Sunday, 7 October 2012

Deep Space Nine Season Seven

Image in the Sand written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Les Landau

What’s it about: Sisko is on Earth putting his life back together whilst an alliance starts to crumble on the station…

The Siskos: Sisko has been lost in his thoughts ever since he returned to Earth and considering he is working through the loss of his friend, the wormhole and his own self respect its any wonder he can sit at a piano for an entire day musing about his life. Jake is worried about him but Joseph knows well enough to leave him alone when he is thinking as a good father would. When Joseph is confronted about the woman in his sons dream he is clearly shocked and tries to brush the whole thing under the carpet but its clear that Ben isn’t going to let this one pass. To learn that Sisko’s mother was a Prophet is a rewarding twist especially given the development of his character. Looking back over six series of character evolution this is the one bombshell that makes perfect sense. It’s so well timed and thought through it is enough to make you want to go back and watch the entire show again (or at least the relevant episodes – Emissary, Destiny, Accession, Rapture, The Sacrifice of Angels, The Reckoning, Tears of the Prophets…) with this mind. Its one of the few times I have seen a show pull a rabbit out of its hat this late in the day and it really works rather than feeling contrived (introducing Dawn in Buffy is another). This is the culmination of seven years worth of discovery for this character and he finally comes to realise how linked his life has been with the Prophets from the very beginning. Bravo for taking such a huge risk with the central character and it paying off so spectacularly as the season progresses (as we get to meet Sarah and Sisko finally fulfils the role that he was created for). Such is the strength of their relationship that Ben can pointedly tell his father that he made a mistake not telling him the truth about his mother and then make a joke with him a few moments later. Given all the horrors he has experienced of late this is just another revelation but for once it is a positive one and Sisko seems to take strength from that. Jadzia always used to be there to help him through difficult times and he really misses her.

Tasty Terrorist: It’s been two months since Kira was promoted to Colonel and it’s a joy for a character that has shown so much growth to be rewarded in this way. Sitting in the Captain’s chair and having that kind of responsibility focuses you and Kira has adjusted really well. Its just as well considering how the series ends for her.

Unknown Sample: That was some kiss in front of Quarks with Kira and it has changed Odo’s life and made him into something of an optimist. It’s a look that really suits him.

Mr Wolf: So much to examine in the wake of Dax’s death with Worf that it simply couldn’t be contained to one episode as TNG would have done (ala Picard getting over his treatment by the Borg in Family). What’s especially good about the Worf material is that they could have used this as an example to take him back down the grumpy path that plagued him in season four but instead they choose to make him more sympathetic than ever. Throughout the last two years of DS9 you will see a more rounded, three dimensional and likable portrayal of Worf than ever before. How can we not feel for this guy given he was married to Dax for less than a year before losing her? It’s a great way to re-introduce Vic Fontaine too as Worf hides away inside this fantasy, a place that he and Jadzia came to listen to some of her favourite songs. Plus considering the love Fontaine gets in later episodes of this season it is great for Worf to tell the guy he is just a hologram and has to do as he is told. As far as Worf is concerned Dax never made it into Stovo’kor (Klingon heaven) because despite joining the house of Martok she never died in glorious battle.

Everyday Engineer: Just what you need when you are feeling depressed – a visit from O’Brien with a bottle of grog! The only person who regrets it is O’Brien who suffers the hangover from hell the next day and has to be plied with coffee by Quark to keep him from falling over. Still what are friends for?

GE Doctor: Bashir is going along on the insane mission to get Jadzia into Stovo’kor because he knows that is exactly what she would have wanted. He’s risking his life for a dubious cause which means that O’Brien is going to risk his life for a friend who is risking his life for a very dubious cause!

Devious Dame: Every year DS9 seems to enjoy bringing another recurring character into the fold (season five saw Martok become a permanent fixture, season six introduced Jack & his crazies and Sloane) and given the developments in In the Pale Moonlight we are now introduced to a Romulan Commander who is taking up residence on the station. Cretak is another fine addition to the mix, a curiously charming Romulan who can switch of her good humour when as soon as she is threatened and excellently brought to life by Megan Cole. 

Unwilling Leader: It’s always nice to see Damar and Weyoun show up and their slightly perfunctory scenes in this episode serve two roles. They keep us apprised of the Dominion’s status with regards to the war but more importantly remind us of the animosity between the two characters that would really come to fruition as the season progresses.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Tell me Damar when you’re alone do you even bother with the glass or do you drink that swill directly from the bottle?’
‘Either you remove those weapons or we will.
‘Romulans! They’re so predictably treacherous!’

The Good: The cult of the Pah Wraiths used to be a joke and now red armbands are turning up on the arms of Bajorans everywhere. With the wormhole gone the Bajoran people are feeling abandoned and turning their enemies for comfort. The pre titles sequence is one of the longest ever (an impressive seven and a half minutes) with a dramatic recap of the shocking developments in Tears of the Prophets and a casual glimpse at where everybody is at two months since we last saw them. I love Joseph’s restaurant as a location on Earth. It’s so much more interesting visually and atmospheric than the biegeness of Starfleet HQ (which is often where we visit when the show returns to Earth) and it is packed full of evocative detail (the smoky side street, the trees swaying in the courtyard, the insects purr…). It also gives Avery Brooks, Cirroc Lofton and Brock Peters the chance to play off each other which work so well in Paradise Lost, Far Beyond the Stars and now here as well. They don’t even have to try to convince as a family unit, you just believe that this is three generations of the same family drinking in each other’s company. The image in the sand of the title is a striking visual and would only disappoint if they had revealed that it was some dreadful metaphor or another but instead the answers that are revealed about Sisko’s life are genuinely revolutionary for the character. Even Admiral Ross is better characterised this year, putting Kira well and truly in her place by saying the decision about a Romulan presence on the station has already been made and his visit to inform her is a simple courtesy rather than a chance to debate the possibilities. Victories are being turned into defeats for the Alliance – there was a real moment of triumphant for the Federation fronted army when they retook the Chin’toka system in Tears of the Prophets but it transpires this wasn’t the first step towards liberating the Alpha Quadrant as they thought and they have been bottled up in that system ever since. Whether you like it or not Vic Fontaine’s songs are now a staple ingredient of this show…I love the fact that there is always a good reason for song (here it is to highlight Worf’s pain at losing Jadzia, in The Siege of AR-558 it is to relax the troops before battle, in It’s Only a Paper Moon it is to highlight Nog’s loss of reality, in Badda Bing Badda Bang it is to tell us that ‘the best is yet to come…’ and in What You Leave Behind it is a final goodbye to the crew) plus I also love James Darren’s voice and the style of music so you’ll get no complaints from me. Plus Worf smashing up the joint is bloody funny. When we cut back to the bar in pieces you can only imagine how much fun the set designers must have had demolishing that place! The steps that Sisko follows to find the path of the Orb are expertly woven into the script; discovering the truth about Sarah, the locket, the cult trying to stop him, the image of Tyree in the vision…he’s onto something big and now he has a new mission to obsess over. 7000 plasma torpedoes secreted away on a Bajoran moon posing as a hospital…Kira has plenty to say about that!

The Bad: There’s one moment of overdone melodrama when Sisko literally tries to shake the truth out of his father!

Moment to Watch Out For: The scene where Sisko gets stabbed by a member of the cult of the Pah Wraiths. It’s really quite graphic and adult with a shocking reaction from Jake and confirms that Sisko is on precisely the right track. That and the cliffhanger that still gives me warm, fuzzy feelings so many years on. Nicole de Boer is just the cutest thing on this Earth and the way Sisko tinkles out the DS9 theme on the piano gives me goosebumps.

Fashion Statement: The new look Kira is foxier than a late night stake out in a chicken coop! Her uniform is more spray on than ever (and yet looks more oddly functional than ever too) and I love the way her hair hangs to the side.

Foreboding: The cult of the Pah Wraiths is introduced here and would go on to haunt Kira in the episode Covenant.

Result: When did quiet episodes of Star Trek have this much richness to them? Image in the Sand sees the DS9 crew offering up something surprisingly calm in the wake of such devastating developments at the end of the last season. Sisko is on Earth trying to find himself again and stumbles across a secret his father has been holding onto his whole life, Worf is suffering from depression after the loss of his wife and Kira struggles to hold an alliance together when her own planet may suffer as a result. There is so much happening here but it is all told at an intimate, leisurely pace setting up the trio of narratives so they can explode with drama in the advent of the concluding episode. My favourite scenes are those set at Joseph’s restaurant because they are so damn atmospheric and flaunt some impressive performances and the revelations about Sisko make perfect sense in retrospect and offer some potentially awesome development for the character in the final season. What is great about Image in the Sand is that despite the fact it is dealing with so much that was set up last year this is a surprisingly good jumping on point for the show and considering how serialised DS9 has become that is quite a statement. Rather wonderful and with a lovely final scene that left me desperate to watch the next episode: 8/10

Shadows & Symbols written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: Sisko talks to his mother, Kira fights the Romulans, Worf attacks a shipyard and a new Dax is introduced! Phew!

Single Father: Sisko is a man on a mission and nothing is going to get in his way. He needs answers from the Prophets regarding their abandonment of Bajor and their presence in his life. Re-introducing Benny Russell is a fabulous idea and once again ignites a real spark in Avery Brooks who attacks these scenes with real passion and intensity. Sarah reveals that returning the wormhole to its glory was his destiny but he must still face many tasks. I can’t wait. He asks why it had to be him that the Prophets chose but those answers have to be earned. When he closes the box and ends the conversation with his mother he is smiling, satisfied to have been given the chance to speak with her. Sisko’s return to the station is a real moment of triumph for the character. You feel that enough time has passed to make his homecoming a real event.

Tasty Terrorist: ‘If you do that Colonel you’ll have a fight on your hands. A fight you can’t win…’ Man, I would always pay good money to see Kira take command like this and make a stand. It made sense in Progress and Shakaar and it definitely makes sense here. The Romulans have been stockpiling weapons on a Bajoran moon that was handed to them for a hospital facility and she wants them gone. Kira is a woman of the Quadrant now and she understands that the Romulans are more important to the war effort than the Bajorans are and she also knows that attempting a blockade is a futile exercise given their military might. But do you think in either case that that is going to stop her? I am reminded of that gloriously angry young woman we met in Emissary who went up against a handful Cardassian fighters with nothing but a web of lies and her confidence to threaten them with and what really stands out is that Kira still has that fire in her belly but she is now a completely different character, one that is at peace with herself and her situation. Its magnificent material for the Colonel who proves that she is a worthy successor to the Captain if he ever decided to leave DS9. The look on Kira’s face when the wormhole explodes back into life is worth these seven years of development with this character alone.

Unknown Sample: He was hoping that his relationship with Kira was going to be long and happy but figures that since he is going to have to stand with her in the blockade that he will have to settle for short and exciting. The very natural, intimate chemistry between these two is so gorgeous it almost makes me wish that they had brought the two of them together sooner.

Mr Wolf: Martok talks some sense into Worf who growls and snarls at Jadzia’s friends because he believes none of them are worthy of her…he needs reminding that they are risking their lives for his suicidal mission so he can find peace with the idea of her death. O’Brien is justifiably shocked when Worf apologises for his outburst because that has never happened before! 

Quirky Counsellor: If there was ever going to be a show that I would trust to write out an established and much loved character and replace it with a completely different on in its last year then DS9 is one of the few that I would trust to get away with it. They go the whole hog and have Ezri be completely different from Jadzia in practically every way you can imagine. Where Jadzia was tall and buxom, Ezri is short and elfin. Where Jadzia was confident and classy, Ezri is tentative and awkward. And where Jadzia was funny because she defied all the rules of Star Trek and managed to be a good time girl, Ezri is funny because of the same reason as Reg Barclay – she is always trying so hard to be the best of the best but her weight of personality quirks is working against her. As written Ezri is a perfectly formed character; cute, verbose, dysfunctional and rather marvellous despite herself but it is the injection of warmth and good humour that Nicole de Boer brings to the character that really makes her shine. She couldn’t be any more different from Terry Farrell if she tried and yet there are characters beats of Jadzia in Ezri in evidence and that is all down to de Boer’s well observed performance. She basically rocks and the season spends a great deal of time establishing the character and deal with her place on DS9. Taken as a one season character she flourishes extremely well – far better than Jadzia did in season one and Worf did in season four. As an example of bringing a character to life in 26 episodes she is practically flawless…although (pleasingly) flawless is not a word I like to associate with Ezri. Its too tidy for such a scatty character.

Her nervousness during her opening speech really helps to sell the character, de Boer must have been terrified to be stepping into Farrell’s shoes, Ezri must be nervous to finally meet her old friend of many lifetimes and the audience is nervous to meet the new character this year. We’re all nervous together! What this humbling, charming speech reveals is a warm and funny character that before the pre titles sequences is even over it is impossible to dislike. ‘You’re probably thinking who is this person? How did she get the symbiont? Do I even want another Dax in my life? Does she always talk this much?’ Those are all good questions but I’ll just bask in the fact that I already like you before enjoying the answers. Ezri was on board the Destiny when the symbiont came on board to return to Trill and halfway through the trip the creature suffered a trauma and would be lost if it wasn’t put into a host immediately…that’s a great way of bring the two of them together. Ezri wasn’t ready for such a massive transformation in her life and that gives us plenty of psychology to play with in future episodes. Ezri’s family and friends act as if they don’t even know her anymore and that is fine because with eight lifetimes crammed in her head she doesn’t even know herself anymore. Ever since she was given the symbiont warp speed makes her queasy, something that will plague Ezri for the rest of the season! The trouble is she can still remember the last few seconds of Torias Dax’s life before his shuttle accident.

Community Leader: Quark continues to show new aspects to his character and agreeing to come along on a mission to destroy the Monak shipyards to help Jadzia get into Stovo’kor is very sweet.

Wily Weyoun & Unwilling Leader: Damar is using his position of power to flirt with the ladies and indulge in his taste for alcohol and cannot see how both vices are slowly chipping away at his self respect. These subtle elements are being introduced early in the season but will grow to become very important as the war reaches its zenith later in the year. Weyoun reminds the audience why the shipyard that Worf is intent on destroying is so vital to the Dominion – they need more ships to retake Chin’toka.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘It’ll be just like old times! Except different.’
‘All I’m asking for is two little words…’ ‘Be quiet!’ ‘That’s two words alright. Just not the ones I was hoping for.’
‘Damar you and I have things to discuss. Things that your lady friend doesn’t want to hear’ ‘And why is that?’ ‘Because if she does I’ll be forced to have her executed.’
‘Your concern is touching, Senator but I’m not dead yet.
‘Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more interesting…’

The Good: Its time for Sisko of Arabia and his band of merry men to troop across the desert to their destiny and the ariel shot of Tyree and the harsh scrubland stretching into the distance chalks up another vivid, cinematic location for DS9. Just like the second episode of season five and six Shadows & Symbols is afforded a hot, sunny location to dazzle viewers and provide an epic scope to storytelling. The destruction of the Monak shipyard is certainly a bold plan to provide a fitting illumination into Stovo’kor for Jadzia and what makes me smile is that in the early season this would have been planned but when it came to the crunch we would have seen some cheap graphics on a screen showing the culmination of the plan. Either their has been a massive increase in budget on this show or the advent of CGI has made special effects much easier to pull off but as soon as Worf mentioned the details of this scheme I knew that we were going to be able to see this set piece in all its glory. Just when I thought Shadows & Symbols couldn’t get any better they re-introduce Benny Russell and the visions from Far Beyond the Stars! This is a stroke of genius on Behr and Beimler’s part and it affords them another vivid shift in location putting this on a metaphorically epic scale as well. The image of the padded cell with the words scrawled all over the walls is an enduring one and the set designers have painstakingly brought that set to life to ensure that these scenes really pay off this narrative. The way both Sisko and Benny are on the verge of opening the Orb/finishing the story way the Pah Wraiths intervene with this vision is inspired and I was shouting at the screen for them both to complete their task and to ignore Damar minus makeup! That is one symbolic paintbrush! The creaky Bajoran ships standing proud before the Bajoran moons is another impressively different kind of visual. Another thing I love about the Kira/Cretak scenes is where Ross falls in their conflict. He sides with the Romulans because they are a more vital resource in the war so it would appear that the Federation has literally sold its soul in order to see a positive outcome during this Quadrant wide conflict. Only on DS9 would you see the Federation backing a race as treacherous as the Romulans and I love it all the more for that. The Rotaran decloaking and firing into the heart of a sun, Jem H’adar ships tailing the Klingon ship in the suns corona and the star exploding and breaking up an entire shipyard…how can these scenes be anything but edge of the seat exciting?

Moment to Watch Out For: The way all three narratives are paid off so rewardingly goes to show how much this show has broken away from the others in the franchise. Sisko gets to meet his mother, Kira’s faith is rewarded with the return of the wormhole and Worf succeeds in his mission and says goodbye to Jadzia in true style. Like shooting targets on a range so skilfully the writers knock one great conclusion out after another and what really sells this climax so winningly is that there is a punch the air moment of triumphant in each of them (Benny punching out Wyckoff, Ross taking Kira’s side & the gorgeous destruction of the shipyard).

Result: The zenith of three episodes worth of plot development and character gold, Shadows and Symbols proves that DS9 is prepared to go out in true style in its last year. In any other show the amount of twists, turns, action and character tension would be awarded to a season finale and yet there is only one more season finale left for DS9 so they manage to squeeze about four examples into this season before the end (for the record those episodes are this one, The Siege of AR-558, The Changing Face of Evil and Tacking into the Wind). Its one of Allan Kroeker’s best efforts (and if you know how good he usually is that is quite a statement) because he manages to juggle the different tones of each narrative with effortless skill and the way he coils one plot around the other in the second half of the episode to create momentum and tension is remarkable. Each scene (and narrative) bleeds into the next with a furious pace and energy and I was gasping whilst I was trying to keep up with all the revelations. Ezri Dax makes an instant impression and by the end of the episode it feels as if we have known the character for the entire seven year life of the series! Nicole de Boer was quite a find and makes this clumsy yet confident character extremely likable from the off. There are so many exciting moments all woven into the series’ unique mythology I couldn’t keep track of them all and as with the last two episodes there is still a wealth of potential to follow up on (Sisko’s unique family, Ezri’s integration on the station, Kira’s tension with Cretak).  With Sisko, Worf, Kira and Dax all at their finest, dazzling effects and location work and a satisfying conclusion for each narrative this is DS9 at its breathtaking best: 10/10

Afterimage written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Les Landau

What’s it about: Ezri tries to adjust to life on the station and Garak attempts to leap out of the nearest airlock!

Single Father: Avery Brooks and Nicole de Boer have an instant winning chemistry that is only highlighted by scenes such as Ezri sneaking in the back to his office and talking to him whilst standing on her head. His reaction to learning that he intimidates Worf really made me laugh…he loves it!

Tasty Terrorist: Kira doesn’t patronise Ezri by pretending that it isn’t a lot to get used to having a Dax on the station with a new face and she tries not to think about the Bajoran shrine being the place of Jadzia’s death otherwise she isn’t sure that she could come back again.

Mr Wolf: Ezri can tell that Worf is in pain because she was his wife. How can he honour the woman he loved when she is not really dead? Like O’Brien we don’t have the answers but ignoring her only serves to hurt both of them. Micheal Dorn underplays his apology scene and the result is a very touching moment for both characters.

Everyday Engineer: I enjoyed the replay of the scene where O’Brien turns up at Worf’s with a bottle of blood wine from Image in the Sand. Given how neurotic the Klingon is it makes me wonder if O’Brien doesn’t have an entire crate in his quarters for all of his emotional emergencies! You have to admire him for walking into Worf’s quarters and telling him he is wrong for mistreating Bashir and Ezri because the Klingon has been known to snap people in half for less.

Quirky Counsellor: Amazing what a tiny quirk like holding your hands behind your back can do to remind the audience of Jadzia. All sorts of feelings cross Ezri’s face as she passes the Bajoran shrine, the scene of her death as she chooses whether to go in or not. The director very cleverly chooses to shoot the scene from exactly the same angle as the moment of Jadzia’s demise in Tears of the Prophets highlighting what a powerful moment this is for Ezri. Imagine the overwhelming feelings you would have if you could stand at the place where you can remember your life being crushed out of existence? That would be extremely damaging to anybody’s soul and perhaps there is something to the Trill re-association policy that makes sense. Everybody is really shocked to discover she is a trainee therapist but the truth is before she was joined she was considered to be a very promising young officer – thank goodness the symbiont has put paid to that because the last thing we need is a Starfleet drone on the station! She is thinking of heading back to the Destiny to her old job because that seems a lot easier than trying to settle down in Jadzia’s old residence especially since she has such close friends and a husband on DS9. When Sisko asks her what she could possibly learn in the next couple of years about psychology that she hasn’t already learnt in the last 300 years she answers having the ability to stop herself from randomly bursting into tears all the time (I would love to see that!). Its clear that Ezri isn’t ready to start talking to members of the crew about their problems after she blunders her way through her first session with Garak and makes some rather childish and vague conclusions about his claustrophobia. What’s great about this narrative is that everything the poisonous Cardassian tailor throws at her makes her come back stronger eventually, she questions herself and her ability to help but ultimately we watch Ezri Dax enter this episode a child and depart it a woman. That’s some development for one episode. That’s more development than Harry Kim and Chakotay have in seven seasons. The scene where Ezri finally gets to the nub of the problem with Garak is nicely played by both de Boer and Robinson. She accidentally touches a nerve by giving him the news that thanks to his code breaking the Federation will be able to destroy another Cardassian outpost and when she realises suddenly that this is trigger she pushes the point until he confronts what he has been feeling. Its really makes up for her honkytonk counselling attempt earlier in the episode.

Community Leader: The race is on between Quark and Bashir to see who will be able to bed Ezri first (something else that was set up last season with ‘Here’s to the Losers’ in Tears of the Prophets…these are writers with some foresight!). No matter how much Bashir objects to the idea you can see he is interested in Ezri and Quark lacks the pretence to pretend otherwise.

Plain and Simple: This is the first time we have been able to have a good catch up with Garak since In the Pale Moonlight (he appeared in Tears of the Prophets but it was more of a perfunctory visit rather than anything substantial) and it would appear he is bogged down in Starfleet intelligence reports considering his insight in Cardassian politics and psychology. The scene in Quark’s where everybody crowds around him and he loses it is really well done…I’m not claustrophobic but to have so many people breathing down my neck in a social setting would drive me insane. Of all the people to have as your first counselling assignment Garak would be the last I would choose! The way she bumbles into his shop and starts talking away about her previous hosts gives Garak the chance to inform her that he thinks she needs to see a counsellor. Given the insults he flings at her later that’s him being nice. He thought he was liberating his people but what has been eating at him is that he has been systematically paving their way to annihilation. Unlike those diabolical Troi episodes of TNG that wind up with some dreadful psychobabble explanations this is a very satisfying answer to Garak’s claustrophobia, a revelation that is built into his character and the current war arc that is playing out. The claustrophobia gave him a chance to stop fighting his people and Garak being the man who he is will keep working even though he knows that. What a guy.

What’s Morn up to: Ezri finds herself talking to him because as far as she is concerned she used to fancy the guy but he has absolutely no idea who she is and walks away from her!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘It’s a strange sensation, dying. No matter how many times it happens you never get used to it.’
‘How did you say that your father punished you?’ ‘He’d lock me in a closet’ ‘Why didn’t you say that when I asked if you’d ever been trapped in a confined space?’ ‘I wasn’t trapped. I knew that he’s let me out as soon as I learnt my lesson!’ – Garak has fun in his first counselling session! It’s a shame that Garak never met Troi you know because he would have made mincemeat out of her!
‘You just say the word and I will intimidate him for you…’
‘I want you to take a good look around. You have just agreed to take responsibility of the mental health of everyone in this room. You have your work cut out for you!’

The Good: The direction of the Garak’s first claustrophobic attack is simply done and yet so effective, the persistent, rapidly beating heart, drowned out dialogue, the heavy breathing and the sweat running down his face all combine to make a discomforting moment for the viewer let alone the character. Sisko makes a very good point about the station needing a permanent counsellor in the midst of the war with the Dominion and suddenly The Sound of Her Voice makes even more sense taking place before the season finale last year, exposing the truth of that statement. I chuckled to myself that after her first chat with Garak to cure him of his claustrophobia she has compounded the problem and because they have been talking about it she feels space sick too! I love the fact that the camera is kept low when Ezri bumps into Worf highlighting the dramatic height difference and how intimidating this man can be without actually saying a word. I’m not sure what it says about his character on a psychological level but Garak trying to literally smash his way out of an airlock because he cannot breathe makes for a memorable visual. At first it looked like we were in for an appalling Voyager-esque superimposed location backdrop but its quite subtly done and the emphasis is on the set rather than the effects and Garak pleasingly mentions that it is all fake anyway.

The Bad: It does seem a tad co-incidental that as soon as Ezri mentions she is going to leave the station for good there is a sudden psychological emergency that forces her to stay. Whilst it isn’t completely beyond the realms of believability – Garak’s claustrophobia was previously exposed in By Inferno’s Light – it is an incredible co-incidence that this is the moment it chooses to manifest itself. Proving that she has a little way to go before being a truly effective counsellor Ezri blurts out to Bashir that if Worf hadn’t come along it would have been him. That is astonishingly insensitive and badly timed revelation on her part. The scene where Worf visits Bashir in the Infirmary and tells him to stay away from his ex bird reminded me an awful lot of some godawful daytime soap opera. It’s a conversation that needed to happen unfortunately but it is painfully scripted and performed.

Moment to Watch Out For: ‘Spare me your insipid psychobabble. I’m not some quivering neurotic who feels sorry for himself because his daddy wasn’t nice. You couldn’t begin to understand me. I’m not interested in dissecting my childhood. I only want to save my people from the Dominion. I don’t need someone to walk in here and hold my hand, I want someone to help me get back to work and you my dear are not up to this task. I mean look at you, you’re pathetic. A confused child trying to live up to a legacy left by her predecessors. You’re not worthy of the name Dax. I knew Jadzia. She was vital, alive, she owned herself and you…you don’t even know who you are. How dare you presume to help me. You can’t even help yourself. Now get out of here before I say something unkind.’ Ouch!

Result: Afterimage is about as quiet as a DS9 episode gets but don’t mistake its lack of plot for coyness in the character department because on those terms it is firing on all cylinders. Ezri finding her feet on the station and teaming up with Garak at his nastiest gives us a chance to really get to know one character whilst examining new facets of the other. I can usually judge an episode on the amount it gives me to talk about with regards to the production or the characters and whilst one section of this review is pretty empty the other is top heavy with observations about the episodes deft characterisation. At the midway point of the episode you might start getting a little bit tired of the slack pace and perhaps a third narrative might have been wise to keep each plot thread fresh and moving. However its slack pace is more than made up for by Andy Robinson and Nicole de Boer’s stellar performances and they really shine in the episodes best moments. If your favourite kind of DS9 episode is the action packed juggling Empires sort then this might not appeal but as a seductively calm and insightful instalment with DS9’s unique brand of character and classy dialogue Afterimage is a necessary part of season sevens jigsaw with regards to its two protagonists: 7/10

Take Me Out to the Holosuite written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Chip Chalmers

What’s it about: The DS9 crew take on the Vulcans in a game of baseball!

