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.)
|3||"In the Hands of the Prophets"||3.5||9.5|
|16||"Move Along Home"||2.5||5.5|
|18||"A Man Alone"||2.0||4.5|
|19||"If Wishes Were Horses"||2.0||4.0|
Next: Season 2
23 comments on this post
Thu, Sep 12, 2013, 9:59am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 8, 2014, 1:40pm (UTC -5)
Here are mine from best to worst.
Captive Pursuit 4
In The Hands Of The Prophets 4
Past Prologue 3.5
The Forsaken 3
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
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.
Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 7:17pm (UTC -5)
**** = 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.
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.
Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 8:25pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 11:15am (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 11:23am (UTC -5)
He only appeared in one episode this season! I'll give him a writeup in later seasons
Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 11:33am (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 11:39am (UTC -5)
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:
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!
Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 11:58am (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Feb 13, 2016, 4:56am (UTC -5)
"DEEP SPACE NINE" SEASON ONE
7 - Emissary
6 - Past Prologue
5 - A Man Alone
3 - Babel
5 - Captive Pursuit
1 - Q-Less
4 - Dax
4 - The Passenger
1 - Move Along Home
7 - The Nague
7 - Vortex
5 - Battle Lines
2 - The Storyteller
6 - Progress
2 - If Wishes Were Horses
5 - The Forsaken
6 - Dramatis Personae
10 - Duet
10 - In the Hands of the Prophets
Average Season Score: 5.053
TNG Average Score After One Season: 2.720
TOS Average Score After One Season: 5.276
Best Episode: In the Hands of the Prophets
Worst Episode: Move Along Home
And there we have it. Season One is an above average season, but just barely. In fact, it managed to pull itself up over 5/10 by, no joke, one point! If it hadn't been for the outstanding finish to the season (two 10s in a row, that's a first for Trek), Season One would have ended slightly below average. And just as I did with my final TNG review (where it lost to TOS by a mere three points) I again assure you that I did not plan it out that way. That's exactly how the chips fell. Given that this first season is possibly the worst of the series, I doubt DS9 will have trouble topping the final average scores for TOS and TNG.
As for Season One itself, while it's far, far, far, far above TNG's opening season in terms of quality, it was definitely hit and miss. It was at it's worst when trying to be like TNG or outright bringing on TNG characters. It was at it's best when focusing on the world-building aspects of the story. The top three episodes ("In the Hands of the Prophets", "Duet" and "The Nagus") all focused heavily on fleshing out the Trek universe and DS9's corner of it.
The characters, while often capable of bringing up some of the dreck episodes and saving them from a zero rating (most notably in "The Storyteller") need a lot of work. The best, most developed, characters thus far are Quark and Kira (as Jammer points out). Bashir, however, really needs some work. While he is annoying, I don't find him as off-putting as many do. Still, he needs some direction aside from green, wide-eyed skirt-chaser. Sisko also needs some work. Aside from starring in "Emissary", he hasn't been given much to do besides typical commanding officer stuff - I think Nog may have gotten more development this season. The one most desperately in need of development, however, is Dax. She practically has no character to speak of at this point aside from being the "smart person" of the cast. And what little characterization she has received hasn't helped - it's made her look rather unlikable, like she's a self-important, pompous egotist.
So, after a stable, if not firm, foundation, I'm looking forward to Season Two.
Sat, Feb 13, 2016, 5:00am (UTC -5)
Holodeck Toys - 2
WTF Hair - 4
Thu, Feb 18, 2016, 8:46am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 5, 2016, 2:04pm (UTC -5)
In The Hands of The Prophets
I think my top 2 are the only excellent episodes this season though.
Sun, Jan 1, 2017, 3:53pm (UTC -5)
2. "Past Prologue"-3
3. "A Man Alone"-2
5. "Captive Pursuit"-3.5
8. "The Passenger"-2
9. "Move Along Home"-2
10. "The Nagus"-3
12. "Battle Lines"-2
13. "The Storyteller"-2
15. "If Wishes Were Horses"-0.5
16. "The Forsaken"-2
17. "Dramatis Personae"-3.5
19. "In the Hands of the Prophets"-3.5
I thought it was quite a dull start. I didn't hate it, but I wasn't exactly enthralled.
