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

10 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
Yanks - Tue, Aug 5, 2014 - 10:12am (USA Central)
Here are my Season 3 rankings. Some epically great trek and some real stinkers. There doesn't seem to be many "middle of the road" eps in this season... I got the feeling they were great or not.

The Search, part one 4
The Search, part two 3.5
The House of Quark 3
Equilibrium 3
Second Skin 3.5
The Abandoned 2.5
Civil Defense 3
Meridian 1
Defiant 3
Fascination 1.5
Past Tense, part one 3
Past Tense, part two 2.5
Life Support 2.5
Heart of Stone 4
Destiny 3.5
Prophet Motive 2
Visionary 2
Distant Voices 1
Through the Looking Glass 1
Improbable Cause 4
The Die Is Cast 4
Explorers 3.5
Family Business 2.5
Shakaar 1.5
Facets 2.5
The Adversary 3

Total: 70.5
Average: 2.71

Wow, the same total as season 2. (yes, I checked the math :-) DS9 seems to be showing a pattern here. The the seasons start off with a bang then peters out. This is 2 seasons in a row that show this trend.

methane - Sun, Aug 23, 2015 - 3:18pm (USA Central)
It's been awhile since I watched DS9, but I remembered season 3 being the 2nd worst (after the first season). This is partly because I don't enjoy the Past Tense episodes at all.

I still would rank season 2 ahead of season 3, but I enjoyed season 3 more this time through.

When it first aired, I disliked "The Search, Part II" more than Jammer, but I would probably give it 3 stars now. Some bad episodes, like "Fascination" and "Family Business", don't bother me as much as they originally did (not that they're good episodes, mind you). On the other hand, "Distant Voices", whose oddness I originally enjoyed, loses any impact on rewatch.

There's still a lot of good episodes here, just not a lot of great ones. The 2-parter Improbable Cause/The Die is Cast & perhaps the Search Part I are the only ones I'd place in that category.

A few thoughts on what could have made this season better (besides simply not going forward with a few bad ideas for episodes):

-T'Rul, the Romulan assigned to the Defiant in the first episode, would have been a fascinating addition, if they had kept her around.

-Eddington wasn't abandoned like T'Rul, but he mostly disappeared between the first and the last episode ("The Die Is Cast" being the obvious exception). Seeing these 2 characters interact with the established crew could have been the source for interesting stories.

-the Maquis were almost completely forgotten about this season. Bajor was still addressed in several episodes this season, although those episodes weren't particularly memorable. "Defiant" is really the only Maquis-driven episode, and that, ultimately, was more about the character of Thomas Riker & setting up the mystery of the Cardassian spying agency that the Maquis themselves. I wonder if they deliberately took a step back from the Maquis this year because Voyager was in it's first year. The Federation/Maquis conflict was originally supposed to be a big source of drama for Voyager, even if they pretty much abandoned that idea immediately.
methane - Sun, Aug 23, 2015 - 3:26pm (USA Central)
"I still would rank season 2 ahead of season 3, but I enjoyed season 3 more this time through."

boy, that's confusingly worded!

I meant that I enjoyed season 3 more than I did previously. It's still behind season 2.
William B - Wed, Oct 7, 2015 - 1:55pm (USA Central)
Character and story analysis to follow, but for now, here are ratings to close out season three. This time I will include ratings for all episodes, and note in brackets the difference between my rating and Jammer's.

The Search, Part 1: 2.5 (-1)
The Search, Part 2: 2 (=)
The House of Quark: 3 (=) -- the 3.5 I suggested at the time was a bit much, I think
Equilibrium: 2.5 (-.5)
Second Skin: 3 (-.5)
The Abandoned: 2.5 (-.5)
Civil Defense: 2.5 (+.5)
Meridian: 1 (-1)
Defiant: 3 (-.5)
Fascination: 1 (=)
Past Tense, Part 1: 2.5 (-1.5)
Past Tense, Part 2: 2.5 (-.5)
Life Support: 1.5 (-1)
Heart of Stone: 3 (+.5)
Destiny: 3 (-.5)
Prophet Motive: 1.5 (-.5)
Visionary: 3 (=)
Distant Voices: 1 (-1.5)
Through the Looking Glass: 2 (-1.5)
Improbable Cause: 4 (=)
The Die is Cast: 3.5 (-.5) -- this I'm not sure about (I could go to 4)
Explorers: 2.5 (-.5)
Family Business: 1.5 (-.5)
Shakaar: 1.5 (-1.5) -- I suppose my 1* was a bit harsh
Facets: 2 (-1) (I said 2.5, but I think it's a bit weaker than that)
The Adversary: 2.5 (-.5)

So with a few exceptions, my ratings are significantly lower than Jammer's; it is worth noting that this is the first year of his reviews still up on the site (!).