Single Father: Its nice to see that no matter how sophisticated Sisko’s characterisation is of late he is not above revelling in a childhood rivalry with an arrogant Vulcan. The fact that Sisko can barely bring himself to be pleasant to Solok despite protocol says every you need to know about their relationship before you even hear the backstory. Its great to Sisko admitting that he thinks that his crew is the finest in the Quadrant because it is an opinion that I very much share. Baseball has been so inherent to Sisko’s character since the very first episode of the show (where he used it to explain the idea of linear time to the Prophets) that it seems almost a miracle that this episode hadn’t happened before. You might think that Sisko has lost his mind when he starts going off on one about baseball being about courage, heart and faith rather than knocking a piece of cows hide around a field! To see Sisko at the airlock with a bunch of flowers and seducing Kassidy into joining the game was music to my ears too – they’ve clearly patched things up since The Sound of Her Voice and its great to see Kassidy back so soon. I love the way that Kassidy can coax the Solok backstory out Sisko the same we could charm her into playing the game…these two really are made for each other, aren’t they? Its also winning that their rivalry comes down to little more than playground shoving and interspecies xenophobia with DS9 proving (once again) that things haven’t moved on that much since our time. Even taking into account that Sisko must be telling their story with some bias to make himself sound like a victim Solok still sounds like a total bastard. He loses his cool in the most explosive way possible on the pitch but at least he is man enough to Rom have his fun and to apologise afterwards.

Unknown Sample: Sisko wants somebody who is completely impartial to play the role of Umpire and he charms Odo into accepting the role. It’s a decision he may learn to regret… After his generally abusive behaviour to everybody during the game Odo is clearly loving the chance to throw Sisko out and then practically swaggers away from him (doing everything but dusting his hands).

Mr Wolf: Worf once again proves himself to be a far more malleable character than you would ever think he could be and he enjoys some of the funniest moments in the episode. He declares ‘we will destroy them!’ before even finding what exactly Sisko has promised his crew could defeat the Vulcan crew in. 

Quirky Counsellor: This episode is well time for Ezri because it is great to see her having fun with her new friends now she has decided to stay on the station.

Family Rom: Ezri is right, it really is sweet to see Rom, Nog, Quark and Leeta all coming together to have fun and to help Sisko wipe the smile of Solok’s face. Its easy to forget that these four characters were all very different when the show began. Quark was without a conscience, Rom was pretty seedy and useless and Nog was nothing but a petty thief. Over the course of seven years we’ve seen Quark become a hero, Rom gain his independence from his brother and get married and Nog join Starfleet. There is a gorgeous feeling of togetherness with this quartet of characters that grins from the screen (see also the climax of Its Only a Paper Moon for another fantastic example). Rom is a complete psycho with a baseball bat and swings so hard that he breaks Quark’s skull! The thought of him beating the crap out of Worf too makes me howl with laughter! Rom just wants to join in and has the best of intentions but the sad truth of the matter is that he is dreadful at the game but that still isn’t a good enough excuse for the torrent of abuse he gets from Sisko. When things get a bit too schmaltzy with everybody rallying around Rom at least we have Quark who is practically sticking his fingers down his throat!

The Good: Sisko orders his team to play a game of baseball to take on a long time rival and his all Vulcan! To some this might seem like the point where DS9 jumped the shark…but I’m here to tell you that that never happened. Its such a goofy premise that the only way you could even attempt to pull it off would be dive in head first and have a great deal of fun with it. Which is exactly what Ron Moore decides to do. Kira and the rest of the crew have about as much trouble learning the baseball jargon as I have had learning their technobabble over the past seven years so it is very funny to see them struggling and frowning as much as I do! What’s lovely is that over the year we have heard of Sisko taking characters to baseball games in the holosuite (Starship Down, For the Uniform) and its nice to finally see one. To see these actors enjoying themselves in such an spacious and sunny location is a joy to watch. Sisko wants his crew to think that he is wrapped up in the game rather than the fact that it is about a deep seated adolescent rivalry. Cue cringeworthy scenes of the ‘Niners’ (really?) high fiving each other to win it for the Captain! It’s the only point where the episode plunges into High School Musical territory but do you know what? It still made me smile. This isn’t like an episode of Glee where they make you think that our team is going to win and then snatch away the crown at the last minute to teach them a lesson in humility. The Niners have lost the game from around five minutes in. The moral is that winning isn’t everything and it is the taking part that counts and its a worthy message for the episode to flaunt – its something I heartily believe in myself. There speaks a loser at games! That baseball has been the symbol for this show ever since the end of season five so to see it signed by all the crew expresses more about how they feel about the Captain than words could.

The Bad: What the hell is going on with that fake Worf in the last scene? Yeah, I saw you!

Moments to Watch Out For: There are lots of little charming moments and it feels right to list them here…
  • ‘Oh come on Quark!’ shouts O’Brien as he throws the ball like a big girl!
  • Inexplicably Kassidy’s next few consignments have been cancelled and Sisko all but winks at the audience.
  • ‘What are you eating?’ ‘I’m not eating I’m chewing’ ‘Chewing what?’ ‘Gum. Its traditional. I had the replicator create me some’ ‘They just chewed it?’ ‘No they infused the gum with flavour’ ‘What did you infuse it with?’ ‘Scotch!
  • Ezri and Julian’s bitch fight on the pitch! They are so going to get to get it together!
  • Kira’s hilarious reaction Odo practicicing his umpire moves with such gusto in the security office! ‘Yerout!’ ‘Strikkkke!
  • ‘Its been spoiling you whole rhythm!’ SMACK! ‘Not that bad…’
  • ‘Alright I promise…’ ‘He made me promise not to tell you so you’ll have to keep this under your hats…’
  • Odo and Rom’s reaction to the vanishing audience.
  • ‘Hey batterbatterbatter!’ ‘Death to the opposition!’ Worf, of course.
  • ‘You can’t tell me that that ball was over the plate! What were you doing? Regenerating?
  • ‘Well what do I do?’ ‘Find him and kill him!
  • Watch the way that mincing Vulcan runs as he tries to beat Nog to home base!
  • I couldn’t help but laugh as the crew try and give Rom the sign of the bunt but all wind up looking like a bunch of special needs kids trying to dance.
  • The last few scenes of this episode express the feeling of family amongst this crew far more vividly than has ever been achieved in the countless mentions of the fact in Voyager. I usually loathe episodes that end with everybody laughing at a goofy joke but things have been so grim of late it is wonderful to see everybody so happy. ‘To manufactured triumph! Here here!’
  • The ‘Q’ of Quark has ears on the baseball! Teehee!
 Fashion Statement: I’m not sure who looks the cutest in baseball gear but I would have to go with Ezri and Kira who both look kick ass with their caps and (very) tight sports tops!

Orchestra: For once David Bell’s score is perfectly suited to a comedy episode. He really gets in the mood and offerings some stirringly optimistic moments and provides some lovely quirky notes during the montage scenes.

Result: Great fun. You’ve got a stellar cast out in the sunshine having fun together and forgetting about the misery of warfare for a week and its pretty addictive viewing. Fortunately I have seen a fair few Disney movies in my time (including being forced to endure High School Musical…did I say forced?) so I am more than used to the cornier aspects of promoting team spirit and working together to win that this oddball instalment endorses. You would think that Avery Brooks wanted to be a baseball player more than an actor because he gives one of his best ever performances here, exuding confidence and irresistible charm as he coaxes his crew into shape and learns the meaning of enjoying the game. Like his direction of The Magnificent Ferengi Chip Chalmers’ work is nothing out of the ordinary in how he chooses to shoot the episode but its his delicate touch with the actors that counts for everything and its probably the best ensemble piece for simply soaking up the great chemistry between the regulars since his last assignment. This is simply a great deal of fun to watch, nothing deeper than that and there is nothing wrong with something this delightfully unpretentious every now and again. For a chance to see this whole cast together drinking in each others company in such a gorgeous setting its invaluable because those opportunities are rapidly running out: 8/10

Chrysalis written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Jonathan West

What’s it about: The crazies are back with a plan to break Serena free of her own mind…

Single Father: Nobody chews out their staff like Sisko and when Patrick and his fellows pose as an Admiral and their staff Bashir gets a right earful from his boss.

Unknown Sample: In your face Kira who criticises Odo for not showing his feelings and Serena points out that he took her hand so he is showing her his feelings.

Everyday Engineer: Hooray for Miles for mentioning that this all happening a little too fast and that Serena is his patient. He’s probably a little jealous that his mate is being sidetracked but its still a good point, well made.

GE Doctor: Bashir is a complete Billy no mates in the first scene and trying latch onto any passer by to spend the night with but they all have a much more exciting evening planned than shacking up with him. Instead he winds up in bed with his research (that’s not a witty way of saying he has created a clone of some hot chick that he is doing some explorative surgery beneath the sheets with…he is literally in bed with a cheek virus that is mutating on his ass)…could it be time for a Bashir romance by any chance? Once again he throws himself into this group of crazies and tries to tackle a problem on a very personal level and he’s delighted when Serena walks away from the surgery with a smile on her face and a song in her heart. Its here where his behaviour is questionable because whilst Serena has the body of an adult she still has the mind of a child and despite his feelings towards her she is still his patient. Its one of those times when you wish somebody would point out the sheer ickiness of what he is pursuing before it all goes horribly wrong. Fortunately Alexander Siddig is playing the role superbly and making Bashir as naïve and as childish as Serena which somehow skips of the unethical behaviour and the relationship strikes me as more like two teenagers who think they are going to get married because they’ve been going out for a week. Its still doomed to failiure but the only people who can see it are on the outside. When he started talking about a trip to Risa warning bells sounded – that’s far too kinky a planet for two kids to be visiting! ‘She’s the woman I’ve been waiting for all my life!’ – only children say things like that. At least he realises that Serena needed time and he didn’t give it to her. What Bashir needs is a 900 year old Trill who has Serena’s cute looks but also some real attitude to keep him in check. As it happens one has recently joined the crew…

Quirky Counsellor: ‘The day she realises she is more than the sum of her parts she’s really going to be something’ Her professional skills are in full evidence as she lists all of the promises that Bashir made and couldn’t keep. It makes me wonder if by the end of the season she will have a string of suicides on the station after counselling sessions with her!

Community Leader: How rowdy has Quarks been this year! Garak nearly had a claustrophobic attack because of the lack of crowd control in Afterimage, Sisko and the Niners celebrated loudly in Take Me Out to the Holosuite and Serena almost retracts back into her shell because of the disorderly atmosphere in Chrysalis! That Ferengi toad better not suggest he isn’t making a profit this year!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I have a new man in my life. That gorgeous little Ferengi!’
‘Your friend was right you can’t change the law of physics…but you can bend them!’
‘Later? There isn’t going to be a later later!’
‘If I had to find someone to replace atlas and hold up the world it’d be Miles. He’d do it with a smile too.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘What’s a genetically enhanced girl supposed to do when she wakes up from a long sleep…’ – every Star Trek romance has at least one cringeworthy line like that. Absolute vomit.

The Good: Its lovely to get the chance to catch up with Bashir’s crazies (it might be a bit impolite to call them that but never mind) and Patrick’s turn posing as an Admiral who answers every awkward questions with ‘that’s a stupid question!’ is hilarious. Especially since it reminds me of the Captain Jean Luc Picard that we met in Encounter at Farpoint. It strikes me that DS9 knows when it is onto a good thing and when to bring something back for a series of episodes and when not to (the crazies are a recurring feature like the alternative universe, Vic Fontaine and semi regulars such as Garak, Dukat, Winn and Weyoun). Faith Salie gives a wonderful performance throughout (its unbelievable that she had to prove to Paramount that she could act to re-earn this part after her haunting turn in Statistical Probabilities) but never more so than when she first wakes up and looks at the world through fresh eyes. We’ve been hanging around on the station for seven seasons now and know pretty much every nook and cranny and yet through her eyes I am reminded of the possibilities again as I first joined the show in Emissary. When Serena says ‘I’m glad I could do something for you. You’ve done so much for me’ it pretty much spells out the reason why she enters into a relationship with him. There are lots of nice little character notes – Serena realising that the group is used to her being quiet and that she doesn’t fit into their way of life anymore (she’s far too rational) and Lauren not being jealous of Serena’s relationship with Bashir but trying to make her look as good as possible for their date. The scene where Bashir implores Serena to talk to him is beautifully filmed to capture both Siddig and Salie at their most intimate.

Moment to Watch Out For: I said there were moments when Take Me Out to the Holosuite felt like a Disney movie but there is no other point in DS9 where that is more exemplified than in the Do-Re-Mi medley that the crazies sing together. Fortunately I am total sap for Disney schmaltz (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin are my favourites although I have a real soft spot for Enchanted too) and the optimistic feeling that glows from the screen in this sequence is pretty wonderful to bask in. It works on several levels because it sees Serena finding her voice in a very positive way, it sees how she works as part of this unit and it also provides a gorgeous musical number to boot. DS9 is often seen as the darkest of the Trek shows and in many ways that is absolutely right but it could also be the lightest of Trek shows too with some outstanding comedy and moments of optimism that this is probably the best example of. It kind of leaves the other shows floundering in the middle ground somewhere. For those of you who find this sequence implausible so is any programme where characters break into song on a whim and I would suggest that you go sit in a closet for a day and then force yourself to watch Threshold ten times over. That’s real pain.

Fashion Statement: Lauren looks frighteningly like Jadzia in a Starfleet uniform.

Result: Whilst it had some bad luck with romance stories in its first couple of years (Melora, Profit & Loss, Meridian) DS9 has managed to develop strong relationships for most of the crew in the past three seasons (Sisko & Kassidy, Dax & Worf, Kira & Odo, Miles & Keiko) with the only real spare part being Bashir. Given their penchant for allowing their main characters to have long term relationships and that Serena has appeared before there was every chance that they would make it work despite the unethical nature of Bashir’s pursuance (Garak & Ziyal and Rom & Leeta are other examples of guest characters enjoying their own romances). So for once it is quite surprising and poignant when it doesn’t work out. Chrysalis isn’t a revolutionary episode of DS9 but its another very well done romance with sincere performances and heart-warming moments and with the additional idiosyncrasy of the crazies who provide some wonderful moments of humour. Its worth watching this episode just for Jonathan West’s stunning direction (just like Wrongs Darker… notice the way this episode is lit to perfection), the musical score (which is intimately well done) and to see how far Alexander Siddig has come as an actor in seven years on this show. More to the point Chrysalis has my favourite DS9 musical number, the Do-Re-Mi sequence, which is a minute or so of pure ecstasy. Of the five opening episodes of season seven this is the fourth quiet episode (well Take Me Out to the Holosuite isn’t quiet but it is lightweight) which might have been a problem but actually they were just trying to lull us into a false sense of security because the next five episodes are very dark indeed: 8/10

Treachery, Faith & the Great River written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle and directed by Steve Posey

What’s it about: Is Weyoun defecting to the Federation?

Tasty Terrorist: Kira is definitely exploiting the advantages of having a changeling as lover as Odo massages her back and manages to get his malleable hands into every nook and cranny!

Unknown Sample: The intelligence that somebody like Weyoun would possess makes the idea of taking him behind enemy lines tantalising and Odo agrees to help him whilst always keeping an eye on him. Odo realises with some humility that he and Weyoun 6 have a great deal in common when the Vorta starts talking about how he has always felt that the war is wrong despite not wishing any ill harm towards the Dominion. Watch as Rene Auberjonois crumples as he discovers the news about the sickness in the Link, he always manages to capture the emotion of a scene so well through body language. Weyoun suggests that if the Founders die out Odo will be able to step forward and rectify the mistakes his people have made, to create a new Link build on war and not peace. This is such an intriguing possibility the show becomes richer for its mere mention but as the season develops we will come to discover it would have been an impossible dream. 

Everyday Engineer & Starfleet Ferengi: ‘This is no time for Ferengi fairytales!’ There were a number of lovely O’Brien/Nog moments in the last season to show that Colm Meaney and Aron Eisenberg bounce of each other really well. This is their chance to indulge in a little witty farce before things get very dark for at least one of the characters. Whilst Nog might be a Starfleet officer now he is still a Ferengi and he knows that the best way to get a deal rushed through is to charm the person you are dealing with. Nog promises to seduce Chief Willoughby enough to get O’Brien on the top of the supply requisitions waiting list but cannot promise to do anything that Miles wouldn’t do. There is a grumpy Sisko that wants the gravity net on the Defiant fixed in a couple of days and Nog will go to any lengths to sort it for O’Brien. Let comic madness ensue! There’s a stabiliser on one of the ships in the fleet and they are willing to trade for it…and Nog starts riding the waves of the Great Material Continuum making deal after deal to get the job done. Its like watching Only Fools & Horses in the 24th Century and just as fun. The sequence where Sisko’s desk vanishes and is replaced by a tatty looking white plywood alternative is really funny (‘Get it out of here!’). Nog has absolute faith in the Great River which is a good thing because O’Brien is completely at sea with his neck on the line!

Wily Weyoun: ‘Think about it Odo. The information I possess could help the Federation win this war…’ As soon as he shows up and declares that he is defecting to the Federation I thought to myself this has to be part of some grand scheme of the Dominion’s. Need I remind you that they tried to infiltrated DS9 with a Vorta representative in our very first meeting with the Dominion in The Jem H’adar. What makes this episode such a constant joy (beyond the fantastic dialogue and performances) is how it continually peels away layers until we realise that this Weyoun is everything that he claims to be, a defective clone who genuinely thinks that the war is a mistake. When Weyoun gave Odo military intelligence about the Ketracel White facility I realised there wasn’t a great deal of difference between what this version of Weyoun was offering and what Bashir wanted to achieve in Statistical Probabilities last year. When Weyoun 7 suggests that 5 was killed in a transporter accident and looks craftily at Damar you are left with no illusions that it was a deliberate assassination. What’s delightful about this is that there isn’t even the pretence that it isn’t the case and I started to imagine all the different ways that Damar and Weyoun tried to murder each other on a typical day. When Damar starts ranting on about the sacrifices that Cardassia has had to make in this war its all Weyoun can do to stop himself from yawning! Its clearly a massive moment for the character when Weyoun 7 decides to go along with Damar’s insane plan to destroy the runabout and destroy a changeling to ensure that the intelligence locked inside Weyoun 6 doesn’t reach the Federation. To kill a God can’t be the sort of decision you get to make every day of the week. As soon as the Female Shapeshifter turned up and was on the verge of discovering Weyoun 7 ordering a battalion of fighters to kill Odo I was left thinking…oh shit. Hilariously after trying to kill him Weyoun 7 apologises to Odo for any inconvenience he may have caused him and offers to help repair his ship!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I’m sorry but its just such an honour to be sitting here with a G…Security Officer!’
‘Hasn’t it ever occurred to you that the reason you believe the Founders are Gods is because that’s what they want you to believe? That they built it into your genetic code?’ ‘Of course they did. That’s what Gods do. After all why be a God if there’s no-one to worship you?’ – you really can’t argue with that kind of logic!
‘The last thing he saw was one of his Gods smiling at him. If you ask me he’s a lucky man.’
‘Which ever sides wins, one thing is certain…I’m going to lose.’

The Good: Any episode that reminds me of Improbable Cause has got to be a winner and returning Odo to the atmospherically lit cave where we last saw him with Rossol is very nicely done. Finally the writers are having some real fun with the idea of Weyoun being a clone and the three way dialogue scene in the runabout with Jeffrey Combs providing two very different versions of the same character manages to be both quirky and naturalistic. A bitch fight of such magnitude between two versions of the same great character is something to be cherished. Those daft little runabouts might not be the most effective of warships but they do have one advantage – manoeuvrability and its great to see Odo ducking and diving as he pilots the craft out of the path of a Jem H’adar fighter. With Weyoun’s practical understanding of the ships weakness they achieve the impossible…a runabout destroying a Jem H’adar warship! The episode cleverly offers us visual evidence of the disease that blights the Founders before Weyoun 6 mentions it to Odo otherwise we might have thought it a trick to engage his sympathies. Its one of the best developments of seasons seven because it allows for the impossible, it injects a degree of sympathy into the enemy camp and opens up a whole world of hurt for Odo. I love the scene where Weyoun 6 reveals this to Odo because of the complex shift in tone. He goes from telling a light and amiable fairytale of the Vorta’s history to the tragic revelation of the sickness that has spread amongst the Great Link. Rather than just fill the screen with ships (as exciting as that can be) the effects team have tried harder to make the visuals more dramatic this year and we have seen fights take place with a planetary backdrop (Tears of the Prophets), amongst Bajoran moons (Shadows & Symbols) and now in a field of great chunks of ice hanging in space. The runabout slipping into one of the ice fragments and the Jem H’adar blasting them to pieces are unusual and vivid images. The Changelings are more dangerous than ever now because they are also desperate.

Moment to Watch Out For: Weyoun can talk until he is blue in the face about how much he worships the Founders but actions speak louder than words and when he commits suicide to allow Odo the chance to escape you can really see what the Founders mean to him. The look of satisfaction on his face when one of his Gods blesses him at his death is one of the most touching moments in DS9’s run. Odo realises that this wasn’t a trap, this man genuinely was defecting and he has given up his life so that he can walk free. Not only that but his mere presence when Weyoun slips away gives him absolute serenity. Auberjonois and Combs do fantastic work in this scene.

Foreboding: This is the first of many dark days ahead for Odo as he comes to realise his part in the infection of the Great Link.

Result: Jeffrey Combs and Rene Auberjonois in deftly written dialogue scenes, Aron Eisenberg and Colm Meaney in a comic subplot, sizzling dialogue, superb effects and war arc developments…what could be finer? For a show that is basically all talk it sure covers a lot of ground and there isn’t a moment where the script is firing on all cylinders. It explores the complex dynamics between the Vorta and the Founders, highlights the similarities of Weyoun 6 and Odo, exposes the bloodlust inherent in Weyoun 7 and re-introduces Damar and the Female Shapeshifter into the programme and drives home their comic and dramatic potential. It’s a complex mystery because it kept me thinking this was a cleverly disguised trap until the very last moment and when Weyoun 6 slips away in Odo’s arms with the absolute contentedness that he has been blessed by his God the true poignancy of the episode is released in one great burst. Countering the reflective nature of the main plot is a bubbly and entertaining subplot that allows Nog and O’Brien to spar wonderfully (or rather Aron Eisenberg & Colm Meaney) which is becoming an unexpectedly enjoyable relationship to follow. Add in some really effective CGI effects and another great David Bell score and you an episode with something for everyone. A superior drama: 9/10

Once More Unto the Breach written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: Kor returns for one final battle and lesson in humility…

Mr Wolf: Worf really kicks serious ass these days, doesn’t he? Look at the way he cuts through Bashir and O’Brien’s argument about Davey Crockett with a reasoned, intelligent response about having faith in your heroes. Highly appropriate in an episode where Worf’s faith in Kor will be tested to the limit. To Worf’s credit he does offer to sacrifice his life to allow the rest of the fleet to escape.

Quirky Counsellor: Ezri meeting Kor is another clever conceit to slip her into Jadzia’s world. Its odd to see Ezri moaning about how everybody compares her to he previous hosts when she spent the first three episodes of the season reminiscing about her new past lives. Its nice to see her and Kira relaxing together over a drink to hear that she isn’t interested in another relationship with Worf.

Gentle Giant: It was in this episode that I realised with Worf, Martok and Kor they have managed to build up a really strong mini ensemble of Klingon characters on this show. With each of them being this engaging it is easy to see how a Klingon spin off could be a possibility. Martok’s aide Darok is a delightful character and the way he wearying puts up with Martok’s abuse really makes me smile. Besides J.G. Hertzler’s fantastic performances I really enjoy Martok because he walks that very fine line between being a sensitive adult and complete child – here he throws a massive playground strop because Worf wants bring an old bully into the gang! When you get to hear the backstory and understand why Martok’s feelings towards Kor run so deep it makes a lot of good sense but I just love it when big, burly Klingons have childish tantrums! It proves that despite their prowess and instincts they are just as emotionally flawed as the rest of us. His ‘clear the bridge!’ made me howl with laughter! It would be pretty wounding to reach your ambitions despite Kor’s interference but not until after your father had died and passed on thinking you were a failiure. I thought less of Martok as he grasped hold of Kor’s mistake and used it to embarrass him publicly but then he completely redeems himself by admitting to Worf that he took no joy in that revenge. And to see him crack open a bottle of blood wine in Kor’s honour when he buys them the time to escape is gorgeous.

Warrior Myth: John Colios adjusts his performance slightly for this episode to really make you feel for Kor’s plight and from the second he steps into Worf’s quarters there is a feeling that there is something weighing on his shoulders. There is a price to be paid for such single minded devotion to your ambitions and Kor’s unwavering arrogance and judgemental attitudes has left all of his bridges burnt behind him and no place left in the current war with the Dominion. What impressed about the characterisation here was that Kor was presented as humbly holding his cap out to Worf and yet when challenged about his xenophobic rejection of Martok’s application he stands by his decision and his elitist opinion. To see so many sides to a character, shades of likable and questionable facets makes Kor far more interesting. You that Kor is heading for a fall as soon as he starts drinking in and encouraging the praise of the younger officers on the Ch’tang who are romanced by his mythological exploits. There are few scenes in Trek that will make you more embarrassed for a character than Kor’s dreamy and public reminiscence of a previous battle during the attack run. His ‘open a channel to Kang!’ made me hide under my cushion! He completely redeems himself in the final act where he lives up to his reputation and engages an entire wing of Jem H’adar fighters single-handedly. What a guy!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘People would love bringing their problems to me. You dreamt about what? You’re crazy! Now get out of my office1 Next patient!’ – Kira demonstrates why she should be next in line as station counsellor!
‘When I reach the halls of the Hallowed Dead I will find your beloved and remind her that her husband is a noble warrior and that he still loves no-one but her.’

The Good: Dealing with the issue of obsolescence is very worthy because it is something that none of us would ever consider until it is too late. I have recently been watching One Foot in the Grave and despite the comic genius of David Renwick’s writing there is also a crushingly poignant thread throughout the series of your life no longer being worth anything once you have reached a certain age. It’s a terrifying prospect and Ronald D. Moore explores it here with some depth and sensitivity. To encapsulate this most emotive of themes through a Star Trek legend and much loved character is a terrific move because it is very easy to feel for a character as wonderful as Kor. I kept mentioning the very fresh action set pieces that have been on display this year and this another episode with a phenomenal effects sequence. The Klingon birds of prey look more like insects (with a particularly nasty bite!) than ever and they make an impressive attack run on the planets surface. The music, effects and direction combine to make this truly cinematic but what really sells the scene is the ariel shot of the ships diving to and from the planet. Who said that only Babylon 5 can offer dynamic CGI effects sequences. I have heard other commentators on this episode complain that we don’t get to see the battle the Kor fights at the end where he loses his life but I rather suspect that that was the whole point. As Worf says in the pre titles sequence it doesn’t matter how he did – the logistics are unimportant – what matters is that he was a great man and he died in a glorious battle saving Klingon lives. You can build a great myth around that precisely because we didn’t see what happened. The scene between Kor and Darok where he convinces him to take on the sacrificial battle really sings because it reminds us that while the young look tiresomely at the old, the elderly look back at the recklessness of youth and see all the mistakes that they made being repeated. I found the final song in honour of Kor deeply touching. What a great send off for a great character.

The Bad: You have to question Worf’s decision to stick Kor on the ship that Martok commands…if it was up to me I would keep them as far away as possible! But then we wouldn’t have much of an episode, would we?

Moment to Watch Out For: Martok finally gets his long sought after revenge on Kor for denying his application to the Klingon attack force when he was younger. Its painful to endure the way Martok exploits the old mans frailties (especially when he forces Darok to stay and endure it too) but what really makes this scene so special is Kor’s quiet, dignified response. ‘Savour the fruit of life my young friends. It has a sweet taste when it is fresh from the vine. But don’t live too long…the taste turns bitter after a time.’

