Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Second Season Recap"

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

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous: Season 1
Next: Season 3

◄ Season Index

27 comments on this review

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

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

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

Total = 70.5
Episode average = 2.711538462

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

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

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

@ Grumpy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Episode: Necessary Evil
Worst Episode: Paradise

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

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

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

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

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

But I suppose it's really a race to the bottom.
Iceman
Sun, Jan 1, 2017, 4:02pm (UTC -6)
My scoring for Season 2 would go:
1. "The Homecoming"-3
2. "The Circle"-3
3. "The Siege"-3
4. "Invasive Procedures"-3.5
5. "Cardassians"-3.5
6. "Melora"-2
7. "Rules of Acquisition"-2
8. "Necessary Evil"-4
9. "Second Sight"-1.5
10. "Sanctuary"-1.5
11. "Rivals"-2.5
12. "The Alternate"-2.5
13. "The Armageddon Game"-3
14. "Whispers"-3.5
15. "Paradise"-2.5
16. "Shadowplay"-3
17. "Playing God"-2
18. "Profit and Loss"-2.5
19. "Blood Oath"-3
20. "The Maquis Part 1"-3
21. "The Maquis Part 2"-3
22. "The Wire"-4
23. "Crossover"-3.5
24. "The Collaborator"-3
25. "Tribunal"-3
26. "The Jem'Hadar"-3.5

Average: 2.8

Definitely an improvement over the 1st season, but the middle stretch really brings it down.
Iceman
Sun, Jul 22, 2018, 9:58pm (UTC -6)
Expanding out the ratings to a 10-points scale worked out to this:

1. "The Homecoming"-6.5
2. "The Circle"-8.0
3. "The Siege"-5.0
4. "Invasive Procedures"-4.0
5. "Cardassians"-9.0
6. "Melora"-2.0
7. "Rules of Acquisition"-5.0
8. "Necessary Evil"-10.0
9. "Second Sight"-2.0
10. "Sanctuary"-2.0
11. "Rivals"-6.0
12. "The Alternate"-7.5
13. "Armageddon Game"-7.0
14. "Whispers"-9.0
15. "Paradise"-3.0
16. "Shadowplay"-6.0
17. "Playing God"-3.0
18. "Profit and Loss"-6.0
19. "Blood Oath"-9.5
20. "The Maquis Part 1"-6.5
21. "The Maquis Part 2"-6.5
22. "The Wire"-10.0
23. "Crossover"-8.5
24. "The Collaborator"-7.0
25. "Tribunal"-7.0
26. "The Jem'Hadar"-9.0
Elliott
Thu, Sep 6, 2018, 12:57pm (UTC -6)
Okay then, let's begin with the ratings summary:

No. Title Stars (1-10) [Jammer +/-]
1. Necessary Evil **** (9.5) [=] Exceptional (must watch)
2. The Wire ***.5 (9) [=] Excellent (truly enjoyable)
2. Whispers ***.5 (8.5) [-.5]
4. Blood Oath ***.5 (8.5) [=]
5. Crossover *** (8) [-.5] Good (solid instalment)
6. Tribunal *** (8) [=]
7. The Collaborator *** (7.5) [=]
8. The Alternate *** (7.5) [+.5]
9. The Circle *** (7.5) [=]
10. Invasive Procedures **.5 (7) [-.5] Okay (problems, worthwhile)
11. Playing God **.5 (6.5) [=]
12. The Jem'Hadar **.5 (6.5) [-1]
13. The Homecoming **.5 (6.5) [-1]
14. Cardassians **.5 (6.5) [-1]
15. The Maquis I **.5 (6.5) [-1]
16. Armageddon Game **.5 (6) [-.5]
17. The Maquis II **.5 (6) [-1]
18. Melora **.5 (6) [+.5]
19. The Siege ** (5.5) [-1] Watchable (not good, not awful)
20. Rules of Acquisition ** (5) [=]
21. Paradise ** (4.5) [-1]
22. Shadow Play *.5 (4) [-1] Poor (annoying)
23. Profit and Loss *.5 (4) [.5]
24. Second Sight *.5 (4) [-1]
25. Rivals *.5 (4) [-1]
26. Sanctuary * (3) [-1] Terrible (do not watch)

