stresses how nobody will ever remember the sacrifices that they have made here. Watching him collapse into tears because he is so eaten up inside by his anxieties is tough television but all due credit to the show for taking this message so far.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘So much for Quark-dejino!’
‘Kid you try moving me and my guts are going to spill all over your shoes!’
‘Its funny. One minute your life’s moving along just like you always thought it would and the next you do something that changes everything and it makes you realise you’re not who you thought you were…’ – that’s really fine writing because who hasn’t suffered a moment like that in their life?
‘I guess that means I have to decide…’ ‘Decide what?’ ‘Whether I want to be hacked to bits or blasted by a disruptor’ ‘Disruptor no doubt about it. Every molecule in your body vapourised in a flash. No time to feel pain’ ‘Don’t be so sure about that. Some people think its like being boiled alive!’ ‘Decapitation has its virtues. A nice clean blow with a sharp Bat’leth…’ ‘The brain lives on for five, ten seconds at least! In theory your headless corpse could be the last thing you see…’
‘The line between courage and cowardice is a lot thinner than most people believe.’

The Good: The dynamics are so strong now the writers can simply plonk everybody into Ops and have them discuss something as vacuous as a caffeine free Klingon coffee for Kira and it is delightful to watch. It’s a very funny scene with everybody chipping in with a great line and opinion (Quark: ‘back home pregnancy is consider a rental!’). The panic and frenzy of the medical facility is very fluidly directed by Kim Friedman who keeps the camera moving all the time to suggest rapid activity. Shirts covered in blood, corpses everywhere, people screaming and dying…the hospital is like a vision of hell. Ouch, the officer who shoots himself in the foot to get himself off the battlefield is very nicely played to maximise the discomfort of the viewer. Do you consider him a hero for going out in the first place or a coward for finding an easy way out? As Bashir talks about the Starships that have been deployed against the Klingons and Kalandra tells him her husband is on one of those ships you begin to realise how this conflict is affecting peoples lives in very personal ways. Its an angle the show would return to time and again when the show explodes into a full scale with the Dominion in seasons six and seven. The dynamism of the shelling scene as Bashir and Jake are pursued by destructive explosions as they run for the runabout in a bleak location is exactly the kind of visual drama that something as stagey as Babylon 5 could only dream about. The misty battlefield of Klingon and Federation corpses that Jake stumbles across is genuinely horrific (one soldier has a bloody Bat’leth sticking out of his gut!) – this is usually the sort of imagery we get in dream sequences (remember the beginning of Rules of Engagement?) but this is real and its very nasty. Jake firing wildly with the phaser and bringing down the ceiling on himself and the Klingons is an entrancing action scene.

The Bad: They are not bad scenes by any means but cutting back to Sisko takes our attention away from the enthralling central story that is playing out.

Moment to Watch Out For: Jake discovering Burke dying on the battlefield is a truly shocking moment. Rather than support his actions running away from Bashir, Burke condemns him dies coughing up blood and telling him that life isn’t fair. Its shockingly bleak and absolutely riveting.

Fashion Statement: Andrew Kavovit is extremely easy on the eye and turns a very smooth performance as Kirby.

Result: Where was Kim Friedman hiding during seasons three and four? With The Ship and Nor the Battle, Friedman has kicked most of the current Trek directors out of the pool with his dynamic visual storytelling and emotional intensity. Jake really suffers in this episode and it is painful to watch as he goes from idealistic young man who thinks he can take on anything to a frightened child who is going to die without the protection of his father. Cirroc Lofton proves as ever that when the writers give him some tough material what a superb actor he is and Alexander Siddig and guest cast all work wonders with their roles too. A lot of the action takes place underground on a few sets but because the cast are utterly committed to making this work (its almost Doctor Who in that respect) it becomes something much more powerful. Considering how bloodless Star Trek normally is I was impressed with how much gore that was on display – it really helps to sell the horror of wartime paired with a number of psychologically scarring scenes. There’s a seam of black humour that runs through this episode that keeps it from being completely moribund and enough skilfully done action to suggest that the Klingons really are a terrifying force in the Quadrant again. Its dark and intense but its also a strong character piece and another winner for season five: 9/10

The Assignment written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: O’Brien is trapped in a domestic nightmare as Keiko turns really bad…

Unknown Sample: Look at Odo at the party holding a glass of alcohol, singing and stroking Molly’s cheek. It would appear that being human has really softened Odo’s character! A failing of his newfound identity is that he can now be punched in the face which he suffers during the conclusion.

Everyday Engineer: O’Brien is such a old rogue he thinks that Keiko is playing some kind of kinky sex game when his wife suggests he has to do everything that she says. Regardless of the fact that she has spelt out every single conclusion to previous Trek possession stories O’Brien still discusses options with the computer – clearly old habits die hard! I really like the way it suddenly twists as soon as Keiko reveals that she isn’t herself and suddenly every move O’Brien makes is observed by the thing that has control of his wife and investigated by his friends. When she is returned to normal Keiko never wants to forget how hard O’Brien fought for her. His dalliance with Kira in Par’Mach is completely forgiven.

Evil Keiko: This is the most Keiko has been given to do since season one and Rosalind Chao jumps at the chance to show what she’s made of. She plays everything just a little off kilter and it comes as no surprise to discover she has been possessed when she fails to complain about the tree massacre that has occurred (‘forget Miles, they’re just plants!’) and even something as simple as the way she eat the chocolates (as though she is experiencing them for the first time) is unusual. The way Chao leaps up from being dead takes a lot of skill and if you go back and watch the scene the sudden transformation is seamless. We never do get to learn why the Pah-wraith takes control of Keiko rather than O’Brien (aside from the fact that she was in the fire caves and he wasn’t) but I’m guessing they just like being sadistic. What’s really interesting about all this is how much favours it does the real Keiko. I’ve had a lot of complaints that she is a moaning Minnie (go and watch Accession again to see that simply is not the case) but if she was of a dominating temperament this is exactly how fractious their relationship could be (‘Miles…I make the rules’). Look at that shot of Chao in the Infirmary when she wakes up and accuses Miles (‘you were going to tell them about me…) – I have never seen pure malevolence captured so cleanly on a face. Ugh, she even makes him give her a kiss! This is one despicable entity!

GE Doctor: Julian Bashir, tree killer!

Nine Lives: Dax brings O’Brien a bottle of Whiskey…I wonder if everybody thought the same thing and there is a crate full of bottles somewhere in his quarters? Like the big science geek that she is she’s always found anomalies to be very relaxing…it’s a curse.

Secret Genius: ‘Ferengi can be very focussed! Especially when nobody bothers to talk to them. Not that I mind, I’m used to being ignored…’ Rom is still working the nightshift and is starting pick up some of O’Brien’s habits in an attempt to try and fit in. He dismisses his brothers criticism because he has a good job and he is proud of the work he does. Rom is so sweet when he is suddenly promoted to the day shift and is trying so hard to be nice to his co-workers. I didn’t think I could love Rom more than I do but when O’Brien ropes into helping him with the sabotage and then points the finger at him when the crew start to close in on him my heart went out to him. God knows who they thought he was working for…the Maquis? When he is promoted because of his loyalty and hard work I cheered and I loved the little comment that Rom knows that Quark isn’t happy that he is doing so well (because he knows he wants him to come crawling back) but thanks him anyway.

What’s Morn up to: He’s at the bar of course with a nice purple bib tucked in whilst he gets served his raw slug liver.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘If you don’t do precisely what I ask I’ll kill your wife…’
‘You know your wife well Miles but she knows you even better. I know you’re just playing for time until you can get to your friends – Julian, Dax, Captain Sisko. I know they’ll all want to help you. The Captain may even allow you to do what I’m asking at least until someone figures out a way to catch me in some kind of stasis field or whatever clever device you’re already dreaming up…’ – nice one evil Keiko, that’s the solution to all the other Trek possession stories out of the way so we can have something a little more original play out!
‘Miles I would never do anything to hurt your daughter…unless you forced me to.’
‘Why are we trying to kill the wormhole aliens?’

The Good: Molly enjoying her fathers fears after discovering that between them he and Julian have killed Keiko’s bonsai trees makes her far more evil than anything else in this episode (‘you’re in trouble…’). The atmosphere of this episode is electric throughout with it suddenly springing from business as normal in the pre titles sequence to a paranoid nightmare. Great party scenes where all of Miles friends assemble to celebrate his birthday and all O’Brien can focus on is his wife and what she is asking of him. There’s a lovely pan back of O’Brien and Keiko in bed together that cuts to the morning with evil harpy Keiko grinning as she watches her husband sleep…brrr. Kroeker shoots the episode with some really unusual angles that utilises the station sets well – slow pans along Jeffries tubes, high and low angles in Ops, intense close ups and reactions shots. When Dax fears that somebody is sabotaging the station O’Brien is like a fly in amber, trapped into investigating himself to keep up appearances! We’re slowly drip fed information about the Pah-wraiths until we learn about their plan to kill the Prophets and then their backstory as rival lifeforms is finally revealed. Wow imagine Kira’s reaction is Keiko had succeeded in bringing down the Prophets with O’Brien’s help?

The Bad: The end is a little pat and brings the entertaining episode to a close far too quickly but at least it is logically thought through.

Moment to Watch Out For: That railing on the Promenade has a lot to answer for (The Collaborator, Accession, Rocks and Shoals) and Keiko tossing herself off is an able demonstration of what this creature is willing to do.

Orchestra: The Assignment has an unusually direct score for a Star Trek episode and its fantastically exciting in parts.

Foreboding: Hooray for the introduction of the Pah-wraiths that would go on to become an important staple of the series in episodes such as The Reckoning, Covenant and especially in the last ten part arc.

Result: A seemingly predictable Trek cliché (alien possession) leads to an episode that manages to subvert all of its clichés and provide a tense, paranoid nightmare for O’Brien who is trying is damdest to save his wife from an entity that is willing to murder her to manipulate him. The Assignment might seem like a quiet sort of episode but behind the scenes it is a very important one with the debut of bravura director Allan Kroeker (who would go on to helm DS9’s most important moments – Call to Arms, The Sacrifice of Angels, Shadows and Symbols, What You Leave Behind), new staff writers Thompson & Weddle (who would introduce us to Section 31) and the Pah-wraiths that would go on to have a massive significance to the show in its last two years. Rosalind Chao gives a winningly malevolent performance and its great that she gets to play something other than the doting wife and mother. Its also a top notch Rom episode who is developed even further and brought into the fold of the regulars and would go on to make the greatest contribution to the season in its last episode. All in all this should have been trite (especially since it is a reversal of when Miles was possessed in TNG’s Power Play) but The Assignment kept my attention throughout, was exciting and unpredictable and had a great musical score. Bravo: 8/10

Trials and Tribble-ations written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Jonathan West

What’s it about: Sisko and his crew head back in time and meet Captain Kirk and his crew!

Single Father: Sisko’s line about the last thing he wants is a visit from Temporal Investigations when he gets home always makes me chuckle…I bet he omitted that part from his story! Sisko accidentally taps his ‘comm badge’ rather than using his communicator! Of course he wants to meet Captain Kirk and ask him what it was like fighting the Gorn on Cestus III  - you get a real sense that every Captain wants to live up to the legacy left behind by the reckless Captain Kirk!

Unknown Sample: Its been his observation that most humanoids love soft, furry animals and now that he is a humanoid himself why should he miss out on all the fun?

Mr Wolf: The look on Worf’s face when O’Brien and Bashir discuss the way he smells is priceless – a sort of earthy, peaty aroma…with a touch of lilac! Dax refuses to use this as a torture weapon on him because she has her own special ways of doing that. Poor Worf is stuck in the unenviable position of being the only person who is allergic to Tribbles and then in an awesomely funny (and terrible out cop out) has to try and avoid explaining away the gulf between the old Klingons and the new ones. Worf explaining to Odo about the obliteration of the Tribble homeworld makes me die with laughter…imagine these stupid furry creatures considered a mortal enemy of the Empire!

GE Doctor & Everyday Engineer: Bashir and O’Brien are paired up as a comedy double act in this episode and their scenes together have never been better. He’s a Doctor, not a historian! Bashir gets into the spirit of this romp by quoting McCoy. They are both so useless at figuring 23rd Century technology they stand in a lift for ages until a foxy lady walks in and shows them how it is done! O’Brien is so useless with the cobbled together technology that he has to pretend that he is suffering a breakdown to excuse his poor handling of it. Bashir ties himself up in knots with the notion that he could be destined to sleep with Lieutenant Whatley and become his own great great grandfather! If he doesn’t he could very well disappear from time altogether which makes O’Brien smirk with pleasure!

Nine Lives: How good is Dax in this episode? Terry Farrell is an absolute dream in the role these days and Jadzia is literally getting off on the nostalgia of being surrounded by so many icons! She loves classic 23rd Century designs and desperately wants to meet Koloth in his prime. She doesn’t really give a damn about Darvin and his schemes…she just wants to have a good time in history! Dax used to live in this time and she finds it hard to control herself because she wants to be a part of it again. Proving that scientists never change over time, Dax gives out exactly the same statistics as Spock regarding the Tribbles breeding habits. I love her cute look to Kirk when he sits on a Tribble on the bridge. One of Dax’s previous hosts had a hot steamy affair with McCoy at some point! 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I guess you boys from Temporal Investigations are always on time…’
‘And women wore less…’ ‘I think I’m going to like history!’
‘Another glorious chapter of Klingon history! Tell me do they still sing songs of the Great Tribble Hunt?
‘Your flaps open…’ ‘Excuse me?’
‘He put a bomb in a Tribble?’
‘I had a feeling he’d become a Doctor. He had the hands of a surgeon.’

The Good: There are so many great things about this episode and lets start the discussion with the very idea that there has been so many temporal incursions that the Federation has its own department just to deal with phenomena! They particularly hate pre destination paradoxes, it’s a pet hate you understand. That’s hilarious! Their names being anagrams of Mulder and Scully is a nice touch. Apparently James T. Kirk is considered a ‘menace’ by the TI unit with seventeen separate violations! The Orb of Time is probably the flimsiest of excuses to travel back in time but when I actually thought about considering they do all have unique properties and this is the resulting episodes…why not? The fact that Darvin is still spinning the same lies about his career all these years in the future shows his sheer lack of originality! These were the days before the remastered original series episodes with new effects and so the stunning effects of shots of the Enterprise really were a thing of beauty. To most people to have the ship film in motion control like the early days of TNG was only a dream but now that has been realised. I especially like the pan over the top of the Enterprise as the saucer literally fills the screen, it really is a thing of beauty. The recreation of the sets from The Trouble With Tribbles is nothing short of masterful with so much attention to detail it looks absolutely authentic. All credit to those set designers and effects technicians who made this stunning prospect a reality. The Tribbles are such a gloriously anarchic and quirky notion its almost a relief that somebody thought to bring them back for a new episode – comedy fluffy purring balls that replicate en masse! That’s brilliant! The first appearance of Kirk is worthy of a cheer and Dax oozing with sexual pleasure over Spock made me pause to stop laughing! Worf, O’Brien, Bashir and Odo sit around in the bar like eager Star Trek fans mistakenly identifying a meagre officer for Captain Kirk! The amount of effort that has gone into integrating our crew with the original series crew during the bar fight is astonishing. The scene is seamless but what’s more important it has all the humour and idiosyncratic action of the original (especially Bashir’s wonderfully wimpy reaction to throwing a punch!). Don’t Bashir and O’Brien look great integrated into the line up at the bar? The scene which pans slowly over a family of Tribbles gorging on the grain and finally settling on the bomb is so brilliant – its completely ridiculous and therefore utterly wonderful. The Tribble bombs gliding through space before exploding is similarly sublime. Imagine having to manually scan all those Tribbles! Just the thought of that makes me laugh! Touches such as Dax being the one who throws the Tribbles that keep whacking Kirk on the head are what make this such a joy. The last shot of the Promenade filled with Tribbles is just the right self congratulatory note to end the episode on and the fact that it is all Odo’s fault makes me die! Plus that Tribble looks very comfortable on Quark’s head!

The Bad: Poor pregnant Nana Visitor, what a shame her condition meant she had to miss out on the bulk of this episode! She would have looked so hot in an original series uniform too! It is interesting that because the sets for the space station are so colourful and light it makes any return to the Defiant look grim and dour. I’d never noticed that before!

Moment to Watch Out For: Just the whole episode. I can’t pick one moment.

Fashion Statement: Oh wow, all the crew look stunning in the original series uniforms. Sisko looks as cute as a button and far more amiable than usual, Dax is an absolute fox and Bashir looks like a modern day Chekov with his hair plastered down! The only person who looks a bit awkward is O’Brien and that’s only because the uniform doesn’t hang on his stocky frame quite so well. It might be outrageously sexist of me to say but the way the ladies had very little clothing on during the original series made them extraordinarily gorgeous and the waitress that serves our crew is a particularly fine example. There’s something about her lack of attire, lovely smile and general demeanour that makes her very appealing.

Result: The best anniversary episode ever! Not only a glorious nostalgia fest that makes me grin from ear to ear in every scene but also a supremely funny script with wonderful, charming moments for everybody and visual delight to boot! The technical achievement in Trials and Tribble-ations goes beyond anything we will ever see again a Star Trek episode and the love that has been put into recreating the sets and joining together two wonderful crews is extraordinary. The plot itself is fun but disposable but with so many evocative touches and great gags who gives a damn? Dax oozes sex appeal in her original series uniform, Sisko gets to chat with Captain Kirk, Bashir flirts with his own great grandmother, Worf has to try and avoid discussing the difference between the old Klingons and the new ones and O’Brien gets accused of the justly famous bar fight! Its one treat after another and for such a special episode I’m glad they went for such a sunny tone because aside from being better in every respect what makes this so much more enjoyable than Voyager’s Flashback is the humour which it gives you warm feelings throughout. What an astonishing start to season five – that’s six great episodes in a row of all different styles. Trials and Tribble-ations is non stop riotous fun and a delight to watch over and over: 10/10

Let He Who Is Without Sin… written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe & Ira Steven Behr and directed by Rene Auberjonois

What’s it about: Everyone is off to Risa for some serious shagging!

Unknown Sample: Odo has really chilled out this year – he’s even cracking some serious gags about Dax’s aggressive shagging and the O’Brien’s naming their kid ‘swamp.’

Mr Wolf: Worf is so easy to wind up I can see why everybody takes a perverse pleasure in doing so! Despite Dax saying that he is loosening up nobody around he station has noticed. The thing that really drags this episode down is Worf and it feels as though we are stepping back into the fourth season in that regard – here he is dour, unreasonable and thoroughly depressing! He needs to learn to loosen up a little…in fact I thought he had. Whilst the sex must be great I can see why people were confused that good time girl Dax would find herself attracted to such a dullard! But then they do say that opposites attract… Whilst everybody else is enjoying themselves Worf stays in his functional, boring Starfleet uniform. By describing Risa as an artificially created paradise he proves that he isn’t getting into the spirit of things. He does try very hard to be romantic by comparing Dax to a proto cluster but Michael Dorn’s delivery is so flat it suggests he was a bit embarrassed by the dialogue. Jealousy is never a pretty attribute and Worf displays it in abundance, first by Dax having dinner with her old flame Captain Boday (him with the transparent skull!) and then by getting friendly with Arandis (perhaps Worf remembers her controversial romance with Lenara Kahn). I hate jealousy stories – the Neelix/Kes/Tom Paris storyline was tedious and I’m glad they nipped this in the bud in this episode and allowed us to get on with exploring their relationship in a more interesting way. Worf is also a shameless busybody poking his nose in other peoples love lives! Of course Worf the bore finds the Bajoran Rite of Separation far too frivolous a way to end a relationship! Worf working with Pascal to make it rain is an abominable act…he wants to make everybody as damn well miserable as he is! Dax is right when she says Worf is constantly holding himself back from enjoying himself. Spare me the truly horrendous psychobabble explanation of why that is the case – he hurt a kid once by being too rough? Come on Behr and Wolfe, this is absolute drivel! He learnt to live amongst humans he has to practice restraint…so why then is he beating up Dax every time they get down and dirty?

GE Doctor: I remember reading that Nana Visitor had just had her baby when this episode was filmed and Alexander Siddig had spent all night in the hospital when this episode was filmed the next day. Even he admits he was phoning in his performance but then with a script like this, who wouldn’t? Trying to figure out Dax was what attracted Bashir to Dax but the fact that she was such hard work was what turned him off.

Nine Lives: Dax has suffered all manner of injuries in her violently sexual relationship with Worf and it’s the talk of the town! Inter species romance isn’t without its sense of danger and that is why she finds it so much fun. We learn that Curzon died whilst bonking the extremely pretty Arandis! What a way to go! I shall have to keep that in mind the next time I watch Emissary and see the symbiont switch…actually I do seem to recall he is smiling! I can only think that beyond his massive libido that Dax likes a challenge and wants to break Worf! Too impulsive and lacking self control, these are things that Worf doesn’t like about Dax which is odd because those are things I love about her! Just as Dax starts having fun Worf stumbles in like the black cloud from hell. She loves Worf because he has the heart of a berserker cat and the heart of a poet (‘and the brain of a pig headed idiot’ – Quark). She finally tells Worf to get a grip and that of course she doesn’t put pleasure above commitment.

