Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Third Season Recap"

For episodes airing from 9/26/1994 to 6/19/1995
Series created by Rick Berman & Michael Piller
Executive producers: Rick Berman & Michael Piller

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

To see the rankings and 10-scale ratings for this season's episodes, click here.

The series took a sharp turn toward adventure this season, and the results were fairly successful. There were many stories featuring DS9's official new villains, the Dominion. Kicking off the season with the action packed episode "The Search, Part I," the series presented its new starship, the Defiant. The Defiant allowed the crew to escape the confines of the station for starship-based stories to satisfy the highly-demanded action quotient of the series.

However, the series was still at its best when dealing with intrigue and personal issues. Deep Space Nine has always been strongest when dealing with long-term story arcs which build from episode to episode. Fortunately, this was done with the Dominion storyline this year, which will surely become the defining story arc of the series in the oncoming season. Unfortunately, this also meant a shift away from some of the series' other important issues, such as Bajor's rebuilding and the problems the Federation has had with the Maquis. Hopefully, with the new elements in place, the fourth season will still find a place for the issues explored in its first two.

But for now, let's look at the highlights (and lowlights) of season three. Each episode of the season is listed below in "capsule summary & review" format.

Capsule Reviews

The Search, Part I: Hoping to negotiate peace with the Dominion before they launch an invasion of the Alpha Quadrant, Sisko takes a prototype Federation starship into the Gamma Quadrant to seek the Founders of the Dominion. This one features some of the most ambitious action and adventure ever on the series, and seems inflated for large audience-pleasing entertainment. Well, it works. Besides, the genuine character interaction is there, and it ends with a most unexpected event—Odo finding his race.

Rating: ***1/2

The Search, Part II: While Odo searches for his roots on a rogue planet in the Gamma Quadrant, Sisko must discover why Starfleet plans to sign a bogus treaty with the Dominion. The conclusion to the very ambitious and exciting season opener is, in a word, botched. It basically shoots itself in the foot with a totally absurd ending that renders the whole episode useless. Meanwhile, Odo's decision to refuse staying with his people is made too easy by the revelation that they are the Founders of the Dominion. The episode makes a good launchpad for future Odo stories, but standing alone it's a big disappointment.

Rating: **

House of Quark: Quark is forced into a marriage with a Klingon widow named Grilka whose husband he accidentally killed in a struggle. Quark must help her reclaim her family property from an honorless Klingon opportunist named D'Ghor. This is one of the better Quark vehicles—appropriately lightweight and amusing. However, this episode works best because Quark is given some noble actions that give him more dramatic depth than his usual cardboard selfishness. Mary Kay Adams turns in a credible Klingon performance as Grilka, whose scenes with Quark work well due to the offsetting personality factor.

Rating: ***

Equilibrium: An imbalance between Dax's symbiont and host causes a rift in her personality and then places her life in danger. The medical technobabble and the cliched life-in-jeopardy premise doesn't grab immediate attention. Also, the Trill cover-up plot is a bit excessive and unnecessary. However, the premise is downplayed in favor of some healthy character backstory, revealing a dark chapter from Dax's past—a psychotic, murdering musician erased from the symbiont's memory. It's fun seeing the usually good-natured Jadzia sport a hostile attitude in the early acts. The opening teaser goes down as one of the most amiable yet.

Rating: ***

Second Skin: The Cardassians kidnap Kira and tell her she is really an undercover Cardassian operative whose appearance had been altered and memory erased. Is it Total Recall? An atypical drama that works very well because of Nana Visitor's performance and the presence of Lawrence Pressman as Cardassian Ghemor. Both are at the deception of Obsidian member Entek (Gregory Sierra), who makes a classic villain. The political intrigue factor gets a boost with the revelation of increasing discord between the Obsidian Order and the Central Command. Garak also makes a lively appearance.

Rating: ***1/2

The Abandoned: An orphaned Jem'Hadar finds its way onto the station, and Odo takes it upon himself to teach the hostile adolescent about things other than violence. Somewhat talky and derivative in the way of philosophical content, but the story is a very relevant vehicle for Odo in the wake of finding out his race is responsible for dictating the mayhem of the Gamma Quadrant.