Average 2.504 stars (6/10) [-12.5]

I've decided also to look at the way the writers are stacking up. These numbers represent total episodes in both seasons of DS9 from writers who have written more than one story:

Author (# of stories) Average score out of 10

Fields (7) 8.5
Wolfe (4) 6.5
Trombetta (4) 6
Crocker (2) 6
Behr (5) 5
Gendel (2) 5
Bader (2) 5
Piller (5.5) 5

Looking at the numbers, DS9's second season's worst episode, “Sanctuary” was better than the three worst episodes of season 1. And, while season 1 had three episodes I would call excellent or exceptional, season 2 had four, averaging out to about half a letter grade improvement overall. We have dropped much of the weak sci-fi TNG-knockoff episodes, with a few exceptions like “Second Sight”

Trends :

—In the season 1 recap, I noted: “The book-ending episodes seem to want to suggest the thematic direction for the series: politics and spirituality as they pertain to Bajor.”

So how are we doing?

—There are two political threads this season, the internal political struggles of Cardassia and Bajor. We begin the season with Bajor facing turmoil after the events of the first season (though we aren't offered an explanation as to how that happened). With the death of Li Nalis and the disgrace of Driftwood in Opaka's stead, as well as the economic troubles that persist in“Rules of Acquisition” and “Sanctuary” (if we ignore that GQ colonising), we see that the policy of allowing the Bajorans to base their beliefs on lies, as William B has astutely observed a few times, leads them down a dangerous path of electing Bitchwhore as their new Space Pope. And the implications here make Bajor look like a genuine theocracy, which is not only scary, but bodes very poorly for their path towards Federation membership.

Cardassia is also in decline, it seems. They keep getting embarrassed what with having their machinations exposed in “The Circle,” “Cardassians,” “The Maquis” and “Tribunal.” Dukat's appearances all highlight the instability of the Central Command. There is also a dissident movement growing, as seen in “Profit and Loss.” The Obsidian Order, however, is still very functional as evidenced by Tain's extensive knowledge of Bashir's plight in “The Wire.”

Additionally, there is a major political story, “The Maquis,” which, while mostly very watchable, has some rather questionable logic, strawman arguments and frustrating conclusions, per the DS9 idiom. It is my understanding that the DS9 team inherited the Maquis and their bullshit from the higher-ups trying to set up Voyager, so it's no surprise that the episode feels like an outlier. The writers to continue to reference the treaty and instability, so we shall see how this plays out.

—So what about religion? Most examination is confined to “The Collaborator.” Having see how volatile the sociological conditions on Bajor were in the Circle trilogy, the Bajorans seems to be doubling down on their backwards beliefs. Their gods are capricious and rather abhorrent; they see it fit to influence Kira and Driftwood into a relationship, but not to prevent or assuage the damage of the Occupation. One could even make the argument that the Prophets are intentionally trying to elevate Bitchwhore to the position of Kai in order to keep Bajor out of the secular universe and maintain their deity-status. I don't sense, however, that the writers realise that this is what they're implying. We will have to see where this leads.

—Overall, the political stories which frame the outer sections of the season successfully provide enough questions to make the series worthwhile, but the season is at least a third too long for the material this idea provides. Which brings us to...

Characters (in order from best to worst):

I will credit the DS9 writers this much, the characters most in need of improvement, per my assessment, from season 1 were Bashir, Sisko and Dax, and two of them get a great story this season (“The Wire” for Bashir and “Blood Oath” for Dax). Poor Sisko is still struggling.

Garak/Dukat [=]

Yes, they are very different characters, but they appear with about the same frequency this season. And the effect on the show is to always have the episode improved by the presence of either man. We have been given hints about the backstories of both so far, and those are quite intriguing, but it wouldn't be fair to say they really “developed” here. We do get some good back story on both, between “Necessary Evil,” “Cardassians” and “The Wire.” Alaimo and Robinson are superb actors and really help to elevate the dialogue between their characters and their counterparts, Sisko and Bashir.

