Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"First Season Recap"

For episodes airing from 1/4/1993 to 6/21/1993
Series created by Rick Berman & Michael Piller
Executive producers: Rick Berman & Michael Piller

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Season in a nutshell: It's a promising beginning, but there's naturally room for improvement. Bajor and DS9 are extremely fascinating places with interesting grey-area situations. But the science fiction content so far has been less than compelling.

The first season of DS9 was surprisingly good. It definitely had its problems, but it also had some very strong episodes. Overall, there's a sense here that the series used its first season as a shakedown run—and used it very effectively. It introduced all the major characters and gave them all adequate screen time, fleshing them out reasonably well. It found its own tone—one of grey-area politics and philosophy analysis—that will separate it from its sibling series, The Next Generation. And it established a few significant plot threads that will definitely be around next season.

This season was solid, but not incredibly focused. It was a tad uneven—although that's to be expected from a series that just came into existence. I'm sure the cast and crew is just beginning to learn itself. Hands down, this season of DS9 is leaps and bounds ahead of where TNG was after its first season. But that was probably to be expected as well; after all, Berman and Piller have had the opportunity to learn from their other series before making this one.

Anyway, this season sort of exhibited a case of split personality. There seemed to be two types of episodes attempted. There was the philosophical/political theme emphasized in the Bajor-oriented shows—which highlighted the season at its best. Many of the most probing stories—"Duet," "In the Hands of the Prophets," "Progress," "Past Prologue," "Battle Lines"—had much to do with Bajoran situations and, more specifically, Major Kira. As the Bajoran who represents the communication between Bajor and the Federation, Kira has proven the most interesting and well-developed character. Under Nana Visitor's gutsy performances, the character has grown and shone this season. Other strong episodes like "Dax" and "Vortex" took some interesting looks at DS9's non-Bajoran characters. "Dax" was a fulfilling courtroom show that got deep into Dax's backstory; "Vortex" was an interesting look at DS9's resident shapeshifter Odo. The heart of "Emissary" was of course Sisko, who was put to brilliant use in the pilot and used well as the station's commander; still, I'd like to see more of what he thinks and feels, and hopes the series gives him a focused agenda in the future.

The other personality of DS9's freshman season was considerably less effective, although the show never really approached anything that was downright bad. This second personality was the "sci-fi" angle of the series, which proved relatively pedestrian overall. "Vortex" and "Captive Pursuit" were good examples of this side of DS9, but other sci-fi episodes didn't fare as well. "If Wishes Were Horses" was the most mediocre episode this season, with some pretty shoddy storytelling a lot of technobabble. The plots of "The Forsaken," "Babel," "The Passenger," "Move Along Home," and "A Man Alone" were also relatively nondescript. Strangely, all were sci-fi types of episodes, whereas the effective shows were mostly political intrigue or character development episodes.

Let me hasten to mention that DS9's shortcomings with the sci-fi angle of things really have nothing to do with the setting being stationary. I have no qualms whatsoever about the setting. It changes very little of what would be dramatically possible on TNG, plus it adds the benefit of forcing the series to present consequences and follow-ups to every action—especially politically.

Based on "In the Hands of the Prophets," the season finale, I would guess we're going to see a lot of episodes next season centering around Bajor and its political intrigue. And I look forward to it. However, I also look forward to improvements in some of the sci-fi plots and a lessening of the technobabble. Star Trek has always been known for its ability to tell wide ranges of stories. Deep Space Nine's setting has that ability more than ever. The series' first season has shown a lot of promise, and next season has every opportunity to follow up on it.

For what it's worth, I have ranked the episodes for this season in order of preference and included my 10-scale ratings. The rank is based on the numeric ratings combined with my overall feelings about an episode as they happened to be when I did this ranking. (The 10-scale ratings are as they appear in the S.O.S. under my submissions.)


Ranking Episode Star rating 10-scale
1 "Duet" 4.0 10.0
2 "Emissary" 3.5 9.5
3 "In the Hands of the Prophets" 3.5 9.5
4 "Vortex" 3.5 9.5
5 "Dax" 3.5 9.0
6 "Progress" 3.0 8.0
7 "Past Prologue" 3.0 8.0
8 "Battle Lines" 3.0 7.5
9 "Captive Pursuit" 3.0 7.5
10 "The Nagus" 3.0 7.0
11 "The Storyteller" 3.0 7.0
12 "Dramatis Personae" 2.5 6.5
13 "The Passenger" 2.5 6.5
14 "The Forsaken" 2.5 6.0
15 "Babel" 2.5 6.0
16 "Move Along Home" 2.5 5.5
17 "Q-Less" 2.5 5.5
18 "A Man Alone" 2.0 4.5
19 "If Wishes Were Horses" 2.0 4.0

Next: Season 2

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9 comments on this review

azcats - Thu, Sep 12, 2013 - 9:59am (USA Central)
Well, i will have to post now! i will be the first one! i agree, "duet" was the best episode of the season.
Yanks - Tue, Jul 8, 2014 - 1:40pm (USA Central)
OK, I've actually ranked each episode in Season 1.

