Well, here it is—my most comprehensive DS9 review of the season. Even if you haven't read a single review I've written for Deep Space Nine's fourth season, you will still get a healthy dose of my opinion for each episode. This article is divided into two parts. First is the capsule review section in which I have briefly summarized my thoughts on each episode (with plot summary at a minimum). As always, the rating scale is based on a possible four stars.
The second part of this recap is my general overview and analysis of the season, which looks at what the season as a whole has meant, and my thoughts on where the series as a whole is going. I hope you enjoy this review and hope you tune in for my next season of reviews!
Part 1: Capsule Reviews
The Way of the Warrior — The big, bold, season opener offers tons of plot development and a lot of action. The additions of both Worf and the Klingon threat are done smoothly and credibly, and despite the show's obvious attempts to practically re-invent the series in two hours, it still manages to tell a story quite well. The show is, in a word, entertaining. Mired beneath all the interesting plot developments (which give all the cast members a respectable amount of screen time) is a story centered around Worf and his dissatisfaction with his career since the Enterprise's destruction—a character situation that echoes all the way back to Sisko's original problem in "Emissary."
The Visitor — Without a doubt, the hands-down most moving and skillfully executed character show DS9 has ever done; one of the best installments in the history of the series and the franchise. (Perhaps a five-star rating out of four would be warranted?) This tragic tale, centering around the brilliantly performed and carefully painted character of Old Jake, has a narrative with such genuine emotional truth and attention to subtle and poignant details that it transcends just about anything that could've been expected of it. Wonderful performances. Wonderful direction. Stellar writing. Top, top-notch. The show had a seemingly effortless ability to draw me into its very human story; by the end I was actually moved to tears. Plot summary can't begin to do justice for the show, so I'll leave it at that.
Hippocratic Oath — Well, it's a step down from the first two shows, but when the first two shows are "The Way of the Warrior" and "The Visitor," what can you expect? This is an interesting analysis of the Jem'Hadar, even if a bit derivative of what we've seen before. It's not always on-the-money dramatically, but the characterization is quite good. The polemical conflict that arises between Bashir and O'Brien over their clash of opinions is an eye-opener that threatens to put their friendship on the line. (I just wish it had actually meant something in episodes down the road.) The Jem'Hadar's drug dependency is an interesting idea—and seems just like the Founders' style. A B-story involving a conflict between Worf and Odo is light but relevant.
Indiscretion — What begins as a powerful clash between Kira and Dukat's arguments concerning the Cardassian Occupation slowly deteriorates into a decent but predictable tale of a man's decision to heed his conscience and face the consequences of actions from his past years. I thought the early scenes on the Runabout were outstanding, but by the time Dukat is holding a phaser to his daughter and painfully searching for the truths of life, I was not particularly impressed. A completely artificial and unwarranted comic relief scene where Dukat sits on a spike, causing both him and Major Kira to begin laughing hysterically, sure doesn't help the show's cause any. An amusing B-story involving Kasidy's decision to move onto the station so she can be closer to Sisko is lightweight but amiable. Not a bad show, but a missed opportunity in many ways.
Rejoined — So much heated, knee-jerk-response, and (frankly) ignorant-seeming debate has arisen in the wake of the same-sex kiss between the two actors in this episode that it's ludicrous. I find that so ironic, since all the kiss really is in "Rejoined" is a metaphor to play off the contemporary discomfort with homosexuality in our culture. It parallels with the negative feelings Trill culture has for "reassociations," or the resuming of relationships between two people who had relationships in past host lifetimes. The proposed reassociation between Jadzia and Lenara is utilized for some surprisingly good characterization. For the first time in quite a while, Terry Farrell gets a story with some genuine depth and hard choices, and she delivers just fine. A wonderful scene between Sisko and Dax highlights what an asset their relationship can be for the series. The story is handled marvelously; driven completely by the characters and not by convoluted plot turns. Kudos.