Community Leader: Risa is a planet of loose morals and therefore the ideal holiday spot for Quark and he seems to take a delight in annoying Worf on the way (‘one for you and one for you and one for you…and none for you!’).

What’s Morn up to: We open the episode with Morn going on a date with a Starfleet officer (who looks about 50!), offering them a flower and getting a kiss in return.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Commander!’ ‘Do not hug me!’
‘My brother Rom?’ ‘His brother Rom?’ ‘He’s so cute…and sexy!’
‘What I want is Worf!’ ‘Why?’ – that’s what we’ve all been asking!

The Good: To have location work on three episodes so close together in Trek is very unusual (The Ship, Nor the Battle and this) and as usual with Trek it is gorgeously filmed and does make Risa look like a top vacation spot. In theory the Bajoran rite of Separation is a great idea – to split up with somebody but spend several days remembering the best of their relationship and to seek out new opportunities but in practice could anybody see themselves actually being able to go through with it? Although the ritual of breaking the bowl is extremely unsubtle I am pleased that Bashir and Leeta have split up because now Rom is in with a shot!

The Bad: What is going on? The DS9 universe has gone from having mild references to sex but between this and Par’Mach we’re now in softcore porn territory! Leeta is in Bashir’s lap, half naked men and women fill the screen and Worf and Dax are damaging each other with their amorous activities! Leeta forcing hers and Julian’s Horgon’s to smooch made me feel quite queasy. The look on Michael Dorn’s face when he holds up the bathing costume from hell screams ‘what have I done agreeing to do this show?’ I get the message that the Federation worlds have it easy and are pampered but in this case I just don’t understand it – these people are on holiday and escaping from their usual humdrum lives. Who shouldn’t be allowed to do that? Behr and Wolfe made the point far more effectively in Homefront/Paradise Lost when they suggested that the Federation is too relaxed in their own security to take the Dominion threat seriously. Comparing ‘a little bad weather’ to a Dominion invasion is an absolute joke! If the worst thing that happens in an episode is that it rains there is something very wrong…

Moment to Watch Out For: The last shot is gorgeous. A shame all of the episode couldn’t have been that stylish.

Fashion Statement: Vanessa Williams is a real beauty but she’s also a fine actress – check her out in the last couple of years of Desperate Housewives where she brings the unconscionably rude and tart Renee to life!

Result: Let He Who Is Without Sin is the weakest episode of DS9 in an age and brings us back down to reality with a thump. Its basically TNG’s Justice all over again (a planet of sex with some issues) without a decent jeopardy angle (Pascal and his cronies are a joke) and some shockingly bad characterisation of Worf that threatens to destroy all the good work done with him this year. The fact that this is written by Ira Behr and Robert Wolfe really surprises me because this is far below their usual consistent quality. There is a worthy message about the Federation being pampered, spoilt children but it is lost under a wealth of awkwardly scripted, lazily performed comedy scenes. Coming after the blissful Trials and Tribble-ations it just goes to show how Trek comedy can bomb when it fails. Rene Auberjonois made such a sterling job of directing The Quickening but this has to be his weakest episode – there is no sense of fun on Risa and the moments of tension aren’t. Poor Michael Dorn is lumbered with this dreadful episode and his performance is strained as though he is trying not to care about such trivialities. Fortunately this is the last time that he is handled so ineptly and from this point on he is treated to some of his finest material. Thank goodness the Dax/Worf issues are put to rest in this episode and we can finally have some fun with them: 3/10

Things Past written by Micheal Taylor and directed by LeVar Burton

What’s it about: Back on Terok Nor, Odo tries to correct a terrible mistake…

Tasty Terrorist: Kira thought Odo was the one man who stood for justice no matter what but now those waters have been muddied. Anyone who lived through the Occupation had to get a little dirty but Kira needs to know that this was the only time that innocent people died on his watch.

Unknown Sample: Uh-oh…as soon as you hear a glowing character spec like ‘you may have been working for the Cardassians but your only master was justice’ you know that there is going to be a tough examination of that character which reveals that to be a lie. This is DS9 after all! As soon as they find themselves on the Cardassian occupied station Odo begins acting twitchy and suspicious as he remembers exactly what was happening during this time. Kurtwood Smith is always fantastic value and he gives a wonderful performance as Thrax, just a heartbeat away from being Auberjonois himself. There are beautifully observed moments of speech and manner and Smith leads us to believe that Odo was a far more sinister character when he had no friends. Fascinatingly Odo gets to interrogate himself, to pull apart all of the flaws in Thrax’s (thus his) prosecution of the case that will see them all executed. Clearly the younger Odo is happy to work with circumstantial evidence and make quick decisions about peoples character. His job is to find the truth and not obtain convictions but he hasn’t learnt that lesson yet. Auberjonois is superb as he feels the pain of each phaser shot that claims innocent victims and terrifying as the younger Odo, the dispassionate observer. Odo charged men with a crime they didn’t commit and they lost their lives as a result, this scenario only lets them go once he finally admits it.

Nine Lives: Poor Dax is trapped trying to explain the absurdities of their appearance in the bodies of four Bajorans with as much technobabble at her disposal. She’s rather good at playing the Bajoran victim and adopts a shy, frightened persona when dealing with Dukat until she feels she has his trust.

Community Leader: I love it when we get visit the pre Federation Quark because he is such a sleazy, arrogant, patronising tool and it shows how far he has come being exposed to more civilised landlords. Even Sisko is willing to conduct a little experiment to find out what would happen to the timeline if the condescending sod were to suffer an accident!

Plain and Simple: Only Garak could find it in his heart to try and defend the Bajoran occupation at a Bajoran conference! He realises now that the Bajorans aren’t interested in historical truth as much as they are invested in promoting the myths and legends of the glorious resistance. Odd how Garak feels like one of the family these days, he proves to be a resourceful and intelligent ally just like the last time he was caught up in this kind of plot (Second Skin).

Slimy Snake: We see that Dukat could happily turn a blind eye to Bajorans being abused on the station when he was its ruler (at least that’s how Odo sees it). Its interesting to hear Dukat so wrapped up in his own God complex that he genuinely believes it is his job to breed manners into the Bajorans (his ‘children’).

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Giving me a name tag that said ‘Elim Garak, former Cardassian oppressor’ was hardly being polite!’
‘Bad manners are the fault of the parent, not the child.’
‘My heart is too big…’ THWACK! ‘…and so is your ego!’
‘Seven years ago I allowed three innocent men to die.’

The Good: The imagery of all of the runabout crew comatose is an intriguing hook into the episode. I’m starting to think that LeVar Burton is really figuring out how to work the camera as he continues directing stories. The pull back away from Sisko’s face that keeps going until the atmospheric Occupation styled Promenade is revealed was superb. The framing of the scenes in the Infirmary with the four bodies placed at compass points is very nicely done too. The logic of figuring out that they aren’t who they appear to be shows the characters to be intelligent and observant. The corpse like face that haunts Odo on the promenade is absolutely terrifying as is the death march past Quark’s – Burton sure has a great line in nightmarish imagery here. The blood oozing from Garak’s nose proves that our friends can be hurt within the illusion they are trapped in – psychological stimuli is causing a physical response. There is something about those DS9 corridors that make fire fights and hand to hand combat far more exciting than the ship bound shows (Captive Pursuit, , the Search Part II, Way of the Warrior). Love the trippy camerawork when Thrax asks Odo what he is going to do – that effect of moving the camera backwards whilst zooming in highly disorienting. Handheld camerawork than take us on a nightmare tour of the executions.

Moment to Watch Out For: The last scene is a peach, a reversal of the same conclusion in Necessary Evil and a potentially tough time ahead for Odo and Kira.

Foreboding: Its interesting that Dukat chooses to confide in a Bajoran girl in this episode because we have already learned that he took a Bajoran lover during the Occupation (Indiscretion) and would eventually go on to reveal that his romancing of Kira has far more sinister undertones (Wrongs Darker than Death or Night).

Result: Things Past sees the season get right back on track and only really works in retrospect once you learn that this entire scenario is taking place from Odo’s guilt ridden point of view. If you think of it as a sequel to Necessary Evil then it falls between several stools because it was never intended as such – this is another example of what DS9 does best, tough character examination. Odo is tortured by his actions in the past and no matter how much they try and escape his own guilt constantly catches up with them and places them back in the hangman’s noose. LeVar Burton’s direction of the episode is nothing short of masterful (and anybody who reads these reviews regularly will know that is not a compliment I hand out to him frequently) with some atmospheric, almost cinematic lighting during the Occupation scenes and some imaginative framings of scenes that really stand out. The imagery is brutal and uncompromising just as you would expect from this setting and the inclusion of Andrew Robinson and Kurtwood Smith are both massive pluses. The only point I felt let down was the eventual explanation which left me thinking ‘huh?’ rather than ‘wow!’ Things Past has plenty of atmosphere and substance and provides an exciting ride for the most part: 8/10

The Ascent written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: Odo and Quark are stranded on a frozen planet with no hope of escape from each other…

Single Father: Sisko has finally lost his son to his best friend – welcome to the rest of your life Ben! Sisko can remember a time when he didn’t even want Nog and Jake talking together and now they are moving in together! Fortunately Sisko is there to stop them from killing each other – as Nog’s commanding officer and Jake’s father he is in a great position to force them to try and get along.

Unknown Sample: They writers seem to have shied away from exploring Odo’s humanity in a satisfying way so it is nice to see some discussion of it here and to see his frailties. Complaints that Odo has been this harsh with Quark for an age are fair but its long past time we saw a bit of genuine rivalry back in their ever softening relationship again so his delight in finally seeing Quark sweating is a joy. Besides Odo knows that Quark hasn’t done anything wrong, he’s just enjoying an eight day journey where his nemesis has to agonise over what he might have done. He doesn’t play cards and even if he did he wouldn’t want to play them with Quark. Quark always used to think that Odo’s problems and bad disposition sprung from him being a changeling cut off from his own people but that isn’t the case anymore…the only conclusion he can draw is that solid or changeling he is a miserable, self hating misanthrope! He enjoys reading romance novels and tries to make up some poor excuse that they give him an insight into the criminal mind! I love his buzzing and lip smacking – its nice to see that Odo isn’t above acting like a total kid when he wants to! Odo’s true feelings for Quark are revealed when he thinks he is dead and panics at the thought. Their rivalry finally bubbles over and they list all the things they hate about each other before pushing on from a verbal fight to a physical one. When Odo thinks he is going to die he leaves a recording saying he would like to be cremated, stuck in his bucket and shot through the wormhole so he can end up where he began.

Community Leader: I love all the gags surrounding Quark’s perceptive hearing. It draws attention to the fact in time for him to pick up the buzzing of the bomb the Orion Syndicate have left behind. They sounds like an old married couple when they begin bickering over who gets to wear what parts of the survival suit. Quark couldn’t have afforded to join the Orion Syndicate even before he had his assets seized by the Ferengi Commerce Authority and Odo enjoys reminding him just how small fry he really is. Rather brilliantly Quark manages to throw this back in Odo’s face by telling him that if that is the case he has spent the last ten years trying to catch out a nobody and without much success – so who is the bigger loser? Quark shows an amazing sense of willpower by dragging Odo up the mountain and refusing to give up – the ex changeling doesn’t think he has it in him and he channels some of that self doubt into his determination to succeed. He refuses to let his brother get the bar, his nephew be completely corrupted by the Federation and to die with his body unsold!

Starfleet Ferengi: How wonderful to have Nog back! I’m a massive fan (as it appears is Ira Steven Behr) and whilst this initial characterisation of him having become a Starfleet drone he soon settles down to become one of the best semi regulars. He’s so small he can barely be seen peeking over Sisko’s desk! When Nog tells Jake they are going to clean every day it reminded me of my husband and his freakish enjoyment in tidying up!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘No-one gets killed in Vulcan Love Slave…but its still a hell of a read!’
‘With all this lip smacking how could I hear anything?’
‘Now I can finally sit on a chair no with absolute certainty it isn’t you!’
‘Nog says Jake is slovenly, undisciplined, unfocused writer!
‘I thought you were dead!’ ‘And you saw that as an opportunity to take out years of hostility towards me!’

The Good: More location filming? This episode looks absolutely stunning when Odo and Quark begin their Trek outside and it makes me wonder if they had an injection of budget this year given how much time we have spent outside. There are glorious shots of the snow capped mountainside and montages of Quark and Odo walking past flowing waterfalls (water cascades down the rocks sublimely)  and through sunny glades.

The Bad: The teaser isn’t the most exciting thing I have ever seen in the world and gets the episode off on the wrong foot – ending on Rom swinging down some root beer hardly gets me rooting for the rest of the episode! Jake and Nog suddenly resolving their differences is pretty instantaneous! Mind you with Sisko looking over my shoulder I would do as I’m told too.

Moment to Watch Out For: The scene between Rom and Sisko in the Replimat is gorgeous! I love it when they shove together two character who don’t spend much time together because it gives the show a whole new dynamic. Plus this is really funny stuff…Rom suspecting that Nog is a changeling because he has returned from Earth a disciplined psychopath! The way these two realise how much Jake and Nog need each other

Fashion Statement: I’m glad that somebody finally made the gag about Starfleet uniforms looking like pyjamas! And just before they change into a more functional, militaristic look too!

Foreboding: It’s a nice introduction to the Orion Syndicate who would go on to make an appearance in season six’s Honor Amongst Thieves. Operatives that work for the Orion Syndicate would give their lives before testifying against their employers. This is a particularly shady criminal organisation that have their fingers in many pies. One to watch out for.

Result: A filler episode but an amiable one and with some truly impressive location filming. Any excuse to give Rene Auberjonois and Armin Shimmerman to enjoy a wealth of scenes together is fine by me and their life or death struggle is given added impetus by their constant bickering and brawling. My only complaint about this episode is that we already knew that these guys were the best of enemies and it doesn’t advance their relationship one jot despite being ridiculously entertaining. The Jake/Nog subplot does have some cute moments but also some annoying ones with both characters taken to extremes at opposite ends of the spectrum. This isn’t an episode you would show anybody to win them over with how good DS9 is but it passes the time very nicely, looks pretty and has lovely touches of character throughout that push it above average: 7/10

Rapture written by Hans Beimler and directed by Jonathan West

What’s it about: An accident in the holosuite causes Sisko to have visions of Bajor’s past, present and future…

Single Father: Avery Brooks gives a magnificent performance in this episode, one of the most important episodes for Sisko in the shows entire run. Again proving how building on previous character revelations can enhance the characters, Sisko’s quest to find B’Hala is a direct consequence of what he learnt about himself in Accession when he came to terms with being the Emissary. There’s a magical gleam in Sisko’s eyes when he starts working on the mystery of the lost city that is easy to fall in love with. After his accident Sisko goes from intrigued by the challenge to obsessed by it and even starts cutting Bajoran symbols into his food. Brooks performance when Kira snaps Sisko out of his vision of the future is captivating, he spills out information with a voice as smooth as silky coffee. Imagine being able to grasp the entire timeline of a planet – Sisko’s relationship with Bajor takes on deeper undertones. His ‘make something up’ with regards to not being able to see the Kai immediately is a delight. This is a true spiritual experience for Sisko and for once his ties to the Federation are less important than his ties to Bajor and he has to see this thing through no matter what. The way he walks through the crowd on the Promenade giving advice to his friends like some messianic fortune teller is absorbing – there is no prophet in his advice (if you’ll pardon the pun), it is a true altruistic act. Scenes of Sisko, Jake and Kassidy discussing the visions and the fact that Bashir could cure him are absorbing because they have really gelled into a family unit. Enough time has passed for Jennifer to be put to rest and there is a new mother in the Sisko home pleading for Ben to listening to his son who is scared that his father is going to die. Before he heads off to complete his vision with Winn he admits that he loves both of them. Brooks sends shivers down my spine when he wakes up and discovers his visions have been taken away. Bajor cannot join the Federation at the moment and he has never been more sure of anything in his life.

Tasty Terrorist: There is an exceptional speech from Kira who admits that five years ago she wouldn’t have been celebrating because she didn’t think that Federation membership was right for Bajor. Her time on the station and her dealings with Starfleet changed her mind over time but mostly what seduced her was her relationship with Sisko. This is five years worth of character growth paying off in spades.

Unknown Sample: Odo is such glorious old cynic and calls Sisko’s discovery of B’Hala ‘a very lucky guess.’ 

Nine Lives: Whilst Kira and Sisko enthuse about the ruins of a dusty old Bajoran city Dax fails to generate much enthusiasm for the project.

Community Leader: It never hurts to be prepared for anything and Quark enjoys the spectacle of Bajor’s entry into the Federation to drum up more business.

Young Sisko: Jake’s heartfelt plea to his father may just break your heart and the tough decision he has to make at the end is another example of Cirroc Lofton at his best.

Freighter Captain: How glorious is it to see Kassidy Yates back again? When I first watched the show I feared that we had lost the wonderful Penny Johnson to other work commitments (she always seemed to have something exciting on the go – her turn as the scheming President’s wife in the first two seasons of 24 were that shows greatest moments) but the extended break (For the Cause was around fifteen episodes back, almost a whole season) gives credence to her imprisonment by the Federation for helping to smuggle supplies to the Maquis. Now she has been punished she has returned to the man she loves to pick up the pieces just as she promised. More realistic character development that enriches the show. Her tentative approach to her former lover is very natural considering how they parted but Sisko puts her straight at ease by grabbing and kissing her and asking her to join him on his quest. He left everything of hers exactly as she left it before she was arrested and says they can pick up exactly where they left off.

Spiritual Leader: Gosh I hadn’t realised that we hadn’t seen Win since season three’s Shakaar! That’s far too long without a dose of my favourite backstabber! Winn manages to make her presence felt immediately by taking one look at the pregnant Kira and telling her that she looks ‘very sweet.’ She’s opposed to the treaty that will see her world join the Federation because she thinks that they will no longer have their freedom. She comes to terms with the idea just in time for it to be snatched away and at the episodes conclusion even she no longer knows what her path is going to be now.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘It said that only somebody who has been touched by the Prophets could find the ruins of B’Hala…’ ‘No pressure.’
‘Those of your who were in the resistance you’re all the same. You think you’re the only ones who fought the Cardassians. That you saved Bajor single handedly. Perhaps you forget Major, the Cardassians arrested any Bajoran found to be teaching the word of the Prophets. I was in a Cardassian prison camp for five years and I can remember each and every beating I suffered and while you had your weapons to protect you all I had was my faith and my courage. Walk with the Prophets, child, I know I will.’
‘I remember the first time I held you in my hands. You were only a few minutes old and I looked down at your face and it was almost as if I could see your whole life stretched out in front of you. All the joys it would bring and the bruises. It was all there hidden in that scrunched up little face. The baby that I’m holding in my hands now is the universe itself and I need time to study its face.’
‘Locusts! They’ll destroy Bajor unless it stands alone!’

The Good: As a quest story it shits all over the blandness of last years Sword of Kahless because discovering a city is far more exciting than a Bat’leth! The lighting in the holosuite is warm and gives the quest scenes a real atmosphere. Suddenly Bajor’s petition to join the Federation has been approved and the very thing Sisko came to the station to achieve, getting the Bajorans on their feet again and helping them to become a successful ally of the Federation is coming to fruition. There’s a wonderful feeling of celebration on the show and for the audience that has enjoyed the show since day one – it feels like everything has been building to this and we are finally going to see it through. What we don’t realise of course is DS9 has been building up to the war to end all wars and this is just a distraction but with some clever plotting that is foreshadowed here. Kira finding Sisko bewitched by the obelisk is a stunning moment, mystical and magical in the same breath. There’s another example of DS9 giving its characters opposing viewpoints to create some fascinating discussion and the scene in Ops between Kira, Dax, O’Brien and Worf allows them all to air their thoughts and explore the problem in some depth. Worf in particular gets a moment to shine here. In a spectacular moment of drama Sisko bursts into the official signing of Bajor into the Federation and declares that the planet must stand alone if it is to survive a terrible catastrophe. The final scene that sees Sisko, Jake and Kassidy coming together and holding hands as a family is delightful, its wonderful to see this kind of development in a series but even more important to have such a vital moment played out amongst three black characters in an American drama proves just how far television has come in terms of putting its prejudices aside. It’s a gorgeous moment in the series and one to be cherished.

Moment to Watch Out For: There are too many scenes to mention but my absolute favourite is the one which pulls the rug out from under our feet and Kira’s where the delightfully surprising Kai Winn reminds the former terrorist that she wasn’t the only person who fought the Cardassians. She suffered beatings at the hands of their oppressor and all she had to protect her was her faith whilst Kira had her weapons. It’s a sympathetic angle for the most insidious character Trek has ever seen and it really helps to make her a more rounded person – not only that but Kira is literally as speechless as we are at being forced into a corner of compassion for the woman. Exceptional characterisation and exquisitely performed. 