Sun, Nov 19, 2017, 9:36am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 22, 2018, 9:55pm (UTC -5)
If I put the 4 star scale to a 10 point scale, here's how it would average out for me (My feelings have changed since I last posted on this page):
3. "Past Prologue"-7.0
4. "A Man Alone"-3.0
6. "Captive Pursuit"-7.0
9. "The Passenger"-2.0
10. "Move Along Home"-1.0
11. "The Nagus"-6.5
13. "Battle Lines"-3.0
14. "The Storyteller"-2.0
16. "If Wishes Were Horses"-2.0
17. "The Forsaken"-6.5
18. "Dramatis Personae"-6.0
20. "In the Hands of the Prophets"-9.5
Averages out to 5.35 for me. An average season of tv. Not great, but not awful.
Wed, Mar 6, 2019, 2:01pm (UTC -5)
The main problem so far is that the show doesn’t really have a use for the wormhole. It just serves as a distraction from us getting to know the characters, and the situation in Bajor. During the first half of the season, the wormhole simply drops of aliens of the week, who are poorly characterized and immediately forgotten, just like most of the planets of the week the Enterprise used to visit. Also, there’s no sign that the Bajorans or the Federation have any idea about the strategic of the wormhole, safe for the handful of annoying ambassadors who come to visit in „The Forsaken“. This will of course change later during the Dominion War arch.
Story-wise, as Jammer has pointed out, the season’s strong points are with political and moral questions, rather than high concept science fiction. So far, the equally brutal and refined Cardassians prove much more interesting than the Bajorans, with their silly inner conflicts and insistence on their even sillier religious beliefs. But the shift from pure antagonistic resistance to the necessity of rebuilding a society, which requires diplomacy, political power play and compromises, is still promising, and in some of the Kira-centric episodes this aspects provides engaging storylines.
The season’s high points for me were easily “Duet”, “In The Hands Of The Prophets”, and the Odo/Troi scenes in The Forsaken”. On the other end of the spectrum would be the wormhole scenes in “The Emissary”, which I see as the same level as TNG stinkers like “Code Of Honor”, and “The Storyteller”. Apart from that, there aren’t really any episodes that are terrible as a whole, but a few on the lower end of average.
So far, each of the characters had at least one episode centered on them, but they’re not equally fleshed out, and certainly not acted at the same level.
- Sisko is the one with the richest backstory from the start. He has earned some military merits, but has been clinging to the past since his wife died, and has a history of renitence against his orders. As a result, he’s more or less disposed off with a position at the butthole of Federation space. It’s hard to understand yet what his motivations really are, other than indulging in past memories (mostly of his wife, baseball, and adventures with Curzon Dax) and being left alone. He usually takes the easiest way out of uncomfortable situations, shirking his responsibilities as commander on others, blackmailing, lying, and sometimes forcing others to lie for him to keep his own hands clean. So in general, he’s the anti-Picard, which is fine as a means to create conflict within the stories, but which makes one wonder how he could get this far in Starfleet. Despite Sisko being richly characterized, Avery Brooks seems to have no idea how to play him, and dominates his scenes with wide-eyed crazy looks, overacted gestures and odd little screams. At least his voice is great, but so far, Brooks is the worst of the cast. Let’s see how he develops further down the line.
- Sisko’s counterpoint on the station is Kira. We get a lot of insight into her life and motivations during the season, as she’s basically used to personify the struggles of the Bajoran people as a whole. Despite having somewhat of a learning curve towards the end of the season, she’s mostly written as an impulsive, undiplomatic zealot who has no business being the liaison officer to a foreign power. But since the Bajorans aren’t exactly the smartest when it comes to decision-making (see: destroying a moon with a breathable atmosphere and rich ecosystem in order to power 200.000 homes), they probably thought: What the hell? We might as well send her. The earlier episodes have Nana Visitor playing Kira as someone who’s continually screaming, banging her fists, and stomping her foot. But her acting improves vastly towards the season’s end, where she shines in “Progress” and “Duet”.
- So far, Odo is still rather enigmatic. Most of his backstory is only hinted at, especially his time on the station during Cardassian rule. He’s depicted as a no-nonsense, mostly joyless person, whose only goal is to provide justice, even it means breaking the law. Which he does so often that you wonder why anybody would keep up with it (well, anybody except for Sisko, who also goes by “the ends justify the means” pretty much most of the time). Especially in his behavior towards Quark, he behaves like a quasi-fascist asshole, which the writers seem to expect us to find acceptable because, well, it’s only Quark. But it makes Odo hardly relatable. This is only made up for by the superb acting skills of René Auberjonois, who, in spite of his face being covered in tons of latex, manages to transport all kinds of emotion with just a look, a tilt of the head, or a slight change in the tone of his voice.