Little Green Men — An agreeable but paper-thin story that takes one ridiculous, high concept of a pitch and turns it into an episode in which "Quark, Rom, and Odo travel back in time to Roswell, 1947!" A variety of gags ensue, centering around the U.S.'s military questioning the Ferengi. I liked some of these jokes, like the appropriate running gag that everybody in the '40s was paranoid about a "massive Martian invasion!" Quark's plans to make a quick buck off these silly "hu-mahns," however, is way too typical of him. Add this to Rom's usual stupidity and an uninteresting subplot involving two scientists who are engaged to be married (which I suppose pays homage to the structure of those old '40s and '50s movies about alien invaders, but does not capture attention here) and the show becomes a sum of workable but hardly compelling elements. The conclusion is painfully inevitable.
Starship Down — This one was a hardware show with almost no story, but it was a good hardware show. With the Defiant seriously disabled, the show becomes a disaster movie with four separate stories, some of which work, some which don't quite come together. The characterization between Kira and Sisko is nice, although it is a bit of a rehash of "Destiny," and their discussion at the end of the show is too silly to be taken seriously. The rest of the show is action-oriented, and done with such overall showmanship that I'm willing to forgive the lack of story. The special effects are absolutely terrific. Do you want to see the lives of the crew in jeopardy? Want to see sets explode? See Jem'Hadar ships destroyed? Quark disarm a torpedo? Watch the Defiant fly through a stormy atmosphere? In short, do you want a crafty display of stuff getting blowed up real good? Then "Starship Down" is for you.
The Sword of Kahless — Worf, Dax, and Kor embark on a search with a scope nearly equivalent to that of an Indiana Jones adventure. Simplistic and totally self-contained, this story is a fresh break from the series' week-to-week plotting and has a sort of mythic, larger-than-life epic feel to it. All the adventure elements are here: There's the Search, the Chase, and the Battle. There's also a very interesting angle—the idea that the sword has a kind of "spell" over the Klingons who hold it, giving them delusions of grandeur. This causes Worf and Kor to turn against each other and quarrel endlessly in amusing and well-written dialogue scenes. The show is skillfully directed by LeVar Burton, and features an impressive score by David Bell.
Our Man Bashir — Here's an unlikely adventure for Bashir and Garak, who must play through a Bond-style holosuite program in order to save Sisko and the crew, whose stored transporter patterns lie in grave danger. About one step shy of total incredulity, this "story" is merely an excuse for silly fun and satire as the DS9 cast finds itself plugged into James Bond milieu. Everything is here, from the colorful characters, to the goofy gadgets, to the over-the-top performances, to the overblown plots (in which Avery Brooks wants to—what else—"Destroy the world!" ). I was grinning a lot through this episode, and I found the priceless banter between Bashir and Garak to be a joy.
Homefront — This was the only episode of the season to truly tackle the Dominion threat brought up in third season's "The Adversary." It was also among the best episodes of the season. The show very successfully analyzes the subject of paranoia and mistrust. The Founders' ability to undermine trust and understanding is what makes them most interesting and intimidating as villains. Tensions in this episode run quite high, and can be evidently seen in brilliantly realized character sequences between Ben and his father Joseph. The episode easily holds the most absorbing and thoughtfully creepy subjects surrounding the Dominion that the series has ever done. When analyzed along with the second part ("Paradise Lost"), the story, unfortunately, isn't quite as sturdy (because there are actually two different stories being told, having only similar themes), but as a stand-alone show, it's one of the season's most powerful.
Paradise Lost — Perhaps "Homefront" was a tad misleading as to where it intended to take us, but that makes it no worse a show, and "Paradise Lost" is a good installment in its own ways, even if it can't live up to the setup "Homefront" supplied. While it's true that the show is a foregone conclusion in some respects (who actually thought Leyton would succeed in his plan to maintain martial law on Earth?), this does not lessen a story well told: that Sisko must make some difficult decisions in confronting Leyton's breaches of ethics. Robert Foxworth is good as Admiral Leyton, and the two-person histrionics between Foxworth and Avery Brooks are quite satisfactory. The scene where Leyton has Sisko falsely exposed as a shapeshifter is an eye-opener, as is the sight of two Starfleet ships shooting at each other.