Fashion Statement: I should consider the grey topped military uniforms the First Contact ones but because DS9 has two and half seasons with them and TNG a handful of films I always consider them the property of this show. Regardless it is a fantastic change of look and suddenly all the officers on this show feel like professionals rather than relaxed Starfleet officers. What’s more Kira has had a haircut which is a relief since Nana Visitor looked as though she had just got out of bed in the last episode!

Foreboding: In his vision Sisko sees ‘the coming war with the Dominion…’ How exciting! Its worth noting that from this episode onwards every time we see Bashir he is in fact a changeling infiltrator which is revealed in In Purgatory’s Shadow where he still have the old style uniform on. Sisko sees a cloud of locusts covering the sun of Bajor and then heading off to Cardassia…this is poetic foreshadowing of what would happen in By Inferno’s Light. Sisko throwing a spanner into the works of Bajor joining the Federation seems like a massive step backwards but in hindsight it shows an ingenious amount of fore thinking on the writers part. Clearly this season has been thought through in some depth – if Bajor allied themselves with the Federation then the Dominion fleet that would spill through the wormhole (locusts) would attack. Because they stand alone they can form a non aggression pact with the Dominion when they invade and remain safe. Clever, clever stuff. There is so much going on beneath the surface of this episode its quite masterful.

Result: A DS9 masterpiece with an abundance of thematic depth, character development and arc significance. If Voyager could produce an episode with half this much substance I would be over the moon but this isn’t even the best DS9 episode of the year! Sisko’s newfound obsession with Bajoran mythology and the shows central premise of Bajor joining the Federation merge to beguiling effect and the resulting drama is infused with exceptional dialogue brought to life by a cast at the top of their game. The return of Kassidy Yates is to be celebrated and finally she joins the Sisko clan full time and they merge into a family unit and the differing reactions of the crew to Sisko’s vision quest creates some exceptional drama. Avery Brooks isn’t given half as much credit as he deserves for his performance as Sisko but his turn in Rapture should be enough to win over even his harshest of critics – he’s mesmerising. All this plus possibly the best use of Kai Winn until her arc in season seven and you have an episode that never stops giving. The last scene reduced me to tears of joy and its not often any episode of television can do that. The second classic of season five: 10/10

The Darkness and the Light written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Michael Vejar

What’s it about: Its Scream, Star Trek style with Kira’s terrorist cell being targeted by an unknown assailant…

Tasty Terrorist: In the best Kira episode since Return to Grace we get to explore her violent past in a very intimate way as a hidden assassin starts taking out all the members of the Shakaar resistance cell. Kira’s initial reaction to her colleagues death is an understandably low key one for somebody who has lost as many friends as she has. She can get over his death because he died serving the Prophets and she knows they will take care of him. The trouble is Kira knows that her resistance cell did a lot of questionable things during the Occupation and the multiple deaths of her friend forces her to confront those dark days. Coping with these deaths and her pregnancy causing Kira to lose it in security, a very natural moment. Of all the horrors that she faces here Kira is subjected to a gift of Makara herbs (that taste like something that has crawled out of Quark’s ear!) from her friends! Its fascinating to compare Kira to Lupaza because she has been tamed by the Federation and cannot send her friends out as a personal execution squad where her friend is in the same mind set as she was in the Occupation – when they find out who is doing this she is going to kill him no matter what. For a moment Kira thinks that Miles might be dead as well as her friends and that she may have lost the baby too…that would have been too much to bear but the loss of her dear friends really hits home all the same. Nana Visitor is extraordinary in this scene as she talks about joining the resistance and her relationship with Lupaza and Furrell – she’s so good at these emotional monologues all Vejar has to do is track the camera towards her slowly as she tells her story and it is captivating.

Mr Wolf: More great Worf moments as he admits that he does not smirk but if he did it would be a good opportunity since Dax mocked a Captain she was playing Tongo with who happened to be a champion and he cleaned her out! Having him quote the Rules of Acquisition was a laugh riot! Fifteen million Bajorans died during the Occupation and Kira just cannot find it in her heart to feel sorry for one man who got caught in the crossfire of an explosion she caused.

Everyday Engineer: There is a new chemistry between O’Brien and Kira since their near dalliance in Looking for Par’Mach, a relaxed friendship and shared intimacy that has spilled into a very watchable friendship.

GE Doctor: That horrid changeling Bashir is doing a damn good impression of the real thing, treating Kira with compassionately. What an insidious bastard! I wonder if he walks out of shot and rubs his hands together and goes ‘hehehe!’

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘For fifty years you raped our planet and you killed our people! You lived on our land and you took the food out of our mouths and I don’t care whether you held a phaser in your hand or you ironed shirts for a living! You were all guilty and you were all legitimate targets!’

The Good: Ladies and gentlemen Mike Vejar has arrived on DS9 and his imaginative visual style is immediately recognisable as the high angel camera pans over the Bajoran ceremony and sees a monk murdered in prayer. The hideous charred corpse of Kira’s friend that sizzles away on the transporter pad is exactly the sort of nasty image you need in a good horror story! The story of Fala passing information on for years and her treachery finally catching up with her is a tragic one. She must have spent her whole life looking over her shoulder. I love the very creepy shot of Kira walking along the Promenade as the creepy recorded voice informs her of a another victim. With the security database being hacked to give Kira another shock you realise that the killer is a technically competent man and will not be easily discovered. I’ve always said that the DS9 sets are gorgeous but I have never meant it more than during the atmospheric sequence where Kira is menaced through the O’Brien’s quarters in the dark. The oval windows glow in the starlight and provide an evocative backdrop. The return of Lupaza and Furrell is a treat their chemistry is as charismatic as it was in their debut – this episode needed to see Kira lose somebody important to make an impact and these two delightful characters are a real loss but Moore makes his point well that is going to be an ugly fight. Suddenly the episode has real momentum as Kira heads off after the killer to exact her own personal kind of justice. The finale is strong stuff for Star Trek, a woman tied to a chair with a harsh light showing up her terror as her tormentor threatens to slice open her stomach and remove her baby! I love it! Silerin is an interesting character because he talks in the sort of pretentious rhetoric of somebody who has spent far too much time on his own with revenge plans festering in his mind and yet he still comes across as a formidable, unpredictable foe as he enjoys watching Kira squirm. The make up job for his facial scars is particularly impressive and you can see what sort of pain he must have suffered in the attack that took the lives of his employers. Despite his homicidal acts you do feel sorry for this pitiful man who has suffered because of his lowly ambitions to work as a servant for a more important man. Nice mention of the sedatives and herbs counteracting each other and providing a logical escape route for Kira at the climax.

The Bad: This is the second episode in a row that makes no sense that Shakaar himself isn’t involved and then strangely he would turn up in the next one exactly where he isn’t needed! The dialogue in the last scene is…odd. Suddenly Kira is talking like her tormentor and Bashir points out the obvious!

Moment to Watch Out For: The handheld camerawork when Kira rushed to her quarters after the explosion is staggeringly dramatic. She proves that even pregnant she is more than a match for Odo’s security force and kicks two of them in before the baby objects to all the commotion and cripples her.

Orchestra: Throughout the music is a cut above the norm with some very atmospheric passages, especially during the pre titles sequence and when Kira is menaced at home. The tension racks as she is trapped and about to have the O’Brien’s baby cut out of her stomach and the music swells appropriately.

Foreboding: What is it about Ron Moore killing off semi regulars? First Bariel, then Lupaza and Furrell…Kor and Gowron better watch out!

Result: Another success and one of the few times that Trek goes for out and out horror with grisly bodies, women being menaced in dark rooms, a high body count and lots of sinister atmospherics. It almost feels like the sort of episode they would have attempted in season one or two but with the added bonus of the season five cast and the result is a confident, beautifully told horror story where the morality of the characters is constantly in flux. Nana Visitor has had her baby now and can get back in the spotlight and as a counterpoint to Duet this is a real gem as she completely contradicts her statement at the end of that classic episode in a very dramatic way. There’s atmosphere aplenty but what really impresses is how much character DS9 is injecting into every single episode these days – showing us new facets of these already well explored people. Kira has had a season of inconsistent treatment but she is finally back on track and this is the fighter that we have been missing and her handling from now until the series finale ensures she is one of my favourite Trek characters. With Mike Vejar and Allan Kroeker now on board DS9 has two astonishing directors on hand to deal with some of best Trek episodes you will see. Powerful stuff: 9/10

The Begotten written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Jesus Salvador Trevino

What’s it about: A changeling child falls into the hands of Odo…

Unknown Sample & His Pops: ‘If it wasn’t for me you’d still be on a shelf somewhere in a beaker somewhere labelled unknown sample!’ ‘If it wasn’t for me you’d be a nobody! Starfleet wouldn’t hire you to judge a science fair!’ It seems almost churlish to complain about lack of development in a character in a season that has seen an abundance of it but in the case of Odo being turned into a human the producers have decided to wrap this dead end plot up as soon as possible. Whilst there have been some unusual moments, Odo has been seen eating, vulnerable and even getting into the family spirit of things this is the first real episode that gets to grips with Odo’s feelings on the matter and its at the moment they have decided to bring the experiment to an end. I was hoping to see him explore a romance but strangely they wait until he is a changeling again to do that (twice over!). I’ve always thought Odo has carried himself too rigidly and now he is suffering as a result! At the thought of seeing Dr Mora Odo physically recoils – he clearly hasn’t sought his ‘father’ out since he was trapped in a humanoid form. Only Rene Auberjonois could make talking to a glass of goo one of the sweetest things ever, I love the way he tentatively touches the glass like he is handling a baby and his voice is soft and soothing. Mora thought of Odo as a specimen, a mystery that needed to be unravelled but Odo refuses to treat the child that way. Odo wants to take the softly softly approach because he hopes that the changeling will grow up with a better disposition than he who was bullied into submission. Mora’s assertion that Odo never wants to give anything away even though it is all there in his face is spot on. He doesn’t want to take any advice at rearing this child from Mora even if it will make things easier for the changeling. More had thought that Odo would have gotten over the pain he suffered at his instruments and is disappointed that he still seems to hold a grudge. The scenes between them are bang on the money where it comes from parent/child rivalry – Odo definitely criticises Mora’s parenting skills whilst his father has the ability to point out all of his character flaws. Mora stands in the background mocking Odo’s attempts to communicate with the creature on an emotional level. How cute is Odo teaching the child about the shapes it can mimic? I felt so sorry for him when his blamange wouldn’t rise! ‘Everything I did to you was for your own good!’ is an excuse you will hear parents say an awful lot and it feels very at home in this episode. When Sisko turns up with news that if they don’t make progress soon Starfleet will want to take over the project finally Odo sees the sort of pressure Dr Mora was under to get results when he was a baby. His wasn’t the touchy feely Federation but kick ass Cardassians that wanted answers. Odo is gleeful when the changeling first changes its shape and Mora mentions coldly that he had a similar reaction when he first did the same thing. Odo admits he would still be a lump of organic residue if it wasn’t for Dr Mora. Something tells Odo that no matter how they treat the changeling it is going to have a nicer disposition than him because that is just the way he is. Losing the changeling Odo finally realises what Mora must have gone through when he left him. 

GE Doctor: Interesting to see the Bashir changeling (as yet unexposed) working so hard to try and make the baby changeling better.

Community Leader: There is a gorgeous scene between Quark and Odo on the bar after closing where the constable feels like celebrating his success over the changeling. It’s everything a similar scene between Chakotay and Neelix in Unforgettable should have been but wasn’t, thoughtful, charming and marvellously played. Quark is initially suspicious that Odo is happy (because that means there must be something very wrong happening) but when he learns why (Odo is coming to terms with being a solid because he can experience the joys of shapeshifting through the creature again) he joins in the revelry and asks him to fill his glass.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Constable why are you talking to your beverage?’ – is it me or is Worf shamelessly scene stealing in every episode now? The way he abandons his drink when Odo tells him that his is a changeling is hilarious!
‘I remember the first time Dr Mora here co-erced me into taking the shape of a cube with one of his electro static gadgets. Once I did it – and he turned the infernal thing off – I was perfectly content to stay a cube for hours. It was fascinating, all those right angles!’
‘You’d just love to get your hands on it, wouldn’t you? You could sell tickets on the Promenade! Dr Mora’s Chamber of Horrors – open for business, right this way!’
‘The first time you ever did anything like that was when you formed a tentacle to slap my hand away from the control panel!’ ‘I remember…I wanted you to stop zapping me!’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Oh do me a favour. Next time you want to have a baby leave my girlfriend out of it!’ – ugh!

The Good: The idea of sending out 100 infants to other galaxies to find out if the species there pose any kind of threat does make sense when you understand the Founders but it is still a cruel thing to do. Surely Bajoran society is overtaking the Klingons as most explored culture in Trek? We’ve seen so many rituals now – this week it’s the pregnancy one that requires incense, musical instruments and a lot of peace and quiet. How lovely to imagine a method of giving birth which isn’t all screaming and recriminations because we’ve seen that sort of thing over and over on TV. To have Kira in a state of absolute bliss when the baby comes is a wonderful subversion. James Sloyan was the best thing about The Alternate and this time Echevarria ensures that there isn’t a ridiculous jeopardy plot getting in the way of all the character examination so we can get down to the nitty gritty of why Odo and his Dad are always at loggerheads. I like the mention that Mora has been working on Earth helping Starfleet to detect changeling infiltrators and clearly not doing a very good job since he comes into contact with one in this very episode! When the changeling takes on Odo’s face (despite the phallic shape of its body!) it is a wonderful moment because you realise as he does that he is genuinely made a connection with the creature. Its reaching out to him, trying to understand who he is. The fact that the changeling dies and becomes a part of Odo is a very satisfying ending.

The Bad: The only moments that don’t ring true is the appalling sitcom rivalry between O’Brien and Shakaar that feels very stagey and unconvincing. This is the episode where Shakaar shows up? Considering his appalling turn here I’m glad we never see the character again. O’Brien and Shakaar tugging at Kira when she goes into labour is acutely embarrassing.

Moment to Watch Out For: There are three emotional stings at the end of The Begotten that prove how good DS9 is at connecting you with its characters. Firstly the death of the baby and the gift that it gives to Odo is beautifully done with him turning back into a changeling and soar across the Promenade as a hawk. Its emotionally and visually stunning. Then comes the goodbye between Odo and Mora where he really hugs his dad. It’s a real gesture of love from the shapeshifter. Finally Kira’s admission that all she wants to do is hold the baby she has been carrying inside of her for so many months.

Result: Odo and a baby changeling bonding…how on Earth did that pitch ever get off the drawing board? Thanks to some deft writing, a strong performance from Rene Auberjonois and the long overdue return of Dr Mora The Begotten is a sensational character piece that closes one narrative thread but opens up many more for the future. The scenes between Odo and Mora are fantastic as the two characters finally get to grips with each other and understand why things were so strained between them in the formative years of their relationship. It’s a shame about the sitcom rivalry between O’Brien and Shakaar because that is the only element that isn’t firing on all cylinders. A great script with three powerfully emotional scenes at the conclusion: 8/10

For the Uniform written by Peter Allan Fields and directed by Victor Lobl

What’s it about: Sisko is after Eddington and nothing is going to get in his way…

Single Father: This is probably the scariest we will ever see Sisko (In the Pale Moonlight aside I can’t think of another time when he would so violently lose his objectivity again) and it appears that when it comes at settling a score this Starfleet officer will go to any lengths to see those who have wronged him punished. However in the meantime Eddington is still finding ways to prickle at the skin and remind Sisko how clever he is – the opening scene sees Sisko walking straight into a trap that could have seem him killed. Eddington suggests whilst pointing a gun at him (because had he been unarmed I think Sisko may have disembowelled him with his bare hands in the very first scene) that it isn’t the fact that he behaved treasonously but they he did on Sisko’s watch and I think there is a grain of truth in that. Woah, look at that primal, savage anger that he takes out on the punch bag after he is taken off his assignment to find Eddington! Do not get this guy in a bad mood – he’s like a one of those mad, bloodthirsty gorillas that has no self control! Starfleet figure (not unreasonably for them) that its too personal for Sisko and his ex security officer knows him too well and can predict his moves. Because he wasted time going after Eddington’s raider Sisko is blinded to their real intentions which is to attack the Malinche. Sisko is trapped in the awkward position of either going after Eddington or rescuing a ship full of helpless Cardassian refugees and it is a testament to the strength of the episodes convictions that I wondered which way he would jump for a moment. Sisko’s plan to become the villain of Eddington’s story so he can sacrifice himself for the greater good is inspired and he shows real psychological understanding. The fact that he heads off to poison whole worlds without any permission from Starfleet shows a real rebellious side to Sisko and its one that I really admire. In order to bring down a terrorist you have to become one yourself.

Unknown Sample: Odo gets to enjoy the moment when he reminds Sisko that Starfleet posted Commander Eddington on the station because they didn’t trust him. He asks him to pass those comments on to his superiors! 

Nine Lives: Even Dax can see this is all about revenge for Sisko and not a sense of justice. I loved the moment just as they are about to head off to pursuer Eddington again when Dax stops Sisko and asks him to be more sympathetic the next she goes off on one on a personal mission (ala Blood Oath). I’m glad Dax doesn’t like The Hunchback of Notre Dame – it really is melodramatic!

Maquis Leader: It turns out that Eddington was not only the man who managed to steal a bunch of replicators from under Sisko’s nose but the leader of the Maquis all along! For the Cause’s powerful ending required a massive leap of faith on the audience that this background character could have been plotting intelligently behind the backs of the regulars for over two years. For the Uniform now has to convince us that Eddington suits this role as a terrorist leader and with a sarcastic performance from Kenneth Marshall and a blazing rivalry between him and Sisko suddenly the character shines like never before. Sisko doesn’t see a Maquis colony that is suffering but people who have been sold a dream by Eddington that can never be realised.  After Eddington beams over a copy of Les Miserables the audience can finally get a hang of how he considers himself – a flawed hero who is trying to do his best by his people despite the hounding of the evil Federation. Sisko judges Eddington as a traitor but he sees himself as a martyr for his cause. Whilst Eddington is saying all the right things about his people you can tell he is absolutely loving the moment where he gets to forfeit himself for the greater good.

Starfleet Ferengi: Bringing in Nog as the relay between Sisko and Engineering is a lovely touch – after all he does have the lobes for the job! O’Briens figures Sisko would want somebody who could hear him even when the ship is exploding around him and Nog starts to crap himself! Its his first combat situation and he shows great courage.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘There’s a war going on out there and you’re on the wrong side.’
‘He worked under me for a year and a half! I saw him almost every day! Read his reports, had him to dinner…I even took him to a baseball match in the holosuite once and I never saw it! Its my job to be a good judge of character what did I do? Not only did I not see it, I even put him up for a promotion!’ ‘He played his hand well…’ ‘He played me alright and what is my excuse? Is he a changeling? No! Is he a being with seven lifetimes of experience? No! Is he a wormhole alien? No! He’s just a man like me and he beat me!
‘What do we use? Cups and a long string?’
‘Helm, I hope you see that pylon!’
‘Do you realise what you’ve just done?’ ‘I’ve only just begun…’
‘You betrayed your uniform!’ ‘And you’re betraying yours – right now!’
‘Sometimes I like it when the bad guy wins…’

The Good: In amongst the cat and mouse game between Sisko and Eddington the script never forgets the human element of what the two characters represent and it is particularly strong in the pre titles sequence where Eddington forces Sisko to look at a sickly Maquis colony that are human beings suffering because the Federation turned their backs on them. I really like the new holo communicator and I cannot see why they didn’t continue with its use, its far more visually interesting to see people talking face to face than two dimensionally on a screen. It works especially well in this episode where Sisko and Eddington get to spit blood at each other on the bridge of the Defiant. It would appear that as well as passing on tactical information to the Maquis Eddington was also adding invisible devices to the Defiant and the station that cripple their systems should he need to get away. In a particularly smug moment he waves at Sisko as he poodles along out of range as they lie there dead in space and helpless! He even shoots at them a couple of times just to make sure the message to Sisko is clear – you can’t beat me. Eddington ups the ante by poisoning an entire world with a nerve agent that is deadly to Cardassians – he’s now a problem that has to be stopped. I love with a passion the idea of the damaged Defiant being used in this manhunt and all of the crew having to work their damdest to ensure that information is passed to the right areas and that the ship functions the way it should. They’ve got no cloak, transporters, replicators or stabilisers! You get a real sense that this a crew at the peak of their profession working together to overcome the failings of technology. This is basically how crippled Voyager should be at this point in its long trek home in the Delta Quadrant and its crew should be this talented at overcoming their shortcomings so trust DS9 to explore this sort of thing way better than they ever do. Stunning Badlands effects that just get better right up until the seventh season. Attacking Federation ships? Eddington needs teaching a lesson, now! Was it more or are the space battle sequences more dramatic in this episode?

Moment to Watch Out For: The final showdown between Sisko and Eddington is one of my favourite ever DS9 moments, a stunning lightning flash of drama as the two characters verbally assault each other as their rivalry has escalated to a point where lives are in danger. ‘Major! Shut that thing off! Commander Worf prepare to launch torpedoes!’ – Avery Brooks is on fire these days and I cannot take my eyes off him. Listen to the music in this scene too and bask in how strong the scores are these days, it really compliments how dramatic the scene is.