- The second noteworthy actor in the cast so far is Armin Shimerman, who plays Quark as a rogue with a heart of gold, and makes even the worst Ferengi stereotypes in the scripts almost believable. While the Ferengi of TNG were simply horrible caricatures for comic relief, Quark is the first of them to be written and acted as an actual person, with their own beliefs and meaningful relationships to others. It’s also refreshing to see a civilian take up such a central position of the cast, and the contrast between his thinking and that of the station’s Starfleet/Bajoran personell sheds new perspectives on situations. Sadly, he’s still often written as the butt of jokes, and the show seems to think that it’s ok for all the other characters (mostly Odo, Kira and Sisko) to load all their crap onto him.
- It’s nice to see that O’Brien gets promoted to the main cast in this show. His role very much mirrors the one of TOS’s Scott, especially in the movies. He’s a technician uninterested in high concepts – as long as he can keep the engine running, he’s content. His family life is also given more screen time here, which serves to ground his character and to show us more of the scope of things going on at this station, with the various troubles going on in Keiko’s school. Colm Meany is the third and last good actor on the show, and it’s satisfying to see him in the spotlight, since he was always much better than many of the higher billed stars on TNG.
- At this point, I don’t know what to make of Dax, and the same seems to be true for the writers as well as Terry Farrell. On paper, she sounds like a fascinating character, who has lived through 300 years’ worth of memories and several different personalities. But apart from a few adventures Curzon had with Sisko, and a study on the general concept of what constitutes a Trill (“Dax”), we’re not offered anything about her actual personality and motives. So Farrell can be forgiven for portraying Dax as a sometimes nagging, but usually emotionless blank slate. I really hope though that the character and Farrell’s acting skills will get a time to shine in the coming season.
- Not really much can be said about Bashir up until now. He’s a young overachiever, he’s easily impressed and likes a challenge. Also, he’s super horny, but only in regard to Dax. Why? Given her so far non-existent personality, your guess is as good as mine – maybe he likes her because she’s a challenge too, since it’s almost impossible that a 300-year old should have an interest in someone as inexperienced as him. Alexander Siddig makes the best he can with the little he’s given. He’s not a great actor, but he plays the character convincingly, apart from the occasional over-acting.
- It’s unclear why Jake Sisko is even presented as member of the main cast at all, since all of his few stories happen in B- or C-plots. Where his father was the anti-Picard, Jake could be considered the anti-Wesley. He’s no wunderkind by any stretch, and his ambitions are limited to hanging around, impressing girls, and getting into trouble. So basically, he’s a modern-day teenager in a futuristic setting, which could be interesting, if he were given a little more room. Cirroc Lofton’s acting is ok – not stellar (after all, he’s just a teenager at this point), but also not as stiff as some of Will Wheaton’s earlier performances.
Honorable mentions should go to the recurring characters of Gul Dukat, Garak, and Nog, as well as their respective actors (Marc Alaimo, Andrew Robinson, and Aron Eisenberg), who outshine many members of the main cast. Wonderful performances are also being given by the guest stars Majel Barrett (as Lwaxana Troi) and Harris Yulin (as Marritza). Patrick Stewart, John de Lancie, and Jennifer Hetrick (as Vash) also give welcome guest appearances, but don’t manage to make that much of an impression.
Overall, a more or less solid first season, which only really finds its footing towards its end, and a promising start for things to come.
Sat, Jul 27, 2019, 9:58pm (UTC -5)
1) Duet - 10
2) In The Hands of the Prophets - 9
3) Progress - 8
4) Emissary -7
5) Dax -7
6) Past Prologue - 7
7) Vortex - 7
8) A Man Alone - 6
9) The Forsaken - 6
10) Babel - 5
11) The Passenger - 4
12) Captive Pursuit - 4
13) The Nagus - 4
14) Battle Lines - 3
15) Q-Less - 3
16) Dramatis Personae - 2
17) Move Along Home - 2
18) The Storyteller -2
19 If Wishes were Horses - 1
Season Average - 5.1
Wed, Oct 14, 2020, 11:11am (UTC -5)
DS9's first season has 19 episodes, with IMO 11 being good-or-excellent. Those 11 are "Emissary", "Past Prologue", "A Man Alone", "Captive Pursuit", "Dax", "The Nagus", "Vortex", "The Storyteller", "Progress", "Duet" and "In the Hands of the Prophets".