Result: My favourite DS9 Klingon episode bar none and one that is far less interested in duty and honour and the usual bollocks that comes with these episodes and is far more interested in engaging in emotive themes such as hero worship and obsolescence. The chemistry between Michael Dorn, J.G. Hertlzer and John Colios is palpable and Allan Kroeker’s direction is typically stylish and exciting but what really impressed me was the way Ronald D. Moore tackles the theme of old age so poignantly within this most unusual of settings. I would never expect such complex characterisation from Klingon characters and it goes to show just how well Worf, Martok and Kor have been nurtured that such effortless density can be teased from their personalities. There is a knockout action sequence in the heart of this episode in case things get too talky for you and the conclusion were Kor dies as he lived - as an incredible mythological character - is just about perfect. I wouldn’t credit that a Klingon episode could score so highly on all these counts and it is thanks to the efforts of Moore and Kroeker that it does so: 9/10

The Siege of AR-558 written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: The Federation are holding onto a Dominion communications array and the Jem H’adar want it back…

Single Father: The latest casualty reports are in and Sisko is in a black mood. Sometimes he thinks all that he does in the war is stare at names of the dead and at the beginning he made it a badge of honour that he read every one but now there are so many they have begun to blur together. His anger when Quark suggests that he doesn’t care about any of the soldiers under his command is frightening, its another of those moments when Sisko is the most frightening character in the show. 

GE Doctor: ‘Funny I joined Starfleet to save lives’ Bashir has a minimal role in this episode in that it doesn’t really expose any of his frailties as it does the other characters but what impressed was how effective he was in this environment. The good Doctor has come a long way from that callow youth we met in season one. 

Quirky Counsellor: Ezri can remember what it felt like to go into battle as Curzon and Jadzia but having a memory of such atrocities and experiencing it yourself are two very different things. As she is about to discover. In an episode with some great points being made Ezri mentions that using the Houdini’s to slaughter the Jem H’adar en masse are exactly the sort of tactics and weapons that they would have condemned the Dominion for using once. Morally things have most definitely changed. It is Ezri’s agonising reaction to Kellan’s death that gives the final fight the emotional sting it really needed and that’s the point where the tears rolled.

Community Leader: Whatever vague reason they chose to send Quark to the front lines for I don’t care, this is the best Quark episode that isn’t a comedy and Armin Shimmerman absolutely nails it. Who would have ever thought in the first couple of seasons that this episode would even be possible? Not that Quark could condemn humanity so, he’s been doing that ever since day dot (with terrific examples in The Jem H’adar and The Way of the Warrior) but that he could be so horrified to see all that Federation arrogance and optimism encapsulated in his own nephew. These scenes are extremely powerful because Quark is desperate for Nog to see the world for what it really is – harsh and cruel – instead of what he has been taught by Starfleet what it could be. You’ve got the DS9 approach (Quark) and the Gene Roddenberry one (Nog) and one is about to trample all over the other until it exposes just how flawed those ideals are. Quark is sure that if the Dominion was fighting the Ferengi alliance this war would have been over a long time ago because they would have hammered out a peace treaty that both sides were happy with. The Federation is so single minded in its superiority that it believes it can overcome any opposition (they did encroach Dominion space and refuse to stop when asked…frankly the arrogance expressed in their continual abuse of the Dominion space meant that returning the favour in the Alpha Quadrant was inevitable and justified) and Quark can see how pointless that is and what the cost is. Quark staring out at the fight at the end of the episode is a truly powerful moments for the character. Armin Shimmerman manages to portray through his eyes alone ‘what the hell have we done to come to this?

Starfleet Ferengi: Nog is just about the perfect character to bring into this episode because we have watched his progress from petty thief to Starfleet Officer and now it is time for him to learn what it really means to offer your life to something so completely. Its funny how different people interpret different things and Quark accuses Nog of being afraid of looking weak in front of the veterans whereas Nog sees it as trying to earn their respect. Nog’s scream when he is shot is just about the most agonising moment in DS9, the point where a Federation character is punished for his ideals.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Sometimes being a hologram can be a real pain in the asemetic photons!’
‘Let me tell you something about hew-mons, nephew. They’re a wonderful, friendly people as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts, deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers, put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time and those same friendly, intelligent wonderful people will become as nasty and as violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon.’
‘Children’ ‘Not for long.’

The Good: Be scared…be very scared. Rom is trying out his voice in Vic’s and belts out the most intriguing version of The Siege of AR-558 in the most misleading of openings to any Trek episode. It makes me laugh so hard to see this because Max Grodenchik’s version has been heard up and down the country sung by two inexpressibly tone deaf gayers in the most public of places! Simon and I have been heard to sing this version of Lady and the Tramp on trains and in shops whenever the atmosphere is too stuffy! And just one time in a bus in Edinburgh a man looked at me and said ‘Rom!’ That absolutely made my holiday! Vic is the oddest innovation to the DS9 universe and yet every time he appears (with The Emperor’s New Cloak being the one exception) there is a well thought through reason for it and using his melancholic voice to calm the troops before battle in this instalment is inspired. Like The Sound of Her Voice notice how Kolbe focuses the camera squarely on the actors and gives them no place to hide, framing the shots with the second person in the scene blurred in the background so our focus is never taken from the actor who is emoting. Interestingly the episode chooses to show us how we usually experience the war in the first five minutes with the Defiant cutting a Jem H’adar warship to pieces. All very impersonal. Then it proceeds to give those nameless soldiers a face and gets up close and very personal as the Federation and the Jem H’adar on AR-558 have to literally star each other in the eye when they try and kill each other. There are a few occasions when Trek offers a studio bound location which is supposed to be outside that really works (unfortunately those occasions are counterweighted against all those horrendous planetary backdrops in TNG and CSOed actors against location work in Voyager) and The Siege of AR-558 is one of those times (Children of Time was another). The lights are brought right down, the location is a wilderness with an absolute dearth of comfort and it feels as if the air is literally sapping the goodness out of our characters. It takes some skill to create a location with that kind of oppressiveness. On AR-558 you have battle hardened Vargas, tough MO Larkin and the completely unstable Reese and what fascinates me is that under normal, squeaky clean Federation circumstances you could imagine these characters being smiley happy people and slightly bland. Drag them out of their comfort zone, throw assault after assault at them and slaughter their friends and what you are left with are the dregs of humanity. People who are outwardly tough but inwardly broken. Its painful to see because as Quark so happily points out this could be any one of us if we were put in an extreme enough situation. Nowhere is this more terrifyingly realised than in Raymond Cruz’s riveting performance as Vargas. He plays the role with a snappy awkwardness that almost feels as if he has forgotten his lines (I have seen Cruz in other things and there is no way that this is the case), tripping over sentences, infusing each line with anguish and self pity and he is the last person I would want to be around under these circumstances because he is such a live wire waiting to strike. I bet he beamed down onto that rock with all the usual Federation optimism and confidence too. His speech about the guy that he couldn’t stand who died in front of him is hauntingly performed (‘One time in his life, he’s quiet…’). How nice to see Bill Mumy stripped of his Babylon 5 makeup. He’s one of their strongest assets despite his usually quiet performances and he does wonders with the minor role of Kellan here, enjoying an easy chemistry with Nicole de Boer. Houdini’s, bombs which can hide in subspace and detonate at random, are a terrorising innovation. As well as featuring some piercing dialogue scenes Kolbe also provides some real visceral moments such as Nog’s mist swathed horror in the Jem H’adar camp, the fireworks of the dry run attack on the array and the unbelievably tense moment when the Houdini’s are activated and hum angrily as they surround our heroes. Great set pieces, all. The final message that every time you hear a death count that it isn’t just a number, these are people who have died, is brilliantly made throughout this episode. Once again DS9 has something very uncomfortable but extremely important to say.

Moment to Watch Out For: The final siege defies all expectations by proving to be the most gripping hand to hand battle Trek ever realised. Winrich Kolbe deserves a massive round of applause for refusing to shy away from the terror and the violence of warfare and its painful to watch so many lives being wasted over a piece of equipment. Its DS9’s Saving Private Ryan moment and it is graphic, psychologically scarring and visually stunning. Some of the shots (the Jem H’adar firing directly at the audience making us a part of the fight and the criss cross of fire phaser across the screen in the darkness) are extremely memorable. 

Orchestra: I have never been the biggest fan of Paul Baillargeon’s music in Trek which is what makes this score so damn effective because it is one of the very best you will hear. His subtle, sad strings and haunting melodies that play over the battle scenes are a thing of beauty and by refusing to make these scenes bombastic he really drives the horror of what is happening home. People are dying and the music expresses the poignancy of that.  

Result: Emotionally involving, dark and visually stunning; this is another top notch DS9 episode. Is it me or are all the directors raising their game to new heights in the last season of DS9? The Siege of AR-558 is Winrich Kolbe’s masterpiece and the ultimate Trek war movie encapsulated in 45 minutes. What I really love about the intense script is the characters they choose to put through hell – not seasoned fighters like Kira, O’Brien and Worf but the least experienced regulars like Ezri, Quark and Nog. This allows for some outstanding moments where our favourite Ferengi gets to hand out the humanity’s harshest critique yet and exposes Nog’s absolute faith in the Federation he has sworn to protect and dishes out the appropriate punishment for that. The guest characters are all well written and cast; Avery Brooks once again gets to show what he is made of as Sisko is put through the physical and emotional wringer and its one of Ezri’s best episodes too for forcing the fragile young Ensign to confront the horrors of war. However it isn’t the expert handling of war clichés that really allows this episode to shine but Kolbe’s exciting, frightening cinematic direction which keeps the atmosphere claustrophobic and tense throughout. The final act is one of the most memorable in Trek with the best ever action sequence bar none. This is about as bleak and as pessimistic as Trek comes and considering its roots it is shocking that this should be one of the franchises most impressive instalments. Terrifyingly dark: 10/10

Covenant written by Rene Echevarria and directed by John Kretchmer

What’s it about: Dukat has taken up residence as the leader of the Pah Wraith cult…

Tasty Terrorist: Any episode that is fronted by Kira cannot be a bad thing (unless its called Ressurection) and she is just about the most sophisticated Bajoran character we are ever likely to meet. Which is really highlighted when she meets up with this bunch of backward Bajorans. She can barely contain herself when Dukat proclaims that he is the leader of the Pah Wraith cult but then declares that it makes sense because these people worship evil. She grabs his shirt when he declares the Prophets as evil and says he has no right to say that especially given his past with the planet. I love the way she prods and pokes at the naiveté of the Bajorans, especially Benyan, who she makes it very clear that she thinks Dukat is responsible for his wife’s pregnancy.  Kira is literally trapped in her own worse nightmare, a scenario where Bajorans are worshipping Dukat as a God and no matter how much she tries to convince them otherwise they dig their heels in and twist her words to support him even more. Her patience and persistence with these people is truly commendable.

Slimy Snake: ‘I don’t know whether you believe what you’re telling saying or if you’re faking it or if you’re just insane…’ I love Dukat so much they can pretty much shoehorn him into any role and it would entertain me. And whilst that isn’t exactly what they do here it is a massive departure from what we have seen before. Looking back at Tears of the Prophets there is every chance that Dukat has been touched by the Pah Wraiths and chosen to represent them but looking back at Waltz where he declares war on Sisko it seems a massive co-incidence that he should be calling himself Emissary to the Prophets arch enemies. What Covenant juggles up really well is whether Dukat really is a born again man who has found God or whether he’s just faking it to drink in the power of his subjects and indulge (as Kira says) in his own idealised version of the Occupation. He also uses this opportunity to try and seduce Kira again because now he has something in common with his ex lovers daughter that her can use to convince her he is a good man. ‘Vows of abstinence are part of our covenant with him and exceptions are granted when he sees that a husband and wife have demonstrated a true spiritual bond’ can be completely rewritten to expose the truth of the matter…that permission is only given when Dukat himself is horny and wants to get his end away and uses this as an excuse afterwards. It always comes back to his desperate need to win the love of the Bajoran people and he could never understand why they didn’t appreciate him. I’ve always described Dukat as a snake but just watch the scene where he begs the Pah Wraiths to forgive him alone in his quarters – he hisses towards the ceiling and looks more like a nasty reptile than ever! The little smile on his face when he has finally convinced Kira that he is going to walk with the Pah Wraiths is very telling, he enjoys being able to convince people of his good intentions when the truth is about to revealed as a lie. As much as the scene exposes a complete about turn by the Bajorans so unrealistically it is worth watching the climax for Dukat’s humiliation and his face when he realises he no longer has the fake suicide pill. As a snapshot of his failiure here Kira should take it back to DS9 to have a good long laugh (as the Kira phantom in Waltz suggested) at his expense.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Your hair, you’ve changed it’ ‘Your ear, you’ve pierced it.’
‘I know what I believe’ ‘And that’s what scares me.’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘This is his child! That’s why you tried to kill Mika!’ Well duh!

The Good: Once again Empok Nor proves to be a wonderfully atmospheric and economic location with the DS9 sets gutted of their usual furniture and lighting and given a more sinister touch. This time the candles and harsh red lighting of the cult of the Pah Wraiths prevails and there is a real feeling of space and potential as the cult works at trying to turn this station into a new home. I like how Dukat is used to fill in some of the backstory of the Prophets and the Pah Wraiths (with an emphasis of the former persecuting the latter of course). According to him they were cast out of heaven because they wanted to take an active role in Bajoran life whereas the Prophets just wanted to observe. Which is a persuasive argument until he uses the Cardassian Occupation as an example of why the Prophets ‘abandoned’ Bajor to their fate – coming from the mouth of the man who was responsible for perpetrating much of the horror that the Bajorans experienced during that time it rings very hollow. The end of the episode truly exposes the naiveté of these Bajorans but the suggestion of mass suicide is a very strong reflection of real life events so it cannot be beyond the realms of possibility. The fact that real people have given their lives for similar reasons on the words of power hungry evangelists that were about to be exposed gives this material a real dramatic boost. Kira attempting to escape to save them injects a real feeling of edge of the seat tension that the episode has been missing to that point (again David Bell’s score helps to give this the dramatic impetus it craves). Did Dukat genuinely get a message from the Pah Wraiths to order the cult to commit suicide or was this merely a chance for him to close down this chapter of his life and starts again elsewhere? His conversation with Kira suggests the latter but later episodes of the season prove that he has genuinely been in communion with the Pah Wraiths and so the ambiguity is very pleasing. As an audience we get to make up our own minds.

The Bad: I’ve noticed an odd pattern this season of the episodes theme being brought up in a way that is completely disconnected to the rest of the episode in the pre titles sequence almost as if to warn you about what this instalment is going to be about. Kira sits down at Quark’s and practically addresses the camera and tells us how it is important to forgive the people who have wronged you. Who didn’t expect to see Dukat turn up within five minutes? Fala believing that the Pah Wraiths have taken a man as evil as Dukat and washed him clean is utterly deluded but at least Kira points that out. Kira cleverly manages to obscure a weapon and these idiotic Bajorans all step in front of Dukat when she has the perfect chance to cut him down for good. Talk about being forced to think on his feet…when Mika’s baby is born with Cardassian ridges he has the sheer gall to try and convince these numpties that the baby has been transformed in the womb as a symbol of their covenant! All credit to Marc Alaimo for having a go at selling this scene but the overwhelming supplication and complete lack of doubt over the baby’s parentage is completely unbelievable.  You almost want Kira to scream out ‘ARE YOU SERIOUS?’ Fala’s suicide is supposed to be poignant but I think it is the cowards way out of facing up to bad choices. How many more ‘now Dukat is more dangerous than ever’ scenes can we enjoy before it becomes a bit of a joke?

Moment to Watch Out For: The scene that confirms that Dukat is the baby’s father (as if there was any doubt) and he tries to kill Mika. I have heard the phrase ‘toss them out the nearest airlock’ bandied about a lot on this show and now we get to see an actual example! Its dramatically filmed with Dukat caught in an impossible situation (of his own doing admittedly) and taking drastic measures to ensure his position isn’t threatened. David Bell’s dark score really helps but what makes this moment so frightening is the reveal that the old Dukat is still in there and murder to get his own way. Brrr…

Foreboding: Dukat will be back in Penumbra with another insane (but far more fun) scheme to fulfil the Pah Wraiths plans…

Result: Covenant is one of those episodes that is grasping for greatness and never quite makes it despite some really good stuff. Its fantastic to see Dukat return to the series in a pretty permanent sort of way and this new religious nut job angle for the character is in many ways even more frightening than the power hungry dictator. Its an episode that sees the Kira/Dukat tension re-ignited and both Marc Alaimo and Nana Visitor shine in their scenes together and much of the realisation of the piece is superb with some exciting set pieces and a real dramatic momentum leading up to the climax. So what’s wrong with it  I hear you ask? Mostly it is the Bajoran characters who as usual don’t know whether they want a shit or a shave and come across as a particularly naïve bunch and really strain the viewers patience as to why we should give a damn about such gullible, idiotic people. If I were Kira I would have nabbed the nearest runabout and dashed off at the first opportunity rather than sick around and try and save them! Their miraculous conversion at the conclusion is especially daft and it’s the sort ‘he was evil all along!’ revelation that I would expect from Scooby Doo and not Deep Space Nine. It’s a drama with pros and cons and there are enough of the former to push it above average but weighed down by the latter that prevent it from achieving magnitude: 6/10

It’s Only a Paper Moon written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Anson Williams

What’s it about: Nog returns to the station, battle scarred and tries to re-adjust to his old life…

Quirky Counsellor: You would think this would be the perfect episode for Ezri to be involved with in a very big but I really like how she remains on the sidelines and observes how he seeks out his own therapy. She is far shrewder than she sometimes acts and her conversation with Vic when she makes him realise indirectly that he has done anything he needed to do for the boy is one of her finest moments. When it comes to the crunch and it is time for Nog to leave the holosuite Ezri pulls out the big guns and points out that Vic is just a hologram and she is his counsellor.

Young Sisko: In the same way that I can understand Nog losing himself in Vic’s music I can also completely respect Jake’s fury at being forced to experience the same song over and over again. That would drive me nuts! Jake clearly still has the touch by bringing such a gorgeous date with him to the holosuite.

Starfleet Ferengi: I couldn’t have imagined an episode like this in the early years but Nog has been treated to probably the most fulfilling development than any other character on DS9 going from a comic foil for Jake to a strong personality in his own right. He has found his identity through Starfleet and now that has been torn down after the events of The Siege of AR-558 and now he doesn’t know who he is anymore. Its wonderful to see everybody rallying around at the airlock as he returns to the station, its easy to see the affection that this crew (and of course his family) holds for him. He’s reclusive, depressed and self reflective and he doesn’t want Ezri trying to pry into emotional state. Nog is sick of being told the pain in his new leg is in his head when it hurts every time that he walks on it. As soon as Nog chooses to stay with Vic in the holosuite it’s a double edged sword because its clear he could learn a lot about finding himself again from the guy but retreating into a fantasy and hiding away from life is rarely the smart move. Nog is completely dismissive of Jake visiting him because it is too much of a reminder of the world that is waiting for him out there when he leaves the programme. He doesn’t want to be considered a hero and goes out his way to make Jake’s girlfriend uncomfortable. Nog’s reaction to been thrown out of the programme is so shocking it is clear that he has become entirely reliant on fiction. He admits that he feels different, older after he has tackled his fear of the real world.

Secret Genius & Busty Babe: Opening on a scene that exposes once again what Rom and Leeta can bring to this show they discuss Nog’s impending arrival on the station and his lack of contact since he has been in hospital. Anybody who thinks these two are only treated as caricatures (a statement I would vehemently deny) should watch this episode.

50s Crooner: This is a great episode to show those people who thought that Vic was a bad addition to the show because he is presented in such a gentle, warm and intelligent light it is impossible not to like him. Vic giving Nog a cane that is much more stylish than his usual one but less steady is a stroke of genius, forcing him to walk on his perfectly fine synthetic leg. Kicking Nog out of the club for hitting Jake is a great moment, he really needed a wake up call at that moment. He realises he has never been tired before because his programme has never been left on long enough for him to experience it. There’s a real fairytale moment when Nog asks Vic when he sleeps if he dreams and he simply replies ‘goodnight kid.’ Since Nog has had the holosuite running 24/7 he has had a life and in return he wants to give that gift back to his friend and he knows the only way to do that is to snatch away this fantasy as violently as possible. Its Vic’s insistence that he is not a real person that makes me fall in love with him even more – he tells Nog that if he stays in the holosuite he will end up as hollow as he is. As a result of his harsh therapy Nog gives Vic the gift of a life too and arranges to have his programme run constantly. It’s a really touching thank you for all of his help.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘It helped me once when I was unhappy’ ‘What more could you ask from a song’ – in that one exchange DS9 explores music more thoughtfully than Voyager managed in the entire episode Virtuoso.
‘How can hiding in one of Julian adolescent programmes be a good sign?’ ‘Hey!’ ‘It could be worse. He could be hiding in the Alamo programme’ ‘Hey!’ ‘Or that ridiculous secret agent programme!’ ‘Hey!’ ‘Or that stupid Viking programme!’ – the Voyager comparisons continue! People praise Tom Paris to the high heavens for creating obscenely dull places like Fair Haven and yet Bashir is criticised for living out his adolescent fantasies in the holosuite. I know which show I believe in more!
‘When the war began I wasn’t happy or anything but I was eager. I wanted to test myself. I wanted to prove I had what it took to be a soldier and I saw a lot of combat. I saw a lot of people get hurt. I saw a lot of people die. But I didn’t think anything was going to happen to me and then suddenly Dr Bashir is telling me he has to cut me leg off! I couldn’t believe it! I still can’t believe it. If I can get shot, if I can lose my leg then anything could happen to me, Vic. I could die tomorrow! I don’t know if I’m ready to face that…’
‘You’ve got to play the cards life deals you. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose but at least you’re in the game.’

The Good: How many times have found myself lost in a song when I am going through something emotionally? It’s a very realistic approach to dealing with something traumatic. I can listen to songs now and remember precisely times when they were a source of great comfort for me (however some of them are so embarrassing to admit that I will never list any titles!) so I can completely understand where Nog is coming from. Especially when this music was playing when he was trying to come to terms with something as distressing as losing a leg. The flashbacks to Nog losing his leg are expertly done to show how these events are haunting his every waking moment. I love how something that has become a bane of Star Trek storytelling (well at least according to Babylon 5’s JMS who suggests you shouldn’t need a holodeck to tell good stories…trouble is he doesn’t have a holodeck on his show and he still can’t tell a good story) is used so cleverly here to exploit the theme of the episode. The holosuite is literally used as a way to escape from reality here, for Nog to not have to confront the terrifying universe that took away his leg and his confidence. I love the scene where Nog and Vic discuss the lack of consequences in fictional violence – Nog makes some very succinct points that it isn’t believable but Vic dismisses it because it isn’t a movie. If that sounds self congratulatory on DS9’s part for so readily being willing to tackle such consequences then it should be because not many shows would devote an hour to something this reflective. All the designs within the holosuite see the DS9 set team taking the opportunity to create something completely different and stylish from the norm. That final hug between Nog, Rom, Leeta and Quark is heartbreaking and a true endorsement of how far they have come as a family.

The Bad: Another round of applause for the waste of a tree Trek guidebook Beyond the Final Frontier that seems to suggest in their review of this episode that fleshing out your recurring guest characters is a bad thing. Nice one chaps, why don’t you stick to reviewing Voyager in the future.

Moment to Watch Out For: It’s a tough call because the climax where Nog breaks down is really powerful but the montage of scenes between Nog and Vic goes one better by proving at a glance what makes DS9 such a different show. There is nowhere else where two such worlds could collide and the sequence show the two delightful recurring characters enjoying their lives together to a phenomenal version of ‘It’s Only a Paper Moon.’ It gives me warm, fuzzy feelings every time I see it. Vic’s final confrontation with Nog is beautifully performed by both actors and takes Star Trek into areas it usually shies away from – the real emotional consequences of going into battle. Aron Eisenberg might just break your heart.

Fashion Statement: Nog looks so cute in a sweater!

Result: An astonishingly honest and sensitive portrayal of post traumatic stress disorder and the finest Nog (and Vic) episode, It’s Only a Paper Moon surprises by mixing unusual ingredients and promising little but ultimately proving to be one of the finest character dramas DS9 has ever presented. Nog has come such a long way in seven seasons and Aron Eisenberg has delivered at every step of the way and this is almost a gift from the production team to him - a fantastic Ronald D. Moore script that offers Nog the limelight and pushes the character into ever more interesting areas. It’s a great Vic Fontaine show too that shows what an asset he can be to the show without playing up the more ridiculous aspects of the character and James Darren really surprised by delivering such a thoughtful performance (not because he is a bad actor but because I wouldn’t expect these depths from such a character). There are great moments of Rom, Leeta and Ezri too and the show once again highlights the strength that the Ferengi family brings to the show. Anson Williams delivers his most polished direction and by pairing up two likable characters and having one teach the other a few important lessons in life you have one of the most thoughtful and amiable episodes of DS9 in years. Oh and the songs are great: 9/10

Prodigal Daughter written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle and directed by Victor Lobl

What’s it about: Ezri’s homecoming and O’Brien’s secret…

Single Father: He doesn’t take any prisoners when he finds out he has been lied to, does he? 

GE Doctor: The way Bashir pines after Miles is a little more than just a bromance. He actually moons about the station when his sparring partner isn’t around! It makes you wonder how they pass the time in that Alamo programme whilst they are waiting for the attack!

Quirky Counsellor: ‘I’m about to confront my family with a whole new Ezri and to tell you the truth they didn’t really know the old one…’ Despite the failings of the episode as a whole there is no part of it where I could point at Ezri and say that she is rock solidly characterised. In fact I would say this goes one step further than Afterimage because it sees a far more confident version of the character returning home to introduce herself to her family as a joined Trill. Ezri makes me laugh in the first scene when she almost makes herself retch when talking about a disgusting topic (in this case gagh) because that is exactly what my other half does on a daily basis! Talk about weak stomachs the pair of them! Clearly Ezri has tried to put as much distance between her and her awkward family as possible but her mother now has the perfect blackmail to entice her back home for a visit. Its easy to buy into Ezri’s newfound confusion when guys that she used to fancy make her feel uncomfortable because since she has been joined reminds her too much of one of her previous hosts sons! She had the sense to get as far away from her mother and the business as possible and she tries to find a way out for Norvo too before the woman destroys what little is left of him. When he is exposed as Marika’s killer she tells Janel to get as far away as possible and refuses to answer her mothers question of whether all of this is her doing. Silence is sometimes more damning than words. She understands when O’Brien doesn’t mince his words when discovering that Norvo got a 30 year sentence for killing Marika.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘There are days when I wake up and I don’t even know if I’m a man or a woman until I pull back the covers!’
‘When I get drunk I become an art critic.’
‘I should have gone home a long time ago.’

The Good: All of Ezri’s family are well cast but in particular Leigh Taylor-Young and Kevin Rahm put in really strong performances. Yanas is the mother from hell that everybody who has a matriarch ruling the roost will recognise and the way she highlights Ezri’s deficiencies the second she lays eyes on her really struck a chord with me (my mother has declares ‘I hate your hair’ before a hug every time I get a crew-cut!). Despite the fact that I saw him in this first I cannot get the image of Rahm as the gayer half of the homosexual couple on Wisteria Lane in Desperate Housewives out of my head…but he acquits himself beautifully in this episode and delivers some very subtle but nuanced acting. As usual the planetary matte effects work kicks ass with the mining facilities looking appropriately grimy and industrial (with lovely physical effects such as curls of steam polluting the air) and the Teegan household dominating the skyline and looking over their Dominion. I also love some of their home furnishings (now I sound totally gay!) – especially the wishing well shaped fire in the middle of the room. I would definitely have one of those if I thought Simon would let me get away with it! Yanas talking over her son so abrasively and Norvo repeating back his mothers words as if they were his own are both experiences I have had personally (the first was me and my mother and the second is Simon and his). A mother who comments on the family as if she is the only one who understands everybody’s needs…yup been there too! Don’t get me wrong I love my mum but I think a lot of us will find a lot of recognition in how this family is presented. I love the reactions of Yanas and Janel when Norvo is exposed as the murderer. Had the episode pushed the drama to this level throughout we would have been in fine shape.