Here are mine from best to worst.

Captive Pursuit 4
Duet 4
In The Hands Of The Prophets 4
Emissary 3.5
Past Prologue 3.5
The Forsaken 3
Vortex 2.5
Babel 2
Q-Less 2
Dax 2
The Passenger 2
The Nagus 2
Dramatis Personae 2
A Man Alone 1.5
Move Along Home 0.5
The Storyteller 0.5
If Wishes Were Horses 0.5
Battle Lines 0
Progress 0

Sorry I can't seem to get them to line up very good.

39.5 total points for the year, for an average of 2.08.

Some truly fantastic trek, and some truly horrible trek.
Elliott - Tue, Aug 26, 2014 - 7:17pm (USA Central)
Well, here are my totals for DS9's first season. For the record, I consider stars to equate thusly :

**** = exceptional (You have to watch this)
***.5 = excellent (Truly enjoyable to watch)
*** = good (A solid instalment)
**.5 = okay (Problems, but worth watching)
** = watchable (You won't want your hour back, but it's nothing good)
*.5 = poor (You will be annoyed)
* = terrible (Don't watch this)
.5 = horrendous (Don't watch this unless you do so ironically)
0 = worthless (Don't watch this unless someone pays you)


Rank Title Stars Score Difference from Jammer
1. Duet **** (3.83) [=]
2. The Nagus ***.5 (3.72) [+.5]
3. Dax ***.5 (3.39) [=]
4. Progress *** (3.0) [=]
5. Captive Pursuit *** (2.89) [=]
6. Vortex *** (2.755) [-.5]
7. The Forsaken **.5 (2.72) [=]
8. (tie) Past Prologue **.5 (2.525) [-.5]
8. (tie) In the Hands of the Prophets **.5 (2.525) [-1]
9. A Man Alone **.5 (2.365) [+.5]
10. Emissary ** (2.03) [-1.5]
11. Battle Lines ** (2.195) [-1]
12. Dramatis Personæ ** (1.855) [-.5]
13. The Storyteller *.5 (1.66) [-1.5]
14. The Passenger *.5 (1.62) [-1]
15. Babel *.5 (1.525) [-1]
16. Q-less * (1.025) [-1.5]
17. If Wishes Were Horses * (.78) [-1]
18. Move Along Home .5 (.685) [-2]

Average **.5 2.268 [-12]

So, overall, it was an okay season. “Dax” and “The Nagus” were two totally different standout episodes, one classic Trek, the other freshly DS9, while “Duet” will prove to be one of the best episodes in the entire franchise, in spite of its being a bottle show to make up for expensive episodes like “Emissary” and “The Storyteller.” With the exception of the Bajoran faith episodes which are rife with poorly-thought-out apologist crap (“Emissary,” “Battle Lines,” The Storyteller,” “In the Hands of the Prophets”), Jammer and I seem to concur on the good episodes. The real disparity is in the middling and poor episodes. Jammer was willing to grant generous “okay” scores to really terrible episodes like “Q-less” and “Move Along Home,” bolstering up the overall impression of the season. It was undoubtedly better than TNG's or Enterprise's first seasons, but not better than Voyager's, and certainly not better than TOS's, which remains the best first season of any Trek.

Trends :

I noticed that many of the episodes, especially in the first half of the season, dropped off in quality in the last act, with rushed or contrived resolutions and really poor, upsetting characterisations (like Sisko's cowardly turn in “Captive Pursuit”). One of DS9's strength as a series, its secondary cast, is only embryonic at this point (2 appearances of Dukat, 1 of Garak, 2 of Neela, who's gone after this, and a fair few of Nog), so that will help in following seasons.

The bookeneding episodes seem to want to suggest the thematic direction for the series: politics and spirituality as they pertain to Bajor. That's all well and good, but the spiritual side of the equation is incredibly weak. It does both believers and non-believers a disservice to write such pandering wishy-washy dialogue concerning so serious a topic. The political issues fair better, but I have serious doubts about the Bajorans' ability to recover from the Occupation.

Characters (in order from best to worst):

O'Brien : In Colm Meaney's skilful hands, this character has really shone brightly this season, stepping out from his TNG supporting-rôle into a rounded character in his own right. Smart, family-oriented, loyal, brave, cunning and with a bit of an impatient streak, he's always a pleasure to have on screen.

Odo : Again, Auberjonois is a tremendous actor and his classic sci-fi character begins to fill out nicely; there's some good mystery about his origins in “Vortex” and a competent display of his skills and underlying motivations throughout the season as a keen investigator and sometimes overly diligent crime-fighter.