Of these 11, I'd say "Duet" and "In the Hands of the Prophets" are great, and maybe "Dax"
TNG's first season has 25 episodes, with 12 being good-or-excellent: "11001001", "We'll Always Have Paris", "Conspiracy", "Heart of Glory", "Hide and Q", "Datalore", "Home Soil", "Coming of Age", "Where No Man Has Gone Before", "The Neutral Zone" and "The Last Outpost".
Of these 12, I'd say "11001001" and "Well Always Have Paris" are great, and arguably "Heart of Glory".
Where DS9 and TNG seem to mostly differ is in their bad episodes. When DS9 is bad, it's unwatchably bad; very dull, flat, low-key and rather soap operaish. These bad episodes mostly involve dull trips on the runabout, talky stuff with Kai Opaka, or Rumpelstiltskin visions.
When TNG season 1 is bad, meanwhile, it's bad in that TOS way; entertaining and zany. Like a tacky ball of glitter. And so TNG's season 1 gives you "Angel One", "Encounter at Farpoint", "Code of Honor" (I actually think this one is pretty great), "Skin of Evil", "Too Short a Season", "Symbiosis" and "Lonely Among Us". These are bad episodes, but there's a touch of the bravura about them (The Planet of Women! The Oil Slick Alien! The Planet of the California Supermodels!) that can be quite entertaining.
Tue, Dec 15, 2020, 6:34pm (UTC -5)
Anyway, Season 1.
I remembered it being solid -- definitely better that TNG 1 -- but unremarkable. And well, it *is* solid and unremarkable. Having watched the entire season in a week, certain trends stood out.
For one, character work is very strong all around, almost surprisingly so. I remember DS9 characters fondly, but was nevertheless taken aback by just how good this ensemble is almost straight out of the gate. Every episode has these little character flourishes that elevate often subpar material. The Standout Character Award goes to Kira, Odo, and Quark, in that order.
Kira has the most complete character arc this season, starting as a belligerent freedom fighter opposed to the Federation presence so soon after the Occupation, then slowly coming over to the "other side", both as a person and as a representative of Bajoran interests on the station in episodes like Past Prologue, Progress, Battle Lines, and the unforgettable Duet, ending this part of her journey in a nice understated way in the season finale ("I don't think that you're the devil").
Odo and Quark show wonderful chemistry together and are well served by good dialogue whenever they share a scene. But even where The Dynamic Duo isn't playing off one another, the results are good. I appreciated Odo's stoic solitude in Vortex, while his pairing with Lwaxana in Forsaken was a revelation for both characters. Meanwhile Quark was generally delightful in plenty of vignettes and subplots peppered throughout the season. He is also nowhere near as shady a character I suspect he'll become later on, always careful not to go too far (as opposed to Season 2 episode Invasive Procedures where writers crossed the line with Quark, considerably damaging the character's credibility).
As for others, O'Brien was, well, O'Brien, always well played by dependable Colm Meaney, but he wasn't all that focused on. I am not particularly enamored with his main vehicle this season, Captive Pursuit, an episode that is well regarded by contributors on this site, but that I found rather plodding. (More on plodding stuff a bit later.)
Bashir... was fun as hell, to me at least. I know that many dislike his Season 1 skirt-chasing persona, but I had a blast watching him. Siddig has great instincts for comedic timing and plays Bashir with an entertaining combination of bumbling over-the-top youthful naivete and smug self-congratulationism (is that even a word?) I loved watching his little escapades and foot-meet-mouth moments all over the season. It's some of his more serious stuff that needs improvement (The Passenger, looking at you!)
Sisko had a great introduction in Emissary, which I still consider the best Trek pilot and a very strong episode that focuses on timeless themes such as letting go of the past, forgiving oneself, starting anew. Problem with Sisko, and with the season in general, was that the rest of it didn't really do much with the very interesting premise outlined in the pilot until the very end of the season. He is pretty much stagnant the rest of the way. It doesn't help that scripts relegate Sisko to station commander most of the time so we don't get much of a sense of who he is as a person. The lessons he learns in the pilot are not really followed through for the time being.