The average comes out to between 2.3 and 2.4 -- I won't give more precision since I keep fiddling with the individual ratings.

So overall, it's not a bad year exactly, and I'd take it over something like TNG s1 or TOS s3. Still, there are fairly few episodes I think are actual successes, and the only outstanding eps were the IC/TDIC two-parter, the season's unquestioned highlight. There are quite a few episodes that were particularly weak as well.

I thought for a while about whether some of episodes I gave 2.5 stars to deserve promotion. Certainly, most of the 2.5 star shows have some real successes: arc-building and action-adventure (the premiere and finale), atmosphere and social commentary (Past Tense), action/comedy with a dose of satire (Civil Defense), character development in the wake of new character revelations (The Abandoned), effective suspense and mystery building (Equilibrium), and quiet character interaction (Explorers). But I felt that none of them rose above average, for reasons I articulated at the time; usually pleasant, but unsatisfying. It may be that I'm getting cranky at this stage, but I do think that this is a particularly weak season for the show.

On the other hand, I am looking forward to s4, which has plenty of gems and also I think finds a consistency that was sorely lacking in s3.
William B - Thu, Oct 8, 2015 - 12:23am (USA Central)
The Search followed up on The Jem'Hadar with a suggestion of a major series reshuffling, and then promptly went way overboard and then reversed course dramatically in part 2, and I think that strikes me as an apt summary of this season (and, well, much of the Dominion arc, but...). The season begins with the looming threat of the Dominion being treated as a significant game-changer; the opening two-parter, yes, and then The House of Quark implying that the station is being partially abandoned as a result of the new threat, and indeed is even the direct initiator of that episode's two main plotlines (the low business because of the Dominion is what makes Quark drum up business by pretending he had a heroic fight with the Klingon, and the low population is why Keiko closes the school). Then very quickly come Equilibrium, where Sisko takes the warship to Trill, and Meridian where we learn that planet-of-the-week exploration has been resumed in a commander's log. The rest of the season largely maintains this somewhat incoherent attitude, where the threat of the Dominion is so dire that the Ultimate Warship! is posted to the station, but the ranking officers on the station can spend days or weeks at a time doing proof-of-concept solar sailing ships or getting started in a ground war over farm equipment, or decide to take a sixty year leave of absence to go be with this guy they just met. Much of the issue here is that DS9 (like TNG, really) is a standalone/serialized hybrid, and it becomes one or the other depending on the interests of the week. I am sort of okay with this, except that it becomes harder to sell the EXISTENTIAL THREAT OF THE DOMINION when they are so out of sight most of the time. To be sure, people during tense times focus on things other than looming threats, but there is something about the transition from "The Die is Cast" to "Explorers" that goes beyond "time to relax" and into territory where it seems like Sisko doesn't even have a real job. (...Actually, maybe both episodes could have been improved if Admiral Whatley had relieved Sisko of duty for a few weeks or something for defying orders, and Sisko took up the solar sails hobby as a good project for the interim. Maybe not, on the other hand.)

Onto the characters:

Sisko: The most Sisko-centric episodes this year were arguably "Past Tense," "Destiny," "Through the Looking Glass," and "Explorers"; of these, "Destiny" worked for me despite some longstanding issues, but "Past Tense" and "Explorers" left me pretty on the fence and "Through the Looking Glass" actively bothered me in terms of Sisko's characterization. "Past Tense" and "Through the Looking Glass" both featured Sisko taking on another man's identity and living through his actions, but the motivation which was present in "Past Tense" was much shakier in "TTLG." What these episodes, and "Destiny" too (and in some respects even "Explorers," where Sisko's desire is to recreate an ancient Bajoran navigation and he ends up succeeding), suggest though is an overarching question of how much Sisko controls his own fate and how much he acts out a role which is already laid out for him. This is actually pretty interesting material, potentially, but I think only "Destiny" really starts to dig into what it might actually be like to be living out a role someone else set out for you and what psychological effects that has -- as well as seeing Sisko actually rebel against it. There is a potentially interesting story, and one that the season keeps gesturing to, but I don't really feel it's being explored. Sisko's continuing blackmailing people to work for him is another thing that I wish the show would deal with more explicitly (i.e. by having some negative consequences for Sisko eventually, at least in terms of the trust people have for him), and similar his defiance of orders in "The Die is Cast" or whatever. What did largely work for me this year is Sisko as friend, and Sisko as interpersonal manager; Sisko's efforts for Dax in "Equilibrium" and his advice to her in "Facets," his weighing his personal experiences with Nog against his potential in "Heart of Stone," and his ability to relate to Dukat and to make appropriate deals with him for the Defiant hijackers' lives in "Defiant" were all effective scenes, the Nog and Dukat stories in particular having Sisko make an effort to integrate new information about people he had already somewhat made his mind about (to different degrees) and thus allowing him to make several lives better. Sisko's scenes with Jake have been reasonable most of the time; the Kasidy relationship which Jake set up is just starting up, so time will tell. Rating: **1/2