The Bad: Let me get this straight – O’Brien has felt guilty about Bilby’s widow ever since the events of Honor Amongst Thieves and has been in contact with her ever since? Since when? And why hasn’t the audience been let in on that little titbit in the interim? What this episode desperately needs is to move away from the Teegan household for a few scenes and follow O’Brien as he investigates the murder of Bilby’s wife. Confining the whole story to one location exposes a lack of budget for this story. The representative of the Orion Syndicate is hilariously camp and not at all menacing.

Moment to Watch Out For: Just when you don’t think the episode is going to amount to anything special it manages to pull a rabbit out of its hat with the revelation that Norvo was the killer of Bilby’s widow. The way this is handled is where Victor Lobl’s direction really comes into its own with the arguing voices drowning out as Ezri realises the truth before everybody else. Kevin Rahm’s quietly pained performance as he admits what he has done is very poignant.

Result: Not as bas as I remembered but far from being classic DS9; Prodigal Daughter is hampered by some weak direction (unthinkable from the man who brought In the Pale Moonlight to life last year) that makes the whole piece feel very staged and stagnant. What I hadn’t taken into account was just how perceptive much of the scenes with Ezri’s family were with some really well observed moments of domestic psychology that made me sit back and nod my head when thinking back to similar moments with my own family. At times though this feels more like a daytime soap opera than and episode of DS9 and seaguing in elements from last years Honor Amongst Thieves doesn’t really impact because the show wont head out into the mean streets and show O’Brien investigating the Syndicate. The resulting episode is pretty flat but buoyed by some great performances and decent individual moments and for more insight into Ezri (she’s definitely being given the Seven of Nine treatment in the shows final year!) it is worth a watch. I wish Kevin Rahm’s Norvo had headed back to the station with Ezri because he would have really fitted in with the misfits that populate DS9! About as vanilla as this show comes: 5/10

The Emperor’s New Cloak written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Levar Burton

What’s it about: Quark, Rom and the Nagus in the alternate universe…

Tasty Terrorist: Where the Indendant used to be a marbled and fascinating character now she is a thoughtless parody of the same character with none of edge that made her so riveting to watch in the first place. She is no longer an unpredictable character who can show mercy on a whim and get her claws out in an instant…nope she walks on screen and points out that she is a lesbian and then murders Brunt simply because that is the sort of thing this character does. Its so appallingly handled I’m surprised the actors didn’t object.

Mr Wolf: The Regent was such a fun character in Shattered Mirror but even he has lost his appeal now. When we first catch up with him he is doing a massive comedy sneeze to camera which is as good of a snapshot of what this episode offers than anything.  Rather than trying to outthink his enemies the Regent starts punching his chair like a child that has been told they have to visit their grandma! Once he has to surrender he picks up his clearly lightweight chair and tosses it about the room! This is beyond embarrassing.

Quirky Counsellor: Ezri the punk lesbian? I’m lost for words…

Community Leader: Quark has been trying to arrange a merger with Ezri for some time now but it looks as though her attentions are starting to turn towards Bashir despite the bribes that he offers to the Divine Exchequer.

Plain and Simple: That description has never been more appropriate! All Garak ever seems to go on about in this universe is his revenge on the Indendant. There is not a single sign that there is anything to this character beyond that goal and every breath he utters is tied to the subject. Its not much for Andy Robinson to get to grips with and the resulting performance is beyond pantomimic because there is nothing else he can do to amuse himself. Having the Ferengi characters winding up Garak with cheap psychology that a four year old could see through is embarrassing and never more so when he actually engages them on this level.

Secret Genius: I have never seen what people say when they complain about Rom…until now. The script compounds his character with a whole new level of stupidity until there comes a point where I was praying for him to shut his mouth and not say anything. There is a world of sophistication from his characterisation in It’s Only a Paper Moon and the buffoon we meet here.  Why is Rom obsessing so much about the differences between our universe and the alternate one and why does he keep harping on about it so much?

Wily Tycoon: Whilst the idea of Zek trying to expand his business portfolio by attempting to exploit the alternative universe is a fun idea nothing that is presented here would suggest that he is the financial genius of repute. Spare me the thought of the Indendant tugging at his ear hairs as he all but cheats on Moogie in her dominatrix presence!

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘I can’t believe it! Julian just shot Vic Fontaine!’ – things manage to get this desperate and that is only 13 minutes into the story!
‘Have a seat big boy!’
‘You mean no-one can see us? How deliciously deceitful!’ – why does everything the Indendant says have to have a sensual edge?

The Good: Quark and Rom carrying the invisible cloaking device along the corridors of DS9 is the sort of subtle humour that this episode lacks for the most part and takes some skill by the actors to make look convincing and not ridiculous. The gag with the knuckle duster is pretty funny.

The Bad: It seems to me that all you need to do these days is punk up one of the main characters and have them turn up on the station to justify the alternative universe angle. Having Ezri just turn up like Bariel did in Ressurection lacks any of the imagination or the shock value of Crossover. These opening scenes in Quark’s quarters lack any kind of tension or atmosphere and are the epitome of Levar Burton’s dreary static direction. There isn’t even anything original about the Nagus turning up at the beginning of an episode and crying out for help…that was done in Rules of Acquisition and The Magnificent Ferengi too! Even Martok is characterised as an unthinking bully who stomps through cargo bays and threatens the boys. There is no point where this episode hits a single beat of thoughtful characterisation. Vic Fontaine the Rambo-esque android? Are they trying to emulate an episode of Voyager because they are approaching their level of stupidity at this point and possibly exceeding it! Of course Brunt is a nice guy in the alternate universe because he’s such a slime ball in ours. Like everything else it is the most obvious path the writers could have taken. Everybody who is evil (the Indendant) or ambiguous (like Ezri) in this universe has a homosexual leaning – I’m not usually one to moan about this sort of thing but I don’t know if that is the best sort of message to put out in America! They couldn’t even be bothered to whip up some new effects footage for the final scene so they shoehorn in a quick moment from Shattered Mirror instead. Its almost blink and you’ll miss it so I’m not sure why they bothered and re-using old footage so brazenly like this is another example of the slapdash approach to this episode. Oh what a surprise…Leeta is a lesbian too! And a militant manly one at that! A couple of shots fired and the Regent surrenders? Are his defences that lame? After all the Regent has put the Alliance through and they just march him through a cargo bay of cheering Terrans? He should have been executed in the most painful manner possible! It doesn’t feel like a wrap up in any sense of the term but more like ticking off the things that need to be completed with as little effort and intelligence as possible.

Moment to Watch Out For: Get out of town! There is no moment in this episode I would completely endorse. If this section was called ‘Moments to Avoid’ I could fill it up to bursting!

Result: What is this? Unbelievable to think that this was written by the same duo that brought us The Siege of AR-558. How could the alternative universe stories begin on such a high (I rated Crossover a 10 and Through the Looking Glass a 9) and end on such a low? I have never been a huge fan of Levar Burton’s direction but he hits and all new low here and fails to inject any of the fun and frivolity that was necessary to make these kind of episodes work. I fail to comprehend how with a cast this good you can drive such ridiculously broad performances from them to the point where not even Andy Robinson, Jeffrey Combs and Wallace Shawn manage to shine. It seems a shame that they should waste what is the last Ferengi episode and the last alternative universe episode by combining them – neither genre has ever been known for its subtlety and when you try to start a relationship between the two the result is an unbearable pantomime piece that labours the joke. Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler wrote two comic belters last year but this sinks even lower than their season five collaboration (Ferengi Love Songs) without a single line of dialogue worthy of merit. It’s a disappointing end to two of my favourite Trek genres and proves that despite this shows fantastic consistency of quality they are still capable of dropping the ball big time at the most inopportune moments. Loathsome viewing and probably the worst DS9 episode of the entire run but I’m placated by the fact that this is the last bad episode of the show as we enter the incredible second half of season seven: 1/10

Field of Fire written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and directed by Tony Dow

What’s it about: A killer is loose on the station…

Single Father: Strange how awesome that knife looks in Sisko’s hands!

Unknown Sample: Whilst you might think this episode is more suited to Odo’s talents than Ezri’s there are still a number of great observations from our favourite shapeshifter including tips that he picked up from Chief O’Brien’s 20th Century crime novels!

Mr Wolf: A scene between Ezri and Worf offers hope that this par will reconcile their difference before the end of the series and whilst the thoughtful Klingon admits that he would watch over Bashir or O’Brien in the same way you know he never would. He cares for Ezri and his assertion that she will find the killer because she is Dax and ‘it is your way’ is rather touching.

GE Doctor: More talk about Bashir and O’Brien’s private holodeck time together. Just what do they get up to in there? Bashir is offering emotional support in the wake of Ilario’s death and the two of them seem to be getting closer with each episode. Its easy to see at this point how they reach their relationship by the end of the season.

Quirky Counsellor: In a season that is fast become Voyager season four part two, Ezri gets a third episode in quick succession just like Seven of Nine had numerous opportunities in her first year. The difference being this is the only year we can explore Ezri and the remaining characters are all about to get one huge last hurrah in the ten part final arc. She’s slipped into this group of character effortlessly by now and you wouldn’t be able to tell at this point that she hasn’t been one of the regulars for many years. She seems to have the past memories under control now and balances the young and cute Ezri with the older and more experienced Dax with some maturity. Because of Joran’s memories inside of her she knows exactly what it is like to take the urge and the need to take a life. De Boer seems to really enjoy the chance to pay some darker material and her scenes holding the rifle and threatening to stab Bertram have some power to them. Where this episode really scores is the twisted tension between Ezri and Joran – I don’t think I would mind a series where these two went around investigating murders just so we could enjoy him trying to get her to join in all the time and her acerbic insults back! I love how close to the edge she becomes throughout this episode and the dark places that it takes her. As Joran mentions in the last scene she can’t just bottle away his memories and homicidal tendencies anymore and if DS9 had a more Farscape style edge to it we could have enjoyed Joran popping up ala Scorpius in Crichton’s head to give her some advice or simply to wind her up! I would have welcomed that!

What’s Morn up to: Heading back to his quarters with a Dabo girl on his arm, Morn is in for a good night!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I suppose I shall have to make myself more endearing…’

The Good: Its hard to give a red shirt (because that’s exactly what he is) a real personality in only a couple of minutes before he/she dies (its something that TNG and VOY have tried to master and failed) but Hector Ilario really jumps from the screen as somebody who could have added something to this series and that makes his death pretty shocking. He’s basically Harry Kim (a wet behind the ears Starfleet youth that shows a lot of promise) but likable and with a sense of humour (‘in the morning I’ll be sober but you’ll still be beautiful’). The TR-116 is a really well thought through anachronistic weapon that pleasingly just happens to look completely kick ass at the same time. Any firearm that can see through walls, beam a bullet into a room and make you look like you mean business at the same time is definitely doing something right in my book. Leigh McCloskey might not be anything like the Joran we saw in Equilibrium (although he was only in one scene for about half a minute so I’m willing to let it pass) but he does have a great deal of fun devouring the scenery as the creepiest serial killer Trek has ever produced. This is a man who genuinely gets off on murdering people and isn’t afraid to try and seduce Ezri with the same desires and there is no way to play that but theatrical and gleeful which is a joy to watch (and there is never a moment when a creepy smile is far from his lips). I like seeing how everybody works together on this investigation (the complete opposite of Voyager’s Repression where Tuvok was the obvious suspect because he is the only person working the case) and the scene where O’Brien and Bashir use their own interests to figure out the specs of the weapon is very well scripted. O’Brien’s demonstration with a melon being punctured is pretty gross when you think that could be somebody’s head with this superior new weapon. Odo offers investigative prowess to Ezri, O’Brien technical expertise and Worf emotional support – its nice to see a team of people working together. The episode bubbles along with some skill until Joran shows up and then it just goes for broke with some wonderfully powerful scenes of Ezri putting herself in the killers shoes. Actually being able to see through the sights and scan through bulkheads is great fun and truly invasive of peoples privacy and gives you an idea of the thrill the killer must be feeling. I love the way the gun flashes with a little cross every time it fixes on a victim, it’s a little detail but it makes the weapon all the more frightening. Joran’s comments about Sisko made me chuckle (‘he’s so insufferable, so Starfleet…’). Once the leap about Chulak has been made its great scenes all the way as Ezri has to hunt him down through the bulkheads of the station and discovers him pointing a weapon at her as she is at him. Its one of the tensest conclusions to a Trek episode that I can remember!

The Bad: Perhaps Ezri could have her own spin off series – Ezri Investigates – where she is like a 24th Century Jessica Fletcher and visits all kinds of space stations and ships and leaves a trail of murder in her wake? The massive leap Ezri makes about the pictures and the killer being a Vulcan is pretty unbelievable and it might have made a lot more sense if she had touted a couple of theories.

Moment to Watch Out For: I remember when I first saw this episode and I was entranced by Ezri’s hallucinatory dream which doesn’t play out like the usual Trek dream sequences but instead has real chills and that disturbing effect of being a few steps from reality that bad dreams have. I love the slow motion camerawork, the deep redness of the blood and the chilling music and de Boer’s reaction to the horrific images feels very real.

Fashion Statement: When Ezri says that Ilario admired Bashir and O’Brien exchange that word for fancied. Lets not beat around the bush and pretend otherwise…Ezri looks fucking hot holding the TR-116!

Result: My favourite of the Ezri episodes (Afterimage was full of great character work but a little too quiet and Prodigal Daughter lacked strong direction) and despite the unusual premise (Ezri Investigates…) and nonsensical motive of the villain (‘because logic dictated it…’) it is still an strangely engaging piece of Trek investigative drama. Top notch direction and lighting really helps to sell the atmosphere of the story but what counts is Robert Hewitt Wolfe’s long over due return to the series and his exciting plot and memorable dialogue. It uses both Ezri and Dax’s character really well by trading on the psychology of the former and the dark past of the latter and I find Nicole DeBoer and Leigh McCloskey’s (who gives a masterfully theatrical and sinister performance) chemistry rather beguiling. Add to this a number of tense and exciting moments, a truly phenomenal weapon in the shape of the TR-116 and one of my favourite musical scores for any Star Trek episode and you have an episode where you can probably question its placing in the last season but the strengths and presentation more than justify its existence. It’s the start of a 13 episode run of greatness that sees DS9 bow out in real style: 8/10

Chimera written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Steve Posey

What’s it about: Odo meets another of the Hundred and questions his place on DS9…

Single Father: I’m glad Sisko points out that the Founders have deceived them before because planting Laas amongst them is exactly the sort of machinations they would think up. Odo’s passion for pleading Laas’ case spills over into discourtesy and Sisko quietly reprimands him in a way that only he can. Sisko’s ‘dismissed’ tells you that he doesn’t expect Odo to engage at all in the search for Laas.

Tasty Terrorist: Interestingly Kira joins this episode after Odo and Laas have linked together. I love the scene where she points out that it is a little more personal than talking because Nana Visitor underplays her reaction so beautifully. She’s right, the obvious parallel would be having sex with somebody to say hi when you are in a relationship because it is a completely similar sharing of bodies and emotions. The conversations between Kira and Odo are far more touching than those between Torres and Paris they don’t scream at each like kids in a playground, they talk like adults that are struggling with their feelings. It’s a much more effective way to portray a relationship. Something about linking with Laas gave him the impression that Odo wanted to leave with him and that really bothers Kira. She wonders like I’m sure all lovers do if they are enough for the person they have chosen to be with. She broke my heart when she apologised to Odo for not being able to link with him. He tries to explain to Kira that when she looks at him it is just a form he borrowed and he could just as easily be something else. She understands that but this is what he has always chosen to be – a good man and the man she fell in love with. When she realises how torn he is Kira gives him the greatest gift she ever could – she lets him go so he can head of and explore his life to its full potential regardless of how heartbroken it will leave her. It is one of the most selfless acts I have seen in this show and truly shows her depth of feeling for him.

Unknown Sample: ‘They tolerate you Odo because you emulate them. What higher flattery is there? I who can be anything choose to be like you!’ For Odo this is the most exciting find since he first found his people. To have the good fortune to meet one of the hundred like himself and share stories of how they were treated and what they think of the Dominion is a rare treat for Odo. Odo points out that dozens of species on the station tolerate each other very well but Laas adds that they are all basically alike, bipeds that eat, sleep and breathe. With changelings they are truly alien to humanoids. I think he has pointed out there why Odo has always been such a delightful character. The other ‘outsider’ characters on Trek have been great fun because of their difference (Spock, Data, Neelix…not so much Neelix) but Odo has been a joy to explore because his character is so different from anything we recognise and this episode goes out of its way to point out that whilst that is the case he often pretends otherwise. But nobody can escape who they really are and I think it is at this point that I realised that Odo will definitely be returning home at the end of the series despite the strength of feeling he has for Kira. Laas points out that Odo’s shapeshifting haven in his quarters hasn’t been used in some time, not since he has been busy setting up home with Kira. The trouble is that Laas has such a skewered picture of humanoids that he thinks Odo’s very being is determined by humanoids when he has made the choice to live the life that he does. Odo suggests he isn’t embarrassed to link in public but the way he folds his arms is a very defensive gesture and he does admit that he doesn’t go out of his way to point out that he isn’t like everybody else. When Dukat offered Kira a chance to go back to her terrorist ways in Return to Grace I never took the offer seriously and would have thought less of the series had they made her agree. Star Trek is always making potential suggestions like that (I think the Doctor has left Voyager on about four separate occasions only to be back in sickbay at the end of the episode) but for once this is an offer that I could take seriously because it is extremely seductive one if you understand Odo’s character well. Laas suggests they could roam space experiencing their lives as changelings and find the other 98 shapeshifters that were sent out into the universe and form a new Link. One that is built on exploration and not warfare. On every count that must appeal to Odo and he says as much. When he returns to Kira Laas spells out exactly what he could be giving up – his last chance to exist the way he was meant to. What a sacrifice to make.

Everyday Engineer: O’Brien continues to feel like the most 20th Century bloke in the 24th Century just be being so wonderfully flawed. He forgets to get Keiko a present whilst he is away because he has been married for so long that such frivolities are long skipped over (Odo basks in the fact that he has bought Kira two presents). I also love the way that his character has always been uncomfortable around any changeling that isn’t Odo and that feeling definitely extends to Laas. O’Brien makes barbed comments that border on racist (when all the changeling is doing is inconveniencing him momentarily) and he isn’t afraid to show that nastier side of himself when he thinks it is called for.

Community Leader: There is a terrific Odo/Quark sequence where once again (just like The Siege of AR-558 and many other examples) Quark shows real depth and understanding of the situation. Odo is smart enough to know that people don’t want to be reminded that he is different, especially during the current war with his people. He gives a brilliant speech about how our ancestors learnt the hard way that what you don’t know might kill you and that that instinct is bred into us all.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘We’re not the ones who can disguise ourselves as anything we want’ ‘Meaning?’
‘You deny your true nature in order to fit in?’ – there is a whole world of discussion that could be had with that one line taking all kinds of minority groups (sexual, religious, class and colour) into consideration.
‘They claimed that he surrounded them menacingly!’ ‘The felt menaced by fog?
‘Watch your step Odo, we’re at war with your people. This no time for a changeling pride demonstration on the Promenade!’
‘I hope you find what you’re looking for’ – this scene is devastating and Kira’s gentle hopes for Odo’s future brings tears to my eyes.
‘You’ve know idea what it means to love someone enough to let them go.’

The Good: If you need an example of how well DS9 casts its semi regular characters then you need to look no further than JG Hertzler’s incredible performance as Laas in this episode. They say that a script can make or break a man and I believe that is true – Hertzler also played a one of part character in Voyager (a wrestler in Tsunkatse) but in comparison he was completely forgettable. With Laas he pours everything he has into making this person live and breathe and he leaps from the screen as one of the most impressive characters in ages. He opts for an eerie fluting quality to his voice which completely disassociates himself from Martok but it is everything about the portrayal that marks him out as different from the way he carries himself to his stillness and chilling thoughtlessness. His opinion of the Founders and their war is so beautiful – ‘I can understand their distrust of humanoids but why try to conquer them? Why not avoid them altogether?’ It sums up his character perfectly. What’s really interesting is that Laas has done all the things that Odo is experiencing now – he has found himself a home amongst humanoids and a mate – but in his case it didn’t work out and festered a feeling of distrust for monoforms. It could potentially be a peek into the future for Odo. Ouch, Bashir’s steak could not have turned up at a more inopportune moment! The very idea of Laas being fog on the Promenade is hard for me to get my head around but it sure makes a beautiful looking scene! Imagine walking through somebody like that? He’s just doing it for effect and it works precisely how he wanted it to by provoking somebody into attacking him and proving how violent humanoids are to shapeshifters. Its such an interesting legal battle because the Klingon did stab Laas first but then he reacted with homicidal force knowing that he couldn’t be killed. So who is the guilty party in this situation? Even small details like how Odo isn’t allowed to see Laas unsupervised and Kira is are perfect. Laas’ reaction when Odo tells him that he isn’t going with him is spot on - he backs away like a caged rat that has been caught in a trap.

Moment to Watch Out For: ‘If I ever made you feel you couldn’t be yourself with me, I’m sorry. I want to know you, the way you really are…’ The final scene of Chimera makes me melt like few love scenes ever have. The expression of love both Kira and Odo have made for each other in their decisions to let go of something important is what makes this so touching but its Kira’s willingness to explore every part of Odo’s life that really drives home the depth of feeling between them. Auberjonois and Visitor are at their absolute peak (and that’s saying something) and the music and effects as Odo envelops Kira in a warm embrace of light and colour are glorious. Its singularly the most erotic and the most heartfelt moment in the Trek canon. Bravo for taking this relationship to such an emotional level – its one that has simply become more piquant as time has passed.

Teaser-tastic: Amazing that a show that is so inward looking as DS9 (I don’t mean that in a negative way at all) should open this episode with a scene that explores Gene Roddenberry’s fascination with seeking out the unknown better than many a TNG or Voyager episode. The giant space fish that swims alongside the runabout is a gorgeous creature and leaves both Odo and O’Brien aghast at what it might do to them. I love the way it collides with the ship and runs through the conduits before vomiting out of a grille in the shape of a changeling. You go from Roddenberry’s space exploration to DS9’s mythology in one easy swoop. A great teaser and a thrilling opening for the story.

Fashion Statement: Odo and Laas is possibly the most homoerotic moment in all of Star Trek beyond the Bashir/O’Brien relationship.

Orchestra: The music on DS9 started very predictably picking up from TNG and pretty much emulating the drab scores that plagued the last few years of the parent show. Since season four things have really changed (with the advent of David Bell mostly) and the music has become far more dynamic and exciting. I’ve really noticed how effective the scores have been since the beginning of season six but pretty much every episode this year has had memorable music from the Klingon planetary strike in Once More Unto the Breach to the poignant strings that accompanied the hand to hand battle in The Siege of AR-558. Now they have sorted out the exciting stuff it gives me great pleasure to report that the more sentimental episodes are being given the same exquisite treatment too and in particular Chrysalis and Chimera both enjoy some very effective (and in no way treacly as in the past) music. I love the ominous and yet exciting theme for the attack on the runabout at the beginning of the episode. There’s also great music when Kira confronts Laas in the holding cell and the finally scene is blissfully realised.

Foreboding: You realise with some horror later in the season that Odo has infected Laas with the same disease that is afflicting his people in this episode. We learn something about Odo that we never knew, if it wasn’t for the war he would be with his people. That’s something that would be very prevalent given how his journey in this series ends.

Result: The finest love story Trek produced and one of my top ten DS9 episodes, Chimera has more substance (it’s a word I use a lot but I’m talking about character development, genuine emotion, intelligent dialogue, fascinating themes and presenting all of that in a dramatically satisfying way) to it than anything I have seen in an age. Kira and Odo’s relationship has been charted more satisfyingly than perhaps any other in Star Trek (Necessary Evil, Heart of Stone, Crossfire, Children of Time and Behind the Lines to name just one episode from each season) and with each step we have taken away a greater understanding of both characters and what they mean to each other. By finally bringing the two of them together romantically it has kicked off a fascinating thread and allowed us an intimate peek into their lives. Laas comes along to challenge all of that in very permanent sort of way and kicks off discussions of how they see their relationship and how long it might last. His presence forces Kira and Odo to make a massive decisions about their future. Its not just romance that is on the cards though – this is an episode that deals with prejudice, matters of identity and alien perspectives on things that we take for granted. It’s a gorgeous script and its brought to life astonishingly by Rene Auberjonois, Nana Visitor and JG Hertlzer. Add some beautiful imagery featuring a space fish, fire, fog and a final scene that will make you feel more like cuddling your partner than ever before and you have a piece that works on every count and then some. I love Chimera; it has a great deal to say and it does it so creatively and emotionally and with profound impact: 10/10

Badda Bing Badda Bang written Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Mike Vejar

What’s it about: It’s the heist to end all heists!

Single Father & Freighter Captain: This is a great Sisko episode (aren’t all post season five episodes great for his character?). It could almost be a response to the way Janeway actively encourages her staff to take their eye of the ball and obsess over the latest Tom Paris holodeck programme but I loved Sisko’s gruff ‘when do you plan on going back to work?’ to his crew as they all stand around in Ops and discuss helping out Vic Fontaine. Badda Bing Badda Bang begins what is a run of strong episodes that deal with Sisko’s relationship with Kassidy and proves what a great idea it was to keep these two together. The chemistry between Avery Brooks and Penny Johnson is top dollar (it has something to do with the way Sisko is such a powerful bloke in all other respects but Kassidy confidently has her own way with him all the time – you can see how good she is for him) and their candlelit dinner scene together is gently intimate. Like Take Me Out to the Holosuite it is great to see Kassidy (and Penny Johnson) let her hair down and she really throws herself into the role in some very funny scenes. At first I wasn’t sure if shoehorning in a civil rights message in something this fun was a good idea but like Far Beyond the Stars it proves to be a very positive, very Star Trek message for the show to promote. By pointing out how things were back in the 50s it also points out how they should have been and how far we have come since then. I know racism is still rife in some areas of the world but we have made incredible leaps all the same and that is worth celebrating. How good does he look in a tux tossing those dice up the crabs table? More to the point what a terrific rendition of The Best is Yet to Come by Brooks and James Darren – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this one!

Tasty Terrorist: Kira is the best girlfriend you could ever ask for – she tells Odo to enjoy himself looking at the beautiful ladies whilst he gets to work.

Mr Wolf: Hurrah for Worf who seems to be the only person (other than Sisko) who doesn’t suffer from Vic fever. It has the adverse effect of excluding him from the episode (which is a real shame considering this is the last ensemble piece with everyone together) but there definitely needed to be somebody to comment on the latest holosuite craze on the station otherwise I might have thought that the writers didn’t know how far their obsession for this character extends. 

Quirky Counsellor: Ezri is part of this team now. There have been enough episodes that allowed her to find herself and fit in and now she feels as much a part of the ensemble as any of those who have been around for seven seasons. Try hard as I might but I never got that impression from Jadzia in her first year. I somehow could have guessed the first problem during the heist would start with Ezri but she redeems herself completely by manipulating the count man into swigging back the laxative infused cocktail!