Crossfire — I don't think such a simplistic and expressively limited show like this is something we want to see every week, but having one like this on occasion isn't a problem. The subject of Odo's feelings for Kira is examined for the first time in a year, and the results are pleasant. The writers finally put the issue to rest, and do it effectively and with some dignity. As a character show, it's quite good, even if Odo's actions are a little bit overstated. His distractions in his job and his agonizing conversation with Shakaar work very well. Much credit goes to Rene Auberjonois' performance, but we should also credit the writers for relying on their faith in the characters to get the job done, and not resorting to pointless jeopardy scenes or other plot manipulations. A standout scene between Odo and Quark is a big winner—highlighting how their scenes together can benefit the series when done right.
Return to Grace — The reluctant teaming of Kira and Dukat for a mission of common interests works better here than in the creators' lackluster first attempt, "Indiscretion." Maybe it's because this doesn't have the demerit of a dreadful comic relief scene like the first episode did, but I think it's more because this is more relevant overall to the series. There was a smorgasbord of little plot workings in this show, most of which added to the Klingon plane of the series, the rest of which had a character point to them. I greatly appreciated that Dukat's decision to take Ziyal back to Cardassia actual had real consequences. I thought the discussions between Kira and Ziyal about Dukat's past were particularly enlightening. The issue of the Cardassians being paralyzed and weakened by the Klingons' presence struck me as very realistic. I don't quite understand what Dukat hopes to achieve as a lone rebel with one Klingon ship, but Kira's decision to take in Ziyal in order to spare her the life of a terrorist is quite credible. The show is little more than a sum of its parts, but the parts are all appeasing.
Sons of Mogh — This episode makes some interesting statements about individual choices and what can happen when someone gets in the middle of a heated conflict, showing that Worf's actions have completely destroyed his brother Kurn's life. Watching Kurn in his state of hopeless desperation and personal uselessness is empathizing and even compelling, and the things Worf tries to do to help him (including trying to assist in his death and later getting him a job on Odo's security staff) are respectable. Worf comes across as an unsung hero here, trying to do the right thing for both Starfleet and the Klingon Empire, but at a substantial personal cost. I still think Worf's choice for how to solve Kurn's problem could've been better, but I also think I was a little too rough on the ending in my original review. (I believe I said something along the lines "Too easy a solution for Kurn, despite Worf's sacrifice.") In any case, I did find the ending's resulting emotional consequences absorbing.
Bar Association — The second-worst episode of the season, but still not terrible. The plot was stupid, yes. Rom acted like an overacted idiot, yes. Quark acted like a big brother cliché, yes. Scenes involving Ferengi fell flat, yes. But there were some genuinely good gags beneath the usual faults that sabotage most Ferengi shows. Among them: Quark using holographic images of himself to replace his bar staff after they go on strike; Sisko blackmailing Quark; a priceless double-take by Odo; Brunt's two thugs playing darts on each other's chests; and a good character bit with the always-reliable O'Brien. Other than these, the show is a waste. But with the good moments included it's probably worth at least a peek.
Accession — The series returns to what may best be labeled "old school DS9" (first and second season topics) involving the Bajorans' religious beliefs and their identification of Sisko as the Emissary. The result is probably the most intriguing episode of the season, but a show that falls just shy of greatness. There are so many absolutely fascinating arguments and discussions presented here: Kira being torn between religion and politics, Odo's relevant observations, the way Winn stands by Akorem's sweeping reform plans, statements of religious extremism, and more. But the payoff is too cut-and-dry easy and almost simplistic for what precedes it—diluting the overall impact of what could've been a riveting show. Despite the ending's lack of consequence, the show's thoughtful presence still remains one of the best of the season.
Rules of Engagement — An only-average Worf show with evident flaws. The "courtroom drama" is okay—nothing compared to real courtroom drama like, say, Law & Order. The show tries too hard at times, with Sisko, for example, being overly dramatic with obvious lines like "OBJECTION!" Worf's extradition hearing is combined with an unlikely "web of conspiracy" scenario involving faked records and false governmental pretensions, an angle which cheats the ending using convenient plot turns where character truths should've prevailed instead. An interesting technical method for shooting the flashbacks works pretty well, as does the final scene where Sisko gives Worf some advice about command.