Rating: ***

Civil Defense: The crew inadvertently triggers a Cardassian anti-takeover program that somehow remained intact from the old Occupation days. It seizes control of the station and ends up arming the self-destruct sequence. It's watchable and sometimes entertaining, but the countdown to disaster is a weak and all-too-familiar premise. Marc Alaimo's performance as Dukat is atypically off-par here, with some rather distracting line delivery. A predictable, down-to-the-wire ending and an unexciting score aren't much help, either.

Rating: **

Meridian: Dax falls in love with Deral, a man who lives on a phase-shifting world. She must decide if she's willing to put life as she knows it on hold for 60 years to be with him during the next shift. A strictly by-the-numbers relationship episode, which follows some storytelling rule that dictates the two characters must meet, fall in love and separate in 45 minutes of air time. The scenes between Dax and Deral lack chemistry and motivation. A few grace-saving moments, including a farewell scene between life-long friends Sisko and Dax, as well as an amusing B-story in which Quark tries to create a sex hologram of Kira, but where did all this technobabble come from?

Rating: **

Defiant: Thomas Riker, a duplicate of William Riker created in a freak transporter mishap nine years earlier, masquerades as his doppelganger and steals the Defiant, then begins flying through Cardassian space with severe intentions. More political intrigue—one of DS9's best characteristics—makes this a suspenseful episode with origins in The Hunt for Red October. Sisko and Dukat pair up to hunt down the Defiant, making a believable example of two people working together with different agendas. Plot pacing and character interaction are handled very well by director Cliff Bole.

Rating: ***1/2

Fascination: A mysterious virus causes the DS9 characters to begin falling in love with each other on sight. Where in the world did this episode come from? This is easily the worst thing DS9 has done this season, if not all series. This episode is hopelessly ludicrous and hokey, and chooses to go so far over-the-top it's embarrassing. Even this concept could've been manipulated into some believable character moments, but most of the character interaction is horrifically inept. Not only did Avery Brooks get to direct the season's best episode, he got to direct the worst.

Rating: *

Past Tense, Part I: Transported back to 21st century Earth, Sisko, Bashir and Dax find themselves days before an historical incident that will prove to be a turning point in Earth's social problems. Now if they can only find a way back without altering the time line... Another great moment in the third season, this one features some refreshing time travel and great character moments. But what sets it apart is a historical theme that proves quite poignant, and without getting too preachy. This may also be the breakthrough episode for Sisko's character, who displays the characteristics of a true leader and hero, and who continued to develop throughout the season.

Rating: ****

Past Tense, Part II: Sisko must take the place of Gabriel Bell—a instrumental historical figure killed in part one due to Sisko and Bashir's unintentional intervention—and make sure the hostages remain unharmed by street thug B.C. Can't live up to part one, probably because it plays out the only way it possibly can—with time-travel devices and plot resolution. Still, a good episode on its own terms that manages to tie down all parts of the plot set up from the first half. Healthy interaction between Sisko and B.C. keeps the hostage-terrorist confrontations lively.

Rating: ***

Life Support: A shuttlecraft accident fatally injures Vedek Bareil just days before crucial negotiations with the Cardassians. Doctor Bashir performs a miracle that restores Bareil's life, but with a number of medical drawbacks. A decent story with sincere intentions, in which noble Bareil puts his life on the line by forfeiting medical treatment in favor of going through with the negotiations. However, the story is undercut by some events that makes one wonder if the ends justify the means. Why, for one, did the writers write Bareil out of the show with hardly a bat of the eye? And just where did a truce between Bajor and Cardassia come from? These are two questions that will probably never be answered.

Rating: **1/2

Heart of Stone: While searching for a Maquis criminal on a desolate planet, Kira becomes trapped in a crystal which begins to surround her. Odo must find a way to remove it before it kills her. This showcases where the Odo/Kira relationship stands, ending with the revelation that Odo is in love with her. Auberjonois and Visitor both come through with standout performances, but the plot takes a twist that basically makes this episode an exercise in redundancy.