Odo [+]

Odo got to star in the season's very best episode, “Necessary Evil.” We discovered that much of what gives Odo his present identity was actually developed on Terak Nor, under the “leadership” of Dukat. Kira's line “Everybody has to choose sides, Constable,” still hovers over the character. What's most interesting for him so far is the implication (seen in both “The Alternate” and “Crossover”) that Odo is on the verge of becoming a monster, if circumstances change just enough. His decision to compromise his otherwise rigid neutrality for Kira in “Necessary Evil” paves the way for his romantic attraction to her, confirmed in “The Collaborator.” We also get a good exploration of the closest thing Odo has to family in “The Alternate.” Unlike the silly line in “Shadowplay,” we can see that Odo really *is* an amalgamation of the people he has encountered and mimicked. Quite appropriate for a shapeshifter. I'll get into this more in later seasons, but one thing that does bother me about Odo is the fact that despite being a bucket of organic goo, he behaves just like a heterosexual man, given his comments to Dax and his interest in Kira. But I guess that's 90s TV for you.

O'Brien [=]

This season actually features THREE torture-O'Brien episodes (if you include his extended capture with Bashir in “Armageddon Game”). The best O'Brien episode, “Whispers,” is tricky because, of course, the Miles we see in most of the episode isn't *real* Miles, but because he's a perfect copy, we still learn about our Miles and his deep commitment to his family. In “Tribunal,” we piece together than it is very important for Miles to lead a respectable life. He shares in common with a character like Worf, the horizontal honour afforded by being seen as a loyal and hard-working family man, as well as an intimate need for family and companionship.

Dax [+]

Well, the writers have finally decided on their take on Jadzia. Between “Playing God” and “Blood Oath,” we can glean that the strong Curzon personality within her allows Jadzia's darker side to co-exist with the brainy over-achiever she had to be to win her symbiont. This is also a problem for her, though, as Curzon isn't exactly a role-model, and he still overwhelms her. Despite her ostentatious lifestyle, Jadzia has yet to truly affirm her identity.

Bashir [+]

In contrast to his awful skirt-chasing of Dax (and Kira, notably in “Crossover”), Bashir's relationships with women are more successful this season. I liked his approach with Melora, even if the episode was lacklustre, and the backstory of his flirtation with a ballerina in “Armageddon Game” was insightful. His relationship with O'Brien is also solidified pretty well this season, even if it remains rather one-sided. What is most successful with Bashir occurs in “The Wire,” where he is transformed, as I said, by “grafting on traits from previous Trek CMOs; Bones (utter determination to save the patient), Crusher (empathy which overrides judgementally), and Pulaski (medical ethics superseding legal concerns)...[I]n so doing, DS9 is transforming Bashir into a sort of hub for genuine Trekkian ideas.”

Kira [=]

Girl done got herself a man. I actually do find it interesting that Kira struggles a bit with her identity this season, while also beginning a serious romantic relationship with Driftwood. She has seen people she respected like Li Nalis and Opaka exposed as less-than-heroic. She has confronted some of her own shortcomings, such as in “Necessary Evil” or “Crossover,” wherein she learned that but for a twist of fate, she may have ended up just like Dukat. Her attraction to Driftwood is problematic for me because, despite all this introspection, she compartmentalises the religio-spiritual contradictions that being with him presents. This isn't necessarily a writing mistake—this has the potential to create a powerful character moment for Kira down the road, when she realises she is essentially using Driftwood for the stability he provides. Of course, we will also have to explain why the Prophets decided they should be together in the first place.

Quark [-]

There are a lot of elements that work against Quark's favour in this season, from the trivial, like making him look like a buffoon in “The Siege” or just pathetic as in “Profit and Loss,” to the downright egregious, like selling Jadzia's life in “Invasive Procedures,” or conspiring with the Maquis. He also had two to two and a half love interests this season, none of which went anywhere. What rescues the character is the fact that he's reliably hilarious, even when problematic.