50s Crooner: After being built up as such an unbelievable Mr Fix-it its rather refreshing to see Vic being pushed around so savagely and given a splash of cold water. Despite their over enthusiastic outpouring of love for the guy you realise in this episode just how many people Vic has helped out in his short time on the show. Getting Kira and Odo together, soothing Bashir and Quark’s woes at losing Jadzia to Worf, helping Worf to remember his wife and getting Nog back on the road to recovery after losing his leg. The Mob taking over Vic’s is a not very subtle take on the Dominion snatching DS9 at the end of season five but from his point of view it is just as invasive.

What’s Morn up to: Like Quark he is being kept well out of the action and can only guess what is going on at Vic’s.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I needed that money to buy a gift from my mama!’ – I don’t know why that line tickles me so much but I think it has a lot to do with Johnson’s insane accent!

The Good: Basically this whole section is going to me enthusing about Mike Vejar’s astonishing direction of Badda Bing Badda Bang which goes beyond his usual skill into something avant-garde. This episode has the energy, the style and the pace that Live Fast and Prosper was desperately searching for in Voyager’s sixth year and if I had to describe the episode in one metaphor it would be like watching a champagne cork popping and alcohol raging forth without mercy. The idea of a jack-in-the-box in Vic’s holosuite programme is great fun – the writers don’t even bother to pretend that this is anything but a bit of frippery (unlike Our Man Bashir, The Bride of Chaotica or Fair Haven that all try and shoehorn in jeopardy plots). Who doesn’t love a heist story? I like Badda Bing Badda Bang for the same reason I adore Ocean’s Eleven and Hustle; the creativeness of the direction, the enjoyment of the cast and general pizzazz that the piece radiates. The reason why the rehearsal scenes in Dark Frontier didn’t work is because when we got to experience the real thing later in the episode it plays out in exactly the same way meaning that we have had to watch the same material twice. The rehearsal in Badda Bing Badda Bang works so joyously because it shows us how everything is supposed to fall into place at each stage and then the reality of the situation trashes all over their carefully orchestrated scheme with marvellously chaotic results. The fluidity of the camerawork in the rehearsal is like water running from one stream to the next, its absolutely flawless and it continues right through to the heist itself. Nice that Robert O’Reilly should get a little cameo out of make up. At one point Vejar impresses with a 360 degree camera spin across the gambling tables and that isn’t an easy feat to pull off. Brilliant POV of the empty safe and dramatic close ups as Frankie realises he’s been had. The pan along the bar with the DS9 crew all turning around to watch Frankie Eyes being ejected from the premises is cheesy as hell and I love it.

The Bad: Did anybody not think Sisko would turn up at the door when they are one man down? We’re back in Disney territory!

Moment to Watch Out For: Check out the montage after the rehearsal discussions and then tell me that this isn’t the finest ensemble that Trek assembled? Odo zipping up Kira’s dress and kissing her on the shoulder, Kassidy doing up Sisko’s tie as he practices rolling the dice, O’Brien and Bashir staring through the glass of water straight at the audience and the crew walking down the Promenade in slow motion to a jazzed up version of the DS9 theme tune. These guys were just made for each other. Plus the image of a black man and a white man arm in arm singing a song is what Star Trek is all about.

Fashion Statement: No matter what your preferences are this episode has something very tasty for you to look at. For the ladies and the gay guys in the crowd it’s the chance to see Avery Brooks and Alexander Siddig suited and booted and looking as sharp as. And for the gents and anybody who finds women easy on the eye you can enjoy the scantily clad Ezri and Kira and all manner of skimpy costumes and flesh on display. The guard that Kassidy flirts with is an absolute hottie too.

Orchestra: A wonderful, wonderful score that highlights how unique this episode is. Its stylish, lively, sunny, snazzy and damn catchy! During the actual heist I was practically dancing on my desk chair! And who ever knew that the DS9 theme tune leant itself so well to being spunked up and papered so slavishly over an episode? This is one soundtrack that deserved its own CD release.

Result: Its DS9’s last piece of fluff so it pleases me to report that it is warm, witty and rather wonderful – a chance to bask in the incredible chemistry between the cast and have a high fluting adventure in Vegas at the same time. As much as this is a gift to the DS9 cast and chance for them to dress up in some fabulous clothes and have a great deal of fun together it is also a present to Mike Vejar who is out and out (only Allan Kroeker holds a candle to him) the greatest directorial find in modern Trek. Between them they get to bring a great deal of sensuality (I love all the casual intimacy between the cast), energy (every scene is packed with detailed choreography) and frivolity to the screen and it all climaxes on one hell of a musical number that informs us that things are about to get even better. A massive shout out for everybody involved in bringing this episode together from the set designers to the hairstylists and costume designers and the musician – its an extremely attractive looking and sounding piece that sees everybody falling in love with the period atmosphere. A crazy, colourful adventure with great performances and infectious energy, Badda Bing Badda Bang might be rejected by hardcore Trek fans but that just leaves more enjoyment to be had by the rest of us. The best is yet to come indeed but what we are getting now is also of a standout quality. Happy viewing: 9/10

Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Section 31 has an assignment for Bashir…

Single Father: Sisko reports that officially Starfleet has made an announcement that they are appalled at the very notion of Section 31 but unofficially they have quietly brushed any investigation into the organisation aside. They know about it and they are happy for them to operate in the shadows as long as nobody finds out about it. 

GE Doctor: That bloke Bashir has had an incredible run of luck in past the couple of seasons, hasn’t he? Our Man Bashir, The Quickening, Dr Bashir, I Presume, Inquisition…its been one knockout episode after another (and to think he started out with episodes like The Passenger and Melora!). Inter Arma is his last standalone episode and fortunately it is one of his best with the good Doctor proving to be adept at weaving his way through the deceitful plots of Section 31 and the Romulans and having the wool pulled over his eyes at the same time. If there is one thing you could say about Bashir it is his belief in the ideals of the Federation and he still upholds them to this day despite everything that he has seen. Its during this episode where the scales finally fall from his eyes and he sees how far up to the neck the Starfleet is in it when it comes to their tactics to win the war. What’s clever is how Bashir is on the right track throughout most of the episode – he correctly guesses that Sloan has a Romulan ally – but is too naïve to take the deduction to its darkest conclusion. Its only once you have already watched this episode that you can see how dexterously Bashir is manipulated into turning to Cretak for help and thus putting her squarely in the firing line. He ends this episode staring darkly into space and pondering the revelations that this piece has thrown up and I don’t think a character has felt more like me in this shows entire run.

Section 31: ‘Have you come to take a bow?’ Sloan proved himself to be a great actor last year by convincing Bashir that he was working for Starfleet security to test whether he was a Dominion spy. He’s equally adept in this episode pretending that he has only just met Bashir by accident in front of Ross and Cretak and lying his way through each and every scene until the last where his true motives are revealed. He’s such a skilfully crafted character because you never know what he is telling you is the truth but Sadler delivers every line with such sincerity that you are beguiled into believing him anyway. The snippets that he gives the audience about Section 31’s role and the sort of work they do is enticing to say the least. Sloan will casually talk about assassinating Romulan dignitaries if that will further the Federations best interests. Can you imagine what Picard would say if he were privy this conversation? 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I must say I’m disappointed at hearing you mouth the usual platitudes of peace and friendship regarding an implacable foe like the Romulans. But I live in hope that one day you’ll come to see this universe for what it truly is rather than what you wish it to be.’
‘This war isn’t over and you’re already planning for the next.’
‘Let’s make a deal, Doctor. I’ll spare you the ends justify the means speech and you spare me the we must do what’s right speech. You and I are not going to see eye to eye on this subject so I suggest we stop discussing it.’
‘Pull your head out of the sand and take a look around Doctor – these are not nice people we are dealing with here!’
‘I’ve spent the last year and a half asking young men and young women to die – I like that even less!’ ‘That’s a glib answer and a cheap way to avoid the fact that you’ve trampled on the very thing that those young men and women are dying to protect!’
‘The Federation needs men like you, Doctor. Men of conscience, men of principle…men who can sleep at night.’

The Good: Klingon/Romulan tension is always a joy and could you detect the ice cold hatred between Kira and Cretak in the first scene? Kira might be an administrator but that doesn’t mean she has to like the people she works with, especially after the woman was ready to blow her up at the beginning of the season. You might think that this is going to be a ‘Garak returns to Romulus’ episode given his appearance in the pre titles sequence but it manages to surprise you before the credits have begun by making this a Bashir piece and re-introducing Section 31. Its always nice to see our plain and simple friend anyway and his casual racism is a riot! I have waiting for the return of this perfidious organisation ever since they were introduced in Inquisition because they are so a glorious window into the darker side of the Federation that the franchise usually shies away from. Oh and we get William Sadler back who gave one of the most impressive guest performances of the previous year. I loved hearing Sloane’s projection of future conflicts because it goes to show just how far Section 31 thinks ahead. Oh the irony of setting most of this story on the Voyager sets but featuring a script that is far denser and more intelligent than anything they could have come up with in their entire seven seasons. I love that they use these sets which are usually the setting for fluffy action adventure tales and having dark and devious plots brewing in them. It opens a window to the sort of show that Voyager could have been. The Romulan Tal Shiar and Section 31 are both nefarious organisations so pitted one against the other for an episode promises a great deal of stratagems. Leave it to the Romulans to consider the Quickening virus the Dominion used an effective weapon rather than a abhorrence that needs to be eliminated. Have we visited Romulus before in Star Trek? Not to my relocation and certainly not on DS9 so it makes this trip an exciting one off that another trip to Bajor, Quonos or Cardassia wouldn’t be. Ross suffering an aneurysm works a treat because it feels like Bashir’s allies are being removed and the net is closing on him. Once Bashir truly gets his hands dirty and is taken into a back room and tortured I had absolutely no idea how this episode was going to end. The framing of the scenes before the Senate are very nicely done, its great to see David Livingston providing such memorable visuals in his last DS9 episode. The next great surprise is when Sloan is brought before the Senate and made to account for his made up crimes – could Section 31 really be a figment of his fevered imaginings? John Fleck gives an impressively sinister turn as Koval and there isn’t any point in this episode where you would even suspect that he is anything but a loyal Romulan politician. The final twists are great – Koval is working for Starfleet, Ross is the one who has manipulated Bashir so thoroughly, the war has afforded Section 31 to come out of the woodwork and shake hands with Starfleet so openly and Cretak was always the intended victim. Can nobody appear on DS9 and not get their hands dirty? Eddington seemed like a safe bet until he was revealed to be the leader of the Dominion. Our next hope for humanity was dear sweet Admiral Ross but this episode exposes even him as getting in bed with the enemy to ensure the safe running of the Federation. Thank goodness none of the TNG crew made a significant appearance on this show…I would hate to tarnish any of their bright, appealing images with some DS9 dirt.

The Bad: A shame that they had to recast Cretak but the new actress does a fine job so its more of an annoyance than a hindrance.

Before the Final Chapter: I find the accusation that season seven ignores the Dominion war until the final ten part arc really hard to swallow especially since I have just reached that point in the season during my marathon rewatch. Lets take a look at the evidence –
Image in the Sand: Scenes with Damar and Weyoun discussing the war plus a Romulan presence on the station because of the war.
Shadows and Symbols: A raid on a Dominion shipyard.
Afterimage: Garak’s claustrophobic attacks are directly linked to his intelligence reports on Cardassia to bring down the Dominion alliance.
Treachery, Faith and the Great River: The Founders disease introduced and Weyoun’s new clone defects to the Federation.
Once More Unto the Breach: An attack on a Dominion base.
The Siege of AR-558: A bloody fight to hold onto a Dominion listening post.
Its Only a Paper Moon: Nog is dealing with post traumatic stress after the siege of AR-558.
Field of Fire: A murderer loose on the station whose motive is linked to the war and the loss of his shipmates.
Chimera: Much discussion of the Founders and their conflict.
Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges: Federation political machinations putting safeguards in place because of the current Dominion conflict.
Which leaves Take Me Out to the Holosuite, Chrysalis, Covenant, Prodigal Daughter, The Emperors New Cloak and Badda Bing Badda Bang and I know there is a mention of the war in each of these stories. I honestly think if the producers had had their own way and condensed this into a season long arc without any deviations from the war it would have grown quite tiring by the end – it would have been a season of Babylon 5! Throughout this year there are strong step forwards in the arc to get all the pieces in place for the final marathon long arc, a ten episode epic to tie everything up. It was the best possible outcome – although I would have tossed away the middle episodes (Daughter and Cloak) and saved more money for the finale.

Moment to Watch Out For: Just as everything has been wrapped up very neatly with Sloan’s exposure and death along comes the confrontation between Bashir and Ross. Where we realise Bashir isn’t as daft as he might seem. Where we realise that Ross has dirtied his hands in a major way. Where we realise that Starfleet is completely aware of Section 31’s messy plots and is helping them implement them. A scene that confirms that Sisko’s dark plans in In the Pale Moonlight weren’t a one off and perhaps the Federation has only maintained its pristine image by dirty methods behind the scenes. If this might seem like another one off plot that leads to murder and corruption there is an even nastier surprise to come in When It Rains… With its fantastic performances and fantastic dialogue, this is a moment that proves that things will never quite be the same again.

Result: I love the four episode run that takes place before the ten episode arc because it shows categorically why DS9 attracted the following that it did with an eclectic but equally strong group of episodes. There’s a fun and tense murder mystery, a poignant love story, an energetic comedy and finally a razor sharp conspiracy thriller. Section 31 using Bashir as an undercover agent visiting Romulus? That’s a premise that would get anybody excited! Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges is one of the most impressive scripts of the last season because it keeps piling on layers and surprising with its plot developments until the very last scene – you go into it expecting something dark and twisted and you depart breathless that the series would actually penetrate this darkly into the heart of Federation. I refuse to believe that anybody knew where this episode was heading when they first watched it, Ron Moore deploys the master craftsmanship of Agatha Christie by constructing a piece full of red herrings and a plethora of suspects and then saves the best surprise until the very end. There is a feeling of paranoia and claustrophobia as the lies close in on Bashir and an elaborate trap is sprung to catch an innocent victim. Choosing a favourite scene is hard because the dialogue kicks some serious ass throughout (when Ronald D. Moore left Star Trek it was a real loss to the franchise) but the final climactic moment between Bashir and Admiral Ross must rank high as one of the finest scenes in the franchise. If the Final Chapter can produce anywhere near this quality as DS9 sprints to a climax we will be in great shape and with episodes such as The Changing Face of Evil, Tacking Into the Wind and The Dogs of War still to come season seven is about to kick some serious ass. A triumphant espionage drama, a top notch Bashir episode and a skilfully constructed dialogue piece for David Livingston to bow out of this series on: 10/10

Penumbra written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Steve Posey

What’s it about: Worf and Ezri get lost in the past whilst Sisko and Kassidy think of the future…

Single Father: ‘Stay on the path, Benjamin…’ It’s a great point to start being reflecting since the show is about to come to an end and the first scene of Penumbra sees Sisko deciding to build a house on Bajor and move down there with Kassidy during his down time. Given his first reaction when he stepped foot on DS9 was to try and get reassigned he has come such a long way since then with regards to his feelings towards the planet and his role in its mythology. Just this year Sisko has learnt why ‘he is of Bajor’ because his entire life has been manipulated by the Prophets, the very reason he was brought into being was because of them. He was also still hurting because of the loss of his wife in Emissary but since then we have seen those wounds heal and him move on and forge a life with Jake and a relationship with Kassidy and now he is ready to commit again and start another family with her. Its all very refreshing, positive development. From the moment he stepped on the station nothing has turned out how he imagined it – that’s true for Sisko and the audience too.

Freighter Captain: When Sisko first told Kassidy about his real mother she was really surprised but the more she thought about it, the more she realise what an amazing thing it was. The proposal scene is very understated which is just the way I like these things and you genuinely believe that these two have bond together. When she melts under his proposal and he purrs ‘I love you’ its difficult not to melt yourself. Kassidy wants a nice simple affair (its so refreshing to hear a woman say that) but forgets that she is marrying the Emissary of the Prophets and ‘people are saying that this going to be the biggest wedding Bajor’s ever seen!’

Mr Wolf: And thus begins Worf’s head fuck as Ezri rescues him from the Badlands and he gets lost in the past. It bothers Worf that Ezri knows him so well because of Jadzia’s memories. When he returns to the campfire and shoves a beast on the floor and cries ‘dinner!’ I laughed my head off! What a funny bloke. Its easy to see how he and Ezri end up in the clinch that they do because their sniping behaviour screams of two people that want to get their clothes off and roll around in front of the fire.

GE Doctor: Bashir criticises Captain Boday for being an opinionated and arrogant womaniser which is exactly what he was in season one! Its proof that Bashir has come quite a way on this journey too!

Quirky Counsellor: ‘She’s a Dax. Sometimes they don’t think, they just do…’ The writers very quickly got a handle on this character (I guess they had to with the limited screen time left for her) and know exactly where she is going and what she needs to get through in this ten episode arc to complete her journey. I’m glad she gets such a central role in the early episodes of the Final Chapter and especially that she was paired up with Worf because de Boer and Dorn have such winning chemistry. Learning that Worf has gone missing during a Dominion attack Ezri cannot ignore the feelings instilled in her by Jadzia for the man and heads off in a shuttlecraft to find the man she used to love after the search is called off. Her fake static as Sisko tries to order her back is really funny and her plan to cut the runabouts engines and allow the currents to toss the runabout to where they took Worf proves she is no slouch in the brainbox either. For somebody who gets space sick that’s quite an ask. She’s sick of not being able to discuss with Worf the things that they have in common and finally lets rip on the arrogant sod. Ezri is so tiny so that when she grabs Worf’s head and snogs the face off him I was cracking up!

Community Leader: Quark thinks up the most vacuous reason for Worf trying to stay alive but the simple fact that he is trying to make Ezri feel better sees him trying to be a good friend.

Slimy Snake: When Dukat was telling Kira that he has come to know the love of the Pah Wraiths in Covenant it was hard to believe a word that he said but when he says the same thing to his old friend Damar it becomes all the more frightening because he has no reason to lie to him. Seeing Dukat as a Bajoran is one of the best surprises of the year so far and you have to wonder what the hell he is up to.

Wily Weyoun & Pretender to the Throne: Weyoun sighs wearyingly as he informs Damar that once again the Federation have become aware of one of their outposts. You get the feeling that he is as sick of the continuing war as Sisko is. Damar talks about the sacrifices that Cardassia has made for its alliance with the Dominion and how not one family hasn’t lost somebody. Oh Damar, you aint seen nothing yet. Damar is still entertaining women behind his wife’s back and drinking too much. He’s in a slump of depression and looking for relief in all the wrong places.

Malleable Monster: The Female Shapeshifter is falling to pieces, scabby and weak from the disease that is tearing through the Great Link. They haven’t been able to find a vaccine for the disease and proving how ruthless she is she orders the Vorta Doctors eliminated and their replacement clones activated because as fresh eye might bring better results. Weyoun is happy to give this order but he looks genuinely scared that he is just as disposable.

The Good: The Badlands effects have just gotten better and better over time and now the plasma storms look absolutely three dimensional as the curly in front of the screen and toss the runabout about. I really like how quickly Worf and Ezri have to abandon the runabout after being fired upon – usually these scenes take forever and we have to go through the rigmarole of watching the ship crash land on the nearest planet. This time it doesn’t even make it into orbit, it’s a sudden attack that leaves them stranded in about half a minute! The introduction of the Breen is very sudden and unexpected and hinges the story in a new direction. What role do they have to play in the Dominion war?

The Bad: Dukat’s return to the series couldn’t be more underwhelming. It should have been a massive moment but he simply walks through a door very casually with nary a musical sting or dramatic camera angle to be seen. I’m glad Worf brings up Trill reassociation but the show does seem to want to skip over what was a very serious crime in Rejoined quite airily.

Moment to Watch Out For: Just as Sisko is about to go ahead and marry Kassidy and be happy for a change those pesky Prophets pop up with portents of doom again – this time about his future wife! ‘If you do you will know nothing but sorrow…’ There comes a point when you might want to tell them to fuck off out of your life! Still these ominous whispers promise exciting things to come…

Result: Penumbra is unlike any other DS9 episode in that its sole purpose is to kick start most of the plots that will be bubbling away in the next ten episodes but has no intention of resolving any of them. On one hand I might have hoped for something with a little more oomph to kick start the final arc but on the other the slow build of tension does pay off in the last ten minutes and leave you wanting more and the material that makes up the episode is all good stuff. Primarily its about Sisko and Kassidy and Ezri and Worf and with them you have the epitome of a DS9 romance (genuine feeling, a shared history, respect for each other) and a Voyager one (sitcom antics and thinking with their bodies). Both are fun to watch but the former shits all over the latter because I am emotionally involved rather than superficially so. With the return of Dukat, the inclusion of the Breen and the reawakening of the disease plot there is plenty of substance but everything is all a bit too quiet at this stage to be truly engaging. It’s like a massive jigsaw that has only just begun, you can see how this could be a satisfying whole but we’ve only assembled the edges so far. This isn’t entirely satisfying as an episode but as an opening instalment to a ten part arc there is a lot of rich material here: 7/10

‘Til Death Do Us Part written by David Weddle and Bradley Thompson and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: Will Sisko marry Kassidy? Will Winn kiss Dukat? Will Damar shake off his depression? Will Ezri and Worf reconcile their differences? And what the hell are the Breen up to?

Single Father: You might think that any reasonable man might tell the Prophets to go hang themselves (as I did in the last review) after telling Sisko not to marry Kassidy but taking a step back for a minute and considering his history with these beings actually shows that this a tough decision. The Prophets gave him his life back when he moved to Bajor and allowed him to move on from Jennifer’s death, they blasted an entire Dominion fleet into oblivion at a crucial point in the war and prevented the takeover of the entire Alpha Quadrant and recent he has discovered that they are the very reason he exists. He has owes them a lot. And yet his heart sings for Kassidy and he knows that it is right to be with her. Sisko has that crushed look down pat every time it is announced that Kai Winn is approaching! The choice he makes to go ahead with the wedding is a bold one especially after the ominous warnings during the ceremony but that just makes him a more kick ass kind of guy than I already thought he was.

Freighter Captain: Kassidy’s reaction to Sisko’s warning is much calmer than I would be but she has already shown that she understands how much the Prophets mean to him. She walks away rather than confront him or make the choice harder and cannot disguise the hurt in her face.

Tasty Terrorist: There hasn’t been much in the way of Kira/Sisko scenes this year but this episode rectifies that with a great moment when Sisko reveals he has called off the wedding and Kira backs him up saying that he should go against the Prophets. One thing I will say about Kira she has always remained faithful to her belief throughout the show even when it might prove to be an unpopular decision. She does attend the wedding to support her friend but she cannot hide how she feels about it.

Mr Wolf: Clearly Worf has been catching up on the latest repeats of Doctor Who since he has tried everything from ‘my cellmate is ill’ to ‘short circuit the door’ to try and escape the Breen cell. Its devastating because Worf so tenderly declares his love for Ezri and her body language screams that their roll in the hay was a one off mistake.

Spiritual Leader: Winn’s appearance in the ten part arc is where it goes from good to great. She’s so much fun as a villainous schemer and yet here (like season fives Rapture) we are about to probe much deeper than usual to see what makes her tick. Her no-nonsense dialogue always makes me howl and I especially love it when she butts into Sisko’s wedding plans and takes over assuming that he didn’t ask her to originally because he must have thought that she was busy! As if! When she admits to Sisko that the Prophets have never spoken to her it is through gritted teeth and spitting jealousy and Louise Fletcher absolutely nails Winn’s awe when what she thinks is the Prophets finally do consent her a vision. The though of Winn and Dukat together is enough to make you feel quite nauseous and yet its so deliciously perfect that two such powerful villains should pair up – no matter how unknowingly – that it makes you wonder why they haven’t done it before! Winn leaps out of bed when Ahnjol comes calling in the middle of the night, barely having time to do her hair and straighten her nighty! It would appear that the spiritual leader of Bajor has carnal needs too! Ugh!

Slimy Snake: There is a gorgeous moment between Dukat and Damar where he reminds his old friend that the fighter he once knew is still in there despite how much the Dominion has beaten him down. The guileless role he plays as Anjol is so skilfully done that despite the similarities in features to Dukat you would never guess it was the same man. He manipulates Winn from the second he walks through the door and I was on tenterhooks waiting for the penny to drop throughout! Dukat is clearly as good a performer as Marc Alaimo and I love the way he supplicates himself in front of Winn (casting his eyes downwards, always humble and apologetic) but slowly grows in confidence as each scene progresses.

Wily Weyoun: Hilariously Weyoun isn’t even bothered that Damar has helped turn Dukat into a Bajoran – he thinks of him as some pesky insignificance with crazy delusions!

Pretender to the Throne: Damar is a tragic shadow of the man he once was, woken by Weyoun in a drunker stupor with his greasy hair hanging around his face and ladies underwear strewn on his bed.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘This is no time for your jokes!’ ‘It’s no time for Klingon chest thumping either!’
‘It seems a shame to let something so beautiful go to waste…’ – Quark chipping in with a beautiful line at the right moment.

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Kiss me Julian!’ – really? That’s the best you thought of doing this?

The Good: You just know that Winn’s vision is not the work of the Prophets, its bleached blood red and the entities close in on her in a menacing fashion. Its very dramatically done with sinister performances and low angles. As soon as we see Dukat swaggering down the Promenade the reason for his cosmetic treatment becomes clear and his involvement suddenly becomes a lot more interesting. I love the way that the Breen suddenly appear (especially cutting through Ezri’s dream-talk) and torture Worf with their pain sticks. It’s a really effective way of showing the danger these two are in the way they are casually tortured. I wont write a section for Solbor because he doesn’t have much to contribute but heavy sighs and disdain for Ahnjol but he does it so well! The Female Shapeshifter is looking more ill than ever but has hatched a plan that Damar isn’t going to like…I love all this foreboding atmosphere. I can’t help but compare shows when it comes to something like marriage but ‘Til Death Do Us Part has quite a lot in common with a Voyager season seven episode where two of the regulars get married because they show the two characters doubting the relationship before the wedding take place. However Voyager’s vacuous excuse for a relationship shows B’Elanna upset because Tom always wants to tinker with toys rather than spend it with her whereas DS9’s doubts are full of substance and are tied into the mythology of the series and the journey of its characters. Its another example of why I prefer this show. Its hilarious that every time Worf and Ezri start talking about their feelings the Breen turn up suddenly to interrupt them! Its almost as if they heard my prayers! The Dominion and the Breen are joining forces and Ezri and Worf are Weyoun’s prisoners…more please.

The Bad: All of Ezri’s dream bollocks struck a bum note with me…it strikes me as Deanna Troi mumbo jumbo and a really lame way of getting Ezri to admit to Worf how she feels about Bashir.

Moment to Watch Out For: How ominous is that moment between Sisko and Sarah during the wedding ceremony? What dangers is his mother warning about?