Rating: **1/2

Destiny: In the midst of the first combined mission between the Bajorans and the Cardassians under their new truce, Sisko is confronted by a Bajoran Vedek who brings news of a prophecy of disaster. According to the prophecy, the mission will cause the wormhole to collapse. This is an intelligent, clever story which analyses both Sisko and Kira's angst over the label of Emissary Sisko has been given. Provocative, on-target storytelling proves that cerebral originality is not a lost virtue.

Rating: ***1/2

Prophet Motive: Nagus Zek, who has apparently gone insane, visits Quark to show him the rewritten Rules of Acquisition, which go 180 degrees from typical Ferengi thinking. This is an anemic comic trifle that fails because we know exactly how Quark will react to almost every situation given to him. Fun-loving Zek is annoyingly goofy this time around, and the story is as transparent as piece of Plexiglas. The final act, however, has a good scene—which is filmed with consistency and style and harbors the episode's only genuinely funny dialog—in which Quark meets the wormhole inhabitants.

Rating: **

Visionary: Residual radiation in O'Brien's body causes him to periodically be pulled approximately five hours into the future where he becomes witness of curious events. O'Brien's best vehicle this year, this is one of the better executions of technobabble. It's a fascinating high-concept outing, something Trek tends to avoid (and for good reason since they can often be ludicrous). The destruction of the station is a potent visual, and Sisko's face-off with the Romulans made me want to cheer. O'Brien's time shifts which allow him to be in the right place at precisely the right time may be a tad on the convenient side but, hey, why not?

Rating: ***

Distant Voices: A telepathic attack on Bashir leaves him dying in a coma, and the only way he can survive is to confront himself within his own mind by using the various facets of his personality, which take the form of his DS9 comrades. Another atypical concept from the mind of Joe Menosky is squandered due to a lack of storytelling substance. Interesting visuals, but the episode's symbolism angle is handled with all the subtlety of a "trespassers will be shot" sign—which borders on insulting the audience's intelligence.

Rating: **1/2

Through the Looking Glass: Sisko is kidnapped to the mirror universe by the duplicate O'Brien, and forced into accepting a mission which involves turning a scientist from the Alliance to the Rebellion. The scientist is Sisko's wife, Jennifer—still alive on this side. This is a very entertaining and fast-paced "comic book" adventure, with some great action sequences and interesting mirror-versions of the DS9 cast. It's a tad transparent and doesn't milk the emotional pathos out of the situation, but it's very well performed and directed. Nana Visitor is phenomenal as the sultry and menacing Intendant Kira.

Rating: ***1/2

Improbable Cause: Odo investigates an attempt on Garak's life, which uncovers a web of political intrigue. One of the series' finest moments—about as close to a perfect episode that one could expect. Avery Brook's terrifically paced direction oversees a mastery of plot assembly and absolutely excellent dialog, courtesy of scripter Rene Echevarria. Plot revelations seem to be coming out of the woodwork, while pairing Garak and Odo together proves to be one of the most interesting—and entertaining—character combinations ever. An enjoyable gem—yet definitely not lightweight.

Rating: ****

The Die Is Cast: Garak and Odo, captured by a renegade Romulan-Cardassian force, find themselves in the middle of an assault to destroy the Founders of the Dominion. A powerful episode that continues the setup of "Improbable Cause." It's a must-see just to see how the plot wraps up, and culminates with a huge battle against the Jem'Hadar. But it's the dynamics between Odo and Garak and their shared loneliness that really sets this story apart. When it comes down to it, these two are a lot alike.

Rating: ****

Explorers: Sisko builds an ancient Bajoran sail-spaceship with intentions to prove that the Bajorans were able to travel to Cardassia 800 years ago. Sisko brings Jake along for the adventure, leading this to become a rather effective father/son episode which showcases just how well Brooks and Lofton work together. Light on plot and airing at an appropriate time, this character gem proves the cast knows how to conduct itself given the most basic of material. A B-story in which O'Brien and Bashir get hopelessly intoxicated is genuinely amusing.

