Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Second Season Recap"

For episodes airing from 9/27/1993 to 6/13/1994
Series created by Rick Berman & Michael Piller
Executive producers: Rick Berman & Michael Piller

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Nutshell: Aside from a mild case of Split Personality Syndrome in some of the dual-plotted episodes, this was an excellent season that defined some of the series most important and lasting character relationships and pivotal storylines.

And so here are the questions: Season two of Deep Space Nine—what was it? How can it best be summarized? What are my "themes" of the season? I'll attempt to answer the broad questions fully but also try to keep it brief (yeah right).

Season two is not the best season of DS9 (season five's extremely involving, intertwined plot arcs still earn it that title), but it was an outstanding season overall, and definitely one of the better seasons in both DS9's run and the Trek canon. I'd probably rank it second—right after fifth season and before the fourth. It's especially when stepping back to look at the large canvas in terms of the entire series that second season's strengths and importance become clear.

The reasons for DS9's success this season can be traced to (1) the amount of pivotal impact and relevance its stories had to the major plot lines as they continued to unfold in subsequent seasons, and (2) how deeply the season fleshed out the characters. This season is almost without a doubt the most important in character terms. The true relationships between everybody began to feel completely real. And with the possible exception of Quark, the DS9 personas were given new dimensions that were previously unseen in the series' freshman season. At the same time, these characterizations grew out of what we knew of each person.

For example, the relationship of mutual respect between Odo and Kira really began to take on a subtle power that hadn't been explored in season one. Especially powerful were the issues of trust and betrayal in "Necessary Evil" (still one of the series' best installments) and even hints of buried feelings in "The Collaborator." I still maintain that this was the best point in the Kira/Odo relationship—later episodes have tried to make this into a romantic issue, but the stuff of season two involving loyalty and friendship was simply more powerful in its portrayal.

But not to get off the subject by discussing subsequent seasons, the types of stories this season were extremely conducive for substantive character building. It was a point where the show was new enough to still tell us plenty fresh about the characters, but was experienced enough to know what logical directions to take them. A prime example also showed itself in "Homecoming," the season premiere. Kira and Sisko exhibited a very believable dialog that really felt like interaction between a Starfleet officer with one problem and a Bajoran representative with another. Characters who had remained sketchy in season one were given very strong development. Garak's big vehicles, "The Wire" and "Cardassians" managed to keep his motives as enigmatic as ever, but offered great insight into the way he thinks and acts—turning him into one of the most interesting people of the ensemble. Similarly, Gul Dukat was provided great depth and shades of grey in the "Maquis" two-parter; as three-dimensional as he still remains, I don't believe I've seen the character grow any more three dimensional than he did this season. Also, Bajoran characters like Bareil and particularly Winn greatly benefited from shows that highlighted them. There was evolution in Winn to indicate that there's more to her persona than meets the eye, even if by the end of the season she was still as self-serving as when she was originally introduced.

Friendships like those of Bashir/O'Brien, Garak/Bashir, etc. provided good dialog. Watching characters act in tough situations (Odo in "Necessary Evil," O'Brien in "Whispers," and Sisko in the "Maquis" two-parter especially come to mind) unveiled a number of respectful qualities—intelligence, patience, duty, cleverness, and so forth. These types of virtues are things I like to see in my television heroes. There's also the backstory factor—Dax's past in "Playing God" and "Blood Oath" added unknown dimensions; Odo's reunion with Dr. Mora in "The Alternate" was downright brilliant; the confusing half-truths of Garak's past in "The Wire" was very enlightening, even if it was all supposition. Even the stunt pairing of Sisko and Quark in "The Jem'Hadar" shed some light on how Ferengi and humans views each other. The bottom line is that the characters benefited more in season two than any other season, so even if the rest of the season was a failure it would still hold that virtue.

But the rest of the season was most definitely not a failure. There were pivotal plots that were marvelously executed and defined most of the elements that would determine how the series would play from this point onward. The Bajoran political situations, though already present in season one, were greatly developed in the opening three-parter, as well as "The Collaborator" (in which Winn was elected as Kai). And, obviously, the introductions of the Maquis and the Dominion in the last third of the season would prove to have lasting consequences for seasons to come. It's not so much that the episodes created these conflicts that made them good, it's that the series did it with intelligence and style, putting the characters in troubling situations that allowed us to see how they think, feel, and respond (much more so with the Maquis than the Dominion, I should probably point out).