Hard Time — The second-best thing Deep Space Nine did this season (with "The Visitor," of course, being the first). "Hard Time" was a perfectly told, wonderfully directed, emotionally gripping and empathizing tale about a man trying to put his life back together after being wrongly punished with memories of endless incarceration. Colm Meaney delivers a tour de force performance that conveys emotion and expression absolutely wonderfully. Alexander Singer handles the subtle details with a fine eye—the details are just right, and feel very real. The show never strays from its main topic, never lets up the intensity of its drama, and doesn't cheat in the end. A fine, fine show.
Shattered Mirror — Coming right off the heels of the very real drama of "Hard Time" comes the exact opposite: a sensationally simplistic comic book with seriousness being scarce, to say the least. DS9's third foray into mirror universe milieu results in another transparently superficial struggle between Good and Evil. Don't look for too much logic or motivation here; look for lots of amusing characterizations, as the cast members again masquerade as their alter-selves. Also look for one of the most exhilarating action sequences in the history of the franchise when the Defiant battles the Klingons using tactics inspired by the Millennium Falcon. Turn your brain off and indulge in the guilty pleasure of the season.
The Muse — In one of the most irrelevant shows in recent memory (Voyager's "Twisted" and "Threshold" notwithstanding), DS9 delivers a horrendous story with two plots that are both pointless in almost every way. Odo's actions are extremely out of character, apparently motivated solely by a writer's desire to get "Odo gets married to Lwaxana Troi?" printed as TV Guide's episode description. The reason behind the mock wedding is so bad and inconceivable that I wanted to choke somebody. Jake's plot was no better—completely absurd and stretched out over the entire show, only to say nothing worthwhile about the character. One reassuring thing about this installment: no other show this season even approached this level of ineptitude.
For the Cause — Here was a good show in many respects, but I just found the ending to be... too much. Or maybe not enough—I'm not sure. Sisko's theme of being betrayed is certainly relevant, and I appreciate the angst the character has to go through in order to perform his duty. I also like Kasidy's gesture of turning herself in, and Sisko's ability to forgive her. I do not like, however, the contrived use of a Maquis storyline without any explanation of what they do now that political situations (i.e., the Dominion, the Klingons) have changed so much. Nor do I like the insinuation that we won't be seeing the Maquis anytime soon in the future. And the revelation that Eddington is a Maquis sympathizer doesn't feel justified (we hardly know this guy); his ranting and raving about the evils of the Federation seem to come so far out of left field that it's over-the-top. The ending feels like a bunch of plot angles jerking characters around without sufficient motivation. A decent show overall—but an uncertain ending.
To the Death — Another show that has a good story trying to surface, but is sabotaged by a lackluster ending. Where the previous week it was the Maquis, this time it's the Jem'Hadar. What begins as a seemingly large-consequence show turns into a "team with the enemy to defeat the renegades!" This premise turns out to be just fine, and even good—LeVar Burton builds the tension nicely between the two reluctant-to-embrace-the-enemy crews. Sisko's authority is a pleasure to watch, and the Jem'Hadar crew members, while initially menacing, reveal more depth than could've been imagined. The premise of hunting down the renegades' Iconian technology (an old TNG device from seven years earlier) is initially interesting. But the creators botch the ending, supplying us with a completely routine and inconsequential "big-scale" action scenario, which means virtually nothing and is dramatically unsatisfying. The show also ends way too abruptly.
The Quickening — In a rare Bashir show, Siddig is given the role of a hero in a decent medical story. Much like the case with "Rejoined," there's nothing earth-shattering about the plot, but relevant character-driven scenes and excellent execution are quite admirable. Auberjonois' precise approach to the material manages to avoid excessive melodrama and preaching; instead, he takes a commendable approach of subtle and credible demeanor. The result Is a story with characters I cared about, victims I sympathized with, and events I believed in human terms. The writers supply Dax with some good material that is far more interesting than the trivialities many shows tend to reduce her character to. Bashir's reactions are all on target. The show also features a particularly nice ending with a wonderful crane shot.