Sisko [=]

I should say here and now that I have a lot of respect for Avery Brooks as an activist and as an actor, because his talents have not materialised for me on the screen so far. Most of the problems with his delivery and contrived emotional extremes from season 1 persist, although he has smoothed out some of the rough edges by “The Jem'Hadar.” In terms of writing...gah. In “Crossover,” Kira refers to (her) Sisko as a good man, and I think she believes what she says. The problem is, there's not much to back this up. There are numerous examples of Sisko being a spineless asshole, such as in “Rivals,” where he rules-lawyers Quark out of his exclusivity clause, or using the letter of the law to subvert Starfleet's orders in “The Siege,” or expecting his officers to fudge their reports in “Whispers,” or botching diplomacy completely in “Profit and Loss,” pr playing fast and loose with his identity as the Emissary in “The Collaborator” or failing to offer rebuttals to sophomoric arguments against the Federation in “The Maquis” and in “The Jem'Hadar.” Sisko is probably at his best in “Paradise” of all episodes, which unfortunately manipulates the story to undermine his admirable behaviour and give that zealot Alixus a moral victory.

Jake [-]

I feel like it's a little unfair to even include Jake in this list. On TNG, the fact that they eventually developed Worf and Troi was a byproduct of the show's success (although I wouldn't call either of those successful in the end). Really, the character design of that show was all about Picard, Data and Riker...and Wesley—à la TOS. DS9 is an ensemble show, which is great, but Jake was designed to be a character which supplemented his father. So, he doesn't really get screentime without being in some way about Sisko's plot of the week. Yet, Lofton is credited in the titles. Regardless, his portrayal, as written, in season 1 was much better than in here. Beginning right away in “The Homecoming” all the way through “The Jem'Hadar,” Lofton's acting is noticeably, and aggravatingly more spastic. Now, he's a kid actor—I don't want to be too harsh here, but it's odd how his performances seemed better in season 1 when he was an even younger actor. We haven't seen very much of his friendship with Nog this season, but are beginning to see where his interests will eventually wander in important ways. It's all very embryonic.

***

Finally, let's talk about the Trek ethos. I have touched on this topic in many reviews this season, so I think it will be good to summarise here and draw some conclusions. We have seen:

1. Anachronisms regarding human culture, like Jake's math level, Sisko insisting Jake get a job, O'Brien's racism, Bashir's & O'Brien's sexist take on “military” service, and the inexplicable motivations for the Maquis;
2. Sisko and therefore the Federation failing to provide basic services to the Bajorans for inexplicable reasons;
3. The ludicrous idea that Earth and Earth alone benefits from the universal rights and post-scarcity material of Federation society;
4. The lack of concern over Bajor's descent into conservative theocratic rule;
5. The finale quite deliberately making sure the door is locked on TNG, creating piñata versions of the Enterprise and her captain, then blowing her up in spectacular fashion, while reversing the conceit of foundational episodes like “The Last Outpost,” “The Neutral Zone,” and “Who Watches the Watchers.”

The most egregious examples seem to come from the pen of Ira Behr, who is taking over for Michael Piller as show-runner. I can't say that fills me with hope for later seasons.

***

I will close with this thought: “In the Hands of the Prophets” promised a Season 2 where Bajor and the Federation would strengthen their bonds of diplomacy and friendship. What we actually got was a season where Federation identity was continued to be stripped (ineptly) of many of its best qualities, while Bajor moved in a decidedly unfortunate direction. Since “The Jem'Hadar” seems to promise a Season 3 where the threat of the Dominion will reduce conflicts between the Alpha Quadrant players, who will need to come together and face this threat, we can probably expect those conflicts to grow and rifts between them to widen.
Peter G.
Thu, Sep 6, 2018, 1:36pm (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

You're not the only one, but I'm sometimes surprised at the lack of praise for "Cardassians." For me it's almost a 4 star episode even though it's largely understated, and part of the reason the quiet tone works so well is that it's about a matter being handled quietly. There's nothing grand to see here because most parties involved have worked to keep it from becoming a public issue...until it was useful for it to be.