Of course, that's not to say this season was perfect, because it most certainly wasn't. While it probably sported fewer absolute "clunker" episodes than any other season of DS9 (no episode received fewer than two stars), and had long stretches of very strong shows (the opening stretch from the three-parter and the closing stretch from "Blood Oath" were extremely solid), there was a significant—and consistent—flaw that season two exhibited. I'm referring, of course, to what would have to be Split Personality Syndrome (SPS)—which I'm officially nominating as the theme for this part of the review. SPS was the uneasy clashing of A-stories and B-stories that severely undermined some otherwise excellent work. Let me count the ways it mucked up some (in most cases) good shows and turned them simply "average" (or mildly bad in the worst case): The pointless bad guy revenge plot in "Melora"; the sci-fi telepathic nonsense in "Second Sight"; the B-movie creature feature in "The Alternate"; the holograms-as-life retread in "Shadowplay" (though that's a mild case); and the appallingly misplaced proto-universe plot of "Playing God." This is a mistake that the writers made far too many times this season, and in far too consistent a fashion. As these examples all seem to indicate, if there's one undoing of a perfectly good main plot, it's a weak or inappropriate subplot. In a way, this makes DS9's entire second season a sort of split personality: Part of the season exhibited the SPS, while the other part of it didn't. The funny thing about SPS is that it's so blatantly obvious. In many cases, it's not that these episodes were weakened because of their own unique storytelling circumstances (though some like "Sanctuary," "Melora," "Profit and Loss," and "Rules of Acquisition" were). They were weakened because they had obvious problems in their basic narrative structure, which is rather odd considering how excellent the overall season was. Perhaps I'm the only one to notice this phenomenon? Perhaps I'm just crazy?

Ah, well. The final leg of episodes by far more than made up for the unevenness of the season's middle. The consistent success of the last nine episodes remains the longest running streak of winners I've seen on a Trek series. And not only did the season add to DS9's collection of good Treks, it was the genesis for some of the series' most relevant issues.

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 "Necessary Evil" 4.0 10.0
2 "Crossover" 4.0 10.0
3 "Whispers" 4.0 10.0
4 "The Maquis, Part I" 3.5 9.0
5 "Cardassians" 3.5 9.0
6 "The Homecoming" 3.5 9.0
7 "The Maquis, Part II" 3.5 9.0
8 "The Wire" 3.5 9.0
9 "Blood Oath" 3.5 9.0
10 "The Jem'Hadar" 3.5 8.5
11 "The Circle" 3.0 8.0
12 "Tribunal" 3.0 8.0
13 "Invasive Procedures" 3.0 8.0
14 "The Collaborator" 3.0 8.0
15 "The Siege" 3.0 7.0
16 "Armageddon Game" 3.0 7.0
17 "Paradise" 3.0 7.0
18 "The Alternate" 2.5 6.5
19 "Playing God" 2.5 6.5
20 "Second Sight" 2.5 6.0
21 "Shadowplay" 2.5 6.0
22 "Rivals" 2.5 6.0
23 "Rules of Acquisition" 2.0 5.0
24 "Sanctuary" 2.0 4.5
25 "Melora" 2.0 4.5
26 "Profit and Loss" 2.0 4.5

Previous: Season 1
Next: Season 3

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19 comments on this review

Yanks
Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 12:10pm (UTC -6)
I've completed viewing and ranking Season 2.

My average is up from season one. Many more above average episodes by percentage. Some truely fantastic trek here. 'The Wire' is in my DS9 top ten.

Necessary Evil 4
Blood Oath 4
The Wire 4
Second Sight 3.5
Shadowplay 3.5
The Homecoming 3
The Circle 3
The Siege 3
Cardassians 3
The Alternate 3
Armageddon Game 3
Profit and Loss 3
The Maquis, part one 3
The Maquis, part two 3
The Collaborator 3
The Jem'Hadar 3
Rules of Acquisition 2.5
Whispers 2.5
Tribunal 2.5
Invasive Procedures 2
Melora 2
Rivals 2
Playing God 2
Crossover 1.5
Paradise 1
Sanctuary 0.5

Total = 70.5
Episode average = 2.711538462

Sorry for the rough reading, I just can't get the alignment thing right.