Fashion Statement: Have I mentioned how much I love those grey Starfleet uniforms? They give the show a wonderfully dark and dynamic look!

Result: How far is Sisko willing to go to bring down Eddington? Sisko displays a violent, blazing anger that goes way beyond anything we would ever see from Picard, Janeway and Archer and only Kirk during some ridiculously melodramatic moments could match! He’s terrifying and Avery Brooks is better than ever as Sisko loses himself in the hunt for the officer that betrayed him to the Maquis. Peter Allan Fields (writer of Duet & necessary Evil) steps out of retirement to write this blistering character tale, one which gathers explosive momentum as it continues. Even the technobabble is fun in this episode as a crippled Defiant jumps into action and with all of its mod cons offline! With literary illusions, riveting two handers between the central characters and an exciting feeling of the Maquis storyline being shoved along For the Uniform is another top notch season five episode. I am running out of superlatives for this year and we haven’t even reached my three favourites yet. A beautifully crafted electrifying drama: 9/10

In Purgatory’s Shadow written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe & Ira Steven Behr and directed by Gabrielle Beaumont

What’s it about: A call for help from Enabrin Tain sees Garak and Worf taken prisoner by the Dominion…

Tasty Terrorist: Dukat catches up with Kira to remonstrate with her about his daughters relationship with Garak. When he tells her that she is going to regret the relationship taking place it sounds like the words of an impotent bully but given the massive shock announcement that comes at the beginning of the second part it has far more meaning than we realise at the time.

Unknown Sample: Odo really enjoyed sleeping in a bed as a humanoid and now if he tries he tends to regenerate and slide onto the floor! When Kira finds a padd in his quarters called ‘Finding and winning your perfect mate’ Odo gets all embarrassed and as a good friend she tries to encourage him to explore these feelings. Not realising of course that those feelings are directed at her. This is a throwaway scene to give these two characters a chance to appear in the episode but it is packed with character moment – you see how good they’ve gotten at this?

Mr Wolf: Its fascinating to see how their work is affecting the relationship between Dax and Worf and its nice to see him as the one in the wrong for a change and her as the aggressor. Worf was afraid that Dax might make a scene s he omitted the information that he agreed to go into the Gamma Quadrant with Garak. Instead Dax reacts by telling him to have a glorious death and snogging him hard! The passion these two display for each other is just what the Star Trek universe needed, they are playful and flirty and it’s a great relationship to watch.

GE Doctor: Its all change for Bashir in the next couple of episodes but never more so than here where we discover that he has been replaced by a changeling infiltrator for at least as long as Rapture (he is still in a blue uniform which was introduced then!). Lets not underestimate the shock and the skill in presenting such a twist because it again exposes how much a running arc can enrich the show and how focussing on a detail as minor as a change of uniform can be so significant. It really floored me when I first saw this and I wanted to go back and watch the last handful of episode to see if there were any noticeable differences in Alexander Siddig’s performances. They wasn’t as it transpires because Sid didn’t know until this episode that he was a changeling infiltrator but that works better in my book because it shows just how good the changelings are at slipping effortlessly into the lives of important people in Federation outpost and passing on intelligence. It’s a fantastic shock moment, Bashir’s reveal and it throws scenes such as him trying to save the baby changeling in The Begotten and even holding a gun on Garak in the runabout in a completely different light. Bravo! Not only that but with some anticipation we now realise there is a saboteur on the station who could do anything to ensure the oncoming Dominion invasion will succeed! How exciting!

Plain and Simple: One of the best Garak episodes (along with The Wire, Improbable Cause & In the Pale Moonlight) and those of you who know how good those episodes are will not what kind of statement that is. Andrew Robinson is astonishingly good at wringing every nuance, every joke, every moment of tension out of this script and I could happy spend every episode in his company written like this. Garak’s relationship with Tain has been well documented – his mentor helped Bashir to save his life in The Wire, they found each other again in Improbable Cause and reminisced about old times in The Die is Cast and Garak was even willing to avenge his death in Broken Link. Clearly there was something far more meaningful going on here than a simple teacher/pupil relationship and now is the time that we finally learn that Tain was Garak’s father. The scenes between Robinson and Paul Dooley are something very special indeed and there is a real feeling of father and son coming together for the last time. Tain thinks Garak living on the station has dulled his wits considering he has been captured. He finally admits that Garak is his son on his deathbed and he says that he should have killed his mother before he was born because he has always been a weakness he cannot afford. But he remembers a moment when he was very proud of his son just before he slips away. Garak enjoys spending time with Ziyal because he is exiled and alone and a long way from home and being with her makes things less bad. All the dialogue between Worf and Garak in the runabout is extremely witty and clever – Garak manages to convince Worf to sponsor him for Starfleet Academy just for a laugh! He thinks he should be able to skip the lower ranks entirely and begin his career as a Commander (‘Tell them you’d be honoured to serve under me…’). He’s such a manipulative sod and works Worf the way he works everybody else, by stroking his character strengths (in this case his sense of honour) to get his own way.

Slimy Snake: In a moment of top drama Dukat catches Garak and Ziyal holding hands over a table and he threatens to throw his nemesis from the top balcony at Quarks. Isn’t it amazing that they manage to pull these kinds of scenes of so well – if this were a soap opera or Voyager it would be unwatchably bad but thanks to a script that can balance the domestic drama and sympathetic direction this is a brilliant scene that sees these long time rivals finally come to blows. Dukat says there was a time when Bajorans took Cardassian threats very seriously and little do we know how close he is to making sure that is the case again.

Cross Breed: Ziyal knows her father would be furious to hear her say it but there is something about Garak that she finds fascinating. Clearly a relationship has developed her since For the Cause and I begin to wonder if she didn’t visit Garak in his cell during his six month incarceration after trying to nuke the Founders homeworld in Broken Link. She admits that she finds Garak intelligent, cultured and kind but he laughs this off as the feelings of the young. Well aware of the Dominion threat approaching Dukat tries to convince Ziyal to pack her things and come with him to Cardassia but she isn’t having any of it. She loves her life on the station and made a promise that she would wait for Garak – a decision that appals her father and he damns her to her fate.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Public opinion seems to be running against you!’
‘Because lying is a skill like any other and if you want it maintained at a level of excellence you have to practice constantly!’
‘The man is a heartless, cold blooded killer!’ ‘Like I said he’s a Cardassian.’
‘Ahh are we glad to see you! Could one of you point us in the direction of the wormhole?’ – how can you not be in love with Garak?
‘Things are going to change on Cardassia!’ ‘What things?’ – very prescient!
‘All I ask is that for this moment let me be your son…’

The Good: As soon as we learn that the Cardassian message was a call for help from Enabrin Tain warning bells started sounding for me because it sounded exactly like the sort of convoluted ploy the Dominion would conjure up to trap somebody with as much tactical intelligence as Garak. Look at the way Quark’s is lit so warmly – they’ve really got the hang of making the station feel like gorgeous place to live these days. In the early seasons it felt very claustrophobic but now it feels like a busy way station with lots of character. Don’t underestimate the image of the Dominion ships looming out of the gorgeous looking nebula – that is the moment that kick starts two years and a half of war. We’ve been waiting for the Dominion to make a military foothold in the Gamma Quadrant and now their plans to manipulate the Klingons and the Federation into war have been exposed they are about to try a less subtle  approach. I love the idea of the Jem H’adar facility on an asteroid, it’s a quirky visual to see the prison clinging onto the side of a rock and the sets are very good with some especially strong lighting with streams of moonlight providing atmosphere. The return of General Martok is another massive plus for the series and he would go on to become one of the finest semi regulars – up there with Garak, Dukat and Winn. It all feels as though this has been planned all along since Way of the Warrior but I know they made these kinds of things up as they went along…which makes the overall effect doubly impressive! J.G Hertlzer is a revelation as the softer, more thoughtful Klingon and would finally turn the tide with regards to the Klingon episodes on this show.  Nice for the events of First Contact to get a mention. Its great to see the Federation admitting that they are impotent in the face of a Dominion attack – it confirms what I have been saying all along that they are far to relaxed in their military approach and ripe for invasion. This is what happens when you think you are superior and don’t make any allowances for the fact that you might not be! Destroying the wormhole is a drastic step (nice mention of Professor Kahn) to prevent the Dominion attack and Kira’s objections help to make this a very satisfying decision but Sisko’s assertion that they either cut Bajor off from the celestial temple or it becomes the first Dominion occupied world soon shuts her up. Bashir’s suddenly appearance is a heart in the mouth moment and the cut back to the station to the Bashir changeling grinning in the turbolift always gives me chills.

Moment to Watch Out For: Tain’s death scene is a real tearjerker because the performances are so beautifully retrained and the reveal that he is Garak’s father comes right from out of the blue. The cliffhanger is a thing of beauty, Dominion ships coming pouring through the wormhole and all hope is lost. The music is stirring and that final shot means an agonising wait from this episode to the next!

Only DS9: Every second, every frame, every gorgeous character moment and revelation of this episode could only come from this show.

Result: ‘The Dominion…they’re coming!’ An astonishing first part to the story that finally sees the Dominion make a war footing in the Alpha Quadrant. What’s so spectacular is how it manages to juggle so many things and still remain entertaining and exciting – long time character arcs are brought into sharp focus and cause all manner of friction (Dukat & Garak, Garak & Tain, Kira & Dukat), new arc narratives are kicked off (the Dominion ships pouring through the wormhole, the return of Martok, the Bashir changeling) and at the same time the story itself is fast paced, packed full of character moments and witty dialogue, shocks, action and climactic drama. It’s a terrific achievement for Wolfe & Behr and is skilfully directed by Gabrielle Beaumont who clearly knows how to get the best out of her performers whilst filling the show with effective imagery. Andrew Robinson is a revelation as Garak and I think they should add his name to the credits for all the charm, interest and fascination he brings to the show. The last ten minutes are one gob smacking revelation after another leading to one of the finest cliffhangers in Star Trek history. In Purgatory’s Shadow is the third masterpiece of season five and shows just how rich DS9 can be when everything comes together so perfectly: 10/10

By Inferno’s Light written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Les Landau

What’s it about: Cardassia has joined the Dominion and we get to watch the fallout…

Single Father: Until this point the relationship between Sisko and Dukat has been one of uneasy allies but with his frightening decision to join the Dominion (I literally cannot say that enough times in this review!) they cross the line and are now confirmed adversaries. By the end of the season they would be seen as the figureheads of their respective sides in this war and the blazing enemies and these baby steps towards that conflict are gripping to watch. Both scenes between them over the communicator are excellent, filled with resentment (Sisko) and smugness (Dukat) in equal measure. The sheer gall of Dukat suggesting to Sisko that he convince the Federation to join the Dominion is worth watching this episode for alone!

Tasty Terrorist: Kira looks awesome at the helm of the Defiant ready to take on the Dominion fleet (‘There sure are a lot of them’ ‘That’ll just make them harder to miss’) and manages to hide her shock at Dukat’s news that he is joining forces with the Dominion behind an expertly mastered poker face. She promises to kill Dukat the next time she sees him but she settles for throwing a glass in his face (Ties of Blood and Water). Ziyal asks Kira a tough question – does she think her father is evil? She manages to answer it cautiously by saying that people should be judged by what they do, not what they think or say.

Mr Wolf: If there was still any doubt about Worf bringing something to this show (not really – he’s been superb in the last handful of episodes) he truly proves his worth here by going through absolute torture to ensure that Garak can contact the runabout and they can escape. At first he is a fresh faced competitor but it isn’t long before he is exhausted and beaten but still he heads into the ring to buy them more time. This is where Worf and Martok start to bond and it is an unexpectedly gorgeous relationship between the two Klingons that would continue to evolve and deepen as the show moves into its final two years. Martok can see the sacrifice that Worf is making for the others and states that the spirit of Kahless itself is in him. He would rather die than yield because it is the honourable thing to do (it’s a good thing that Dax is not on this mission otherwise she might have a few things to say about this!). Worf’s compensation for taking such a beating is Dax straddling him on a bio bed in the Infirmary when they get back to the station – what a reward!

GE Doctor: Its time to sit back and reflect on just how awesome it is to be in the know of who exactly the changeling infiltrator is on the station and watch as he manipulates and sabotages right under the noses of our crew. Its such an exciting idea you have to wonder why nobody has ever thought to do it before. I love the very simple but creepy scene of the faux Bashir in the runabout surrounded by the bodies he has bumped off, faking a voice and ready to head off into the sun and destroy the station.

Community Leader: ‘The Jem H’adar don’t eat, don’t drink and they don’t have sex. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Founders don’t eat, don’t drink and they don’t have sex either! Which between you and me makes my financial future less than promising!’ – encapsulated in one scene is why Quark shits all over Neelix for comic relief.

Plain and Simple: The reminder of the animosity between Garak and Dukat was vital in In Purgatory’s Shadow so we could see him punished in this episode for his dalliance with Ziyal. His claustrophobia seems to have come from nowhere and is the one beat that doesn’t quit ring true for me but it is something that is expanded upon over time and does provide another obstacle and considering everything else this episode has to offer I’m willing to let it slide. Facing up to his fear in order to help his friends to escape works a treat to show a brave, more honourable side to Garak and he walks free of this episode with the impossible – Worf’s respect. ‘There is no greater enemy than ones own fears’ ‘It takes a brave man to face them…’ Considering everything they have both been through here the embrace between Garak and Ziyal is their reward for their anxiety.

Slimy Snake: You can tell that Dukat just loves pulling the rug up from beneath Kira when he drops his bombshell, the smug get. He’s right back on top and loving every second of it – making speeches and taking control of the planet with sadistic glee. When he says he has done what he has done to make Cardassia strong again you can see a semblance of logic behind selling his people out. If only he knew how badly this was going to turn out for them.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Right now I wouldn’t believe your father if he said rain was wet.’
‘You expect us to join the Dominion?’
‘Tell our friends out there to stand down. Armageddon will have to wait for another day.’
Four weeks? Are you telling me I’ve been hanging around with a changeling for over a month?
‘We will see about tomorrow!’ ‘Yes we will…’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Deploy the runabouts!’ – as if they are going to be any use!

The Good: As if the revelation that stacked up in the last episode weren’t enough to knock the wind out of you (Bashir is a changeling! Martok is alive! The Dominion invasion has begun! Garak is Tain’s son!) the concluding part opens with a humdinger of a twist that wipes all of those aside with one swoop. Cardassia is joining the Dominion and Gul Dukat is taking charge again! In one scene the writers have managed to completely change the political landscape of the entire Quadrant, push the Cardassians back into a position of power, give the Dominion a foothold into the Quadrant, bring to the surface old rivalries (Kira and Dukat – ‘You and I on the right side. It never felt quite right. Did it?’) and provide an exciting kick start into this episode and the second half of the season. What an incredible surprise. Its that sort of series defining shift that DS9 revels in and TNG shied away from. There is a real feeling of intimidation as the Dominion fleet remains stock still watching the station before heading off to Cardassia. Finally the prophecy of The Rapture (‘Locusts! That’s where they were heading for! Cardassia!’) makes sense and you realise how well plotted this season has been. Watching the news reach the prison camp that the Cardassian prisoners are now free allows us to see this twist play out again for those of the regulars who weren’t present at the station. Everything about the prison camp from the design, lighting and the frightening Jem H’adar sentries is gritty and realistic – its more akin to something like Battlestar Galactica than Star Trek but it looks all the more impressive for it. The next big surprise comes with the reconciliation between the Klingons and the Federation. It’s a massive moment but underplayed amongst all the drama that is taking place elsewhere. The Klingons taking a beating from the Cardassians (with Dominion support) is a fascinating notion because they were manipulated into fighting the Cardassians by the Dominion in the first place. Its clear that the Dominion will do anything, trample on anyone to ensure their foothold into the Alpha Quadrant and this shocking reversal of events is history in the making. How wonderful to meet a Jem H’adar who shows some depth beyond turning on his master but refuses to kill Worf because he has behaved so honourably. I was genuinely taken aback by that scene and found his immediate slaughter at the hands of the Vorta just about perfect. It almost seems cruel to build up to a massive expectation of a battle only to pull away at the last minute and I would not be so forgiving if I didn’t know that this was just a tease for the extraordinary battles to come in A Call to Arms and The Sacrifice of Angels. The Klingon military presence on DS9 and treaty is another superb development and it is only for the good of the show that Martok (and in particular Hertlzer) will be staying behind on the station.

Moment to Watch Out For: Bashir in the runabout heading for the sun with an explosive device. Its an insidious plan on the part of the Dominion but that is what they have become known for. Assemble a fleet and wipe it out without firing a single shot. It says something about this episode that the plot mechanics manage to match (and exceed) the excitement of the big surprises happening elsewhere. The effects shot of the Defiant snatching hold of the runabout at warp in the gravity of the sun is exquisite.

Only DS9: The whole episode, basically.

Fashion Statement: Strangely enough the dirty, bewhiskered Bashir is a real bit of alright!

Foreboding: It’s the second appearance of the Breen in DS9 before their big impact in the shows seventh season. Dukat promising to retake the station because it used to be Cardassian property is a promise that would come to pass in the gripping finale of season five. The Romulans turning up to join the fight is a real punch the air moment, pre-empting their involvement in the war from In the Pale Moonlight onwards. What should be a criticism of the idiocy of the Jem H’adar leaving the runabout in orbit becomes a chilling plot point in a later episode (Inquisition) so they manage to bypass that criticism wonderfully in this re-viewing of the show.

Result: ‘Think of it; five years ago no-one had ever heard of Bajor or Deep Space Nine and now all our hopes rest here…’ Epic, exciting and unpredictable, By Inferno’s Light manages to snatch away from the conflict with the Dominion that the first episode promised by offering something even more bold and landscape changing in its place. Cardassia has joined the Dominion and this is the catalyst for some of the most dramatic Trek moments from now until the end of DS9’s run and there is a giddy sense of freshness in this episode where everything is in flux before the political landscape of the Quadrant settles down again. Les Landau directs this episode with a real sense of dramatic momentum and cuts giddily between what is happening at the station and the prison camp. Worf gets some of his best moments yet, Garak confronts his fears, Ziyal faces a future without her father and Sisko contemplates a Quadrant on the eve of war. Its high octane stuff and its very refreshing to see DS9 deliver on the prolonged promise of the Dominion threat and if you are disappointed that there isn’t a battle at the end of this feel happy in the knowledge that your thirst of combat will be more than sated by the series end. You would think that the developments would overshadow the characters but there is a skilful balancing act going on her ensuring that whilst you are wowing at the sweeping revelations there are plenty of little moments that give the story substance. Another winner with just a few tiny flaws holding it back from matching the flawlessness of the opener: 9/10

Dr Bashir, I Presume written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: What skeletons are hiding in Bashir’s closet?

Everyday Engineer: Once again O’Brien proves what a great friend he is to Bashir (after having some fun making his hologram walk into a wall over and over) and he doesn’t judge his friend when he finds out the truth but takes the time to listen to his story and try to help. There is a gentleness to their friendship which is unusual between two men and that only works so well because we have seen this friendship blossom from animosity to something quite special.

GE Doctor: ‘The word you’re looking for is unnatural. Meaning not from nature…’ Alexander Siddig may not have been happy with this sudden undiscussed development of his character but its clear from this episode and what came after that it was the best decision all round. Finally the category heading for Bashir I have been using makes sense after five and a half seasons of reviewing! Has there ever been a leap like this taken with an established character in Trek before so long after the inception of the show? Bashir has been cagey about his parents for a long time (he awkwardly told Odo not to go visit them in Homefront) and we had first hand experience of his social awkwardness and arrogance in the first two seasons that prove he was unused to keeping his newfound intelligence. Also it explains the reason why he wimped out of being first in his class at medical school, to disguise the secret of his genetic tampering. Now the writers have taken that evidence and carved out a fabulous reason for it – Bashir was a simple child who would never amounted to anything so his parents had him genetically engineered to exceed the intelligence of his peers. He went from being a simpleton to a genius overnight and was always going to be destined for great things. It’s a terrific shock and in the wake of Khan and the Eugenics horror (that is name checked here) makes Bashir something of a rarity in Trek – a human character that matches the interest of the aliens and someone to be concerned about. He’s still the same guy but with this new light shone upon him it suddenly makes sense of a lot of things that haven’t rung true about the character in one bold revelation.

Bashir being chosen to be the spanking new template for the LMH medical programme is a feather in his cap and it’s a shame that the dirty laundry that is exposed here prevents that from happening. He’s quite cagey about his past as ever when he has to fill out the extensive questionnaire and asks specifically if Zimmerman would not contact his parents. Its not just his secret, you get the impression that Julian is genuinely a little embarrassed by his folks. There’s a moment of awkwardness when Bashir’s father reveals to Sisko that ever since he was ‘this high’ they knew he was destined for greatness (in retrospect – ouch!). When he was six he was awkward, small for his age and certainly not bright – Alexander Siddig gives a masterful performance in this scene, really capturing the magic of his world suddenly starting to make sense after the genetic alteration. The drama hits home when Bashir spells out that any person who has been genetically altered is barred from serving in Starfleet. He doesn’t want this dragged through the courts and wants to resign quietly. Finally Bashir gets the chance to have a go at his father who always comes up with new plans rather than face their problems realistically. What he learns here was that his parents were never ashamed of him but they tried to protect him because they loved him.