My only other comment is about your thought that making Jake get a job is an anachronism. On the contrary, in a post-scarcity society I think there will be a special honor attached to getting 'a job' (aka choosing to serve society rather than yourself), and even though its tone will certainly not be the same as it is now, which seems more like "get a job or you're a worthless parasite". Rather than casting aspersions on those without jobs, which would be illogical in a post scarcity world, most likely there will be positive honors and privileges associated with choosing to work when you truly don't have to, and dedicating your entire life to serving, such as in Starfleet, would be among the greatest honors. I guess I choose to read Sisko's attitude in that light. And in fact we later get the sense that Jake really isn't interested in serving others in any capacity, and it has to be remembered that no one thinks of him as a worthless layabout as a result, even though realistically I could see a Starfleet officer as seeing that as a disappointment.
Elliott
Thu, Sep 6, 2018, 2:10pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G

Thanks for your thoughts as always!

re: "Cardassians"--my problem with that story (and you can re-read my review of that episode for details) is mostly that the Rugal story is sacrificed to the political Dukat/Garak story. In TNG's "Suddenly Human" (an inferior episode, btw), the writers made room for both the political issue of diplomacy with the Temarians AND the character fallout for Jono/Jeremiah. I like the Dukat story a great deal, but I'm very bothered by the resolution to Rugal's story, because this is pretty tragic stuff.

re: Jake's job. I'll repeat what I wrote on the page for "Shadowplay":

"Here we go again. Jake has to get a job because he's a teenager and this is 1990s television. Nevermind that the Federation has no money, people work out a sense of labour-value and Jake lives on a diplomatic outpost, as far as the DS9 writers are concerned, we should just accept that humanity has not changed at all in 400 years.

SISKO: You're 15 years old. It's time you took a little responsibility.

Responsibility FOR WHAT? Jake never ever has to make a living in the contemporary sense. His obligation as a human being in the 24th century is to better himself, to find work that fulfils him. He does not have, nor will he ever have bills to pay."

Sisko specifically wants Jake to get a job to "learn responsibility"--that's the anachronism.
Peter G.
Thu, Sep 6, 2018, 2:22pm (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

Yes, if you view "learn responsibility" as being an economic statement - that Jake must learn how to become productive - then I would agree with you. I don't see why it has to be taken to mean that, though. We see clearly enough that Sisko expects Jake to eventually join Starfleet, and it's completely accurate that (notwithstanding the nonsense we're told in Coming of Age) in order to achieve that he'll have to begin learning to work hard. It's a father's bias that Jake will follow in his footsteps, but it certainly doesn't belie some belief that Jake is obliged to become an obedient economic unit.

Also remember that the Sisko/Jake relationship comes on the coattails of Crusher/Wesley where TNG took it for granted that *of course* Wesley would want to join Starfleet, because who wouldn't? So Wes follows in his father's footsteps without consideration, while here we're being given (eventually) a contrast, where actually not everyone even in the future wants to serve like that. This "get a job" aspect seems to me to reflect on how much Jake isn't at all like Wesley in various respects and is more of a real person for it.

I could foresee one argument, mind you, that fits your side of it, which is the possibility that "get a job" is a message especially tailored to the fact that Jake is a *black boy* and must learn to avoid the pitfalls of poor black life. That would, indeed, be an anachronistic message and I submit it's possible that was in the back of their minds - but I hope not. As I said, I choose to read it as Sisko expecting much of Jake and wanting him to get started asap so he can be ready for great things. It reads mostly as a father/son issue to me, not a cultural one.
Iceman
Sat, Sep 15, 2018, 2:56pm (UTC -6)
@Elliott-We rated Season 2 about the same-a decent start, a horrible middle, and a solid ending. The season developed its characters pretty well, but man, the weak 'hard' sci-fi really killed the middle of the season.
Elliott
Mon, Sep 17, 2018, 10:38am (UTC -6)
@Iceman--

Yeah, kind of interesting. You seemed to like the okay/pretty good episodes much more than I, and really hated the weaker episodes, so we averaged about the same.

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