Odo: Easily the best-handled of the regular cast, Odo is the only character for whom this season has a fairly consistent focus. Essentially, the whole season plays out as consequences to Odo's being forced to choose between his people and his Deep Space 9 life, with Kira as the primary reason why he chooses the latter, with layers of false explanations gradually unraveled. Lwaxana, the Female Shapeshifter, and Garak all break through Odo's defenses (through close observation, trickery or torture) to get at the real conflict, which Odo tries to hide but keeps coming out. And the season ends with Odo's choice of aligning against "his people" leading to him committing the gravest sin his people have, in the line of doing what more or less constitutes the bare minimum expected of him as a member of the DS9/Defiant crew. The downside is that Odo's feelings for Kira were hammered in too obviously at several points, and the "unrequited" bit is already wearing thin, but this is a relatively small problem. The key eps were "The Search" (pretty good on the Odo side), "The Abandoned" (not great, but with good Odo material), "Heart of Stone" and the "Improbable Cause"/"The Die is Cast" two-parter, the last of which also showcases his keen investigative instincts and is the season's highlight. Rating: ***1/2

Bashir: Bashir continues to gain definition, becoming less of the cipher he was in season one, and the performance and the episode to episode writing seems more confident. His relationship with Garak did not have a key defining episode like "The Wire" this year, but has been a pleasure nonetheless, and effort building on his friendship with O'Brien has worked well. The main problem is that there are no particularly strong Bashir vehicles; the one dedicated Bashir episode, "Distant Voices," was very weak, and other episodes which gave him a big part of the A-plot, like "Past Tense" or "Life Support," generally used him as the humanist mouthpiece in reasonable but not particularly individualized ways. Rating: **1/2

Jadzia: Of the three Dax episodes this season, "Equilibrium" sidelined Jadzia fairly early on to focus on Sisko and Bashir's investigations, "Facets" had Jadzia as something of a blank slate reacting to her previous hosts (especially Joran and Curzon), and "Meridian" ran counter to her general character portrayal and is in the running for the least convincing romance in Trek history, with some pretty stiff competition. Otherwise, Jadzia's role in episode plotlines often came down to "Dax gets her hands burned" (Civil Defense)-level activities. Really not a good year for her. However, some credit for giving us an opportunity to (sort of) meet Curzon at long last in "Facets," and for the intriguing concept (if not necessarily follow-up) of the killer-in-one's-attic idea of Joran. Maybe I should offer separate ratings for Jadzia and Dax, with Dax higher. Rating: *1/2

Jake: Jake was in this season. "Explorers" was the only episode which gave Jake a significant role in the A-plot, and it had its moments, though its explanation for why Jake stays on the station left something to be desired; generally, Jake has just had very little to do. The "Jake dates Marta, then she breaks up with him, then he is affected by a love spell" plotline was not exactly one of the show's stronger arcs. Rating: ** maybe, but really it might as well be N/A.

O'Brien: The only real O'Brien story this year was "Visionary," which was a good episode that is an engaging use of the character. His continuing friendship with Bashir was good, and the handling of Keiko's departure in "The House of Quark" was very sweet (though "Fascination's" follow-up less so). Not all that much material but what there was was pretty good. Rating: ***

Quark: I enjoyed "The House of Quark," and there are some other good moments for him this season -- his role in "The Search" was pretty effective, for instance. But "Prophet Motive" was nearly content-free, and "Family Business" in spite of some good elements was mostly actively harmful to the character. It is a shame, because Shimerman is one of the strongest in the cast, which largely keeps the character worthwhile despite having less and less good material. Rating: **1/2

Kira: Kira has much more focus and stronger material than most of the cast, but the shape of the Kira material this year (especially with "Shakaar") is pretty messy. The key Kira episodes this year are "Second Skin," "Defiant," "Destiny," and "Shakaar," and of those four I like *three*, which is a pretty good ratio. Still, "Second Skin" does not do as much as it could have, "Defiant" throws some weird curveballs into Kira/Bareil right when his death is gearing up, and "Destiny" somewhat retcons Kira's attitude to Sisko. Meanwhile, "Life Support," an episode which should really have had Kira at the centre for its major events (Bareil's death, the Bajoran/Cardassian peace treaty) sidelines her for most of its running time. The season then tries to make up for it by bringing her issues with the Cardassian treaty into "Destiny" and with Bareil's death into "Shakaar," but they both feel incomplete, and "Shakaar" in particular at times seems to give the werid impression at times like Kira was willing to start a civil war because Winn pissed her off, and that even her grief for Bareil was only about that, as well as running contrary to what "Defiant" *seemed* to be saying about her. The Odo crushing on Kira plot reduces Kira largely to object. Rating: **1/2 (it would probably be 3 if the handling of her reaction to Bareil's death were better).