Body Parts — What begins as another link in the chain of obvious, unfunny, cliché-ridden Ferengi shows suddenly makes an about-face and turns into a respectable episode in which Quark has to make a (gasp!) hard choice about his life. I didn't find Brunt and the transparent greed he represents very amusing, but I could understand Quark's difficulty in trying to decide whether to abandon his Ferengi beliefs or die defending them. At long last, the creators try a Ferengi show without resorting to pointless, predictable goofiness—and it actually has some real consequences, as Quark is blacklisted and exiled from Ferenginar. The B-story, in which the creators write Nana Visitor's pregnancy into the show, works surprisingly well as amiable character padding.
Broken Link — In the third consecutive DS9 season-ender to center around the Dominion, the writers focus on Odo's character rather than the relatively superficial action ("The Jem'Hadar") or suspense ("The Adversary") of years past. The results are quite good. The character moments are effective, particularly from the always-reliable Garak, who turns out to have hidden, devious intentions to wipe out the Founders. The Changeling "judicial system" is compelling in its bizarre, interconnected properties, and their punishment to make Odo human seems appropriate from their point of view. The show takes a while to get where it goes and, unfortunately, the ending is far too unrevealing and frustrating to be satisfying. However, the show makes a striking promise of consequence. Between the character opportunities of Odo's new humanity and the plot developments likely due to the supposition of Gowron being a Changeling, it seems anything is possible in the upcoming season.
Part 2: Season Analysis
Well, another season of DS9 has come to a close, and once again I'm quite satisfied with what I've seen. There are some series points that could still use some work, of course (which I'll get to momentarily), but overall this season was more consistent and even-handed than last season was, and offered a fairly wide range of successful stories.
Much of Deep Space Nine's success this season, I believe, was due to the writing staff's ability to tell 25 different stories and, miraculously, have almost every one of them work in characteristically relevant and plot-worthy ways. It seemed that show after show was clicking right into place—almost as if the series had taken to juggling all of its elements with its eyes closed, yet still promised never to drop a single one.
I don't think there was any specific theme to this season—the writers had a tendency to spread it around quite a bit, which turned out to be quite a good thing. If I had to say what this season's "main" storyline was, I guess it would have to be the Klingon situation that seemed to take the series by storm in the premiere, "The Way of the Warrior," combined with the Dominion aspects that have been brewing for two seasons now.
And, ah yes, the addition of Worf.
For the record, Worf's addition to the DS9 cast was exactly what I expected. It wasn't overemphasized by any means, and at the same time, the writers supplied the character with enough material to maintain a respectable presence along with the rest of the cast. DS9's cast is a well-oiled ensemble machine, and despite fears many had that Worf's addition would be equivalent to dropping a monkey wrench into the workings, I will quickly and adamantly say that this was not the case, nor was it anything I ever feared would happen. There is only one significantly negative aspect that I think is the result of Worf's presence, which I'll get to in a moment.
Right alongside Worf came the Klingon plot line and its repercussions: the disintegration of the Federation/Klingon treaty, a new obstinate presence in DS9's area of space, and a plentiful supply of new problems for Captain Sisko and the crew to contend with. (As Sisko very memorably put it in "Accession" when he temporarily stepped down as Emissary, "I'm just a Starfleet officer again. All I have to worry about are the Klingons, the Dominion, and the Maquis. I feel like I'm on vacation.")
So the writers and producers had some new material to work with. All they needed was the solid writing to back them up and give the characters something to do all season—and week after week, the creators delivered. What else can you say about a season that had only two "loser" episodes (two stars and lower) all year, and 18 "winners" (three stars and higher)? I say that somebody is doing something right. (Not to put too much stock in the numbers, but a quick comparison: By the time I reached #18 for this season of Voyager, I was well into the low end of the "okay" and "mediocre" shows, quickly approaching the "losers.")