If someone can help me in that area I'd be much appreciative.
Robert
Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 1:07pm (UTC -6)
Good ratings, I would pretty much agree with everything except maybe Whispers.
Grumpy
Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 4:56pm (UTC -6)
Looks like we're gonna have a throwdown over "Crossover." Me, I agree with Jammer that it was a highlight of the season--and, in retrospect, the only DS9 Mirror Universe tale worth watching.
Yanks
Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 6:42pm (UTC -6)
@ Robert.

Cool, I didn't think it was bad, just not as good as most.

@ Grumpy.

I'm not a huge fan of any of the DS9 "Mirror" episodes. But I agree, this was the best one.

Highlight of the season when you have episodes like 'The Wire' and 'Necessary Evil'? ... I think not. :)
Grumpy
Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 11:00pm (UTC -6)
I said *a* highlight; there can be more than one. :-)

In my view, though, S2 does not stand as proudly as Jammer hails it here. True, there are fewer face-palmingly rotten shows as in later seasons (although I found "Melora" and "The Alternate" hard to sit through). But the show hardly rose above mediocre all year. "Necessary Evil" and "The Wire" bored me on first viewing, though I may reconsider. Outside of action pieces like "The Circle," "The Siege," and "Blood Oath," the only keeper of the year was "Crossover," mainly I think due to visuals & atmosphere that keep fresh a "how will they get out of this one?" story that fell flat in, say, "Paradise" and "Armageddon Game."

I guess we gotta keep "The Jem'Hadar" for its (mostly implied) epic scope and sharp commentary from Quark.
William B
Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 11:29pm (UTC -6)
I used to value s2 very highly, but looking at the episodes now I suspect I wouldn't now. I plan to rewatch DS9 in the next year or two. I think Necessary Evil and The Wire are top-ten shows. Whispers and Crossover are also very strong. I do think that Cardassians, Blood Oath, and The Jem'Hadar are also very good to great -- probably 3.5 stars. I'd have to rewatch the opening trilogy and The Maquis two-parter -- I can't recall well enough. Though I think The Siege was a disappointment.

Of Jammer's 3 star shows -- I think The Collaborator is quite good, and The Circle. Maybe Armageddon Game for the Julian/Miles stuff. But, you know, Paradise is actually pretty bad. Tribunal takes what works amazingly well as a two or three-sentence explanation given by Dukat of the Cardassian justice system and spins a dull plodding show out of it. I don't think Invasive Procedures is particularly memorable. That means that for me the season's "recommend" ratio is very close to 50% with these eps dropping out. That's not awful by any means. It's quite respectable -- but it does make the season seem less of a home run.
William B
Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 7:33pm (UTC -6)
!!! My mama said some day I would be special! :)
William B
Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 7:33pm (UTC -6)
Uh, that very last comment was in response to a comment that has since been deleted.
Jammer
Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 8:25pm (UTC -6)
I had posted a congratulations for William B posting the 20,000th comment, then less than 60 seconds later deleted it after realizing that the entire "Star Trek Into Darkness" comment thread is hidden from the Comment Browser and therefore subtracted from the shown comment count. I deleted the comment fairly certain that no one had seen it in the 30 to 60 seconds that I had it up. But I was incorrect. :)
Jammer
Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 8:28pm (UTC -6)
So, then, congratulations on the posting the 20,753rd comment. :)
William B
Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 8:30pm (UTC -6)
:) I just happened to check in. I had noticed the 20,000 comment limit too -- but I half suspected that it was just that the "search" function truncated at 20,000 results.
Yanks
Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 6:50am (UTC -6)
Hey Jammer! Nice to see you pop in here!
methane
Thu, Jul 23, 2015, 10:16pm (UTC -6)
This remains one of my favorite seasons of Star Trek. It does diplomatic and political intrigue well while building up the characters.
Diamond Dave
Wed, Nov 18, 2015, 2:32pm (UTC -6)
According to my scoring over the series, this comes out at 2.79 which makes it the highest scoring series of TNG and DS9 so far. I'm not surprised it worked out like this - it truly is an excellent series, that gets off to a good start, suffers a small blip mid series (with 6 in a row at 2.5 or below) but then powers to the end with 6 of the last 8 eps scoring 3.5 or 4.