Result: With its emphasis on the Sisko/Kassidy wedding, the Breen making a dramatic impact and the strong use of some DS9’s finest recurring characters (Winn, Dukat, Damar and Weyoun) this is much stronger puzzle piece than Penumbra and is packed full of memorable moments. What I love about this episode (and the next) is that it doesn’t go down the route of throwing space battles and major developments by way of juggling Empires (that all comes later) but instead it kicks off this arc by focussing on two of DS9’s greatest strengths – the incredible acting talent of the cast this show has amassed and the top notch range of characters it has nurtured. The highlight for me is the material between Marc Alaimo and Louise Fletcher because the pair of them run with what is a truly fantastic idea – Dukat and Winn getting it together! The way that Dukat manipulates Winn is a joy to watch especially since she thinks she is in control of this relationship the whole time and I can’t wait to see where this goes. I could do without the Ezri dream talk but at least we get to see Worf tortured a bit and DS9 once again proves that it can take a strong theme (calling the wedding off) and use its cast to chip in with their opinions and create some fine drama. Again this is just another piece of the puzzle but ‘Til Death Do Us Part is far more dramatically satisfying than the opening instalment and closes one storyline whilst opening others. I would happily enjoy more episodes of this type but things are about to get bigger, bolder and more remarkable. I can’t wait: 8/10

Strange Bedfellows written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Rene Auberjonois

What’s it about: Winn discovers who her allegiances are really with, Ezri and Worf come to an understanding and Damar is pushed to take action…

Single Father: ‘And so…the battle begins!’ Sisko’s marriage is still given some consideration and after a genuinely glowing scene with Martok where he discusses the virtues and the woes of being married he returns to his quarters and discovers that controlling the little woman might not be as simple as he thought! Kassidy married him but she didn’t convert to Bajoran religion and she’s not going to suddenly start acting as though she believes in the Prophets as he does. Good for her for sticking to her own believes and telling him where to go! I understand there was a further scene in this episode planned where she does give in and attends the Bajoran ceremony for her but actually I prefer the episode as it goes out with her sticking to her guns.

Quirky Counsellor: Suddenly the Ezri/Worf relationship is being handled by Ronald D. Moore so their scenes are suddenly much funnier and fulsome and blood entertaining! Worf declares that he was seduced and betrayed by Ezri which leads to a very amusing bitch fight! I’m so glad Ezri tells Worf off for going on about honour and her line ‘I hate to burst your bubble Worf but was never that good!’ made me crack up. Worf eventually admits that he doesn’t love Ezri as he loved Jadzia and they both decide to put their dalliance to rest and focus on being good friends. It took a little too long to get here but it’s a satisfying conclusion and would lead to some lovely scenes in subsequent episodes between them.

Spiritual Leader: ‘You’ve sacrificed everything for them and how have they rewarded you? They’ve appointed an alien Emissary, they’ve rejected you at every turn…even now they wont speak to you!’ Winn is completely under Dukat’s spell (although she still doesn’t know that he is Dukat) and it makes for some deliciously loathsome moments. She’s feeding him in bed and flirting outrageously with him and he is still nudging her unknowingly in the direction he needs her to go. She proves that she isn’t completely shallow and after the mucky stuff is out of the way she wants to get to know Ahnjol better. Things that might seem trivial to him mean a great deal to her. Winn expresses sheer horror at learning she has been contacted by the Pah Wraiths and not the Prophets. It’s a massive moment for the character because it working with these creatures goes against everything she has believed in for her entire life. You suddenly realise with absolute clarity why the Prophets have never spoken with Winn. They can see the future as well as the past and can see her entire life mapped out before them and her allegiance with the Pah Wraith clearly marks her out as an enemy. It seems almost cruel that this woman should be used as a pawn by these elemental forces but she’s seen to be so conniving in the past that it almost feels deserving at the same time. Or maybe its because she has been manipulated so that she has been such an inveterate schemer. Maybe that is what these forces wanted her to be and she is actually the shows biggest victim? Winn is so desperate that she turns to Kira to confess her sins and the Colonel genuinely thinks that she can be redeemed if she steps down as Kai. It’s the one point where Winn could turn this all around but no matter how many doubts she has about her faith her ambition still reigns supreme and nothing would make her give up her power. It’s the point where she signs her own death warrant and turns her back on everything that could have saved her. Its quite voyeuristic to watch this play in retrospect. She thinks she is making the decision to walk the path of the Pah Wraiths now when she has been doing so her entire life. The difference is she only realises about their presence in her life now.

Slimy Snake: Dukat literally saunters through the corridors of DS9 as Winn’s faith crumbles to dust. What a bastard.

Wily Weyoun: One of the best Weyoun episodes yet and one where he gets  a huge slice of the action and a chance to be witty , lecherous, acerbic, toadying and, well, dead. The Weyoun clones have afforded the show some very black humour and all the gags surrounding the sudden death of Weyoun and his reappearance a few scenes later really hit the spot (‘Maybe you should talk to Worf again!’).

Pretender to the Throne: Damar has reached breaking point since the Dominion is not even treating the Cardassians as second class citizens anymore…now they’re third class citizens behind the Breen. Unbelievably a secret itemised treaty has been drafted offering territorial concession from Cardassia to the Breen but it doesn’t list what they are! The Dominion is literally giving chunks of the Empire away! Damar has to act and act soon to regain his peoples dignity. It’s a fascinating turn of events that we should suddenly feel for Damar so much when last year he was probably the shows most hissable villain. Damar throwing the drink in the mirror is a very telling moment because this is exactly what he has been doing for the past year - drowning himself in booze when he cannot face what he has become. Damar takes the opposite road to Winn. She had the chance to step down and redeem herself but refuses whereas he has the chance to step up and redeem himself which he makes the decision to commit to here.

Imperiatrix: ‘With the Breen at our side the Federation will not be able to stand against us. They’ll be erased from the face of the galaxy!’ The Female Shapeshifter looks scabbier and more desperately ill every time we see her but she can hold her shape for short periods to keep up appearances in front of their new allies.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Over the course of our marriage I have won my fair share of battles but in the end I know she will win the war!’
‘You have the biggest ego of any man I have ever known!’ ‘Considering how many men you have known that is quite a statement!’ – oooh! Miaow Worf!
‘Go! Crawl back to your Prophets! Beg their forgiveness! Live the rest of your life in Sisko’s shadow!’
‘The Founder! She wishes to speak to me. She’ll have to be told about this!’ ‘Oh I’m sure she’ll understand and if she doesn’t I’ll look forward to meeting Weyoun nine!’
‘I remember when I first saw the gate of the Celestial Temple. I was on the Promenade. When it burst into view this whirlpool of colour and light the people all around me were in awe. They said they could feel the love of the Prophets washing over them. Do you know what I felt Ahnjol? Nothing. Absolutely nothing but I smiled and pretended that I did because it was expected of me. I’ve never admitted that to anyone. They’ve never spoken to me, never offered me guidance, never trusted me with the fruits of their wisdom and now I’m supposed to step down as Kai in order to be blessed by them? No. I have worked too hard, waiting too long to give it all up now. The Prophets have turned their backs on me after all I’ve done, all the pain I’ve endured for them. I’m a patient woman but I have run out of patience. I will no longer serve Gods who give me nothing in return. I am ready to walk the path the Pah Wraiths have laid out for me’ – a truly impressive dramatic reading by Louise Fletcher and the best Kai Winn scene to date (a hotly contested category).

The Good: I love the way we cut from Weyoun and Damar talking about Septimus Three and how the Dominion will pretend the Cardassian garrison to Sisko and Martok laughing about how it will be crushed in the upcoming fight. Its odd to see the Federation as the conquerors whilst those who should be the enemy are painted as the victims. DS9 has never taken the black and white route and this is another great example of why that is a rich approach. Martok describes marriage as a long gruelling intoxicating war!’ Ron Moore certainly writes the richest dialogue, doesn’t he? Rene Auberjonois is no slouch when it comes to directing DS9 and he has picked up so much in the handful of episodes he has helmed. I like how he frames scenes (Dukat purring in Winn’s ear in the mirror), how much exposure he gives the actors (he affords Nicole de Boer and Michael Dorn some extreme close ups during their feistier moments) and how he slowly tracks in on characters so the screen starts off empty but slowly fills with nothing but what we need to be concentrating on (this works wonderfully in reverse in the scene where Winn begs the Prophets to talk to her and we pull back from her piteous pleas to the Orb box that she is supplicating to). Only DS9 would have scene as gorgeous as the one where Weyoun tries to provoke Ezri into betraying the Federation before have Worf snap his neck! Damar’s reaction of laughing his head is priceless! I love the shots of Cardassia at dusk, they are very evocative. Winn’s latest vision is fluidly shot and stylishly framed. It was during this episode that I realised just how often we head behind enemy lines in this series and how much depth it affords its bad guys. It offers a far more absorbing conflict when both sides are characterised this strongly.

The Bad: Proving that the human characters don’t have much to offer at this stage of the game there is an utterly pointless contractual scene with Bashir and O’Brien at Quarks which adds absolutely nothing to proceedings but to remind us that they exist.

Moment to Watch Out For: Winn’s journey in this episode is incredible but the scene that really gets to me is when she sitting on the floor and begging to the Prophets to speak to her. I never thought I would be able to feel so much for her and Louise Fletcher is willing to take the character to such a pathetic low that I really admire. Its mesmerisingly good.

Foreboding: What we need to see was what the Breen could bring to the war (besides that shrill electronic whining) but we don’t have to wait very long. Sisko is about to suffer a couple of wounding blows in the next episode…

Result: The best Final Chapter episode yet. I love how much time they are devoting to the recurring guest characters and proving once again how much richness they can bring to the series. Strange Bedfellows is all about making bad choices and trying to deal with the consequences in the best possible way. Damar has allowed the Dominion to crush the Cardassia in their palm as they attempt to take the Alpha Quadrant, Winn has gotten into bed with the Pah Wraiths and Ezri and Worf have slept together. Ronald D. Moore charts these three storylines but adds his own unique brand of dialogue and character that raises it above the first two instalments. If you had told me last year that by this point in the show the two characters I would feel most sorry for would be Damar and Winn I would have laughed in your face but it is a another example of how DS9 manages to advance and surprise with its characters. Whilst Marc Alaimo and Casey Biggs have a great deal to offer Strange Bedfellows is owned by an exceptionally powerful performance by Louise Fletcher who has never been better. Weyoun is killed, Damar is plotting the Dominion’s downfall, Dukat is having a whale of a time destroying Winn’s faith and the Ezri and Worf have resolved their differences…Strange Bedfellows continues the momentum of the last two episodes and paves the way for some dramatic twists in the next episode: 9/10

The Changing Face of Evil written by Ira Steven Behr & Hands Beimler and directed by Mike Vejar

What’s it about: Bajor, Cardassia, DS9, the Defiant…its this series in a nutshell!

Single Father: Its official! Nobody touches Sisko’s peppers! The scenes on the station are as joyful as ever and I am loving this trend of following Sisko and Kassidy’s marital problems. She’s trying to cheer him up because of the bad news about Earth and he is trying to protect her from being hurt by the Dominion…the trouble is neither or them are very good at it but their hearts are in the right places! You can understand why Sisko is so protective of Kassidy because he lost his first wife in a battle where an implacable foe was attempting to attack Earth. The situation with the Dominion is even more volatile and dangerous but Kassidy is fearless and refuses to live her life in the shadows just because her cargo ship might be attacked at some point. She well and truly gives him a piece of her mind when he tries to arrange for her to have a month off work to keep her safe and he responds by giving her flowers and champagne. Unbelievably bad timing interrupts (because I think he was on promise if you know what I mean) and Ross turns up with news that requires Sisko to head into battle and risk his life once again. Sisko struts around the Bridge during the battle as though his ship is invulnerable and it makes his loss even more painful.

Mr Wolf: How refreshing to hear Worf goading Ezri about her feelings for Bashir rather than condemning her for them. Theirs is a friendship I think would have really grown had the series continued because its in a really good place at this point. 

Pretender to the Throne: If you would have told me that Damar would become the ultimate Trek hero in season seven and the one character I was rooting for more than anybody I would have laughed in your face. Very long and hard. He was slipped into the series almost invisibly in Return to Grace and turned up in subsequent episodes about Dukat until he was established as his right hand man during the attack on DS9 in Call to Arms. From there is how role just grew and he was shown to be a loyal soldier and a nasty misogynist and his lowest act was murdering Ziyal in cold blood to save her father from defeat. Since Dukat was stripped of his command Damar has been trying to fill that hole ever since and doing a terrible job of it. Its not a role he sought or was capable of performing and he has been manipulated by Weyoun and the Dominion ever since. The Cardassians have literally been canon fodder, the first wave of troops sent into every battle to cushion the blow for the Dominion soldiers behind. Damar has lost any sense of self respect and has turned to drink and women to try and keep his spirits up but as the death toll for his people rises daily and he is continually insulted and losing all authority over the fate of his people. Over the past three episode we have seen him look at the black hole of despair inside himself and try and reach in and find some dignity and strength to fight back. And that’s where we are in The Changing Face of Evil. Damar is finally smiling again, working to bring down the Dominion whilst still pretending to be controlled by them and waiting with a big surprise for Weyoun who is more cajoling than ever. Its been a fantastic character arc and the best part of it is that it isn’t over yet. This is a real high for the character and the series and yet there are still six episodes to go to explore this character and the consequences of his actions here further.

Wily Weyoun: It’s a lovely roller coaster episode for Weyoun which allows Jeffrey Combs to play a massive gamut of emotions. He begins the episode with an air of euphoria as the Federation casualty reports are revised after the successful attack on Earth (something he was lobbying for as far back as Sacrifice of Angels) and ends it in with a look of paranoia as his very life might be threatened by those around him and everything in between is just as delicious.

Spiritual Leader and Slimy Snake: More top notch material with Kai Winn and Dukat that climaxes on a truly phenomenal scene where she realises who he really is. I love how the two of them and Solbor dance around each other in this episode and given their strained relations it is clear that before the piece is over one of them is going to exit stage right. It really surprised me that that person wasn’t Dukat and just how far Winn was prepared to go now she has sign up to the Pah Wraiths cause. Solbor’s heavy sighs just get better here and I laughed when Winn suggested that she was going to spend the day studying and meditating and in walks Dukat her charismatic lover! Dukat is lavishing compliments and poetry on the Kai to keep her focussed on the task but her doubts are creeping in regardless. By studying the text of the Kostamojan and working towards freeing the Pah Wraiths Winn is heading down a dark path and Dukat is at her shoulder at all times purring in her ear that she is doing the right thing. Its gorgeous viewing. As long as he keeps talking about power and ambition Winn is like putty in his hands. I get the impression that Dukat really enjoyed smacking Solbor around – he gleefully tosses him off screen like a rag doll! She had the chance to redeem herself in Strange Bedfellows by stepping down as Kai but she chose power over humility and she has another chance here by rejecting Dukat when she discovers who he is (and is clearly horrified by the fact) and supporting Solbor to have him removed but instead she murders her aide because he might expose her part in all of this. Killing her most faithful friend over the man who enslaved her planet, Winn is now beyond redemption and has to see this thing through. What makes these scenes so powerful is how Louise Fletcher can make all these grand character moments and despicable decisions seem full of doubt and horror. She isn’t a pantomime villain in any way but a living, breathing person who feels she has been backed into a corner and has to lash out to protect herself. Her ambition has lead her to this point and now she has blood on her hands. Its vintage Trek and great drama and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘There’s something different about you today Damar I can’t quite put my finger on it. Its almost as if you’re only half dressed…you don’t have a bottle in your hand!’ – poor Weyoun has no idea why Damar has suddenly regained his confidence but he’s sure going to find out pretty soon…
‘How would you like it if I called Admiral Ross and said ‘do me a favour, please don’t send my husband on any dangerous missions this month?’ 
‘That’s what happens when you share your toys…’
‘We’re going to lose many fine soldiers’ ‘At least they’ll be dying for Cardassia and not the Dominion’ – and there is the crux of why Damar is fighting back.
‘Poor Captain Sisko…I believe he was quite fond of that ship!’
‘And so two years ago our government signed a treaty with the Dominion. In it the Dominion promised to extend Cardassia’s influence through the Alpha Quadrant. In exchange we pledged ourselves to join the war against the Federation and its allies. Cardassians have never been afraid of war, a fact we’ve proven time and again over these past two years. Seven million of our brave soldiers have given their lives to fulfil our part of the agreement and what has the Dominion done in return? Nothing. We’ve gained no new territories, in fact our influence throughout the Quadrant has diminished and to make matters worse we are no longer masters in our own home. Travel anywhere on Cardassia and what do you find? Jem H’adar, Vorta and now Breen. Instead of the invaders we have become the invaded. Our allies have conquered us without firing a single shot. Well no longer. I call upon Cardassians everywhere. Resist! Resist today! Resist tomorrow! Resist until the last Dominion soldier has been driven from our soil!’
‘Legate Damar may be the key to saving the Alpha Quadrant…’

The Good: The Breen have attacked Earth! Oh my God! Of all the pre titles cliffhanging hooks that ranks up there as one of the best and its attention grabbing enough t ensure that the Breen entering the war is never forgotten. The shot of the carnage they left behind (the Golden Gate Bridge is in tatters) is very memorable and its another very personal cost for Sisko and his crew. Suddenly the war feels as if it has stepped up a gear and nothing is safe anymore – not is Starfleet HQ can be reduced to scrap! And strangely because of this terror attack it genuinely feels as if both the series and the war is coming to some sort of climax because it has come to a point where the stakes cannot be any higher. Not even the Borg managed to attack Earth so what else is there to be put a stake? I love the way this episode is lit so evocatively but variedly from location to location. Of all the scenes the ones in Damar’s quarters and the setting sun across a day in the Bajor scenes in particular stand out. The text of the Kostamojan has a lovely air of dark mythology about it and brings a touch of Tomb Raider t the series that would be explored further as we head into the Fire Caves in the last episode. Watch the interplay between the regulars as they head off into battle – they share fantastic chemistry at this point and yet when called for they really bring the gravity of the situation home. There is a silent sequence as they approach the fight which has an intensity of its own and you know this isn’t going to be your usual skirmish. Something big is going to happen. The one foothold the Alliance has managed to make into Dominion territory is about to be snatched back and then every loss the Federation has suffered is compounded because they have nothing to show for it. It’s a quick, savage fight (I love the slow motion explosions) with fantastic effects and (for once) a very clever use of technobabble as various crew members chip in with the systems that are failing and forcing Sisko to make the decision to abandon ship. Even when they all piled out of the ship I still thought there was going to be some trite interruption that saved the Defiant because the ship has been with us now for five seasons. It was only when the ship was literally torn in half and you could see its guts hanging in space that I realised they were going through with this. Oddly this had more of an impact on me than Jadzia’s death did last year – it feel like a massive loss to the show. That is one emotional explosion. It says something about Dominion psychology that they are willing to let Sisko and his crew go free in their escape pods to spread the message of fear to the rest of the Federation. It’s a really cruel thing to do but its also one of the mistakes that the Female Shapeshifter makes that costs her the war. As if finding out that Ahnjol is Dukat and murdering Solbor wasn’t enough to rock this fantastic narrative the book feeding on blood and exploding with knowledge is the icing on the cake.

The Bad: The Breen have attacked Earth! Wasn’t this worth an entire episode on its own? The fact of the matter is that this show isn’t based on Earth and has far more ties to Bajor and Cardassia and the characters that live there and that is where this episode spend most of its time.

Moment to Watch Out For: The closing scene of The Changing Face of Evil is one of the highest high points in DS9’s entire run. Damar’s speech to his people is fantastic (quoted in full above) and the way it cuts to the different reactions of the entire cast of this show – the good guys and the bad guys – exposes just how building up such a great cast of characters can really pay off in arc twisting moments like this. The way the writers offer a double blow to the crew (Earth being attacked and the Defiant destroyed) and then hand out salvation from a truly unexpected source is enough to make you scream out your love for this show. Weyoun’s reaction in particular is a scream. Beautifully acted, written and directed – its Star Trek at its very finest.

Result: Wowza! This is what the first four episodes have been leading up to and its one killer twist after another in the last ten minutes! With the show now taking place on two planets, a space station and various spaceships it feels more epic than ever and with Mike Vejar in town he gives each a very different visual look. The first half an hour of The Changing Face if Evil is one knockout character scene after another with Winn, Dukat, Damar, Weyoun and our regulars all at the top of their game as the many narratives entwine around each other. They gather momentum slowly and then explode during the climax as the Defiant is destroyed in an unforgettable space battle, Solbor is murdered at the hands of the Kai and then in a conclusion of pure triumph Damar publicly announces that Cardassia has turned against the Dominion and their days are numbered. Its an episode that offers highs and lows to all of its characters and reminds you of what their core beliefs are and why they are fighting this war. Its beautifully packaged by Mike Vejar and feels with its planet hopping, dazzling effects and slick camerawork that DS9 has become a movie franchise. But ultimately it sees the war move on in leaps and bounds and flaunts DS9 greatest weapon – its cast. Visual splendour and surprises are vital to a shows success but the reason I keep watching this show so avidly is because I care about these characters and am constantly surprised at the acting talent on display. One of DS9’s best ever episodes: 10/10

When It Rains written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Michael Dorn

What’s it about: Kira and Garak join the Cardassian alliance…

Tasty Terrorist: ‘You want me to go behind enemy lines and teach a bunch of Cardassians how to be resistance fighters?’ It’s one of the best ideas in a very strong final season and is loaded with so much irony I could almost believe that the Kira’s journey throughout the series and the fate of the Cardassians had been planned just so we could get to this cheer out loud development! If you had asked Kira to do this in the first season she would have spat in your eye and then gouged it out for good measure. She hated the Cardassians with such a passion during the aftermath of the Occupation that the idea would have been abhorrent. But since then she has met more than a few Cardassians that she liked (Maritza, Ghemor) and has come to appreciate the threat of the Dominion and how this resistance group would benefit them. The irony of her going back to her old role as resistance fighter but this time fighting with her old oppressors against their oppressors is ripe for great drama. When Damar murderer Ziyal (I’m glad somebody remembers that) he killed somebody that Kira considered to be a part of her family and the thought of working with him leaves a very ugly taste in the mouth. Old wounds are opened when the Cardassians that they have come to help try to remind Kira that her lover was once in cahoots with her enemy.

Unknown Sample: The twist that Odo is infected with the Founder’s disease comes at a point where Odo really needed to be dragged into this story and boy what a personal way to do it! It’s a little strange that Odo held off from showing symptoms of the disease until the revelation had made itself aware…but it works in dramatic terms because it shows that his days are numbered.

GE Doctor: The whole Bashir/Ezri awkwardness could have been cringe-inducing but we have O’Brien in the background making fatuous comments and winding his friend up (‘I haven’t seen you in days!’). Just as we seem to be heading into sitcom territory (Bashir thinks Ezri and Worf are back together) and massive plot twist leaps between them and cuts this thread dead for a while! Hurrah! There’s a gorgeous moment where Bashir is trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare trying to find out as much as he can about Odo’s illness and is pushed from pillar to post by Starfleet. Little does he realise that they are covering up their own involvement in a genocidal plot to wipe out the Founders but as he keeps pushing the dark truth emerges. Alexander Siddig is fantastic in this scene.

Pretender to the Throne: Back on Terok Nor during the Occupation of the station Damar used to tell Rosot how much he despised Kira but that is a luxury he can no longer afford.

Plain and Simple: Of course Garak is going with Kira and Odo to Cardassia. Not only will his skills be invaluable but the one thing that he has been working towards by giving Starfleet so much intelligence is to liberate his people. Now he has the chance to do that in person and he isn’t going to miss the opportunity.

Spiritual Leader: ‘Do you really believe I could let myself be touched by a man whose hands are stained with the blood of my people?’ The cat is most definitely out of the bag as far as Dukat is concerned and the Kai is disgusted that she has slept with a man she has reviled for so long. Winn is so convincing in her concern for Solbor’s safety you might almost think that she hadn’t murdered him herself!

Qapla: Robert O’Reilly is such a presence in any scene he is in so it’s a delight to see him back in the show. I chuckled out how they skipped over Gowron and Worf’s previous tension with a few lines – any other character and I might have been annoyed by Gowron is a politician and they have often been known to switch their allegiances depending on which way the wind is blowing. He plays his hand very well by coming to the station to honour the many battles that Martok has won and immediately afterwards snatching away his authority and taking command. Martok was becoming increasingly popular with the troops and Gowron knew that if he was to retain his title he was going to have to kick him back into the ranks and take over. It’s the worst possible news for the Alliance though because Gowron is a politician and not a military tactician and he is about to make some questionable decision in order to humiliate Martok.

Sparkling Dialogue: How nice. And now that the formalities are over lets not forget that our enemy is the Dominion and not each other.’

The Good: With the Breen energy dampening weapons causing such a dramatic impact on the war (crushing the Defiant single handedly) it has fallen to the Klingons as the only line of defence for the Alliance since their ships aren’t affected. It’s a nice way to shift the emphasis away from the Federation and onto the Klingons for a couple of episodes and bring Gowron back into the action. It’s more important than ever that the Klingons take their role in this war seriously and not simply enjoy the thirst for combat but with Gowron’s political ambitions riding high things are about to get a lot worse. Its great that both sides have suffered a loss – the Federation can no longer fight which is a crippling disadvantage but the Dominion has to cope with Damar’s resistance group which is sabotaging their offensive from behind enemy lines. At this stage of the game the outcome of the war is still up for grabs by either side. It was only in the wake of The Changing Face of Evil that I realised that the series had manoeuvred the Cardassians into exactly the same position that Bajorans were in during the Occupation. They got in bed with the Dominion because they thought it would bring them the same sort of power they had during the Occupation but instead (as Damar so eloquently put in the last episode) ‘our allies have conquered us without firing a single shot.’ I love any story with a rebellion movement (a staple of Doctor Who) because it gives you a chance to really engage with the cause they are fighting for and sympathise with those who are willing to fight their oppressors. With DS9 the waters are ever muddy and it is the bloodthirsty, all conquering Cardassians that make up the resistance movement this time so we are completely for their cause but cannot help but question whether they had this coming given their past. It’s a gorgeous scenario and adding Kira and Garak to the mix makes it irresistible. Let me get this straight – Starfleet sanctioned a plot that would drag the Romulans into the war and cause a massive amount of casualties for their people, they got in bed with Section 31 to drag a Romulan politician into the mud and to ensure that the Alliance with them stays intact until the wars conclusions and now they are exposed as having deliberately infected Odo with a disease that would murder all of his people. I have no idea what Gene Roddenberry would have said about this but it is terrific drama and pushes the boundaries of where Star Trek can go in terms of its core beliefs. This powerhouse revelation takes us back as far as Homefront/Paradise Lost where Odo must have been infected and Broken Link/Behind the Lines where he must have infected the Female Shapeshifter and taken the disease to the Great Link. It gives those four episodes much more meaning during a rewatch of the show and provides a punch in the face to those who still defend Starfleet as a morally superior organisation. I love all this stuff and I am certain that Odo (and Bashir) are going to have some serious questions to ask about Starfleet’s approach to fighting a war in future episodes. Kira talking through her knowledge of terrorism is a highlight because much of what she says comes from experience (she knows that if they don’t attack bases that have Cardassians posted at them then the Dominion will realise this quickly and post them at every strategic target).

The Bad: Like Penumbra, When It Rains comes to a grinding halt in its last scene just as everything is getting really juicy…lucky Ronald D. Moore gets to pick up all these exciting threads!

Moment to Watch Out For: In an episode that is packed full of wonderful moments of irony – Kira being forced to fight for the Cardassians and Odo being the one who infected his people in the first place – my favourite (as usual) belongs to the Dukat and Winn narrative. To have Dukat try and usurp the dark secrets from the text of the Kostamojan from under Winn’s nose and to be punished by the Pah Wraiths by taking away his eyesight is glorious to watch. In the ever playful tug of war between these two characters now Winn has the upper hand and chooses to give Dukat a (long overdue) lesson in humility by tossing him out on the streets to live the life of a blind beggar! I was applauding the first time I watched this – it’s the sort of twisted fate that DS9 revels in. Winn’s little smile as he is thrown out is fabulous.

Fashion Statement: Why did nobody think to put Kira in a Starfleet uniform before? She looks gorgeous!