Supporting cast:

Garak: The key here is the "Improbable Cause"/"The Die is Cast" two-parter, which is the obvious season highlight. This pays off much of what "The Wire" said about Garak in a different setting, giving Garak the opportunity to return to his people in a way that not only furthers his character but also shines a light on Odo's journey. "Civil Defense," "Second Skin" and the actual-Garak scenes in "Distant Voices" are fun but somewhat running in place for the character. I do think mirror-Garak is a tiny bit of a waste of Robinson's talent and presence, since it's a bit of a standard thug. Also having Garak do a brave sacrificial death in "The Search Part II" as part of the illusion was pretty weird. Still: ***1/2.

Dukat: His scenes with Sisko and the Obsidian Order operative in "Defiant" were great, and I love most of his scenes in "Civil Defense," especially those videos. "BAJORAN WORKERS!" "Explorers" was fluff and it was odd to have Dukat dropped into that story, given the startling defeat Cardassia just had and the probable implications those would have for Dukat. Rating: ***

Rom: The movement to full idiot savant mode is pretty much complete, but Rom has still largely not been placed at the centre of stories (the way he will be in "Bar Association" next year, say) so we will have to wait and see on that. He is getting pretty annoying, but I do think he managed to be the least annoying of the three Ferengi leads in "Family Business," at least. I do actually find his support for Nog quite touching. Definitely, he has changed somewhat radically since the halcyon days of season one, where he objected to Nog's schooling to keep up his image as a good Ferengi (in "The Nagus"), and I do not really think those changes seem wholly organic; Rom, up to "Rules of Acquisition," was put-upon by Quark and took this out on other people (his son, Pel), and I don't think that there was any major event which convincingly realigned him to have the strength of character not to pay forward his misery. I do think it's something of a reworking of the character, whereas I would have preferred a development. Rating: **1/2

Nog: As I said in the eps themselves, I do think that having the "Nog is sexist" ep right before "Nog wants to be in Starfleet" was odd placement, but overall the Starfleet development makes sense of some of what we have seen in s1-2 and is a nice direction for the character. Rating: ***

Bareil: My girlfriend keeps quoting that line Bashir had in "Life Support": "Nerys, if I remove the rest of his brain and replace it with a machine, he may look like Bareil, he may even *talk* like Bareil...." He would indeed have talked like Bareil. I think I should moderate my criticism of the character by saying that having a voice for Bajoran peace and serenity as a way of coping with hard times was a good idea, and I think that the concept of Kira finding an honourable ascetic as someone to are about and to share her passion for Bajor with was a good one. There are old Ronald D. Moore chats that one can find in archives, where people would continuously write in and talk about how awesome Bareil was and how upset they were that he was killed off, and while I cannot say I agree with them I can at least agree that it was good to have another positive voice out of Bajor. There is a certain quiet dignity in Bareil's martyr-y death, which I did not really talk about much in my negative take on "Life Support." And I will try not to hold "Fascination" against him. Rating: **

Winn: I feel like she has been somewhat retooled from calculating fundamentalist to incompetent politico; the intelligence with which Winn carried herself (and deployed her attacks) was much missed, by me anyway, in her two episodes this year. In a way, it may be that this was the point; Winn is undermined and we see that actually she was not an evil genius but a mostly-bad fool, who knows how to play the Vedek Assembly but is totally out to sea in other departments, and that probably makes sense. "Life Support's" attempt to put her in a somewhat neutral role rather than a villainous one (she is the heavy to some extent, but her desire for a peace treaty seemed genuine) was a good move, though "Shakaar" bought that back. Fletcher does what she can with the material, though. My favourite Winn moment (a love-to-hate moment) was the way she smugly told Kira that Bareil didn't want credit for his actions, and that she thought that Kira would know that.

Various: Zek's and Lwaxana's reappearances this year were not so thrilling; Tain's, though, was quite welcome. This season introduced several new recurring players, including Eddington, the Female Shapeshifter, Leeta, Ishka, Kasidy and Shakaar. I think Salome Jens is very good in the FS role, though she hasn't had that much to do yet. As for the others, well, they also haven't had much to do yet.

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