Quark : As your not-the-average-Ferengi, he's proved to be quite charming and noble in his own way. Several comedic bits from Shimmerman work wonders, and I submit “The Nagus” as being amongst the most under-appreciated episodes of the series. One of Trek's best comedies.

Jake : Although there's little to say about him at this point, his interactions with Ben have proved mostly quite good and I thought his friendship with Nog proved rather touching in “The Nagus.”

Kira : Two episodes saved her from being the worst character in the bunch, “Progress” and of course “Duet” which both added chasms of depth to a previously shallow and irritating character as well as showcased the better sides of Visitor's skill (which was dubious in the beginning). Unfortunately, what we see in the finale makes it seem like this change won't stick.

Bashir : There's not a lot to say about him and he's kind of a blank slate. He's smart and eager and young and horny. Not much else to add, I'm afraid. His only starring rôle, “The Passenger” did little to ingratiate the character to us.

Sisko : This blustering idiot gets a few decent moments here and there, but over all, I find the character to be a self-serving, temperamental, cowardly ass who has no business running such a strategically important post. Brooks acting is less aggravating in this season than it will prove to be later on, but it's still not what I'd call “good.” A disappointing face to the series.

Dax : In theory, she's the most “Trek” character, but aside from “Dax,” where she barely speaks and “Duet” where she acts like she should for, like the only time, she's this weird, under-acted, self-centred brat with 300 years of memories which are hardly utilised outside of Kurzon's memories of Sisko.
Yanks - Tue, Aug 26, 2014 - 8:25pm (USA Central)
Damn Elliot, you rated it higher than I did. :-)
Yanks - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 11:15am (USA Central)
Elliot,

No Garak?
Elliott - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 11:23am (USA Central)
@Yanks :

He only appeared in one episode this season! I'll give him a writeup in later seasons
Yanks - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 11:33am (USA Central)
Wow, that had not occurred to me. So I checked out IMDB.

Garak is only listed as partipating in 37 (of 173) episodes. I thought it was MUCH more than that.

Wow, such a powerful character. My favorite in DS9.
William B - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 11:39am (USA Central)
Thinking about Elliott's character rankings for season one (which I think I agree with -- though I'd tend to put Kira higher because "Progress" and "Duet" count *so* heavily in her favour), I think Bashir is the character who comes to have the most dramatic improvement over the series' running time, and Jake probably the one who has the most dramatic dropoff. Bashir becomes, I think, one of the best characters in the show, and possibly the most successful human character (well, I don't know how he and Miles compare to each other -- Bashir has more of an arc, but O'Brien headlines more exceptional episodes); Jake gradually fades into the background and there stop being effective stories about him.

Hopefully I'll rewatch DS9 after finishing TOS (and I also plan on watching the movies after finishing TOS). I'd be interested to see how it holds up now. It's hard to disagree that "Duet" is the season's (and one of the franchise's) highlight(s), and that "Move Along Home," "Q-Less," and "If Wishes Were Horses" are very weak stuff. I think I had a more favourable reaction to the religious material when I watched it when I was younger -- but I see Elliott's points about them and wonder how it would hold up.

DS9's supporting cast really is remarkable. Hey, here's a question: which characters in DS9 appear in all seven seasons? I guess we have the initial opening credits cast save Jadzia (if we count Dax as one person, I guess she counts as well), and then:

- Garak
- Dukat
- Nog
- Rom
- ...Morn?

Am I forgetting anyone? Winn and Zek appear in *almost* every season, but don't appear in season four. By contrast, in TNG, I think the only non-regular who appears in all seasons is O'Brien (and until "All Good Things..." definitively establishes that the battle bridge conn Colm Meaney was playing in "Encounter at Farpoint," it wasn't clear that that was the same character). That means it's just the main seven minus Beverly plus O'Brien for TNG. Wesley and Lwaxana in every season but 6, Q in every season but 5. I guess if we count Majel Barret generally she gets credit every season for the computer voice.... Voyager is -- am I right in thinking it's the original opening credits cast, minus Kes? TOS is the sort of "regulars" minus Chekov, plus Chapel, I think. Maybe not that useful information, but fun!
Robert - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 11:58am (USA Central)
I think Samantha Wildman was the closest on VOY. They held back 4 S1 episodes and aired them in S2 (for reasons). That means she is actually in every season except 7.

Anyone know if anyone else comes close?

It's pretty impressive that DS9 has that many (plus 2 that came close) that appear across a 7 year run though. I think a lot of people would hit 5 seasons though, so many that I'm not sure I'd want to make a list :)

Random factoid. Lwaxanna does not appear in TNG S6 because her yearly appearance that year was on DS9.

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