Result: Much like Penumbra this is a reasonably quiet episode (at least in its execution) that gets on with setting up narratives for future powerhouses but what sets it apart from Rene Echevarria’s last contribution is how dark the material is and the wonderful scenarios that it conjures up. Kira is off to Cardassia to help her old sparring partner to fight dirty against the Dominion, Odo has the disease that has poisoned his people, Dukat is blinded and forced out onto the streets of Bajor to beg for scraps and the Federation is revealed to have instigated a plot to commit genocide. There is no part of that sentence that doesn’t kick some serious ass and then turn around and give you another beating when you get up. There’s also the return of Gowron and his meddling in Martok’s handling of the war. Most of these plot developments are taken to a whole new level in the next (and superior) instalment but they are still introduced very evocatively. My favourite scenes are the Dukat/Winn ones because the performances are as relishable as ever but all the scenes between the newly formed resistance fighters are top dollar as well (especially with the inclusion of Garak). This ten part arc was the only possible option that DS9 could have taken to have even begin to have wrapped up all of the character and plot arcs this series has developed but halfway through now and it is proving to be a catalyst for some of the finest drama the show has ever produced. When It Rains is an example of the arc that is pausing for breath but even these episodes are packed with twists, wonderful dialogue and great performances. Most shows lose their way in their final year (TNG certainly did) but DS9 is bucking that trend and going out in real style: 8/10

Tacking into the Wind written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Mike Vejar

What’s it about: Kira and Odo head a dangerous mission to capture a Jem H’adar ship whilst Worf has to tackle the thorny problem of Gowron…

Single Father: ‘Do whatever it takes Mr Worf. Those Klingon ships are the only thing out there between us and the Breen. Gowron is risking the safety of the entire Alpha Quadrant and he has to stop…’ Sisko is scarier than he has ever been before in this episode. Avery Brooks always seems to relish the chance to delve into the good Captain’s darker side and he performs miracles with this material. Not everybody would be brave enough to scream in the face of a Klingon chancellor but since Gowron is sacrificing the war to advance his career Sisko gives him a right tongue lashing. In what must be considered a watershed moment for the character Sisko as good as orders Worf to assassinate Gowron in order to put his homicidal machinations to an end. A Starfleet commander ordering a politician to be murdered? This was has well and truly pushed its ‘good guys’ into making some very dark choices and this is the most attention grabbing yet.

Tasty Terrorist: ‘I love him Garak. D’you really think I wouldn’t notice?’ Its one of the most touching examinations of Kira and Odo’s relationship (if its not stronger than Chimera it is at least as affecting) yet as she watches him slowly deteriorate and tries to pretend that she cannot see how weak he is getting. If it allows him a shred of dignity to pretend to her that he isn’t weakening then she is willing to go on pretending that she doesn’t know anything until the day he dies. There are few scenes in DS9 as satisfying as the one where Kira kicks the shit out of Rosot – the last time I felt this much elation at somebody getting a good seeing too like this was Damar in Behind the Lines. Its another reminder of how Damar used to be. Rosot genuinely believes that Kira is enjoying sending Cardassians to kill Cardassians, he cannot get over the fact that the Bajorans kicked the Cardassians off of Bajor and regained their independence and that prejudice is given a good beating. ‘I guess I hit a nerve’ ‘No…this is hitting a nerve!’

Unknown Sample: What a horrid disease this malady has turned out to be and when we see Odo shivering, scabrous and barely able to move it is a harsh reminder of his torture in season three’s The Die is Cast. In that episode Garak was the one inflicting the pain but now he is trying to comfort him. But this is Odo we are talking about and he has no use for pity…he just wants to get on with his work and try and cope with his illness as quietly as possible until something can be done about it. Odo genuinely thinks that Kira knows nothing about his condition and it as much a declaration of his love for her that he would prefer to spare her that knowledge as it is a declaration of her love for him that she allows him to enjoy that illusion. When the walls of pretence come crashing down in the climax and Odo can no longer hold his shape it is a very touching moment between the two characters where she just holds him close.

Mr Wolf: ‘What I have done was for the Empire. A new day must dawn but I am not the man to usher in that day…’ Worf has come so far since he joined the cast of DS9. Entering the show in what is considering a turning point for the show he was used quite ineffectively in his first year only serving to increase the quota of Klingon episodes. But very quickly the writers got a handle on this most charming of characters and realised that they could do something with him that TNG would never have dared (and don’t even mention that old sweaty bollocks about him and Troi getting together – ugh!) and that was to put him in a long term relationship with Dax. We had two fantastic years with these two together and Worf was seen to lighten up like never before (with still the occasional moment of stubborn gruffness…he wouldn’t be Worf otherwise!). In the advent of his wife’s death we got to see him go through the grieving process and become good friends with her (very cute) successor. Throughout all of this he has formed a bond with Martok, joined his house and become a powerful man amongst his fellow Klingons as he fought battle after battle in the Dominion war. That leaves one remaining plot element to tie up and that is his long term conflict with Gowron. When It Rains handled that rather briskly but it was just leading us off on a false scent and with permission from Sisko he can hatch a plan to finally get rid of his nemesis and give the Klingon Empire a leader that can truly herald a new beginning. What makes this material so rich is that it is grounded in Worf’s history on DS9 – it has nothing to do with anything that came before that. We’ve seen this love/hate relationship between Worf and Gowron development to epic proportions and now it is time to bring the affair to a dramatic conclusion. And what a conclusion it is! He tries to take the diplomatic approach and encourages Martok to challenge Gowron’s authority but his brother refuses to commit treason even though he can see that Gowron is trying to ruin him. Martok cannot imagine a single Klingon warrior swearing an allegiance to somebody from such humbled beginnings as him but Worf has the foresight to see through such prejudice (perhaps the Federation did instil some goodness in him after all) and appreciate the dignity and glory who could bring to their people.

GE Doctor: Wow, Bashir is barely recognisable from the callow youth he was back in season one. Here is a man who is willing to work until he drops to save Odo’s life, keep secret a genocidal plot concocted by Starfleet from his commanding officer and tell his best friend to get out of his face whilst he tries his best to cope with a bad situation. It takes O’Brien to make Bashir realise that he isn’t going to find a cure and that they are going to have to lure an agent of Section 31 to the station and force one out of them.

Quirky Counsellor: Worf vocalises that he considers Ezri to be a worthy successor to Jadzia. Its what she needs to hear more than anything and in return she tells him what he needs to hear more than anything. Ezri has a far less romantic view of the Klingons than Jadzia did and she thinks that their current way of going about things (ruling through corruption and murder) deserves to be brought to an end. ‘If you’re willing to except someone like Gowron’ she tells Worf ‘then what hope is there for the Empire?’ A great scene for Ezri.

Plain and Simple: It’s a measure of how fond we have grown of Garak that he is the one we trust the most out of everybody in the rebellion. However he hasn’t lost his edge and I love the image of him hiding in the shadows watching Kira dish out some pain to Rosot and considering the ramifications. Garak taking up arms against Rosot to save Kira during the climax is a punch the air moment.

Rebel Leader: Damar initially supports Rosot and his bullish ways because he has been his friend for many years and he represents everything that Damar believes a Cardassian should be. Its when he receives the news that the Dominion has caught up with his family and murdered them that he realises things have to change on Cardassia. They have to change. In a moment of breathtaking tension Kira reminds Damar that he was exactly the sort of officer that ordered the deaths of women and children just as the Dominion have done to his family. It’s a shocking reminder of past conflicts but its like throwing cold water in his face. He finally wakes up to the reality of the situation. The Cardassians can no longer behave like that – he can see the situation from the other side now and understands that what they did during the Occupation was wrong. Rosot is still championing that way of life but Damar understands that they have to be better than that if they are to have a future.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘If I don’t want pity from the woman I love why would I want it from you?
‘If Damar destroys another shipyard he will have to kill a great many of his own countryman as well. This will help turn his people against him.’
‘To kill her and my son. The casual brutality of it. A waste of life. What kind of state tolerates the murder of innocent women and children? What kind of people give those orders?’ ‘Yeah Damar what kind of people give those orders?’
‘Its very honourable’ ‘Better, albeit a little obvious’ I can’t believe that line came from Worf’s mouth! Bloody hilarious!
‘Kahless said great men do not seek power…they have power thrust upon them.’
‘He was my friend. But his Cardassia is gone and it wont be coming back’ – Damar’s choice to kill Rosot is surprising but the only way forward for his people. When looked at dispassionately it is a mercy killing because Damar is right…the Cardassians can never be the way Rosot wants them to be again.

The Good: The music and effects are all in on the deception that sees the episode open with what turns out to be a replay of one of the terrorist attacks that Damar’s resistance cell has committed rather than actually experiencing it live. Their efforts are a success at the moment because the Jem H’adar are getting sloppy rather than the Cardassians are good at this sort of thing. Rosot encapsulates everything that is wrong with this resistance cell – an old school Cardassian who still believes in their absolute superiority despite the fact that they are living on the run and facing a far superior enemy. He forgets the training the Kira has given him because he thinks that nothing can be learnt from a Bajoran. He is what Damar used to be and the episode very subtly points out that this is exactly what Damar can no longer afford to be if they are going to succeed and see this thing through. The make up for the Female Shapeshifter is ever more grotesque! She’s starting to look like something from the diseased mind of Edvard Munch! Everything about the raid on the Jem H’adar ship is edgily executed. There is always something exciting about going behind enemy lines but for our heroes to put themselves in the open like this and try and bluff their way into the heart of the enemy is foot tappingly tense. Their plan to take Kira on board as a prisoner and have Odo pose as the Female Shapeshifter is rather brilliant and Garak’s homicidal actions as soon as he has a Jem H’adar weapon was shocking. I loved Kira’s impression of the Vorta, she manages to imitate those honeyed tones perfectly. The way Damar’s narrative plays out where he has to choose whether to kill Kira and take the Cardassians back into the past or kill Rosot and beckon the future is horribly inevitable. That this happens during their already tense mission to steal the Jem H’adar ship is unbearable to watch! Like the Worf/Gowron plot there is no way of knowing how this is going to end which is what makes it so damn exciting! Another thing this final arc gets very right is how it thinks through its twists and then deals with the consequences in a satisfying way. The Breen energy dampening weapon was introduced spectacularly in The Changing Face of Evil when the Defiant was destroyed and so the resistance steal a ship that has been installed with the device so the Federation can study it and counteract its effects. There are lots of stacked developments like this throughout the arc that make the overall story flow beautifully and satisfyingly.

Moment to Watch Out For: Worf tossing away his comm badge (as if to strip away his allegiance to Starfleet and fully embrace his Klingon heritage at this moment) and picking up a Bat’leth to fight Gowron is the precursor to one of the most exquisite fight scenes in Trek. Not only is it Worf’s finest moment but its also a fight that really means something because if Gowron succeeds in killing Worf it might signal the end of the Alpha Quadrant and a victory for the Dominion. David Bell’s music has never been better and Worf crashing through glass in slow motion has to be seen to be believed. Electrifying action that signals the end of one of the most memorable Trek guest characters in a way we will never forget.

Result: Possibly the finest Deep Space Nine episode. Lets be honest, DS9 isn’t really Star Trek any more at this point, is it? It might exploit the same races that were gestated on TNG but come season seven this is a series that has become entrenched in its own mythology and universe and is riding high on the high quality cast of characters it has nurtured and the story arc it has evolved. There is so little here that can be connected to the rest of Star Trek that at this point I could happily consider them separate entities and without trying to denigrate the franchise this is so much better than anything you will find in the other Trek series. Its more intelligent, more involved, better acted and written and with production values to die for used in all the right places. Tacking Into the Wind is a great piece of television full stop never mind the Star Trek connections. It exposes the shows best characters in glorious fashion, it furiously continues the arc in riveting style, it cherry picks the shows own mythology to add depth and it does all this whilst providing gripping entertainment and moments of on the edge tension. Outstandingly directed by Mike Vejar who deserves so much credit for the atmosphere he brings to the piece and the cherishable performances he coaxes from the cast. Ronald D. Moore has refined his craft to such an extent now that you can see all the tough drama and scorching character work he would bring to his reimagined version of Battlestar Galactica. Both are certainly in evidence here and some excellent dialogue too. Tacking into the Wind would easily secure a place in my top three DS9 episodes: 10/10

Extreme Measures written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle and directed by Steve Posey

What’s it about: Bashir gets the chance to wander around Sloan’s brain to discover the cure for Odo’s disease…

Single Father: Sisko’s underplayed reactions to all the schemes that Bashir was eager to keep from him was actually very amusing. Duping Starfleet medical, luring somebody from Section 31 and their plan to use a Romulan mind probe…all very underhanded. The fact that Sisko expresses surprise but doesn’t stop his officers proceeding with this plan shows just how far he is willing to turn a blind eye to this sort of thing there days.

Tasty Terrorist: For Kira (who lost Bariel in similar circumstances on a bio bed in Bashir’s infirmary) it must be extremely hard to see Odo in a similar situation and about as far from the strong, solid man she has fallen in love with than you can get. She loves his so much at this point Kira literally doesn’t care how Odo looks.

Unknown Sample: Odo is such a realist and demands a time frame from Bashir of how long he is expected to survive. He might be being selfish but he wants Kira to continue working with Damar to undermine the Dominion – he doesn’t want her to spend his dying days mooning over her the same way she did with Bariel. He doesn’t want the last thing he sees to be pain in Kira’s eyes.

Everyday Engineer: O’Brien wants to come with Bashir into Sloan’s mind but not because he doesn’t want to be the one left alone to explain to Sisko their lunatic scheme but because he has clearly come to love the guy and wants to look after him.

GE Doctor: Bashir sits outside as Kira and Odo say good bye looking for all the world like a big fat failure. We realise with some horror as Bashir has done that it would have taken the work of at least 73 people at Starfleet to have put the genocidal plan to murder the Founders into action (including Admirals and Doctors). Bashir can barely stop himself from laughing when Sloan points out that the Romulan mind probes he is about to use on him are illegal in the Federation (‘I hope you can appreciate the irony in that…’). Sloan thought Bashir was just an idealist but now he believes he is a dangerous man who would destroy the Federation with his do-good values.

Section 31: Sloan tries his scare tactics on O’Brien by subtly mentioning his wife and children but Bashir isn’t impressed. He knows these are the words of a desperate man who has been beaten. I hate to be dismissive of trying to add depth to a character but this is one time where I don’t feel it is necessary. I don’t want to meet Sloan’s friends and family and get to appreciate why he does what he does. He’s much better off staying as a mysterious, shady character whose motives are unclear, its much more interesting that way. What I want to know is the sort of things that he has been up to the past – how much established Star Trek history he has been directly involved in. Assassination attempts or nudging governments to act? The writers could have had great fun ret-conning all kinds of Trek tales by adding a Section 31 presence. Instead we get to listen to Sloan making speeches to his family before he ‘dies’ which is fine on the superficial level because Sadler is such a good actor but I was expecting so much more.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Genocide committed by people who call themselves Federation citizens?’
‘This organisation! This thing that has slithered its way into the heart of the Federation! It has to be destroyed…

The Good: The first scene between Odo and Kira is deceptively beautiful and leads you to believe that this is going to be a very sensitive piece. To be fair Bashir and O’Brien’s plan to capture somebody from Section 31 and force them to reveal what they know about the disease is innovative and daring and should have led to a really exciting episode. I love Bashir’s simple way of shutting Sloan up – turn of the forcefield and shoot him! It fills me with pride to think that somewhere in the heart of DS9 there are two Federation officers mentally torturing an intelligence agent for the greater good. Try hard as I might but I cannot imagine that sort of thing happening behind closed doors on either the Enterprise or Voyager. Sloan cleverly has a failsafe suicide switch in his brain to activate if he is ever in a situation like this – the typical Section 31 murder approach.

The Bad: Its extremely odd to not have a ‘previously on…’ montage at the beginning of this episode to put its many developments in context. It just sort of begins and DS9 is so serialised at this point it must have jarred for a new viewer to switch on in the middle of this massive closing arc and be thrown in at the deep end with no explanations. I’m not saying that every episode should juggle up a hundred plot threads but the last three or four episodes have done such a great job of doing so and keeping up a great pace that as a result a single narrative tale like Extreme Measures suddenly feels really light and really slow as a result. A second plot line featuring Kira and Garak heading back to Damar’s resistance cell would have done the world of good to this episode. I thought Section 31 were supposed to be thinkers so trap Sloan so easily behind a forcefield (I would have expected it to be something far more elaborate) seems a bit easy. Its so disappointing that the first place we end up inside Sloan’s mind is a turbolift on the station – its here that my heart sunk as I realised this was going to become a re-run of Distant Voices without the surrealism. They literally spend a ten minute scene chatting in the drabbest, cheapest looking corridor you have ever seen. I cannot believe the writers attempted to pull off the ‘they’re really awake…oh no hang on they’re still dreaming’ scenario which has been done to death at this point. I expect more from DS9 than to surrender to clichés like this.

Moment to Watch Out For: The weirdest declaration of love you will ever hear in Star Trek…and its between Bashir and O’Brien! In the middle of a not-so-surreal dreamscape adventure through Sloan’s mind Bashir decides this is the moment that he loves Ezri ‘passionately’ but he likes O’Brien a bit more. What the hell? Of all the times for Bashir to reveal his hot gayer feelings for O’Brien! I’m at a loss as to why this was included when their plutonic bromance has always been a constant delight without having to spell out how they feel for each other. O’Brien looks very awkward at the confession, as is the audience.

Result: In typical Deep Space Nine fashion there has to be one point in an outstanding run of episodes that stumbles and Extreme Measures is the only episode during the final arc that comes as an unhappy surprise. Whilst that is great going on the whole it is frustrating that there should be a break in the momentum at the eleventh hour. To be fair the first third of Extreme Measures is rather good with a touching scene between Kira and Odo and a focus on a depressed Bashir who is trying to come to terms with how Starfleet is corrupted by Section 31 and leaving me wondering how far he would go to stamp it out. After several expensive budget bursting episodes it was time to save some money before the climax of the series so we’re stuck with a jarringly linear piece set on stock sets and unfortunately Weddle and Thompson opt for something a little too simple after the multifaceted Section 31 shenanigans in Inta Arma. Despite the dark undertones this is the only episode in the last arc that feels like clichéd Star Trek with Bashir and O’Brien wandering around inside Sloan’s head in a not very interesting dreamscape discovering very little about his character and his secrets. I was hoping for so much more. There’s a moment when Bashir is a heartbeat away from being able to rifle through Sloan’s darkest secrets which is the angle this episode should have took throughout. DS9 has long proven it can provide fascinating, intelligent stories on just its regular sets but Extreme Measures is proof that you need the right writers to bring that to life. This is perfectly watchable but nowhere near as interesting or as revealing as I was expecting: 5/10

The Dogs of War written by Rene Echevarria & Ronald D. Moore and directed by Avery Brooks

What’s it about: Kira, Damar and Garak’s rebellion is crushed and Quark thinks he has been offered the post of Nagus…

Single Father: Has enough time passed for Sisko to be given another Defiant class ship? Would it seem right for Sisko to have fought the final battle in What You Leave Behind without one? Who cares! The look on his face when the ship appears on the screen is lovely and the way everybody leaves him to get acquainted with his new ship made my heart sing. Given his many losses during the war this is a really welcome gift from the Federation. ‘The Founders started this war…not us’ – erm no actually Mr Sisko I think you are mistaken there. The Dominion told you that the Gamma Quadrant was their territory and that you weren’t welcome and the Federation with your holier than thou ‘we can explore where we like’ creed decided to ignore that advice. I’m not condoning their murderous behaviour since then but I think it is worth pointing out that you were given the chance to back away and leave them alone and when you chose to ignore that warning you suffered the consequences. An eleventh hour pregnancy might seem like a desperate bid to get some attention but for Sisko and Kassidy it is another natural development to their relationship and caps off this substantial episode with one last surprise. Brooks and Johnson work magic together now and I love his reaction when he realises he didn’t put the condom on (sorry, have his injection). To Sisko another child is a joy and perfect reminder of what he is fighting for. For Kassidy is more like a warning bell because of the Prophets threats but he assures her in that gentle way of his that nothing is going to happen to their baby. Ooh, its lovely.

Unknown Sample: As Odo was told that he didn’t contract the disease from the Founders but rather he gave it to them as a gift from Section 31 I was sinking into my seat. There was no way that conversation could end pleasantly and the questions that he puts to Sisko are ones that needed to be aired by somebody with regards to the Starfleet’s tactics. 

GE Doctor & Quirky Counsellor: I’m so glad that the writers were leading up to Bashir and Ezri getting it together otherwise I would have had to question why so much time has been devoted to this issue when there is so much else to wrap up. Finally we reach a development between these two who have been tip toeing around each other ever since Ezri’s return in The Changing Face of Evil and (again thanks to Avery Brooks’ intimate direction and handling of the actors) this proves to be the best episode for this pair. Worf declares that Bashir is an overgrown child and Ezri is very confused but O’Brien can see they are made for each other and it makes no sense for them not to leap on each other like a pair of crazed voles (growl…). Siddig and de Boer play the scene where they decide not to take their relationship to the next level so flirtatiously that you know the second they get a moment in private their tongues will be performing the most exquisite ballet together! Lo and behold in the next scene they pop in a turbolift in Ops connected at the jaw and Worf has to send them on their merry way before anybody notices. There’s nothing particularly deep here but its very nicely presented and fun to watch.

The Ferengi Family: ‘You’re my brother’ ‘And you’re an idiot! But I love you…’ How lovely to see the Ferengi featured so prominently before the end of the show and to give Quark and Rom go out on such a high. Everybody is tossed into the mix – the Grand Nagus, Brunt, Leeta, Moogie, Nog…and they still make me smile as much as ever when they are together (plus it manages to get rid of that bad taste that The Emperors New Cloak left in my mouth – hurrah!). What looks like it might be a rerun of the season one episode The Nagus where Quark is handed the reins of power becomes some much funnier as we start to realise just how far that planet and Quark as a character has come since then. He’s still a greedy, misogynistic little toad but he has been tempered by acts of bravery and kindness that seven years of exposure to the Federation has imbued him with! New social reforms are going to turn Ferenginar into a grotesque parody of a Federation planet and so Quark (believing that he is to be the Nagus) intends to crush them. Quark and Rom’s approach to Ferenginar are revealed in a cleverly scripted scene where Quark criticises all the social reforms to the planet and Rom offers and explanation for why each one might be a good thing. I’ve heard some people complain that making Rom the head of the Ferengi Alliance is a daft comic book ending to a daft comic book culture but having just watched the entire series to me it makes a lot of good sense. Rom has proven himself to be far cleverer than anybody ever thought, that he can step up to the plate when required and that he has a big heart. It warms my cockles to think that we have followed him on his journey to independence so that he can wind up in such an important position and continue to run the Alliance in the kinder, gentler vein that has been established over the last couple of years. It’s a great ending for him and his final shot standing there holding the staff and unsure what to do next or how to process the news really made me smile. He’ll do a great job. Which leaves Quark (who does feature in the finale so its not the last we see of him) in the unenviable position of clinging onto everything that he considers to be great about Ferenginar; the greed, sexism and lust for latinum! His bar is going to be the one final outpost that will symbolise everything that Ferenginar used to be and do you know what if anybody could pull of that can feat – literally pushing against the tide of an entire planet – my guess is that Quark would succeed through pure doggedness. The thought of him staying on the station with Morn propping up the bar and condemning whatever administration is in charge also makes me smile. It’s a good place to leave both characters. And its lovely to see Wallace Shawn one last time. He’s been at the top of his game throughout this series (‘Good luck kid! You’re gonna need it!’).

Rebel Leader: Everybody he knows has either been arrested or killed and it would appear his attempted rebellion has been well and truly crushed. With Damar so despondent at their failiure it takes Mila to inform them that the people on the streets are still talking about his rebellion and how they don’t believe that he is dead. Kira is no stranger to spreading terrorist propaganda and realises that they have an opportunity here to use Damar’s image as a symbol for rebellion. If they could sneak him onto the streets and get him to make some rousing speeches to whip the people into a frenzy the Dominion could have a real fight on their hands. This material works so well because Damar (once again) is the unwilling participant in this plan. Just as he never wanted to be the leader of Cardassia he doesn’t want to be the poster child for a rebellion that will likely be crushed but he does everything that is needed of him because he knows it is the right thing to do. A reveals him as a selfless individual with nothing to lose – truly he has become one of DS9’s most fascinating characters (and who ever saw that coming?). The way Damar whips the crowd into a rebellious frenzy after the bombing of the plant makes you want rise up and join him too!

Plain and Simple: ‘Don’t blame me if you don’t have any friends left’ We get to see a whole new side of Garak as he is reunited with his housekeeper that he grew up with (I say reunited…she’s the only person left on Cardassia that he can turn to for help) and he acts almost human for a change, humbled in her presence.

What’s Morn up to: Morn is present to enjoy Brunt’s disgusting grovelling to Quark as he learns that he is indeed going to be the next Grand Nagus.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Interesting, isn’t it? The Federation claims to abhor Section 31’s tactics but when they need the dirty work done they look the other way. It’s a tidy little arrangement wouldn’t you say?’ – Odo’s condemnation of the Federation cannot be argued with and as if to prove his point Sisko quietly acknowledges his criticism.
‘You never told me you had a secret mountain hideaway…’ ‘I was going to surprise you.’
‘The line has to be drawn here! This far and no further!’ – perhaps Ron Moore and Rene Echevarria should have written more of the Ferengi episodes because this First Contact piss take is very funny!

The Good: What a pre titles sequence! If there was ever going to be a way to whet our appetites for the approaching finale then to have Damar, Kira and Garak’s rebellion crushed in one single blow, their ship destroyed and stranding them on Cardassia without help is just about the most exciting way I think they could have done it! Its such a massive development and over with so quickly but thanks to some economical writing and Avery Brooks’ dynamic direction this is truly a twist to remember. Massive kudos for the effects in this scene too – both the physical and CGI effects of the ship being destroyed give this a sense of urgency and drama. Phenomenal stuff. Leave it to the Dominion to shoot first and ask questions later and leave it to a Cardassian to turncoat – Damar’s rebel base is littered with corpses and Gul Rovok strolls amongst them smugly with a Vorta representative. The harsh Orwellian lighting in the basement set gives Kira’s situation a visual sense of hopelessness – they are literally hiding away in an old woman’s dirty basement with no way of getting help from the Federation and Dominion soldiers searching each and every house for them. Its great to see Mila back (her only other appearance was Improbable Cause in season three) and Julia McCarthy gives a gorgeous, world wearying performance as Garak’s old housekeeper (‘Do you want to live under the Dominion for the rest of your life?’ ‘I’m an old woman! I’m long past caring about such things!’). To learn that the Federation council considered giving the Founders the cure for the disease but decided against it is pretty shocking news. Yes they are at war with the Founders but by attempting to wipe them out in exactly the same method that Dominion used when they deployed the Quickening does that make them any better than them? Not in my eyes. I’m against capital punishment and this is an interesting parallel what with the Federation fighting fire with fire – when it comes down to it the Federation are saying that anybody that opposes their tidy view of the world or tries to impose another will be executed and that is unacceptable on any terms. I love the disguised swear words that they manage to slip into the scene where the Nagus tries to talk to Quark through snowy static. For the record the lines are ‘The contractor used substandard merchandise the greedy bastard! What fucking mess!’ I know it is supposed to be ‘frigging’ but the static gets in the way so I’ll make it up for myself! What a great sequence the bombing of the plant is with a slow pan down onto the setting, the slow motion explosion and the savage way that Garak stabs a Jem H’adar in the neck. This show definitely has not lost its bite. The Dominion is making a strategic withdrawal into Cardassian space so they can concentrate their resources on protecting a smaller area – it sounds like a strong plan but as far as the Federation are concerned it is the first step back the Dominion have made and they plan to take full advantage of it. Now we can see the playing field for the final battle between the Alliance and the Dominion laid out we are ready for the finale.