Community Leader: Quark rather cruelly tells Leeta that Rom isn’t interested in her when he knows the truth. That’s another difference between Quark and Neelix that makes him more complex, his ability to harm people.

Zimmerman: The Doctor is simply the best thing about Voyager beyond some sterling moments with the female cast and so take Robert Picardo away from that show and inject him into the infinitely superior DS9 and this episodes brilliance is assured. I love the story where Picardo admits that he was nervous to step onto this show and start being rude to actors like Avery Brooks because he was scared that the intimidating looking man might rip his head off and shit down his neck! Zimmerman is so condescending and discourteous here and it brings a great deal of humour to an episode that could have been very serious. Zimmerman is immediately bewitched by Leeta’s talents and when she discovered that she dumped Bashir he likes her even more. Picardo doesn’t even attempt to play this role likeably but there is something about the characters social awkwardness that makes him amiable all the same. You just know he was the kid who was always picked last in games and had no friends in the classroom. You get the impression it is a real chore being as intelligent as he is and having to explain everything so monosyllabically to everybody else! Rather than just put the flowers he has brought Leeta into a vase he starts moving her whole quarters around! The conceit of the man! Leeta calls him sweet, wonderful and brilliant as she dumps him at the airlock by snogging Rom and he sees a future ahead of solitary research and dedication to his chosen field of study!

Dabo Girl & Secret Genius: Finally the development they have been promising since Bar Association is realised as Rom and Leeta finally admit their feelings for each other and become a couple. He is desperately sweet and bumbling and she is confident but unsure and together they almost cancel out each others flaws and make each other very happy. Its just taking that first step and being brave enough to face up to what is obvious to everybody else. Rom watches Leeta working the Dabo table and tells himself today is the day he is going to ask her out but somehow the words never seem to be able to spill from his mouth. She is literally willing him to say it and yet all he can manage is ‘hello Leeta…bye!’ When he sees Leeta and Zimmerman having dinner together he interrupts boldly but still cannot find the words he so desperately wants to say. Leeta considers leaving for the café and in a scene that breaks my heart she (subtextually) asks Rom to give her reason to stay and he is still just one breath short of saying I love you. We learn what happened with Nog’s mother and it is not a pretty story. Rom signed a five year marriage contract with Trindora’s father because he wanted a child but he wound up falling in love with his life and tried to extend the contract. Her father fleeced him for every penny he was worth and Trinadora left him for a richer man. Poor bloke. When he finally admits that he loves Leeta and they kiss it is a real moment of triumph because we have been waiting for it the entire episode.

What’s Morn up to: Morn makes a grab for Leeta’s breasts at the Dabo table and settles for a kiss on the cheek instead! He’s unusually silent during his interview with Zimmerman.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I have brains!’ ‘Sure you do honey, that’s why I hired you! Now eat up and take those brains back to the Dabo wheel where the customers can have a good long look at them.’
‘I’m here to make you immortal.’
‘You’re not talking about replacing real Doctors?’ ‘No of course not! Why is everyone so worried with holograms taking over the universe?’
‘Wow think of it Julian. If this thing works you’re going to be able to irritate hundreds of people you’ve never even met!’
‘You’re not any less human than anybody else. In fact you’re a little more.’
‘There’s no stigma attached to success, Chief.’
‘You said so yourself that I’m your legacy, your proud gift to the world. Well father your gift is about to be exposed as a fraud. Just like you. You used to be my father. Now you’re my architect. The man who designed a better son to replace the defective one he was given. Well your design has a built in flaw – its illegal.’
‘Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiittt! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiitttttttt! Wait!’

The Good: The montage of interviews with the crew are brilliantly well done. Taking one subject and (Bashir) and heading through the characters we get to learn a little more about them and what they think about him. Sisko (Young, eager, ambitious…sometimes he let that natural impulse override his sense of decorum), Jake (he gives you way too much information), Kira (he just doesn’t know when to shut up), Dax (persistently harassed her with not unwanted advances), Worf (doesn’t like Doctors) and O’Brien (thinks he is an extraordinary person with a sense of honour and integrity and a great sense of humour) all have some interesting to say. The very idea of Rom fine tuning his ears like tuning into a radio signal makes me howl with laughter! Fadwa El Guindi and Brian George are expertly cast as Bashir’s parents Richard and Amsha and you get a sense that this is a real dysfunctional family unit rather than introducing two characters for the hell of it. Bashir’s father in particular is very memorable as the Del Boy of the 24th Century with plenty of tricks and plans up his sleeve and a story for every occasion! He is an expert at bigging up his career when the truth of the matter is much more mundane and Bashir slaps his hand to his forehead as he listens to his dads made up achievements. As soon as they start talking about their ‘little secret’ the mind starts reeling with the possibilities – what could they possibly have done to risk Bashir’s parents going to prison if it was exposed? When the truth is revealed it’s a shock twice over because not only does it put some of Bashir’s character flaws into such fine perspective but its revealed to the one man who wants to discredit Bashir more than anybody. Vulcan Love Slave Part II – the Revenge! Hahaha! The law against genetic engineering provides a firewall against such men as Khan Singh but I liked the acknowledgement that it can also produce happy results such as Julian Bashir. Richard’s punishment of two years in prison works a treat because it feels like Bashir hasn’t just been let off lightly and it’s a chance for his dad to finally do something for him. The gag about the darts shows that even the smallest element of this show can produce funny results.

Moment to Watch Out For: The sequence where the EMH comes face to face with the LMH is hilarious and worth watching this episode for alone. The Doctor is confronted by the even more arrogant Bashir and their templates stand in the background and comment wryly on their rivalry. Witty and wonderful, its Ronald D. Moore at his funniest.

Fashion Statement: Chase Masterson is an extraordinarily beautiful woman and she brings a great deal of glamour and female tenacity to this show. Unlike Jeri Ryan in Voyager being poured into a costume that leaves little to the imagination to perform a dull job the whole point of Leeta’s work is her sex appeal and she has it in spades.

Foreboding: Never one to waste a good idea, DS9 uses Bashir’s genetic engineering to power several episodes in the future including Statistical Probabilities, Inquisition, Chrysalis and Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges. Rom and Leeta’s romance would come into play again in Ferengi Love Songs and especially in A Call to Arms.

Result: More brilliance from this exceptional season, Dr Bashir, I Presume is magnificently sculpted piece of comedy/drama that once again juggles major revelations and character development in equal measure. Ronald D. Moore is on fire these days on DS9, knocking out one powerhouse script after another that dazzles with its memorable dialogue and detailed understanding of the characters. The writers have taken a massive leap with Bashir here but it was a gamble that would pay dividends because suddenly he leaps from being a socially inept medical man to a powerfully intelligent mutant and the storytelling possibilities are endless. If you aren’t a fan of Rom and Leeta you’re not going to find anything likable in the subplot but I love them both so I find it an adorable b plot with many gorgeous moments. Meeting Bashir’s parents are a joy and there are some more fantastic moments between O’Brien and Bashir that really cements their friendship as the one to watch on this show. I am extremely pleased with the abundance of character and development season five has flaunted and this is a great example of DS9 pushing the envelope of the Trek universe in unusual directions. Outstanding: 9/10

A Simple Investigation written by Rene Echevarria and directed by John Kretchmer

What’s it about: Odo has fallen for a woman with a big secret…

Single Father: Sisko’s reaction to finding out Odo has spent the night with a woman made me smile (‘That’s nice’).

Tasty Terrorist: There is a wonderful scene between Odo and Kira where he reveals to her his dalliance with Arissa at the bar and there is a complex flourish of emotions that exchange between them. She, complete unaware of his feelings for her but also slightly jealous that her best friend has found somebody interested gives him the push he needs to explore this relationship. It sets things up well for Children of Time where Kira is finally let into the secret that Odo has been screaming at her with his body language for years.

Unknown Sample: Odo is still having trouble letting of in front of his friends (something that will be explored in depth in His Way) and refuses to take part in Bashir’s latest Bond parody. I love the fact that Odo is so without guile that he cannot see that Arissa thinks he is hitting on her because he expresses concern. Now she comes to mention it Odo does have ‘bedroom eyes’ – when he is sans makeup you don’t really notice Rene Auberjonois’ eyes (Far Beyond the Stars) but when he is masked up and they are the most expressive thing about him (besides his voice) you can see how striking they are. It would appear that Odo is willing to set aside the rules for a pretty lady so perhaps he isn’t as incorruptible as we all thought. Oh no – turns out it was all a cheat and he was following her the whole time! As soon as Odo invites Arissa to his quarters to hide away my warning lights went off! Obviously she can see the potential of having a changeling lover with the ability to fill every crack (oh I’m so sorry I can’t believe I just said that!). There’s a lovely moment when Arissa states that being in a gelatinous state would be very relaxing and you get the impression that he is impressed that she isn’t disgusted by his form but desirous. Its not quite the powerhouse emotional climax of Chimera in season seven but its still a step in the right direction of Odo accepting that people can be interested in him for who he is. He admits that he was never proud of working for the Cardassians and uses that to comfort Arissa when she admits she made a mistake getting involved with the Syndicate. I bet Odo finds crime novels very unsatisfying – he always figures out who has done it on the third page! Despite the appalling stretch of Odo falling in love with a woman who never existed you still feel sorry for him, thanks mostly to Auberjonois’ touching reaction. Give this guy some happiness guys – lets show Odo how good being love can be!

Mr Wolf: Worf’s reaction to Kira and Dax’s gossip had me howling – the look on his face screams ‘I don’t know how to get that woman of mine to shut up!’

GE Doctor: Odo turning to Bashir for romantic advice should be agonisingly awful (I am cringing at the thought of this scene playing out on Voyager) but because Julian is so laid back about it and Odo so bashful its an unexpectedly charming scene between them. He tells Odo that he puts up a good front but everybody that knows him can tell that he is lonely.

What’s Morn up to: Quark is locking up the bar and has fling Morn out on his ear. He was probably trying to sneak away so he could suck the taps dry as soon as Quark had gone to bed.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Don’t shout across the room. If you want to gossip with us then come down here!’

The Good: Its nice to know there are nefarious goings on on the station that we (and the regular cast) know nothing it about. The idea of enjoying a fun night out in Quark’s whilst someone is being hunted down in the bowels of the station is awesome. Arissa is a pleasantly handled character and I’m pleased they created a mature woman for Odo to share his first moments of passion with rather than some ditzy bimbo like Leeta. It’s the second mention of the Orion Syndicate as this shady underground organisation. I love finding out about these seedy establishments that fester beneath the glossy Alpha Quadrant veneer and it is great when we finally get to immerse ourselves in their squalid activities in next seasons Honor Amongst Thieves. The idea of being a prostitute of the mind really hits home how insidious this culture is and that is an idea I thought could have been explored more. The bedroom scenes are surprisingly passionate (‘I don’t ever want to leave this room’) despite the appalling image of Odo’s shaven body!

The Bad: I think the episode’s biggest problem stems from the goons who walk around the station stifling a yawn at how bored they are with the whole shindig. Cool is one thing but these two look as if this is all a bit beneath them and coming from a show that does intimidation (the Jem H’adar) so well it feels like a major misstep. It does seem very odd that they had the chance to explore a romance with Odo for half a season when he was human but they waited until he had turned shapeshifter again to give it a shot. Erm has Odo forgotten what happened the last person was going to testify against the Orion Syndicate? A bomb in a runabout and a hike up a freezing mountain! The final ‘confrontation’ is so lacking in tension I wonder why they bothered. If it wasn’t enough for Arissa to be a completely different person to the one that Odo has fallen in love but she’s married as well! Its all a bit much for a story where she could have just not been interested in settling down!

Moment to Watch Out For: The brief scene in the Julian Bashir: Secret Agent programme is delightful, especially when O’Brien turns up at the window with his pistol! ‘Car trouble, Mr Bashir? Didn’t anyone ever tell you you shouldn’t stop for hitchhikers?’

Result: At least we can’t accuse this episode of having a deceiving title! A Simple Investigation gets all the essential ingredients right; strong performances from Rene Auberjonois and Dey Young and some convincing chemistry between their characters, some deft dialogue and a number of cute cameos by the rest of the cast (I loved Dax’s ‘somebody stop me!’). When it fails is the two elements that have been so strong of late, its plot and direction both of which are flat and uninteresting and never generate any excitement. In a way I wish they had gone for the romance angle without the lame detective story because you keep waiting for the pace to quicken or for there to be a clever plot twist and yet we keep heading back into Odo’s bed to see just how unimaginative he is as a changeling. In five episodes time Rene Echevarria would try and marry a blistering Odo romance plot to a complex sci-fi tale and pull it off with dazzling results. Lets just put this down to a tricky first draft and move on. Charming in spots but utterly throwaway: 5/10

Business as Usual written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle and directed by Alexander Siddig

What’s it about: Quark gets in over his head when he begins trading in weapons…

Single Father: ‘You better hope there isn’t a next time, mister! I have cut you a lot of slack in the past, I even looked away once or twice when I could have come down hard on you but those days are over. Now we may not be able to get you for selling weapons but you so much as litter on the Promenade and I will nail you to the wall!’ Ouch!

Everyday Engineer: Speaking as somebody who’s friend has not long had a baby I can completely sympathise with O’Brien trying to get Kirayoshi to sleep (poor Marcella barely gets two and a half hours these days between feeds). This subplot works because it is again nice to see the domestic side to these peoples lives but for once this doesn’t really have much to say about O’Brien’s character other than that he is a harassed father.

Nine Lives: Its clear that Dax always walked a fine line between loving the time she spends with Quark and finding his business activities a bit tasteless but now he has crossed the line and shown how many people he is willing to let suffer in order to line his pockets with latinum. Dax hits the nail on the head when she asks Quark if he is feeling guilty about his newfound profession because he immediately starts spilling excuses.

Community Leader: ‘Success or failiure…what’s it going to be cousin?’ Like Odo being stuck in a humanoid form it feels as if Quark’s financial problems are being dealt with a little too late (it happened a year ago and we haven’t seen any fallout as of yet) and I think they could happily swap this episode’s placing in the season with The Ascent and it would have made a lot more sense. Saying that it is nice that they are following up on the promise of the glorious ending of Body Parts and there are worse crimes than having such a great characters and plots in motions that sometimes the less important storylines are left a little late to be dealt with. Its heartbreaking to hear that Quark is finally completely broke and his extraction from Ferengi society has meant that he hasn’t been able to get involved in any of the lucrative deals that have been on offer of late. He’s in so much debt he has put the bar up for collateral to three different brokers and they are expecting a payout within a week. It makes complete sense that Hagath and Gaila would use Quark to peddle weapons because he has the holosuites to demonstrate them and the silver tongue to sell them. The sad truth of the matter is with his holographic juggernauts to explode and his way with people he is really good at selling weapons…its precisely the sort of career that he has been waiting for. I love the fact that throughout the course of this episode (however nefarious the means) Quark’s debts are written off in a realistic way just in time for him to wangle a new business licence in Ferengi Love Songs. The scene in the security office where Odo hauls Quark in to account for himself is filmed in exactly the same way as in Emissary when we first meet the characters which goes to show the more things change, the more they stay the same. The look on his face when he realises that 28 million people could lose their lives over the deal he is currently making is shocking – Quark suddenly realises the consequences of these deals and what it could mean to so many people. Watching his nerves as he sets up both Hagath and the Regent makes the audience nervous because Quark is usually so cool about everything and the way he accepts the worst thing that can happen to him is that he will die and that is nothing against 28 millions lives exposes his emerging conscience. The irony is that the deal he has to break is the first one that would see him make any profit.

What’s Morn up to: Quark stares hypnotically at him to make sure that he isn’t Odo in disguise trying to catch him out…

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Andarian Glass Beads! These must be worth…’ ‘an absolute fortune!’ – its all in the delivery!
’28 million dead? Can’t we just wound some of them?’

The Good: It just struck me at the beginning of Business as Usual about how much leisure time we get to spend with the characters on DS9. It makes their lives seem somehow more believable than those on TNG who seemed to spend their time shuttling between Ten Forward and the poker table. Dax enjoys playing Tongo with Quark, Miles and Julian get their rocks off in the holosuite playing the battle of Britain or the Alamo, Odo loves his crime novels, Dabo is seen in practically every episode, Sisko likes nothing more than a game of baseball, Springball is Kira’s sport of choice and that’s when they aren’t get down and dirty with their partners (Kassidy, Keiko, Leeta, Bariel, Shakaar, Worf…). Cousin Gaila has been mentioned ever since seasons three’s Civil Defense (and possibly even further back than that) so it is very satisfying to see that he finally makes an appearance. Josh Pais gets how to play a Ferengi and can learn from the best in Armin Shimmerman and his performance teeters on the brink of the theatrical but is all the more entertaining for it. He has that Jeffrey Coombs ability of sounding as though he is relishing every line. Steven Berkoff is one of those actors that is simply made for the theatrical and verbose world of Star Trek and I have seen him turn up in so many shows over the years and always give a good, memorable performance each time. Hagath is his chance to do a Shatner on us and chew up the scenery and it’s a delight to watch, he rolls each line around his mouth like a fine wine before passing judgement on them and seems to be having a whale of a time. Its quite infectious to watch, he purrs and sighs over the holographic weapons, enjoys the odd shock such as turning on Quark and shooting him in the chest and loves showering him with gifts like a smitten lover. There’s a gorgeous upside down camera angle from Quark’s POV of Odo entering his quarters whilst he is being wanked off! Only DS9 would dare… Hagath’s little joke with Quark over his preparations for the Regent’s visit is very funny. Everybody cooing over the baby in the pit is really cute. Quarks plan to get the Regent and his mortal enemy to meet and kill each other (and hopefully get Hagath and Gaila caught in the crossfire) is dark, risky and ingenious.

The Bad: Why do these conscience reaching episodes always have a dream sequence where the regulars taunt our comic relief? This is almost exactly the same as the one in Jetrel except about half as effective.

Moment to Watch Out For: ‘Look out there. Millions of stars. Millions upon millions of worlds and right now half of them are fanatically dedicated to destroying the other half. Now do you think if one of those twinkling little lights suddenly went out that anybody would notice? Suppose I offered you ten million bars of gold pressed latinum to help turn out one of those lights? Would you really tell me to keep my money?’ – Wow, that’s an astonishing speech which really captures the horror and the beauty of Quark’s dilemma.

Result: Quark is trapped in a horrible dilemma in this episode and it says something about the confidence of this show that they would allow their comic relief to face such horrors in the fifth season. Thompson and Weddle impressed with their subversion of the Trek possession cliché in The Assignment but Business as Usual is clearly the stronger script by tackling some meaty issues and pushing its character into dark corners. Alexander Siddig makes an impressive directorial debut too by tackling this drama with directness but still allowing for some inventive touches. Often new directors (especially actor/directors) get bogged down in visual pretension in their debut stories but this story is brought to the screen with a dazzling self assuredness you could never tell it was Sid’s first effort. Armin Shimmerman clearly enjoys the chance to get his teeth into something more dramatic and he is backed up solidly by Steven Berkoff (his every line makes me howl with laughter) and Josh Pais. The subplot is either amiable or a waste of time depending on how you react to such fluff – its certainly not the best b story we’ve seen (and there are some cute moments) but it isn’t the worst either (he’s in the zone, man). There’s a great use of Dax in this episode too and its in stories like this that make his reaction to her death have more meaning. Business as Usual is a smashing return to form asking tough questions about the morality of men who sell weapons for a living and as practically the only dark Ferengi episode it deserves much kudos: 8/10

Ties of Blood & Water written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Avery Brooks

What’s it about: Legate Ghemor seeks sanctuary on the station from the Dominion and has secrets to spill…

Single Father: Sisko remains polite with Dukat politically whilst still managing to insult him at every opportunity. He isn’t stupid, he knows what Ghemor is offering with his secrets is greater intelligence than they have ever managed to rake up on the Cardassians and could help in the ever approaching war.

Tasty Terrorist: Any chance for Nana Visitor to emote is a riveting experience for me and I rate her as one of the finest actors that Star Trek has to offer. Ties of Blood & Water is a great example of how she can take a slight plot and make it something special. I’ve heard people complain in the past that they don’t understand why she gushes so much over Ghemor after their one experience together but we don’t get to see what goes on in these peoples lives all the time and it isn’t such a stretch to think that they have managed to stay in contact and see each other from time to time. There is a very natural chemistry between Visitor and Pressman (who is also a splendid actor and you know what magic you can produce when you put two such actors in a room together in Trek) that completely sells to me the surrogate father/daughter relationship they have. Even if she doesn’t like to admit it she is a public figure and her feud with Kai Winn has become something of a legend. Kira questioning her ability to tend to this sick old man and ask the right questions is a very natural reaction and is exactly the sort of dramatic doubt what we didn’t get in The Sons of Mogh when Kurn asked Worf to kill him. Kira looking after Ghemor whilst he dies has a lovely intimacy to it, discovering everything there is to know about this man before he slips away. As well as examining her in such depth we get to meet Kira’s father as well (who would return in Wrongs Darker than Death and Night – what is up with these pretentious titles?). Nana Visitor expresses Kira’s tiredness through a throaty voice which effectively shows how much she is draining. Its fascinating to watch Kira’s anger when she discovers about Ghemor’s shady past during the Occupation. She’s not stupid, she knows that pretty much everybody involved in that whole nasty business had to get their hands dirty somehow and we learn that she ran away from her own fathers death rather than confront the uncomfortable emotions that would bring. Here she is using this anger as a way to avoid those same feelings at Ghemor’s death. It takes somebody very brave to put your personal feelings aside and to just be with somebody and comfort them as they slip away and Kira gets to experience everything she missed out with her real father. It’s a beautifully sold tale that makes Kira an even more rounded character than she already was. Kira, tired and defeated, expressing her pain at losing Ghemor at the end broke my heart.