Dax is the only weak-ish character so far. Nothing on the level of Kim and Mayweather, thank the Prophets, but underutilized and played by Terry Farrell as too aloof and unengaging. One of the season's better installments bore her name, but curiously enough, Jadzia barely spoke in the episode, which for its narrative strength relied on some interesting Trill-related worldbuilding via solid Trek Courtroom DramaTM and Odo showing his considerable detective chops. I know writers retooled her character for Season 2 and beyond and I'm looking forward to seeing (well, reminding myself) if it pays off.
Honorable mention goes to Cirroc Lofton who appeared in only a handful of episodes, but has wonderful chemistry with Avery Brooks. Best Trek kid to date, not that he has much in the way of competition.
So, characters are fundamentally in a good place. The main problem with the season are its plots, which are, well, beige much of the time. There are more than a few recycled TNG scripts executed with a surprising lack of energy (or maybe not so surprising, since late TNG, which ran concurrently to early DS9, was also notoriously getting beige). Even solid episodes, like the aforementioned Captive Pursuit, or Past Prologue, Battle Lines, and others, really lacked energy and momentum. They were often lethargic, plodding, and overly reliant on exposition. On the other hand, the silliness that is Dramatis Personae I found extremely watchable thanks to some manic energy of all involved. Sisko's "THE CLOCK!" moment is just too good to ever forget. Also, and please don't shoot me, I found If wishes were horses to be hilariously fun, especially in the first half. I genuinely couldn't stop laughing though much of the episode. I hope that's not an indictment of my sense of humor.
Plot and story takeaway? Too many been-there-done-that recycled scripts plagued by iffy direction and subpar general execution. At one point I went to check the wiki to see who these directors are, seeing as how so often they seemed unable to inject some energy into the proceedings and I noticed one name that kept popping up in all of the most languid episodes: Paul Lynch. Glad to see he directed five episodes in this season, and none going forward. I guess the producers noticed the same thing I did. But when the show dealt with the stuff uniquely suited to its premise, it was engaging, smart, and with a sense of playfulness that's a joy to watch. Not too many great episodes, but few outright disasters as well.
Best episodes: Duet, Progress, Emissary, In the Hands of the Prophets (season finale), Dax
Worst episodes: A Man Alone (SHIFTAAAAAAAH!!!), Babel (or should I say TechnoBabel Virus Strikes!), Move Along Home (though it had its moments; Quark groveling being one of them).
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 4:18pm (UTC -5)
Emissary: * * * 1/2 (9/10)
Past Prologue: * * * (7/10)
A Man Alone: * * (5/10)
Babel: * * (5/10)
Captive Pursuit: * * 1/2 (6.5/10)
Q-Less: * * 1/2 (6/10)
Dax: * * * (7.5/10)
The Passenger: * * (5/10)
Move Along Home: * * (4.5/10)
The Nagus: * * 1/2 (5.5/10)
Vortex: * * * (7/10)
Battle Lines: * * 1/2 (6.5/10)
The Storyteller: * * 1/2 (5.5/10)
Progress: * * * 1/2 (9/10)
If Wishes Were Horses: * * 1/2 (6.5/10)
The Forsaken: * * 1/2 (6/10)
Dramatis Personae: * * 1/2 (6.5/10)
Duet: * * * * (10/10)
In the Hands of the Prophets: * * * 1/2 (8.5/10)
Average score: 2.61 stars (6.66/10)
All in all, a slightly above average season, but still neither here nor there.
Sat, Mar 20, 2021, 6:10am (UTC -5)
2. Past Prologue: 7/10
3. A Man Alone: 4/10
4. Babel: 5/10
5. Captive Pursuit: 8/10
6. Q-Less: 3/10
7. Dax: 6/10
8. Move Along Home: 1/10
9. The Passenger: 3/10
10. The Nagus: 7/10
11. Vortex: 7/10
12. Battle Lines: 6/10
13. The Storyteller: 3/10
14. Progress: 7/10
15. If Wishes Were Horses: 3/10
16. The Forsaken: 5/10
17. Dramatis Personae: 7/10
18. Duet: 10/10
19. In the Hands of the Prophets: 8/10
Average final score: 5.7
Not a great opening season but not a bad one either, although it's a major improvement over TNG's inaugural season by virtue of having a lower ratio of trash episodes and a number of episodes that were actually good. Still, like Jammer said, there's room for improvement
Fri, Oct 14, 2022, 1:56pm (UTC -5)
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