Rating: ***

Family Business: Quark is investigated by the Ferengi Commerce Agency, who tells him he is responsible for the actions of his mother Ishka—who has illegally earned profit. Quark and Rom return home to Ferengi to convince her to return the profits. Despite Shimerman's lively portrayals, Quark's self-serving antics are beginning to tire, and it's becoming difficult to sympathize with a character who insists on being rigidly transparent. Rom isn't much better. Though less selfish, he comes across here as the irreparable dullard he looks like. This episode also misses the point it seems to want to convey—that the sexist laws of Ferengi culture don't belong in the Roddenberry universe.

Rating: **

Shakaar: At the request of Kai Winn, recently appointed to the Provisional Government's temporary chair, Major Kira returns to her home providence to convince her old friends from the resistance to return some government equipment to put to community use. This is a recap of sorts to "Progress," in which Kira must take the side of the community over the struggling individual. Many relevant and sensible moments, but the conclusion is way too neat and the overall effects this episode has on the Bajoran political story arc are negligible.

Rating: **1/2

Facets: Jadzia undergoes her Zhian'tara, the Trill Rite of Closure, in which the previous hosts of her symbiont borrow the bodies of her friends and offer insights into her own personality. "Facets" has a good premise, and it manages to be a fairly successful Dax show. It's not great, but it's good. The overall results are mixed due to a substantial plot hole and a lack of depth early on. However, the episode soars on the lively portrayal by Rene Auberjonois of Curzon joined with Odo.

Rating: ***

The Adversary: On patrol of the Tzenkethe border, the Defiant is taken over by a Changeling spy who intends to start a war between the Tzenkethe and the Federation by launching an offensive on their territory. A good season finale that develops into a slick, efficient paranoid thriller with some genuine suspense and chills. The best-case scenario of "The Thing goes to Star Trek," this is the successful version of Voyager's awful "Cathexis." Terrific production includes a host of new Defiant sets and some well-utilized CGI morphing effects. Sisko's promotion to Captain and the ongoing back-burner development of his relationship with Kasidy Yates show that he has emerged this season as a very well-developed character.

Rating: ***

Previous: Season 2
Next: Season 4

Season Index

5 comments on this review

Nic - Thu, Oct 15, 2009 - 10:59am (USA Central)
No season recap? I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the season overall, because it left me a little flabbergasted. There were some FANTASTIC episodes that really pushed the enveloppe a lot more than season 2 had (which is saying something) but it also had some of the series worst episodes (I kind of like "Fascination" but "Meridian" and "Prophet Motive" are pure garbage) and there didn't seem to be an overarching theme. I was also disappointed with how long it took for anything to happen to the Dominion. Sisko's line at the end of the Jem'Hadar about an impending invasion ended up being an unfulfilled promise to the viewer. On the other hand, "The Die Is Cast" is the episode that really got me hooked on the series, but outside of that episode nothing much happened to further the Dominion arc along... I guess patience is a virtue!
Grumpy - Tue, Oct 9, 2012 - 9:30am (USA Central)
Project for some phantom editor: re-imagine Star Trek as a soap opera with overlapping storylines that span multiple episodes. For instance, instead of "Equilibrium," "Second Skin," and "The Abandoned" airing as self-contained shows on consecutive weeks, the three stories would intercut between each other. Or "Explorers," "Family Business," and "Shakaar." In some cases, it would make the timelines more plausible if events (especially love affairs) aren't compressed into a single hour.
William - Fri, Jan 11, 2013 - 2:28pm (USA Central)
I loved Season 3 -- it was the season that announced "This is a different Trek."

"Improbable Cause" and "The Die Is Cast" took it over the top. Those two remain EPIC episodes, and the die really was cast. The show was forever altered when two Alpha Quadrant powers decided to preemptively strike at the Founders.
Grumpy - Wed, Jan 23, 2013 - 11:37pm (USA Central)
Season 3 was a turning point for DS9 in another way: for the rest of its run, every season had more episodes that earned 4 stars from Jammer than episodes rated 2 stars or less. This season was the last with an inverse ratio of hits to misses. In fact, S3 got the most sub-2.5 ratings (6) of any year of DS9. Yet I still remember it fondly.
The Latinum Kid - Mon, Aug 5, 2013 - 5:51pm (USA Central)
Fascination is underrated. I enjoyed it and found it funny

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