Unknown Sample: Odo is as ever the voice of reason and speaking as somebody who knows that he (Things Past) and Kira (Necessary Evil) did terrible things during the Occupation he knows that she isn’t angry about Ghemor’s service record but something much deeper.

Mr Wolf: Worf is used cleverly to bring the viewers up to speed with the events of Second Skin for those of you who haven’t seen it. My advice is that you should at some point as it’s a great conspiracy episode in season three.

GE Doctor: I love all the tough dialogue that DS9 gives its characters and even a small moment like Bashir insisting that Kira go back to Ghemor’s deathbed is loaded with subtext.

Slimy Snake: ‘He doesn’t seem to like you very much…we’re going to have to do something about your public image!’ Having a Cardassian and a Jem H’adar guarding Dukat on the monitor is a lovely visual touch of the latest member of the Dominion. Turning up at the station in a Jem H’adar warship is the first act of aggression towards the Federation that would eventually lead to war. Unbelievably Dukat and Weyoun have decided to concoct a story that Ghemor made a deathbed decision to embrace the Dominion. He really is a complete toad.

Wily Weyoun: Ladies and Gentlemen allow me to introduce to you my all time favourite Star Trek character from any and all of the series – Weyoun! Jeffrey Combs has played a few small roles in DS9 until now (his turn as Brunt is bristling with comic genius) but Weyoun is the ultimate expression of his talent, a camp, wily, sinister bureaucrat who sucks up majestically to his masters and condemns those races that are beneath him. Clearly the writers could see they were onto a good thing with Weyoun and after the season finale he is practically a series regular until the end of the show. He’s funny, surprising and thoughtful and he secures my love affair with this show for good. The way they skip of Combs’ return with a simple cloning explanation has to be admired and much is made of this technique as we lose many versions of this character over the years!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I prefer the title Gul. So much more hands on than Legate, hmm? And less pretentious than the other alternatives…President, Emperor, First Minister, Emissary…’ ‘How about ‘Dominion puppet?’
‘Sorry to disturb you’ ‘Sorry enough to leave?’
‘Ho ho ho ho! How delightful! Mysterious plots, subtle innuendos, failed threats…its all so entertaining’ ‘Are you insane?’ ‘Vorta are immune to most forms of poison. It comes in handy when you’re a diplomat!’
‘I saw so much death during the Occupation, I felt so much pain but my father…he was my strength. And I couldn’t bear to see that strength slipping away’ – Nana Visitor is extraordinary here.

The Good: The idea of bringing back an old character like Ghemor to help bring down the Dominion is a nice one and it is great to see this provoke a response from the newfound Cardassian/Dominion alliance. Ghemor has come to accept that his real daughter is dead but Kira refuses to give up hope and it’s a lovely moment of acceptance from an old man who cannot dream any longer. Kira’s plans to set up a government in exile on the station and counteract the Dominion propaganda is ambitious and it’s a shame that we never saw that come to pass. A Cardassian tradition where the dying pass on their secrets to their family to use against their enemies – that’s brilliant and oh so appropriate for such an sinister species. The flashbacks are unexpected but very welcome and reveal Avery Brooks skill of scene transition and judging the tone of the piece. I especially liked the return of Furrell who died in The Darkness and the Light. There’s something awful about a dying man who is devastated that his garden, something he has tended and watch grow his whole life, has been burnt by their oppressors. The lighting for the two scenes where Kira digs the graves for ‘fathers’ is exquisite, rusty dusk and summery daylight in turn.

Moment to Watch Out For: I can’t decide between two scenes that really standout so I’m going to include both. Firstly there is the scene between Kira and Dukat in her quarters where she (quietly) promises to exact bloody vengeance on him one day which is pure bliss to watch. But also the moment of comedy gold when Weyoun drinks the poisonous Kanar and laughs it off!

Fashion Statement: Kira looks so different with longer hair, doesn’t she? Its uncanny what a few smudges of dirt and a red wig can do but she looks every bit the fiery terrorist of repute.

Result: Paralleling the flashback scenes of Kira’s father dying with her surrogate father dying on the station gives Ties of Blood and Water an extra poignancy and polish and tying the story into the Dominion war arc was a stroke of genius. These elements make what could have been a dreary character examination something much more interesting and with Nana Visitor and Lawrence Pressman delivering such strong performances the resulting piece reduced me to tears before the end. Avery Brooks’ touch is present in every frame through the sensuality of the direction and he ensures the episode is lit to perfection. The return of the Dominion can only be celebrated especially when it brings with it the indomitable Weyoun played to perfection by Jeffrey Combs and Dukat who has never been more drunk on his own ego. This will never be a favourite because it is too quiet for that but in its own discreet way this is another masterful slice of season five: 8/10

Ferengi Love Songs written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Rene Auberjonois

What’s it about: ‘World domination…by a female?’

Community Leader: Armin Shimmerman deserves better material than this and it pains me to say it but this wont be the last time he is dragged to such depths (no I’m not talking about Profit and Lace – I really like that one! I’m talking about The Emperors New Cloak). He greets the news of Rom and Leeta’s upcoming wedding with all the joy of a suicidal lemming with nothing to jump off of. Its not unreasonable to want to speak to your mother when your life has fallen to pieces but the way he throws himself into her arms lacks any kind of subtle much like the rest of the episode. Quark pining after his childhood action figures simply isn’t the level of characterisation I have come to expect from this show. As soon as he realises that the Nagus and his mother are sleeping together it smells of only one thing…opportunity! We’ve seen Quark manipulate his way out of some very tricky situations in the past with his guile and ingenuity (in fact just a few episodes earlier) but watching him blatantly connive a break up between his mother and the Nagus is badly written and performed and again lacks any kind of refinement. Its so broad it’s the Caspian Sea.

Secret Genius: I love Rom but even I find this subplot a bit too much. If it was tagged onto a more amiable episode it might have worked better but with two unsubtle Ferengi plots haggling for your attention it all gets a bit much. He looks daft with a Bajoran earring on for a start. There’s taking an interest in your partners passions and then there’s looking like a total prat. It is possible to do one without resorting to the other. He’s called the least Ferengi Ferengi and that’s probably why I really like him! A marriage really shouldn’t be on the cards if one conversation with your friends is enough to make you doubt the veracity of the relationship! Rom asking Leeta to sign over all of her worldly goods and be a slave to him is such an outrageously sexist thing to do it is completely out of character and I refuse to believe that he would do this on the strength of one conversation with Dax. Leeta has never known the slightest interest in his money so his reaction to her refusal feels all wrong too. Argh! This is all horrible and after they were so sweet in Dr Bashir, I Presume! No wait…they manage to salvage it! Rom giving all of his money to charity thus not having any to protect is desperately sweet. Now lets forget all about this episode and skip to A Call to Arms and let the marriage commence!

Wrinkly Tycoon & Flighty Female: Lets face it…Zek and Moogie make this episode worth watching for a few moments of decent comedy and that is all. Wallace Shawn is a delight as ever and is playing cute to a factor of eleven and it mostly works. Cecily Adams takes up the reins from Andrea Martin and beyond a slight accent change you could never tell the difference. I really enjoy spending time with these characters which is what makes this episode such a chore – I don’t want them to turn up in substandard instalments! Watching these two old wrinklies getting off on the sofa is the last thing I wanted to see them up to! The idea that Moogie was propping the government up from behind the throne is a potentially very funny idea but it just doesn’t work here. The story makes the Nagus look completely daft because he cannot even hold a single meeting without getting all the details muddled. I fail to understand how Moogie could brief him in a way that would stimulate his memory at a later date! Rubbing his lobes? Oh please. The thought of the two of them shagging at the end of the episode turns my stomach.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Sometimes the only thing more dangerous than a question is an answer!’ – its Shawn’s delivery that makes this one a howler!
‘What are you doing in my closet?’ ‘Conducting official FCA business’ ‘In my closet?
‘That I was a scheming, profit hungry female who couldn’t keep her clothes off!’
‘Quark I must say I find your newfound modesty very annoying’ – again Shawn aces this line.

The Good: The Nagus grabbing Quark’s bag from inside the closet is bloody funny. Probably the best gag of the episode. The second best scene comes when Kira and Leeta stroll across the upper level of the Promenade and discuss her marriage break up. I know, I’m reaching here. The second episode with Jeffrey Combs in it can only be a good thing…but Brunt is no Weyoun.

The Bad: The opening scenes play out like the similarly uninvolving scenes that opened The Ascent with Rom visiting Quark in his quarters. Most Ferengi episodes enjoy a heightened reality where they play out like an episode of cartoon buffoonery but this is like a really bad episode of The Simpsons and we all know how desperate those have been of late. The scenes around the dinner table are as painful to watch as some of Homer and Marge’s antics of late. As shocking as it might be to hear this (and will make a good case for it when the episode comes around) but I think that the sexual politics are handled much better in Profit and Lace than they are alluded to here! Scenes of Rom crying followed by scenes of Moogie crying over their two break ups hammer the hellish domestic atmosphere too hard and then to have both couples back together a few scenes later…did they just copy and paste the material from the main plot to the subplot? Why is Leeta working on the Promenade? The whole Ferengi market exchange is threatening to collapse after one day without Moogie? That’s a joke! And not a good one! The last scene of Quark playing with his action figures just about sums up how terrible this episode has been.

Moment to Watch Out For: Sorry, no.

Result: Unfortunately the most exciting thing that happens in this episode is the voles being hunted in Quarks and that is just the first five seconds. I would like to say that removing Robert Hewitt Wolfe from the mix and adding Hans Beimler is what makes this episode so disappointing but there is far more to it than that (besides together Wolfe and Behr produced the other dud of the season, Let He Who is Without Sin). This is third episode in a row to be directed by a member of the cast and Rene Auberjonois is one of the most experienced but delivers the least effective episode. He aced Ferengi episodes Prophet Motive and Family Business in season three and brought season fours The Quickening to life with absolute beauty. So what went wrong here? The story is overlit, overwritten, overacted, over padded and lacking in any kind of nuance that could have made this potentially very funny idea (the Nagus and Moogie shacking up) work. Armin Shimmerman and Max Grodenchik do their least effective work with a laboured script that gives them no room to be funny or dramatic and the plot is so thin you could blow it away with a gentle sigh. The only thing that kept me watching were the sprightly performances from Wallace Shawn and Cecily Adams who inject just enough life into the Ferenginar scenes to make them mildly amusing in spots. Otherwise this is the weakest episode of he season (along with the excursion to Risa) and the least effective comedy on DS9 for several years: 3/10

Soldiers of the Empire written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Levar Burton

What’s it about: Dax and Worf join a Klingon warship that is bleeding with dishonour…

Mr Wolf: There was a moment in the Dominion prison camp when he had literally had enough of fighting and considered letting them kill him but Martok gave him his strength to continue. Once Martok knew of his intention to give up he had to go back into the ring and fight once more. Sisko doesn’t even pretend to understand, he simply signs the papers that has him released to Martok’s services because he can see how much this mission means to him. Worf shows appropriate concern for Dax and anxiety about Martok’s strange behaviour to make him a fine lover and cherishable first officer. There is a gentleness to Michael Dorn’s performance that I really admired when he could have camped it up like some of the guest performers. Now Worf has mutineered against Martok we don’t have to repeat this exercise again and they can move on to become the best of friends. Worf has the integrity to take a knife blow for the morale of the crew and to slip away in quiet disgrace whilst his friend takes all the glory. Dax (and I) remember why we love this character so much. Worf being asked to join the house of Martok is deeply touching, especially since we have seen how much his allegiance to Starfleet has cost him the past. He now has a knew brother and a new family crest and a sense of purpose.

Nine Lives: You can understand that Farrell might have become somewhat disillusioned with the role of Dax because although she did have a hefty involvement episodes such as Looking for Par’Mach and Let He Who is Without Sin she hasn’t had a showcase episode all year despite her burgeoning romance with Worf. Turning up for the odd scene in an episode is not want every actress dreams of and the trouble is the character and the actress are so confident at this point it is a crying shame that she is the least exposed at the moment. The irony is that when Ezri Dax turns up she would be the most explored character of the entire year because there is only that year to explore her. This Starfleet good time girl who loves her life and had fully adjusted to the wonder of having so many lives crammed in her head is a delight and Soldiers of the Empire realises her potential better than any other episode this year. Dax fits in right alongside a group of disillusioned Klingons and proves to be more rousing and savage than any of them. We’ve come a long way from Riker’s cultural exchange in season two of TNG! Dax is so naughty the way she pretends she is seeing Worf off and then steps on board to take her post arranged much earlier with General Martok (‘Why did you not tell me?’ ‘Its more fun this way…’). She picks up a Klingon and throws him on the floor to make her presence felt and then stuffs her face full of disgusting Klingon food and drink (bringing three barrels of blood wine with her) – you’ve got to love this character. It takes Dax (not as his lover but as his colleague) to point out that this ship is like a powder keg waiting to explode and Worf needs to step in to make sure that does not happen.

Gentle Giant: Martok refuses to listen to Bashir’s whinings about what ‘might have happened’ when it comes to suicidal Klingon recreational activities. He doesn’t want an artificial eye because it reminds him of what he went through in that Dominion prison camp, it makes him stronger. Taking command of the Rotaran is the first command he has had since escaping the Dominion and it thrills me to think this is the first step towards his eventual path of becoming Chancellor in the final season. I can’t wait to watch this characters progress, he is a Klingon of rare depth and we are fortunate that he is played by an actors as skilled as J.G. Hertlzer. Martok isn’t afraid to step on the bridge of a Klingon ship and admit that he wants to avoid a fight with the Jem H’adar rather than seek one out. The crew call him ‘the one eyed giant’ but Dax considers it an honour to serve under him. He’s willing to let a Jem H’adar ship escape without confrontation to protect their silent predatory course through their space much to Worf and the crews chargin because this would have been an easy victory. He feels as though he has a special insight into the Jen H’adar and considers them to be soulless creatures that exist only to kill without honour.

Starfleet Ferengi: Nog is just too cute in the pre credits sequence when he mimes strangling Worf (who hasn’t wanted to do that?) and gets caught between two towering Klingons trying to slip past unnoticed!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘On this trip my bed is as empty as yours, Leskit, except mine is empty by choice.’
‘You are a coward and I challenge you for command of this ship!’

The Good: Its nice to actually see a revised duty roster when somebody leaves the station for a while…I’ve always wondered what happens when a regular goes off half cocked on some mad mission and  who gets to fill in their role or whether they really are that disposable. With regards to Worf’s duties O’Brien is recalibrating all the small arms on the station (how boring!) and Bashir is the new intelligence officer (the Federation is in more trouble than we thought!). I’ve heard people say this could be a pilot for a Klingon based Trek series and it certainly has possibilities although I probably would have worked harder on the guest characters to make them more likable had that been the case. It certainly gives the piece an extra frisson if you choose to think of it this way and a series with the central relationship between Worf and Martok certainly would be worth exploring. In fact the way we watch the crew assemble and then the ship leaves DS9 for its own adventures is very reminiscent of Voyagers pilot episode. And Worf even gets his own Klingon version of ‘Captain’s Log.’ Worf attempting to carouse this crew with a Klingon song is effective because it shows just how disheartened they really are and has the reverse effect at the climax where they have score their first victory and turns it into a moment of triumph. It also shows how much this character has lightened up this year. I remember in one episode somebody called serving on a Klingon ship is like the ancient pirate ships of yesteryear with mutinies and fights amongst the ranks and its great to finally catch a glimpse of a ship where that tension and aggression runs riot. There are real verbal fireworks between Worf and Martok when it appears that the commanding officer is going to leave Klingon warriors to die and then literal ones as knives are drawn and they fight each other to the death for command of the ship.

The Bad: David Graf could have taken it down a peg or two as Leskit who embarrasses during a drunken rant. The director should have stepped in here and asked for a more subdued retake.

Moment to Watch Out For: Worf turning on him is a glorious moment because you can see the bloodlust returning to Martok and he is reminded of what is truly important in this mission. He has spent so long trying to outfox the Jem H’adar he has forgotten that battle is not a game of strategy but honour. As soon as he stabs Worf in the gut Martok orders their leap over the border to rescue their fellow warriors.

Orchestra: I complained about David Bell’s feeling highly inappropriate in the fluffy Voyager episode Bride of Chaotica and thinking about it he is pretty unsuited to Voyager in general. However on DS9 he is very much at home because his moody, exciting, pulse pounding scores (which are always excellent by the way, I’m not questioning their strength as music just what material they are used to compliment) match the tone of many of the episodes. Here in the trenches of a Klingon ship with tension in the air and tangible feeling of claustrophobia and restrained anger his music compliments the episode perfectly.

Foreboding: Its another great journey we go on in DS9 with a guest character as Martok takes command of this ship and gives the crew a sense of purpose again. The approaching Dominion war gives the Rotaran a chance to fight and become the most celebrated ship in the Klingon fleet. These are the first faltering steps of their relationship together which makes this a Klingon story worth telling because it has consequences in the future.

Result: I haven’t really enjoyed any of the Klingon episodes since season three so I didn’t go into Soldiers of the Empire with much hope but it turned out to be a lot better than I expected. This feels exactly like the rousing adventure that The Sword of Kahless should have been and it mixes an exciting mission behind Dominion lines with some real character growth for Martok who continues to distinguish himself as the best Klingon we have met in Trek since Worf developed into something special in TNG season three. It’s a great Dax episode too where she gets to be bossier and more rowdy than your average Klingon and truly show Worf how well she understands his culture and their relationship deepens as a result. It’s a occasionally a bit theatrical in the hands of director Levar Burton and probably would have been a tighter piece had Kroeker or Vejar taken this assignment but regardless there are some moments of real tension and terrific action. Worf feels as if he has always been a part of DS9 these days and Micheal Dorn is giving some his best ever performances. It thrills me to think that this would be the case until the series closes. Soldiers of the Empire is worthy of much praise for adopting a fresh, exciting tone and for pulling off a Klingon episode with this much style: 8/10

Children of Time written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: ‘We are your descendants!’

Single Father: Sisko doesn’t go through the same emotional torture of the others in this episode but there are still an abundance of terrific moments for his character. Look at how he handles the baby like an expert father, cooing and smiling. Her vicious reaction to being tricked by Yedrin is a sight to behold and this is rewarded when they hug for the last time as Sisko heads off to sacrifice himself for them. That moment always brings tears to my eyes.

Tasty Terrorist: Wow Kira really has a lot of faith in the Prophets, doesn’t she? After a visit to an orb which gives her the answers that she has been seeking – that she and Shakaar shouldn’t be together they break up on the strength of one orb experience. It kind of says to me that this relationship wasn’t as solid as we have been led to believe (and we’ve seen so little of it that I am inclined to believe that) and they were both looking for a reason to go their separate ways. Besides they are both such busy, public figures these days I surprised they managed to find the time for each other! Oh and it always frees Kira up to move on to Odo which is a development I have been longing for since season two’s The Collaborator! Kira’s reaction to Odo’s confession is very natural – she laughs! But then a dawning seriousness comes over her as she suddenly makes sense of her wounded looking friend over the years whilst she has indulged in one romance after another. Kira always believed that they were all given one destiny, one path and to use science to avoid her death feels like cheating. The shot of Kira and Odo holding hands and walking through the sunny glade is one of the defining images I have of their relationship (along with the kiss on the Promenade, the magical end of Chimera and their parting in What You Leave Behind). This is truly a fairytale couple defined by some very magical images.

Unknown Sample: As ever the lack of pretence makes Odo’s reaction to the news of Kira and Shakaar’s split absolutely clear…to everybody except Kira. He had gotten used to the fact that she was off the shelf so to speak and could happily get on with his life (including his own romance with Arissa in A Simple Investigation). Now she is single again and there is a spark of possibility that is all he needs to light that burning desire and he has to try and keep those feelings under control again. When the human Odo shows up he immediately has an aura of calm about him and wastes no time in telling Kira that he has always loved her – he has had 200 years to ponder the mistake of keeping silent and he isn’t going to waste this opportunity. There is something very reckless about this Odo because he drops the bombshell on Kira and then leaves his younger completely unprepared for picking up the pieces. One word condemns everybody in the settlement (‘maybe’) because this is Kira’s reaction to the older Odo’s question of whether or not they could have had a future together had he said something earlier, On the strength of that glimmer of hope he makes a choice that affects 800 lives. Frankly Kira and Odo have to get together now because the cost of giving them the opportunity was so high. 