The Bad: Re-using old effects shots for the attacks on the rebel bases is the only real niggle I have but its so quick I don’t mind so much.

Moment to Watch Out For: I have watched a lot of science fiction in my time and seen plenty of outrageously sexist outfits but the leafy bra that Allura wears has to be the most revealing costume I have ever seen a woman wear. Shockingly it looks rather nice and she definitely has the figure to pull it off! Chase Mastertson fully clothed is more than a match for her though…that woman really is stunning.

Result: This is more like it! The Dogs of War is just about the perfect lead in to the finale that we could have hoped for and is packed full of everything that made DS9 great in my eyes. There’s exciting action (the pre titles sequence, the bombing), complex political machinations (Damar rousing the people, the Dominions ‘tactical withdrawal’), belly laughs (Quark’s declaration that Ferenginar has gone Starfleet!), domestic drama (Ezri and Bashir get it together), character twists (Garak is finally home, Rom has become the Grand Nagus, Kassidy is pregnant) and some powerful build up for the final battle. If that sounds packed then marvel at how effortlessly virtuoso director Avery Brooks makes it all look by inspiring some mighty performances from his actors and capturing each scenario in a different but equally impressive visual style. Watch the camerawork in this episode and you will see a director at the height of his powers - there is a sense of movement and of trying to shoot each scene in as dynamic a way as possible. Considering the two main plotlines are tonally so different is astonishing that they feel like a perfect fit for each other and it gives us the chance just before time for Jeffrey Combs to dazzle us with his portrayal of Weyoun and Brunt. The Ferengi family enjoy one last little adventure and there are some great observations made about both the development of the culture and Quark’s character and he and Rom leave the series in just about the most ideal way (with one holding the Grand Nagus’ sceptre and the other clinging onto the vestiges of what used to make Ferenginar great!). However my favourite plot is the Cardassia based one and for Damar’s continued renaissance, the Garak/Mila scenes and that gorgeous shot of Kira in the shadows as Cardassia starts rising up against the Dominion this is one to remember. Overall this is fantastic and it’s a penultimate episode that could be held as a great example of the many facets of DS9: 10/10

What You Leave Behind written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: The final battle and so many goodbyes…

Single Father: ‘Maybe a year. Maybe yesterday. But I will be back..’ I love the Sisko/Kassidy relationship (did you get that by now?) because I find it a very convincing portrayal of an adult relationship without all the hysterics and sitcom nonsense that most shows feel they need in order to make a couple work on screen. Avery Brooks and Penny Johnson feel so natural together and there is no need for them to scream and shout and behave irrationally (like Tom and B’Elanna) to prove that they love each other. Its subtle and rather wonderful. When the Prophets warned Sisko that marrying her would lead to a great sorrow they were ominous words and now Kassidy is pregnant it is open to interpretation in many ways. Did they mean something would happen to the baby? Or that Sisko would die in battle and she would have to raise it alone? When Jake walks in to see Kassidy suffering morning sickness there is a lovely family vibe between these three – Jake has a new mother now and rather marvellously it was somebody he picked out! Its been fascinating to watch Sisko’s relationship with his ‘mother’ develop over the final season too. Initially she was cold and aloof but with each subsequent encounter she has become warmer and more intimate with him. She cradled him when he defied the Prophets and chose to marry Kassidy and now she strokes his face and tells him that his journey is about to end. If you had asked where I thought Sisko’s journey would end the last thing I would have said was that he would ascend into a higher being and literally become a God. It feels like a massive step into fantasy for a show that has always kept one foot on the ground. When I first saw this I wasn’t sure what to think. Having watched the whole series over a year and written so much about it now makes a whole lot more sense to me and its clear that some kind of union with the Prophets was the only way for his journey to end. Certainly if he had been back at his desk shuffling papers at the end of the series I would have been desperately disappointed. It makes sense of the Prophets warning and it ties in beautifully with Odo’s homecoming too because they will both bring a fresh perspective on humanity to the races they joining. As Ira Behr said Starfleet Captains are like Gods to their fans and now Sisko literally embodies that. Without all the hints and his developing relationship with the Prophets this would have been ridiculous but with them it adds a chilly edge to his parting, a touch of sorrow that I rather like. The scene between Sisko and Kassidy is beautifully performed and scored (a lovely reminder of The Visitor) – I’ve heard complaints that this scene should be with Jake but Sisko’s priority is Kassidy now and the baby growing inside her. His promise to return and her promise to wait leaves their relationship on a cliffhanger that will never be resolved and leaves me wanting more. Every finale should have a little bit of that…with DS9 I felt it more than many others.

Tasty Terrorist: ‘Ironic isn’t it? The saviour of Cardassia, a former Bajoran terrorist!’ Who would have predicted in the first series that a Cardassian would be thanking Kira for helping them to reclaim their planet? There’s a gorgeous atmosphere between the four characters hanging out in the cellar especially when Mila starts flirting with Damar and Kira comments on the action. How funny is the gallows humour when they are stuck outside Dominion headquarters with no way in! Kira cannot stop laughing and suggests that they go up to the doors and ask the Jem H’adar to let them in! She sums up the Female Shapeshifters position quite succinctly (‘This war’s over. You lost’). I wont say too much about Kira and Odo kissing each other delicately on the hands and face as they say goodbye because I might burst into tears again (big wuss) but needless to say its exquisitely performed and shot. Season seven ends the same way season six did with Sisko departed for places anew and Kira in charge of the station but this time it feels triumphant rather than depressing.

Unknown Sample: Ira Steven Behr might have always known that Odo was going home to the Link in the final episode but he didn’t send me a memo! Odo’s parting is the one that makes me choke the most because I have come to invest so much in his relationship with Kira in such a short space of time and to see them part when they are so happy together is a really sad. However his reasons for going back are perfectly understandable – honourable as Worf might say – to teach the Founders everything that he has learnt being amongst the solids so they can understand not to fear them (given their tactics over the past two years good luck with that!). No it does make perfect sense but with Odo announcing his departure along with O’Brien and Worf the aching truth dawns that this family is breaking up and the show is over. The last half an hour of What You Leave Behind is beautifully bittersweet in this respect.

Mr Wolf: It has been a mad, bumpy and wonderful ride for Worf since he joined DS9. He found himself a lover and lost her in tragic circumstances. He was the direct cause of his family’s downfall but reclaim their honour when he murdered Gowron and placed Martok on the crest of Klingon politics. He’s been afforded some glorious material, especially in the last three years and he’s the one character who you can guarantee we will see again in the movies. He’s even cracking jokes about Ezri’s relationship with Bashir (‘I am going to kill him…’). Sticking to his Federation roots but indulging in his Klingon heritage for a change, Worf is moving on too to be an Ambassador on Qo’noS with Martok.

Everyday Engineer: Keiko, Molly and Kirayoshi! I thought they had been sucked into a black hole! O’Brien’s long and fruitful Star Trek adventure comes to a close in a typically realistic fashion with him keeping his promise to Keiko (made in Time’s Orphan last season) that as soon as the war is over they will move back to Earth. Whilst it might be nicer to think that everybody will be left in a holding pattern ala the TNG crew in All Good Things it is typical of DS9 to take the more realistic and upsetting approach of people moving on with their lives and onto new adventures elsewhere. Its not that he is having trouble leaving the station, its Bashir he is having difficulty admitting that he is leaving to. To think seven years ago these guys couldn’t stand the sight of each other but now they have been through so much together and become the best of friends and now it is time to say goodbye. It leaves a lump in the throat and you wonder when O’Brien is going to pick his moment. Wisely he chooses the heart of the battle when console has exploded and damaged his arm and Bashir cannot object because he is too busy treating him!

GE Doctor: ‘Spare me your insufferable Federation optimism…’ I’m so pleased that they thought to include a final scene between Bashir and Garak because their relationship has been far and away one of the highlights of the show. Bashir tries to comfort Garak through the tremendous loss Cardassia has suffered and it affords him one last chance to toss an insult at the Starfleet. Garak affirms their friendship and its rather lovely the way he puts his hand on his shoulder delicately as they part because that is exactly the same way they met in Past Prologue. His silent parting with O’Brien says more than words could.

Quirky Counsellor: Its very rare for skin on skin contact in Star Trek so the first scene stands out for so much exposure to Ezri and Julian pressing their bodies together as they talk about their first night together. Seeing them give each other a hopeful look across the Bridge in the middle of the battle is really nice.

Community Leader: There’s one scene that I always thought destroyed the flow of the first half of What You Leave Behind but watching it today it would appear that I was wrong. Quark sits in Vic’s as his friends and family head off to war and has to wait behind to hear the news of their survival. For once we get a glimpse into the head of this often comic character and how he feels when those he has built his life around risk their lives. Quark is basically the stand in for every family that waits during wartime and it’s a rather poignant role to give him. There had to be a parting scene for Quark and Odo because their friendship has been one of the rocks of this show. The way that Odo refuses to show any emotion at leaving the station and Quark and dismisses him so bluntly says absolutely everything you need to know about how much he loves the little scoundrel.

Young Sisko: Jake is one character who seemed to slip through the cracks this year and despite turning up quite a bit in the early episodes of season seven his story has seemed to have ground to halt. It’s a shame because every year there has been one episode where he has been allowed to shine (especially The Visitor and Nor the Battle tot the Strong) but there has simply been too much happening this year to save any room for Jake. The way Kassidy kisses him so tenderly as he pines after his father is a lovely moment when you realise that she is his mother now.

Rebel Leader: ‘He’s eaten everything on his plate which explains why he is such a fine handsome figure of a man!’ Damar’s story is practically over by the time we reach What You Leave Behind. He has achieved everything that he needs to in The Dogs of War by rousing the people and now he just has to see his handiwork through. I’m in two minds about his death because part of my wanted him to go on and try and rebuild Cardassia because he has finally earned the role as its leader but another part of me thinks this is the more realistic option where not all of the good guys survive. Let’s put it this way he will certainly be remembered more vividly this way as the man who sacrificed his life for his people. The death scene itself is a little unsubtle though – how many times can somebody be shot?

Plain and Simple: ‘My Cardassia’s gone…’ How small my life with seem now I’m parting with the fabulous Elim Garak. By far one of the standout DS9 characters and one who has aged to perfection like fine wine. Mila describes him as being a deceitful, scheming child and nothing much has changed as an adult but at least he can turn those skills to a virtuous cause in the rebellion. There’s a shocking close up on Garak’s face when he is informed that Locarian City has been reduced to ashes and you realise with some horror that this is where his arc has been heading all along. He has been unable to return home because of his past and made a life for himself on DS9. The only way he could ever dream of setting foot on Cardassian soil again is if the current administration has been wiped away and they aren’t going without making the people suffer in as dramatic a way as possible. It makes him the most tragic character on DS9; he could only have his dream come true if his home was reduced a blasted heath and his people slaughtered. The look on his face is his (and our) realisation of that. Its one of the few times when I would say that seeing the violence is nowhere near as seeing the reaction to it – this moment is all the more powerful for this being the first we have heard of it.

Spiritual Leader: ‘To think I took Gul Dukat to my bed! One of the most hated men in Bajoran history!’ Winn is so blind she thinks that is the worst thing she will be remembered for as she is systematically plotting the destruction of her people. Its such a shame that they couldn’t have linked up this plot and the war one but there is something rather wonderful about there being a second threat waiting behind the already massive war for Sisko. It pushes the theme of life goes on even after warfare. Now the cat is out of the bag about Dukat she isn’t having any of his flirtatious nonsense and demands that he calls her Eminence! Once she has summoned up the Pah Wraiths she tosses away her Kai’s robes and basically becomes a nutty Doctor Who villainess, snogging Dukat and basking in the power that she thinks she will control. Poor, foolish deluded woman. Its not the sort of depth we have come to expect from Winn but being a nutty Doctor Who enthusiast myself its great fun to watch her embrace the dark side so fulsomely before she is pushed off the mortal coil. She’s always been something of a villain so its nice to see her shrug of any pretence and commit to the role. In true DS9 style she even subverts that role in a moment of redemption just before she is consumed by flames, telling Sisko how to stop the Pah Wraiths and save the universe. Man I love Winn…but I’m glad she died in the last episode. There had to be punishment for that much selfishness over the years!

Slimy Snake: I do find it very amusing that Winn has been keeping Dukat around all this time just so she can sacrifice him to the Pah Wraiths! And of course Dukat being Dukat knew that this was what was intended of him but he had already assigned that role for her! I could watch these two trying to double cross each other all day! It makes perfect sense that somebody as egotistical as Dukat would boil down his rivalry with Sisko to ‘I’ve won, you’ve lost’ because those are terms that Dukat has always thought in. Much like Holmes and Moriarty there seems to be this impression that Dukat and Sisko are long term adversaries when that was only really brought up in Waltz and has been sidelined ever since. And like Holmes and Moriarty they get to tussle on a great ledge and apparently plummet to their deaths. Oh and like Holmes and Moriarty the hero survives and the villain dies. As it should be. Bye bye Dukat, you were an awesome bad guy.

Starfleet Ferengi: Nog is piloting one of the most important ships in the attack on the Dominion fleet. If you had told me that seven years I would have laughed so hard that a little bit of wee would have come out. What an incredible journey Aron Eisenberg has had with Ira Steven Behr determined to grow the kid up and give him some independence and development. Putting Nog in for a promotion was one of Sisko’s last official acts which seems appropriate since he supporting the Ferengi throughout his career.

Imperiatrix: ‘Are you telling me that the Cardassian people are rising up against us?’ Quite by chance the Female Shapeshifter has become the villain of the final season to watch especially with Salome Jens giving one unforgettable performance after another. There is something oddly motherly about her tones that contrasts sharply with her disgusting scabby face and murderous threats. Wonderfully she offers the Breen control of Earth if they claim victory in the final battle and when they are barely out of earshot she freely admits to Weyoun that she is dangling them a carrot to get them to fight harder. You get a sense that she is tired of fighting now, that their conquest techniques don’t usually play out over years because they can normally intimidate anybody in compliance. She’s usually so calm so when she finally snaps and starts choking Broca to death whilst screaming in his face it is an eye opening moment.

Wily Weyoun: ‘I would give me life to save yours…’ Weyoun had to die. I wouldn’t have been satisfied with anything else but this fate for this deliciously malevolent character. Securing Jeffrey Combs has been a massive draw for DS9 and he has done incredible work with Weyoun over the past three seasons. Its hard to think of a time when he wasn’t a part of the show but he only signed up in this role in the latter third of season five. Before he dies the Female Shapeshifter gives him the only give she has left to bestow, telling him that he is the only solid she has ever trusted and that he has served her well. The look of elation on his face is priceless and you get the impression that he has died happy.

What’s Morn up to: Brilliantly Morn gets his place in the last scene. In Quark’s bar. As it should be.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Let’s get on with it!’ – that line couldn’t have come at a more apposite moment because I was wondering when the fighting was going to begin!
‘Shall I have them brought here?’ ‘What for? Have them executed. Immediately…’ and her equally wonderful ‘I want the Cardassians exterminated!’ ‘Which ones?’ ‘All of them! The entire population!’ ‘That will take some time…’ ‘The I suggest you begin at once…’
‘You two get out there and see that no one gets through that door! You stay here…in case they fail.’
‘Earth’s nothing but a rotating ball of borderm!’
‘Are you still here?’ – what a great parting line from Dukat to Winn!
‘The more things change the more they stay the same…’

The Good:
  • The stacked two hander scenes showing the many domestic arrangements on DS9 mark this finale out as something very different from the rest of the franchise with a couple naked in bed (gasp!), a solid family unit (shock horror!) and a loving pair getting through the early stages of pregnancy. Its another phenomenal example of how domestic DS9 can be and with the final battle lingering in everybody’s minds it gives these scenes more meaning because at this point we don’t know who is or isn’t coming home.
  • DS9 is being told on a massive scale in this final arc and its wonderful how we can jump from the station to the Defiant to behind enemy lines with the Female Shapeshifter and Weyoun to Bajor with the Kai and Dukat and onto the streets of Cardassia with Damar, Kira and Garak.
  • Dominion sledgehammer tactics are precisely what isn’t needed at this stage and their second big mistake (their first being letting Sisko & Kira and the other escape in pods after the destruction of the Defiant in The Changing Face of Evil) is attempting to punish the Cardassian people for their acts of rebellion. It’s a gob smacking moment when we realise that they have levelled an entire city as retribution for a power failiure (killing two million men, women and children) and it gets the Cardassians more angry than ever. This is the sort of mistake that can turn the tide of a war.
  • I love the dusky pink and yellow sky over Cardassia, its amazing how pretty they can make that Orwellian architecture look with some pretty lighting. Allan Kroeker is constantly looking at ways of shooting scenes distinctively and so we get great shots such as the ariel pan down on Vic’s bar and the slow rise from a chasm to settle on Winn and Dukat entering the fire caves. Things get even more interesting visually during the battle scenes where Kroeker suggests an almost tennis match back and forth action between the guys on the Defiant (the camera swings to the left from Sisko to Ezri) and the villains on Cardassia (the camera swings to the right from Weyoun to the Female Shapeshifter). It means that even during the talking scenes there is a feeling of movement, of dynamism. Another nicely framed sequence is the treaty being signed after the war is over with the Dominion representatives on one side of the table and the Federation on the other and the camera slowly pans along as Ross makes a speech.
  • Its an almighty humdinger of a final battle despite the recycling of some old effects shots with so much batting back and forth between the heroes, the villains and the rebels it has a dizzyingly dramatic whiplash effect! The old effects used are still fantastic shots but you can’t help but feel sorry for a production team that weren’t given the budget to pull of their grand ideas with fresh effects. However they are intersped with some glorious shots from the movies or Klingons being sucked into space and Bridges being torn to pieces – the result is something that feels breathtakingly dramatic, even more so than when they were first used in Sacrifice of Angels and other episodes. However there is a wealth of new CGI too and my favourite moments are two innovative set pieces. One features the Defiant doing an impressive 360 degrees turn where we get to see the war playing out from all angles and the other is a dominating shot of the Defiant facing the camera and looking as though it is coming at you in 3D. They may not have had the money they wanted but that didn’t stop them giving their all.
  • There is a perfect example of why the Dominion has to be overthrown when Jem H’adar troops murder and old woman on her doorstep (Mila) and toss her dead body down the stairs. What a horribly unjust end for a lovely character. Whilst he might have had it coming there is a great moment when Weyoun reports that the Cardassians have turned against them in the battle and focus is on Broca’s imminent death. Weyoun’s ‘I wont miss him’ made me howl (he’s so deadpan) as he was dragged onto the streets and stabbed to death by two Jem H’adar soldiers!
  • Bombs exploding, Kira grabbed by Jem H’adar soldiers and dragged into the light and a sudden cut to spaceships exploding in space – I don’t know where this is all going but its bloody exciting!
  • I remember when I first watched this I couldn’t quite get my head around seeing the Cardassians opening fire on the Breen and the Jem H’adar and it took an explanation from Nog to knock it into my head! But boy did I punch the air…even more so than the Klingon intervention in Sacrifice of Angels. That’s where this whole thread with the Cardassian rebellion has been heading – a race who sick of being trampled and take the most opportune moment to strike at the enemy on their doorstep. It’s a great moment (plus those Breen ships break apart in spectacular fashion!).
  • At this point you can really see how the tides have turned against the Dominion and how they are going to be defeated but what I appreciate is that this isn’t a typical Star Trek reset. We’ve seen over the past ten episodes how the Damar has undermined the Dominion from within and how the Federation has counteracted everything they have thrown at them (including the Breen and their energy dampening weapons). Slowly but surely (and with some arrogant mistakes made) every avenue the Dominion has had to attack has been cut off. Its come to a point where they had to fall back to Cardassian space and after this battle even further to Cardassia Prime. And then even further inwards to Dominion headquarters. They have nowhere left to run. What’s even more impressive is the lengths the Dominion will go to in order to make the Alliances victory look like a defeat. Everything isn’t rosy in the aftermath of this war – hundreds of millions of people have lost their lives, the political landscape of the Quadrant has been changed and Cardassia has been reduced to rubble. It’s a devastating cost and a (here’s that word again) realistic DS9 approach to things not being put back in the toy box tidily. The scene between Sisko, Ross and Martok allows the writers to comment on the success of the war (Martok is drinking wine amongst a see of corpses on Cardassia Prime) and their distaste for what it has cost (Sisko and Ross pour there’s away in disgust at the literal interpretation of the death count of the war they are facing).
  • Kudos to the effects team for the fearsome visual of the fire caves exploding with wraiths and flames. The stage is set for Sisko and Dukat to have their own Reichenbach Falls moment…but we just need to get Winn out of the way first. Whilst we’re talking about effects the last line of defence at Cardassia is enough to make you crap yourself with Jem H’adar and Breen ships plus orbital weapon platforms guarding the planet. They save the shot of the scorched Cardassia until the aftermath of the war so we can see the results of this conflict.
  • One of my favourite moments in the entire run of DS9 in What You Leave Behind and that is when Odo beams down to Cardassia to talk to the Female Shapeshifter. Its not the dialogue especially or even the performances (even though both are exceptional) but what this scene signifies. After all the slaughter and loss of the war it isn’t a big dramatic space battle that brings this horrific conflict to an end but a simple, intimate moment between two people. One person can make a difference. There’s also the impression that in that single moment of linking that they have enjoyed a long, fruitful exchange because time works differently for the shapeshifters than it does for us. Just gorgeous. The Female Shapeshifter has always maintained that the Link is more precious than the entire Alpha Quadrant – they are fighting for their protection after all. Odo having the key to their salvation is a massive bargaining chip but also his agreement to return home also carries a lot of weight.
  • Leave it to the DS9 crew to throw a party and get everybody to go including the actors who are usually slapped up in make up (Jeffrey Combs, Max Grodenchik and Casey Biggs are clearly all visible) and the writers and make it part of the episode. There’s a great atmosphere to these moments because we know this is the last time these characters (and actors) will all be together but its great to see them raise their glasses and toast to this incredible show they have made together. Its very fitting for Vic to sing one last song and it’s a gorgeous rendition of ‘The Way You Look Tonight.’ No wonder Nana Visitor kept breaking down…I could barely keep the tears in myself!
  • The flashbacks really got to me in a way that such scenes usually make me groan. Its just that I have such an attachment to these characters so to see a snapshot of their time over the past seven seasons really brings home what an incredible journey it has been with them. The pairings they choose – O’Brien and Bashir, Quark & Odo, Kira & Odo and Jake and Sisko – are some of the greatest pairings in the Trek franchise and here is a great chance to celebrate these characters before they all split up. Fantastic music for these montages too.
  • The handful of ‘life goes on’ scenes at the end of the episode are necessary and rather lovely. Bashir and Ezri flirt on the Promenade, Kira congratulates Nog on his promotion and keeps Quark in check. It makes the last line seem very appropriate.
  • The final shot of Jake looking longingly at the wormhole is very poignant and proves that there will stories to come that we aren’t privy too. That it manages to leave threads hanging like this and still feel like a satisfying ending is quite a feat.
  • As we pull away from the station and gets smaller and smaller I always get the urge to reach out for it and keep the show going. Perhaps that was the idea.
The Bad: There’s the occasional moment of duff dialogue in the Cardassia sequences – ‘Chop off a snakes head and its body will die!’ ‘That’s for Locarian City!’ There is an obvious time scale issue with the Winn/Fire caves plot because whilst they are in the caves they manage to have the final battle, convince the Founder to surrender, get back to DS9, sign a treaty and have a party! Was Winn prancing about the Fire caves the whole time chanting ancient Bajoran! That’s some staying power! When we cut back to her after the party scenes I was like ‘I’d forgotten about you!’ Dukat’s weird growling when he wakes up is odd too…like he’s some kind of savage dog! A shame they couldn’t get permission to use Terry Farrell in the flashbacks because it feels like her time on the show has been forgotten!

Moment to Watch Out For: The most upsetting moment in the finale comes in the aftermath of the war as Garak is back home on Cardassia at last but not as the Cardassia he knew. In a haunting sequence the camera focuses squarely on Andy Robinson as he expresses Garak’s loss. Eight hundred million dead is a lot to get your head around as a viewer but when Robinson pushes Garak into an almost suicidal stance you can see the pain of that loss in his eyes. Its an extraordinary moment that drives home the futility of war better than practically any other. ‘We had a rich and ancient culture. Our literature, music, art was second to none. Now so much of it is lost. So many of our best people. Our most gifted minds.’

Result: ‘To the best crew any Captain ever had. This may be the last time we’re all together but no matter what the future holds, no matter how far we travel, a part of us, a very important part will always remain her on Deep Space Nine…’ A massive undertaking and for the most part What You Leave Behind is a very satisfying final episode of Deep Space Nine. You get action, excitement, great production values, terrific performances, tons of character work, plot resolutions, deaths and plenty of goodbyes. There is so much going on this is by far the longest review I have ever written. The Dominion war has proven to be a huge innovation for DS9 and so it pleases me to report that it managed to remain a story arc that was at the top of its game right up until its demise. There’s plenty of fireworks here and the scale of the final battle is immense but what especially pleased me was that the aftermath was not a rapturous celebration but a tragic confrontation of what had been lost. Ultimately their own arrogance is what ensnared the Dominion and the way we watch them being hemmed in with no where to hide is brilliant television. DS9 doesn’t want to keep everybody together in its final episode but instead sends its crew off for new adventures. Worf is off to Qo’noS, O’Brien to Earth, Odo is returning to his people and Sisko undergoes an incredible transformation. The last half an hour is one goodbye after another and its tough to watch if you have been as close to this show as I have. There’s a memorable moment for everybody and the party scene at Vic’s made my heart sing. The only major disappointment (and even that plot line is full of great moments) is the Winn/Dukat one and that is mainly because it is so disconnected from the main story that it feels tacked on rather unnecessarily. Do I think that DS9 could have handled another year? You bet your ass I do – there was so much they could have explored in the aftermath of the war and these are characters that have kept on giving for seven years without showing any sign of tiring. Had I been in charge of the franchise I might have chosen to have the Alliance lose the war (they could have had a brilliant Blake’ Seven-esque ending for the show) and set the next series on a Dominion occupied Earth…but those are thoughts for another time or if I ever get around to reviewing Enterprise. No, What You Leave Behind didn’t answer the questions about Bajor joining the Federation but that is possibly the only thing that wasn’t dealt with that I would have liked to have seen but didn’t. Otherwise it achieves a massive amount in a very short space of time giving everybody a moment in the limelight and rounding off the series with an exciting, funny, tragic but most of all hugely entertaining finale. The fact that it comes close to getting it perfect is a miracle but perfect is not a word I like to associate with a show as down and dirty as DS9. An amazing series to experience and a great closing number: 9/10


ali said...
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Ash said...

It's extremely lazy reviewing if you have to resort to slagging off Voyager in each and every episode breakdown. Shows a very limited mindset and lack of ability on your part. Not to mention the excessive use of italics, overly purple prose and a tendency to use the word "gorgeous" every 10th line.
You clearly class yourself as some sort of high end reviewer. Let's see if you have the guts, integrity and honesty to not delete this comment.

Doc Oho said...

Of course I won't delete the comment, it's amused me no end. No, not a high class reviewer (whatever that is), merely a humble scribbler whose words people tend to enjoy. You call it purple prose, I call it hyperbole, and I'm the master at it. I have a passion for television and I make no apology for expressing it. I'll slag off when I think the episode deserves it, with Voyager there was an aching sense of missed potential and if that seeped into my reviews of each episode then that is simply the approach I chose to take and because you don't like, it hardly makes your criticisms valid. My opinions are my opinions, it's subjective. As for the word gorgeous, I would point that at your comment too.