I think here the key is that we've got a full ensemble cast working now. The interesting characters in series 1 continue to expand, but the less successful characters like Dax and Bashir are also beginning to find their voice. The increasing strength and depth this gives is show in the success of the various "team-up" episodes - as an example Sisko and Quark in the finale.

There is also a massive amount of world-building going on - particularly on Bajor, but also in the subtle way the Dominion has been slowly introduced right up to the revelations in the finale. Superb stuff.
Luke
Mon, Mar 7, 2016, 11:18am (UTC -6)
YAY! Time for some post-season number crunching! I love it; I love it!

"DEEP SPACE NINE" SEASON TWO
9 - The Homecoming
8 - The Circle
8 - The Siege
5 - Invasive Procedures
9 - Cardassians
1 - Melora
4 - Rules of Acquisition
10 - Necessary Evil
1 - Second Sight
2 - Santuary
5 - Rivals
4 - The Alternate
3 - Armageddon Game
8 - Whispers
0 - Paradise
5 - Shadowplay
3 - Playing God
6 - Profit and Loss
7 - Blood Oath
9 - The Maquis, Part I
9 - The Maquis, Part II
9 - The Wire
8 - Crossover
9 - The Collaborator
6 - Tribunal
8 - The Jem'Hadar

Average Season Score: 6.000
Average Series Score: 5.600
TNG Series Score After Two Seasons: 3.468
TOS Series Score After Two Seasons: 5.491

Best Episode: Necessary Evil
Worst Episode: Paradise

WOW! Label me very impressed! I've always thought that Season Two was an improvement over Season One, but I certainly did not expect it to be this much of an improvement. Season One finished with an average score of 5.053. Season Two's score of 6.000 is almost a full order of magnitude higher! And with seven additional episodes over Season One, that's a pretty impressive feat. Not only that, but this season broke the mark for the best season of Trek yet (previously held by TNG Season Four) and managed to become the very first one to pull its average score above 6. I honestly didn't think that any season of Trek would be able to achieve a score that high. But, given that I'm a huge Ron Moore fanboy and he didn't join the writing team until Season Three, I can only assume that that perception is going to be demolished as this re-watch continues. Season Two isn't the best of DS9, so watch out for even higher scores! It's also clear that DS9 is really pulling ahead of TOS and TNG is terms of average series scores. The numbers speak for themselves.

The season itself, however, can really be said to have come in three parts - the excellent opening, the middling to downright bad middle and the magnificent ending. The first five episodes were really good or average. The final nine episodes offered an amazing run. Not only does that tie the longest stretch of above-average episodes in a row (tied with a run in TNG Season Six) but over the course of five episodes we got four (FOUR!) ones that I would consider classic Trek. The middle of the season, on the other hand, offered us some pretty trite and below-average fair. It also managed to delver DS9's first zero scored episode. Though, to be fair, DS9 managed to go a full thirty-three episodes before it pulled that off. TOS only managed to last five episodes before it's first zero. TNG only went for two!

As for the characters, at the end of Season One I said most of them needed work (especially Sisko, Bashir and Dax). For the most part they've been given some really good development. Sisko could really stand some more. But Bashir has gone through the fire and emerged as a much more likable character than he started out as. Dax is still, obviously, the weak spot in the cast. Though, given how I dislike what they've done with the character (and will continue to do) that's not much of a surprise.

I'm really looking forward to Season Three and seeing how high the scores can go.
Luke
Mon, Mar 7, 2016, 11:22am (UTC -6)
HOLODECK TOYS - 3 (+1)
WTF HAIR - 16 (+12)
Robert
Mon, Mar 7, 2016, 1:49pm (UTC -6)
I need to go back and read your Paradise review, I must have missed that one. It's not good, but I hate Second Sight way more.

I want to go see what you hate about it.
Luke
Mon, Mar 7, 2016, 2:30pm (UTC -6)
Long story short - what I hate about "Paradise" is that Alixus is an evil, tyrannical bitch who never gets called on the fact that she's a kidnapper, torturer and murderer.
Robert
Mon, Mar 7, 2016, 3:09pm (UTC -6)
Fair point but Sisko/O'Brien are actually ok in that episode and Second Sight is a love story that's boring with no real plot or chemistry!

But I suppose it's really a race to the bottom.

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