Mr Wolf: How lovely that myths have built up around Worf about his hunting prowess and his ability to kill just by looking at somebody. Anyone who has been trapped in the path of those eyes will tell you its true! The Sons of Mogh are Worf’s descendants (some by blood, some by choice) and they lead a feral, wild existence (a bit like Leela when the Doctor first meets her in Doctor Who) in the countryside. Its another inspired touch.

Everyday Engineer: ‘And you are afraid to face your destiny…’ I love the very simple horror O’Brien expresses when he realises that he eventually had to accept the situation that he would never see Keiko, Molly or Kirayoshi again and fell in love with Ensign Tannenbaum from Engineering. At this stage you can see he would never countenance such a relationship and his mind is working over time to think a way out of this situation and get back to his family. But a growing horror dawns on him as the episode progresses that the future he has been told about might be forced upon him whether he wants it or not. Its astonishing that such a simple idea can have such far reaching emotional consequences for so many of the crew and it is riveting to watch them all go through this stage of denial and acceptance in very different ways.

Nine Lives: Dax believes that any relationship can work as long as both people want it to. I’m glad she thinks that whilst she is going out with the grouch of the galaxy! She is in the unenviable position of being personally responsible for them going through the barrier and being stranded on the planet. I bet over time there was plenty of blame directed at her. I love the way Dax stands in the background coming to terms with what she has done as Yedrin spells out the guilt that she suffered when she realised she had split Benjamin and Jake up forever. The pained look she gives Yedrin is a mixture of shame at what he has tried to do and respect for having lived through her mistakes. Had they remained stranded on the planet Jadzia Dax would have lived a long and fulfilling life with Worf but instead she returns to the station and is murdered within a year and a half. Makes you think…

Community Leader: Quark is the maths teacher – that’s cute!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I’ll never forget Worf’s voice when he said his vows. It was shaking…’
‘Praying over your own grave. That’s got to be a new one.’
‘Who are you to say who lives or dies? Who are you to make that call?’
‘Time is their enemy. We should help them defeat it.’

The Good: The simple ‘no thanks, I’m trying to come down’ comes back into play just a few minutes later and provokes a big questions mark over who these people could be. As a paradox this is the most fascinating example Trek has ever portrayed with the Defiant crew meeting their own descendant from a crash on this planet that will take place two centuries ago. It throws up so many interesting questions and then sets about answering them with absolute glee. What happened to cause the crash? How did people settle down and who ended up with who? Why did they never try to escape? It’s a science fiction concept that allows the writer to explore these characters in a fascinating ‘what if’ scenario that really excites me because on the evidence presented our heroes are going to have to become these people or wipe this awesome colony from the face of existence. It becomes an exploration of pre-destination and accepting your fate once it has been handed to you. As Yedrin Dax Gary Frank is utterly convincing from the off, a warm and wonderful man who embraces his old friend and his crew whilst quietly plotting their downfall to ensure his timeline survives. It’s a complex character with a complex performance and with Frank in command Yedrin feels very real whatever the script asks him to do. If it was me in this situation I would be desperate to know who my descendants were are catch up with them…although this information comes with a price and the risk that by knowing what will happen it may cause you to change things in the future (or rather the past if you see what I mean). Until they pointed out I hadn’t realised that of course 200 years ago the wormhole hadn’t even been discovered yet – they were literally stranded with no hope coming from home. If things weren’t complicated or emotional enough with the crew trying to come to terms with this future that is unfolding before them Kira’s death throws a massive spanner in the works forcing them to work harder at trying to escape but resulting in wiping out these people. It’s a moral dilemma on an epic scale and you can’t help but agonise over how this story can possibly end without the crew returning to the station. Such a beautiful, beautiful set up. The idea of two Defiant’s cheating fate by going both ways is fun and I thought this might be heading the same way as the dreadful Voyager episode Demon and then pleasingly (and you can take this as a commentary on Demon too if you like) it is revealed that it was just the lies of desperate man and logically its full of holes. Yedrin is the one person who could pull the wool over Dax’s eyes because he has had all her experience plus 200 plus more years to formulate this plan. I keep getting reminders about how this episode could have been spoilt – actually showing the two Defiant’s and also having both Odo’s in play would have gutted the romance story of its heart and made the ending redundant. This time they just get everything so right. How do they find such glorious spots for their location work in Trek? The gorgeous sunny hillside that Kroeker shoots the scenes by Kira’s grave is a feast for the eyes, skeletal trees and reedy grass swaying in the sunlit breeze. There’s another one of those ‘everybody tosses in an opinion’ scenes that DS9 does so well (The Rapture is another great example this year and Rocks and Shoals would see this feature reach its apotheosis next year) – it shows how well defined these characters are that they can so confidently express their feelings but no one person leads the conversation (in particular I love O’Brien’s scathing ‘no offence Major but I don’t believe in your Prophets!’). The way the plot cruelly makes us think that the colony will be wiped out and then offers a grasp of hope before snatching it away so violently is expertly done. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions! Does the show trip over the edge of the great precipice of tweeness in the planting scenes? Perhaps, but the excellent build up has earned a final push of sentiment for these people and showing them working together and enjoying their lives before wiping them out makes the twist all the more wrenching. Plus its all filmed on location and looks beautiful. Plus the shot of the Klingons coming over the hill to help out is punch the air good (and the triumphant tone reminds me strongly of their sudden appearance in Sacrifice of Angels next season). I was jumping up and down on my desk chair as the Defiant approached the barrier and this episode could swung either way – the build up is so buttock clenchingly good! It makes me laugh until my balls jiggle to think that Voyager has been through so many thoroughly tedious anomalies in its time and the one time DS9 plays about with one it gets it absolutely perfect. Somebody show Brannon Braga this episode.

Moment to Watch Out For: Its so hard to choose because it could be Kira discovering Odo’s feelings, the first confrontation with Yedrin, the argument over whether to stay or not, the planting scenes or the dramatic approach to the barrier. However the scene that sticks in my mind strips away all the aesthetics and takes place between Kira and our Odo on the Defiant. 8000 people are ‘dead’ and Odo admits that his older self was responsible because he loves Kira and cannot bear the thought of her dying. Nana Visitor’s performance as Kira reacts to this news had me on the edge of my seat.

Foreboding: Dax discovers that Worf and her get married and they make a go of it in the settlement and Yedrin confirms what she has always suspected, that he is a good man. This must have helped with her decision to ask him to marry her in A Call to Arms.

Result: Imaginative, thoughtful and tragic, Children of Time is another Trek classic from season five and all the more impressive for being both a creative science fiction tale (which DS9 usually touches) and a blistering character one (which is their raison d’etre). To make the idea of the Defiant crew meeting their own descendants work and their deaths pack such a punch this had to be flawlessly realised. The script does a lot of the work and the spellbinding direction too but a massive round of applause has to go to Gary Frank, Jennifer S. Parson and Rene Auberjonois who all act their socks off and convince as Yedrin Dax, Miranda O’Brien and the older Odo. It’s the ultimate high concept episode that feeds the characters astonishing material and keeps you guessing right until the last scene where it hits you with a powerhouse twist. For Kira and Odo it is a massive leap forward as she discovers his feelings for her and tries to handle that whilst also having to weight up the consequences of 8000 lives if she is saved. Their final scene together left me speechless because it was so restrained and sincere and it gave me goosebumps as the truth was revealed. Pleasingly the writers haven’t tried to remove this small yet staggering development and there are hard conversations to come in the future. Allan Kroeker really is quite a find and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it wasn’t due to his deft handling of this tour de force that he was rewarded with most of the event episodes until the end of the series. It is much deserved and the look of this piece, especially the location work is stunning. A complex, emotive puzzle story with many great twists and turns and packed with sizzling character moments, Children of Time remains one of DS9’s greatest achievements and can be held high amongst the finest Trek episodes ever produced: 10/10

Blaze of Glory written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe & Ira Steven Behr and directed by Kim Friedman

What’s it about: Sisko and Eddington head off to stop an arsenal of Maquis missiles from igniting a devastating war…

Single Father: Its lovely to see Sisko smiling so effervescently before falling into an episode that deals with the inevitable Dominion war so face on and it is gorgeous that he would make squid with puree of tube grubs just for Nog who has come for dinner. Is Sisko naïve for wanting to prevent a war that everybody pretty much knows id coming regardless? Perhaps, but I think a lot less of him if he didn’t at least try as he does here. As soon as Eddington mentions Cal Hudson it is like a slap around the face and Sisko is visibly pained to hear about the death of his friend. Eddington seems to think that Sisko’s condemnation of the Maquis has something to do with his ego taking a battering which proves that he has missed the point somehow. In the case of Eddington himself he might have a point but certainly not when discussing Cal and the other Maquis members. Sisko’s sereneness when he tests Eddington’s death wish is brilliantly done (‘You said you wanted to be blown to pieces by the Jem H’adar. Well it looks like you are going to get your wish’). I love the way he tosses aside the soul searching in a very un-Star Trek sort of way saying it can wait until later because they have a war to prevent. Its moments like that which make Sisko my favourite. That and him blasting a load of invisible Jem H’adar soldiers to crap! His reaction when he realises that he has been taken for a ride by Eddington had me applauding – he grins at the fact that there wont be a Dominion counter strike and then he punches Eddington’s lights out! It says something about the growth of this character and the storyline that at the end of this tale Sisko finds himself hoping that there are still cells of the Maquis that are active and on the run. A Starfleet officer admitting that he admires a terrorist cell? Bloody brilliant.

Maquis Leader: I’ve been waiting to catch up with Eddington ever since Sisko finally managed to manipulate him into giving himself up and I’m so pleased they didn’t wait an age to deal with this storyline again but struck whilst the iron was hot. Ken Marshall is so much more interesting now his character has turned traitor and he really seems to relish his dialogue condemning the Federation and everything it stands for (and lets face it who doesn’t love those scenes after years of Picard and Janeway telling us how glorious it is?). Eddington sat in his cell and heard of the wholesale slaughter of the Maquis when Cardassia became allies with the Dominion and he cried all the tears he had for his friends. Sisko offers him his freedom if he helps him stop the missiles but tellingly Eddington doesn’t want to be free because he has nowhere to go now most of his friends have been killed. When Eddington talks about his tomato plants you get a sense of the sort of life he had before he infiltrated Starfleet and realise that he and Sisko do have something in common after all. Its past time that DS9 started killing off some of its guest characters otherwise come the final ten part arc it would be unwieldy with all these extra characters popping in and Eddington literally gets to go out in a blaze of glory by saving the woman he loves and the man he hates which has truly exposes him as a hero at the end. Eddington was a romantic and what could be more romantic than a glorious death for a lost cause?

Starfleet Ferengi: Unlike Ferengi Love Songs this episode has a subplot that really compliments its main theme and providing a sense of levity away from the dark arc plotline. Its also a healthy reminder of where Nog has come from because when the show began all he was good for was this kind of agreeable subplot. Jake naughtily outs Nog’s frustration at working security with the Klingons on board the station because they belittle him at every opportunity. Nog is another character that has been developed way beyond what anybody may have expected of him (and with stories like Rocks & Shoals, Valiant, The Siege of AR-558 & Its Only Paper Moon coming up there’s still a long way for him to go) so everything I say in the summary can be applied to him too. The scene where he falls off the chair in Quark’s is so face-in-hands cringeworthy you cannot help but feel sorry for the guy. Nog’s moment of bravery when he finally confronts Martok (with a slight hysterical twang to his voice which is so sweet) is a small moment of triumph for the character. ‘You are either very brave or very stupid Ferengi!’ ‘Probably a little of both!’

What’s Morn up to: Of all the people to snap over a potential Dominion invasion of the station! After a conversation with Quark he heads to the Bajoran shrine stuck bollock naked and cries out to the Prophets for protection!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You want to blame me for what happened to the Maquis – go ahead! Blame me. Blame Starfleet! Blame the Federation! Blame everyone except Michael Eddington!’ ‘The Maquis won their greatest victories under my leadership!’ ‘Your leadership? Your shining moment of glory. Michael Eddington gets to take off his gold uniform and play hero! That’s what you always wanted…to lead troops in a glorious cause! Well you head your chance! And look where you lead them…right into their graves!’ ‘They died because I wasn’t there when they needed me most! Because you put me in jail!’ ‘They died because you filled their heads with false hopes. Sold them dreams of a military victory when what they needed was a negotiated peace!’ ‘We had the Cardassians on the run!’ ‘And they ran right until the arms of the Dominion. End of story!’ – Wowza, not your standard Trek dialogue and really hitting home all of the themes in play here.
‘Seems like a perfect time for a song. Anybody know a good song?’

The Good: Huge mistake on the part of the Klingon Empire who have provided the Maquis with 30 cloaking devices which they now fear have been placed on missiles that will be sent to Cardassia in one final, dramatic attempt to wipe them out once and for all! Which in turn could lead to a Dominion counter strike against the entire Alpha Quadrant! Now that’s the kind of pre credits news that I like to hear! How menacing is that shot of the Starbase security facility with the sun block by its tubular bulk and silhouetting it? There’s a lovely comment on the artificiality of the Federation when Eddington talks about eating with fresh ingredients when he was with the Maquis and forced to chow down on plastic food after he joined Starfleet. The badlands really do look gorgeous these days and the great thing is the effects will be even better come season seven’s Penumbra. The Jem H’adar ships look resplendent arcing through those fiery columns. Sisko and Eddington heading into misty cloud, crawl through a water irrigation system and explore corridors – you genuinely get the sense that this a real Maquis base and not just another studio set. We haven’t seen action sequences as atmospheric as this since Blood Oath and the hand to hand combat scenes in the mist the silhouettes Sisko and the Jem H’adar soldier as Eddington tries to take aim is gripping stuff.

The Bad: One of the things DS9 is guilty of is having to keep its viewers up to speed with the shows developments. It doesn’t always trust that the audience will understand what is going on so occasionally there are choppy moments where a character will recount the plot of an old episode. Here its: ‘You won. I betrayed Starfleet by joining the Maquis, you swore you’d track me down and you did.’ If Star Trek was as self aware as, say Buffy, Sisko would have said ‘I do know that Eddington, I was there!’ as a wink to the audience.

Moment to Watch Out For: It might be a little irritating to some that the slaughter of the Maquis happened off screen but this episode goes a long way to redressing the balance and discussing the horror through the terrorist organisations’ strongest opposing attitudes. Scenes of the corpses littering the Maquis base and the Jem H’adar patrolling there are more than enough to suggest the revulsion of what has occurred – you can imagine the legions of Dominion foot soldiers beaming in and massacred thousands of innocent lives. Its not your usual Trek conclusion to a running storyline and its all the more powerful for it.

Orchestra: Fantastic music as Sisko heads into the Jeffries Tubes to aid Eddington in their escape from the Jem H’adar. Is it me or has the music on this show improved tenfold this year?

Result: I’ve been trying to put my finger on what season five has that previous seasons of DS9 lacked and I think I’ve finally figured it out – momentum. There is a genuine feeling of this series confidently coming of age and pushing the Star Trek universe into complex and exciting directions with a real force of dramatic momentum. Its something that TNG avoided at all costs and its something that Voyager had the potential to be superb at but chickened out at every single opportunity. Enterprise had a go but it was more like poking it with a stick gently rather than embracing it. It’s a risky business which is what makes it so exciting but it feels like the show has spent its four years incubating something with depth and interest before finally letting it explode with development and significance. Blaze of Glory is another brilliant example of this (like Apocalypse Rising, The Rapture, For the Uniform, In Purgatory’s Shadow & By Inferno’s Light and especially A Call to Arms coming up) in that it brings the four year Maquis story to a conclusion (and one which has spilled into two other Trek shows) with a sense of epic tragedy and costing millions of lives. It does this by tying it into the awesome Dominion thread having the Cardassians newfound allies all but massacring the lot of them and the blistering character arc of Sisko and Eddington that so impressed earlier in the season. It’s a dark, complex, exciting tale with plenty of tough dialogue and talk of a terrible war approaching and it ends with the death of a character we’ve come to find great depth in. Avery Brooks and Kenneth Marshall once again spark off each other brilliantly and there’s more delicious visuals from the ever reliable Kim Friedman. With tales like this under its belt its come as no surprise to me that DS9 is the one Trek show that has left behind a legacy of fascinating storytelling and risk taking and it brings to an end a storyline that has provided much drama over the years in time for an even more exciting arc plot to take its place. I love it: 9/10

Empok Nor written by Hans Beimler and directed by Mike Vejar

What’s it about: Garak turns loopy and holds Nog hostage…

Everyday Engineer: The episode seems to want to push the idea of O’Brien being a killer during the Setlik massacre which is rarely mentioned these days so it seems to have come out of nowhere. By having four three young people die under his command it pushes the ‘torture O’Brien’ effect too far. The episode wants to suggest that this is a battle of wills between O’Brien and Garak but they have never shown any animosity towards each other before (Kira and Garak would have been a different matter) and because neither them do anything ingenious (its just a fist fight) and so the episode fails to say anything about either character beyond the fact that they are both men.

Plain and Simple: Like Things Past this is a very odd use of Garak. Most episode where he features heavily glimpse into his fascinating past and are built up around him so that no other character could have replaced him in that role. Both of these episodes are standard Trek adventures that could have featured anybody other than Garak – Kira used to be a killer, Worf is pretty psychotic at the best of times and Sisko is bloody terrifying when he gets in a strop! Any one of them might have been as effective. Compare this with In the Pale Moonlight next year and you see what I mean – nobody but Garak could have manipulated Sisko in such a way. Still for the first. It’s also a bit obvious that Garak is one who is signalled out to go gaga when perhaps one of the red shirts might have been a more intriguing alternative and we had seen our normal Garak’s natural survival instincts come into play. His schizophrenic behaviour signposts his transformation into the villain and it would take someone pretty incompetant to not make the (very small) leap that since he is a Cardassian he might be affected in the same way. It’s a script that wants to push Andrew Robinson into the role of a Jack Torrance type role (‘Heeeeere’s Garak!’) but the appeal of Garak has always been his sinister campness and ingenuity of turning him into a ranting villain is so over the top he becomes a comic nasty and a bit silly. He’s basically the ultra arch mirror universe Garak set in a world of savage deaths and violence and the two don’t juxtapose well. It comes as no surprise that in both cases (the mirror universe and this episode) are amongst Andrew Robinson’s least favourites.

Starfleet Ferengi: We’ve had episodes now where Kira, Martok and O’Brien all give shining reports about Nog’s hard work…he really isn’t the same Ferengi we used to know, is he? I just love it when he turns up in an episode because Aron Eisenberg is so good at brining this character to life so amiably. I don’t think there is a single appear where Nog appears where I don’t grin along with him at some point and the way he leaps about with his massive rifle like a mini-Rambo here made me howl with laughter.

What’s Morn up to: Propping up the bar as usual.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Its just that lately everyone seems to trust me. Its quite unnerving. Next thing you know people are going to start inviting me to their homes for dinner!’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘It looks like I’ve capture your piece, Chief! If you want it back you’ll have to take it from me!’ and ‘You have no idea how much I’d love to pull this trigger but I need you alive!’ and ‘Put it down! Or say goodbye to the Ferengi!’ and ‘I’m tempted to end this right now but that would be depriving me of too much enjoyment!’ and other such similarly florid Garak the killer dialogue.

The Good: The gas leak that chokes Nog after he butt licks O’Brien and says he has done an amazing job on repairing it is very funny. And it does give us a good enough reason to visit Empok Nor. The sheet bald faced cheek of setting this story on an exact replica of DS9 has to be singled out for praise and logically it does make sense that they built more than one ore processing facility (did Starfleet only build one Starbase?). Take out the hum, turn down the lights and put Mike Vejar in charge of the episode and suddenly you never even think that Empok Nor is reusing the same old sets we see every week. I love the idea of DS9 dabbling in the TOS/TNG love of having redcoats accompany O’Brien on this mission for the prime reason of being killed horribly – it’s a wonderful horror film convention to whack off the people who are the stars of the feature. What Empok Nor does really well where episodes such as Learning Curve and Good Sheppard failed is to give these four characters distinct personalities in such an economic space of time. In all the good horrors you have to care about the victims to make you really scared and these four (the nervous Bolian, the geeky war insignia collector, the butch female and the arrogant man) all come to life with ease. It feels as though we are losing people and not faceless targets. Watch how the camera edgily turns a corner as Garak makes his way through the airlock to deactivate the booby trapped systems – Vejar knows how to make this entrance to Empok Nor as edgy as possibly. Then as the lights come on the camera glides menacingly along the stasis tube containing one of the vicious Cardassian assassins. I love the feeling of claustrophobia once the runabout is destroyed and they are trapped on the station at the mercy of the assassins. The very sweet Boq’ta having his neck snapped so audibly is exactly the sort of unpleasantness that a good horror should promote. Hurrah for Vejar who doesn’t let us down even when the episode has gone to the dogs and his gripping handheld camerawork as O’Brien approaches Garak on the Promenade is gorgeous.

The Bad: Garak accidentally touched the biogenic compound that turns him psychotic? That’s a pretty lame reason for his transformation and it seems to suggest that he isn’t a natural predator. Oddly for an episode that seems to want to torture O’Brien (because they are always so good) it pushes the point so far and so loses a lot of its intent. Amaro’s death is the only one that doesn’t work because it is packaged as a surprise but it is signposted from the beginning of the scene where Garak observes their attack. The corpses hanging from the ceiling isn’t frightening, its absolutely hilarious! 'See you around' is how they end the episode with no discussion of their out of character behaviour because they seem to want to forget as much as we do!

Moment to Watch Out For: My favourite moment comes about halfway through the episode where Empok Nor completely forgets that it is Star Trek and becomes Scream, The Federation Generation for a second. Pechetti and Stolzoff are murdered in a sequence that is packed with horror clichés (the door opening on their own, the anticipation of who could be coming out behind it, the death of the character you don’t expect giving you a false sense of security before killing the one that you did expect) and there is one moment that literally made me jump out of my seat and laugh at my own nervousness (the Cardassian suddenly breaking through the glass and savaging Pechetti). Its gloriously well directed by Mike Vejar – no wonder he is so actively sought out in the last two seasons.

Orchestra: Nope, its not my imagination! The music is definitely miles better this year as exemplified by this electrifying score. It knows when to shut up and allow the atmosphere to take over (Pachetti’s death) and there are moments (O’Brien heading down the Promenade to face Garak where it is extremely effective.

Foreboding: There’s a wonderful mention of this episode in Rocks & Shoals next year.

Result: As a man who happily embraces the horror genre at every opportunity Empok Nor is a visual feast and contains exactly the sort of atmosphere, shocks and sense of anticipation that I expect from all good slasher flicks. Mike Vejar manages with a minimal redress of the main sets to convince you that we have visited a completely different location and there were a few moments where I literally jumped out of my seat. All good. Unfortunately the last two acts devolve into something of a camp farce as Garak comes under the spell of the drug, kidnaps Nog and hunts down O’Brien. Its all a bit much and (unthinkably) Andrew Robinson seems at a bit of a loss as to how to play Garak without any of the usual subtleties and wit. Strangely for DS9 there is no b story for an episode with a plot this flimsy so there is no respite either. Hans Beimler has written the antithesis of The Rapture earlier in the season, trading subtlety and sensitivity for spectacle and shocks. It’s a grim piece that I will happily rewatch simply because the atmosphere of the first half an hour is so menacing its tangible but its also a rare example of a Trek episode that shows massive potential for much of its running time but completely dive-bombs before the credits. Empok Nor is an oddity for sure…I prefer the comic excesses of The Magnificent Ferengi and the gloriously mad religious antics of Covenant (also set here) but this definitely has its share of hair raising moments: 6/10

In the Cards written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Michael Dorn

What’s it about: A baseball card and making all of the crew happy on the eve of war. Awww…

Single Father: What is the worse news you can possibly receive if the Quadrant is on the brink of war? Kai Winn is visiting the station! Bad news for Sisko, great news for us! Sisko tries to condemn the Dominion for driving a wedge between the Federation and Bajor but Winn reminds him that it was he that achieved that during the events of Rapture. She asks hard questions of the man that she knows that he cannot answer satisfactorily – would the Starfleet devote its entire fleet to protecting Bajor even at the cost of Federation worlds? Clearly the Dominion is offering a better kind of protection that Starfleet ever could and Sisko is to blame for that.

Mr Wolf: Worf staring at the wall in complete borderm rather than socialise with his truly depressing friends is hilarious.

Everyday Engineer: O’Brien gets to shoot those rapids thanks Jake and Nog’s whirlwind tour of the station!

GE Doctor: Bashir can’t be dragged away from his research but the big softie wants his teddy bear back from Leeta. Cue the wonderfully seductive scene of Nog blowing in the sexy Dabo girls ear in order to extraction the bear from her arms whilst she sleeps. 

Young Sisko & Starfleet Ferengi: I never thought we would see the day that Jake and Nog who were the masters of the adorable subplots in the shows first couple of years who be promoted to taking charge of a whole episode of their own in a similar, gigglesome style. Cirroc Lofton has been underused this year (aside from his standout turn in Nor the Battle) and this is a fabulous showcase for his and Aron Eisenberg’s addictive chemistry. If I were going to hang around on the station its these two that I would want to spend my time with. Watch as Jake leads Nog around on leash throughout this episode, emotionally blackmailing him into getting their hands on a gift for the man who made it possible for him to enter Starfleet Academy. When they lose out in the auction Nog actually suggests they try and cheer Sisko up with a new pair of shoes! What a douche! When did Jake become the crazy one coming up with the hair brained schemes and Nog the straight man? They are much funnier this way around. Nog is smart enough to realise that if they give people what they want they will be more inclined to help them get the supplies they need and so this becomes a lovely fairytale of the boys making everybody’s wishes come true to obtain the baseball card. The jokes that Jake injects into Kira’s speech are agonising but not as bad as that deafening Klingon opera! I hope Sisko appreciates everything they are going through for him! Thanks to Jake’s insane theorising they wind up accusing the Kai of kidnapping and murder! You’ll never hear a more ludicrous plot explanation outside of a Brannon Braga script than Jake’s flight of fantasy (tossing in all of Braga’s favourites…time travel, paradoxes, etc). Even Nog is astonished when Weyoun says ‘I believe you.’

Spiritual Leader: I love Winn! I have never seen a character can make a smile seem so sincere whilst at the same time insulting the hell out you. Within seconds of appearing she dismisses Kira as though she is a complete irrelevance.

Wily Weyoun: I also love Weyoun! He like Winn has a way of taking control of a situation and he manipulates everything that Sisko says into a compliment on his behalf! He can’t help but get involved with the comic madness going on in this episode and its amazing how this rakishly idiosyncratic character can step convincingly into drama and comedy.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Here, find something you like and make a bid with all that latinum you have stashed under your bed’ ‘Shh!’ ‘Oh Nog, you don’t really keep it under your bed?’
Sisko: ‘I’m concerned. The Dominion is notorious for its political intruige’ Winn: ‘I have some experience in that area as well.’
‘Its Kismet’ ‘Kiss you?’
‘Lions, Geiger’s, Bears…’ ‘Oh my!’
‘Even in the darkest moments you can always find something that’ll make you smile.’

Genres: Every now and then I wind up in an argument with a Babylon 5 fan (who are a small but extremely vocal group) and find myself having defend DS9 which they naturally consider an inferior show  (which is a perfectly fine opinion – different strokes and all that but I disagree strongly). One of the reasons I pull out of my hat frequently is the way this show hops from one genre to another with absolute confidence whilst still remaining exactly the same show whereas Babylon 5 has a singular tone that if you can’t buy into it you are completely at sea. I might also mention the better performances, production values, quirkier characters and superior dialogue but that would be churlish to mention when that is not the point I am trying to make. Season five has been a masterful example of what I am talking about – there has been comedy that is both domestic (Looking For Par’Mach), nostalgic (Trials & Tribble-ations), cuddlesome (In the Cards) and even tragic (Ferengi Love Songs). There has been arc dramas that have driven the story on in exciting ways (Rapture, In Purgatory’s Shadow, Call to Arms). Out and out horrors (The Darkness and the Light, Empok Nor). Character drama that has been quirky (The Ascent), adorable (The Begotten), vicious (For the Uniform), revolutionary (Dr Bashir, I Presume) and heartbreaking (Ties of Blood and Water). Action tales (Apocalypse Rising, The Ship, By Inferno’s Light). There’s even been room for some old Trek clichés – possession (The Assignment), Klingon drama (Soldiers of the Empire) and a temporal twister (Children of Time) all pulled with fresh style. All of these episodes are so different and yet (for the most part) have a uniform confidence and style that makes them very much part of the same show. Its when I started watching In the Cards which is so different in tone to Empok Nor and yet just as focussed in its genre that this really drove the point home for me. The best Babylon 5 can manage in its uniformly dramatically focussed season three is dreadful tales such as Exogenesis and Grey 17 is Missing proving that when they try and break away from the formula it just doesn’t work. DS9 has verisimilitude and a malleable format that allows it to play about with many different genres – it might not be juggling Empires every single week (although it does a fair bit of that as well) but it does have the bravery and the confidence to be a television drama with a truly multifaceted personality.

The Good: Whilst this is a comedy at heart the looming threat of the war with the Dominion pervades this episode like a black cloud and it all begins in the pre credits sequence when out usually jubilant crew sit around in Sisko’s pad depressed as hell at the latest political developments. Compare and contrast to a similar scene at the beginning of Equilibrium and you can see how bad things have gotten. Isn’t it great to see the show quietly considering Bajor’s fate in the upcoming war before it breaks out? Winn is seriously considering joining with them to prevent their people having to go through another costly conflict but it would mean big changes. Signing up with the Dominion would mean the Federation would have to abandon the station and that would never happen surely? Giving this consideration now means that the quick decision to form the alliance in Call to Arms has a lot more veracity. We have seen an auction in Quark’s before (in the episode Q-Less in season one) so why does this feel so fresh? The whole concept of cellular borderm (the idea that if you keep your cells entertained you need never die) is easily the most ridiculous idea that has ever been touted by Star Trek (with the Janeway and Paris lizards in Threshold a close second) and yet oddly also one of the most imaginative and the difference is this is played absolutely for laughs which is another reason why DS9 craps all over Voyager. Nog and Jake listen to Dr Geiger’s insane theories (Lofton’s arched eyebrow made me crack up!) and in a quiet aside decide that he is completely crazy. This is very amusing stuff. The final ‘Captains Log’ montage is one of the smiliest things that DS9 has ever delivered and if you depart this episode with anything but a grin you have no soul. So there.

Moment to Watch Out For: Sticking Winn and Weyoun in a scene together is my idea of pure bliss. The two of them standing there grinning at each whilst quietly loathing each other is so funny and their parting exchange made me crack up. ‘I feel that we are very much alike…’ ‘No. We are nothing alike. Nothing at all.’

Result: In the Cards is a marvellously curious beast that seems to have the split reputation of being either a quirky classic or an amiable oddity and I would say it embraces the latter whilst many scenes touch upon the former. It’s a wonderfully entertaining pause before the show steps up another gear and showcases the Jake/Nog relationship (and certainly Lofton and Eisenberg’s chemistry) at its finest. Michael Dorn is another actor to take a chance in the directors chair and he touches upon a sunny atmosphere whilst exploring the episodes daft characters and scenarios. I love the way it subverts our expectations by making the Jake & Nog quest story the main plot and tucking away the possibility of Bajor joining the Dominion as a subplot. A few years ago it would have been the other way around without doubt but it says something about the confidence of this show that they want to make you smile in the face of Dominion adversity before a war erupts. Oh and its very funny too and rooted in the characters it has an charming honesty about it. The best joke being that whilst we are watching Sisko dealing with all the usual dramatic stuff this is exactly the sort nonsense that goes on in the bowels of the station! Hugely enjoyable and utterly irreverent, this wrong foots the viewer perfectly by making them smile in time for the fireworks of the finale: 8/10

Call to Arms written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: The Dominion attacks!

Single Father: The really have built Sisko up as something special in the last two seasons and Jake spells that out in no uncertain terms when he cries ‘You’re news!’ Sisko takes the bold step of endorsing the non aggression pact between Bajor and the Dominion because he cannot tell which way this fight is going to go and wants to protect the planet he has become so attached to no matter what. As an effective military leader you have to know when you are beaten and as soon as the minefield is activated Sisko orders a tactical withdrawal. Its an astonishing moment because despite all the talk of Romulus and Bajor signing non aggression pacts with the Dominion this is Sisko’s home that is being torn away from him. Now its personal. His speech in front of the Bajoran shrine to the station populace admitting that when he first arrived he wanted to be anywhere else but here but over time it has become his home and they have become his family is deeply moving. That’s the sort of occasion you stress the bond of a family, when the chips are down. Not in every other episode like Voyager (where it is repeated so much it loses any meaning).

Tasty Terrorist: Fallout from Children of Time as Kira and Odo find it hard to even acknowledge other since she discovered that they have feelings for each other. Of all the people to reveal this to though Dax would not be my first choice as it will likely be spilled all over the station before too long! Proving that they are adults and their friendship means something they decide to put their feelings aside until the current conflict is over. It looks like this is a particular relief for Kira and it would lead to a stunning examination of their relationship during the six part arc that kicks off season six. I can’t wait. Brilliantly Kira says her official Bajoran twaddle about Sisko’s refusal to hand over the station before standing by his side ready to fight with him. What a woman.

Everyday Engineer: Wisely O’Brien has packed Keiko, Molly and the baby off to Earth for a while especially considering where this episode ends up.

Nine Lives: I can’t believe they managed to slip in Dax asking Worf to marry her in all this chaos. Its all the more effective for it because it means Worf truly has something to live for as the fighting continues and we have wedding to prepare for when and if the station is retaken.

Community Leader: Quark is deeply critical of his brother as ever and thinks that any marriage where the female is allowed an opinion (and clothes!) is doomed to failiure!

Young Sisko: Jake has taken a job with the Starfleet news service so he can see his work in print but has the unfortunate effect of having to leak information his father has told him.

Secret Genius & Dabo Girl: Rom and Leeta are getting married in a few days time and they still haven’t decided on a wedding dress! Its nice to know that in the preparation for an intergalactic war there is still time for such domestic minutiae. Rom asking Sisko to marry him makes me chuckle every time. The wedding ceremony is understated and rather beautiful (I found Nog’s declaration ‘Moogie…’ to be very touching) and it definitely helps that Quark is there to take the piss out of it all. He makes everything that bit more real (‘I give it two months!’). Rom mis-quoting Casablanca should be horrendous but somehow it really breaks my heart…it must be the anticipation elsewhere that makes me cling onto the warmer moments. The scene where Rom admits that he is remaining on the station because he wants to look out for his brother because he loves him and Quark kisses him on the head (‘you’re still an idiot’) is one of their best ever scenes together and truly the sort of tearjerking moment that comes from years of developing these characters to this point. Absolutely beautiful.

Wily Weyoun: How good is Jeffrey Combs in the scene where he tries to convince Sisko to take down the minefield? First Weyoun tries to threaten him, then he tries diplomacy and finally he attempts a tragic tale of Cardassian suffering in the wake of the Klingon invasion. It takes an actor as strong as Combs to slide from one manipulation technique to another so effortlessly. His striking blue eyes shine out from the screen as he dishes out one lie after another.

Slimy Snake: Whilst there was much excitement to be had watching Sisko and Gowron growl at each other over the view screens in Way of the Warrior it is so much more rewarding with Sisko and Dukat because theirs is a long standing, much explored relationship that has recently made them adversaries. Dukat is drunk of the power and confidence the Dominion fleet gives him and cannot wait to reach Deep Space Nine and reclaim the prize that was stolen from him at the end of the Occupation. It all feels very personal and vicious and that makes it even more exhilarating. ‘I’ve been waiting for this moment for five years!’ ‘First we retake Deep Space Nine and then…onto Bajor!’ I think I might piss my pants with excitement!

Plain and Simple: Garak’s tale to Ziyal about a brilliant man who set up shop in a stronghold of his peoples most hated enemies reminds me of what a brilliant character spec he has. Andrew Robinson can sell these speeches so effectively. Garak remembers the chance he had to shoot Dukat in the back (‘it’s the safest way’) in Way of the Warrior and now everybody on the station is going to live to regret his decision. His admission that he has nowhere else to go with Dukat taking up residence on the station is very humbling but Sisko can knows a useful ally when he sees one.

Gentle Giant: Who didn’t cheer when Martok turned up to protect the Defiant and blew the crap out the Jem H’adar ship that was dogging their every step?

What’s Morn up to: Morn is there as Sisko gives his speech but soon scarpers as the Dominion approaches to take over!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I wish they’d just attack and get it over with’ ‘I have a feeling you’re going to get your wish…’
‘One thing is certain we’re losing the peace which means a wear could be our only hope.’
‘You have two choices. Either you remove the mines or we will take this station from you and remove them ourselves.’
‘I promise I will not rest until I stand with you again here in this place where I belong.’
‘A message from Sisko. He’s letting me know - he’ll be back…

The Good: Isn’t it rather wonderful that one of the most powerful Trek episodes of all time opens with a scene discussing a wedding dress that is little more than two handkerchief and a loin cloth. A small moment but it expresses just how atmospheric Allan Kroeker’s direction is – Quark on the stairs with the light shining from them. It could be such a boring shot but he makes it look great. What a daunting image all those Jem H’adar warships spilling out of the wormhole are. The tides are turning in the Alpha Quadrant and there is no more time to fight against them. Even the Romulans have gotten into bed with the Dominion because they can see exactly where this is heading – all out bloody, costly war! Mining the entrance to the wormhole is an inspired idea to prevent the Dominion sending any more reinforcements to Cardassia – it might be the spark that ignites the conflict but at least it gives them a better chance of winning. And I love that it is a comic character like Rom who thinks up the idea of self replicating mines. It just goes to show that all that development for the character this year has lead to something truly vital. The news that Starfleet wont be sending any reinforcements to protect the station adds to the palpable sense of tension with only the Defiant and the runabouts (pah!) to protect them it looks like it is going to be a short fight. After Weyoun’s visit Sisko realises that the Dominion are going to attack straight away and it becomes a race against time to get the minefield completed before they arrive or they may lose the station for nothing. With such a dramatic sweep of events has Star Trek ever been this exciting? Bajor in a non aggression pact with the Dominion – what is going on? How can anything ever be the same again? There’s a gorgeous crane shot that reaches from the escaping citizens on the lower level to an impotent Odo sitting on the upper level. Come the scene where Worf activates the weapons array I was literally salivating for the fight to begin! Explosions blossom and bloom against the stations shields as the Dominion fires their first shots prompting Sisko to let rip a volley of torpedoes and phaser bolts that tear through their ships. Its an effects extravaganza and with the bombastic music, sudden cuts to Ops and Dukat’s ship and dynamic pace - one of the most effective action set pieces Trek will ever offer. Before the gob smacking defeat of losing the station we get to punch the air with glee as the minefield is activated and they wink out of existence one by one. Sisko’s parting gift to the Dukat and Weyoun is to completely disable the station in his wake (‘if Dukat wants the station back…he can have it!’) – how have we come to this? Where we are cheering at the destruction of the station! Everything has turned on its head!  That magnificent shot of the Jem H’adar pouring onto the station from the airlock down the Promenade encapsulates everything this is great about this episode. They even set up the potential conclusion in the next episode by having Weyoun admit that their position on the station is vulnerable and cutting to a vast Federation fleet. I would have been so easy to have wrapped all this up in a big battle in the opener to season six. But we’ll leave the easy resolutions to Voyager because I’m beyond excited at the six episode arc that awaits at the beginning of next year.

The Bad: Behave yourself!

Moment to Watch Out For: The station ripped from his hands, Sisko limps away in the Defiant to join an impressive looking Federation war fleet to turn around a kick their butts. Dukat discovers Sisko’s baseball and recognises it as a sign that he will be back. This is the epitome of a grand cliffhanger and I remember when I first watched this I was literally screaming at the television when the dramatic shot of the Federation fleet hurtling towards the screen faded into the credits! Erm, do I have to watch the end of Voyager season five? 

Orchestra: What was I saying about the music this year? Wowza! The score for Call to Arms is extraordinary with early grumblings of war accompanied by a slow build before exploding with excitement as the fighting breaks out. I can literally whistle the music to some of these scenes during the battle it is that memorable (or maybe I have just watched this episode too many times…).

Foreboding: There are so many threads to be picked up after this episode I don’t know where to begin. Its ending one chapter but beginning so many others. Kira and Dukat living on the station together. Jake choosing to stay behind. Rom infiltrating as a Starfleet spy. Sisko vowing his revenge. Where’s the season six box set?

Result: Call to Arms brings a grand season of Star Trek to a close on a riveting, climactic note and remains in itself one of my favourite episodes of the franchise. There is a dramatic impetus to this piece that has the same disquieting effect as By Inferno’s Light that everything is shifting for the worse and there is no way to fight it. The writers do a great job showing the preparations for a battle but at the same time don’t forget their best weapon, the characters, and everybody gets a moment to shine from the regulars to the recurring guest cast. When the fight comes it doesn’t disappoint and technically it is a masterpiece of direction and effects as we fly between one side and the other and watch each of their reactions to the fireworks. DS9 has been promising a war for years now and this is the exquisite first step to rewarding the viewers patience. Avery Brooks holds this episode together with a masterful performance and I have never felt that his protection of his crew and Bajor has been stronger. The dialogue is gorgeous, the pace relentless and the atmosphere disquieting and it all ends on a powerhouse cliffhanger that threatens to topple The Best of Both Worlds for sheer effect. I must have seen this episode ten times already but I still had that giddy feeling in my stomach watching it again. And do you know what makes this even more special? They don’t throw the reset button at the beginning of the next episode! This threat is real and its here to stay! Absolute perfection: 10/10


Virginia said...
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Joe Y said...

I'm glad that we both view "Children of Time" as a classic. It feels like no one else agrees.