The key word, as I've said before, is consistency—the writers' ability to make the series enjoyable to watch (in both entertainment and critical frames of mind) from one week to the next; and even when shows missed the mark (like, for example, "Little Green Men," "Rules of Engagement," "To the Death," and some others) there was still a sense that they worked on some levels even if not as many as we perhaps would've hoped.
This season also sported some standout-excellent episodes—two of the series' best ever character stories: "The Visitor" and "Hard Time." Here were tales of personal human struggle that were wonderfully performed and directed, with memorable little details and masterstrokes of characterization.
We also had some larger scaled winners, like "Homefront," the series' most effective Dominion story ever made; a rare return to Bajoran politics in the form of the intriguing "Accession"; not to mention the carefully measured but big-landscaped season opener, "The Way of the Warrior." And there were more where that came from. (More numbers for you: I labeled a total of nine shows with the 3 1/2- or 4-star rating, which is a notable feat; I don't dole out those types of ratings lightly—they must be earned).
Turning to the admittedly less important aspect of the series, but still worthy of praise, this season managed to outdo any other season of Trek (TOS, TNG, DS9, and Voyager) in terms of action scenes and special effects. There was some genuinely impressive work this year in the pyrotechnics department, some of which, in my opinion, looked on par with that of feature film production. I thought last season's "The Die is Cast" was the ultimate in complicated motion photography for TV Trek, but that was outdone by far this year with "The Way of the Warrior" and "Shattered Mirror." The elaborate atmospheric display in "Starship Down" was also a visual treat. I'll give the Defiant one thing over any other Trek ship—it certainly photographs well for fresh and exciting visuals. (And eye-pleasing special effects displays is an area in which DS9 wins hands-down when compared to Voyager. Voyager's action is generally dull and unimaginative. But then again, also unlike DS9, Voyager's stories are frankly dull and unimaginative in general as well.)
But turning back to true relevance, what did I think of Deep Space Nine's characters this year? Glad you asked:
Sisko: Well, the character wasn't as standout this season as he was in third season, mainly because I still maintain that season three was the groundbreaking season of Sisko. He was still excellent this year—Avery Brooks turned in a wonderful performance in the unforgettable "Visitor," as well as having great moments in "Homefront," "Paradise Lost," "For the Cause," and "Accession" in particular; and good as usual in most other supporting parts in other episodes. I'm pleased.
Kira: Now here's my biggest complaint of the season, and I believe it has to do with Worf coming aboard—the only truly negative impact Worf's presence has had on the series. Kira's personality has been toned down entirely too much this year. What happened to the passion? Strength? Aggression? Ambition? Gone. The writers have reduced her character to a state of passivity that was never evident in seasons 1, 2, or 3, and I see no reason why it has come about this season other than the writers' apparent lack of effort for coming up with new Kira-driven stories. Sure, Nana Visitor has been fine with nice bits in "Indiscretion," "Return to Grace," and "Accession"—but those shows tended to reduce Kira's inherent adamant nature more than I would've cared. Why, you ask, do I blame this on Worf? Because we didn't see Kira in command or authority situations where we should have. We saw Worf instead. And just why is Worf giving her orders on the Defiant? Hopefully by the second leg of next season, with Worf fully integrated into the crew and Nana Visitor's pregnancy term completed, the writers will bring back the Kira I know.
Odo: Like Sisko, season three was more of an Odo season than this was, but Rene Auberjonois was excellent this year as usual. Odo's part in plots worked for the most part, including a rather "human" angle in "Crossfire" involving his feelings for Kira. He also wins for "most relevant lines of the year" (for "Homefront" when he said to Sisko, "That's why my people came here; to undermine the trust and mutual understanding the Federation is built on"; and for "Accession" when he very wryly said to Kira "Your faith seems to have led you to something of a contradiction"). Being changed into a human in "Broken Link" is an eye-opener, but I'm not saying anything else about it until I see what happens in the upcoming season.
Dax: An upturn this year. Between the hard choices in "Rejoined," putting Bashir in line in "The Quickening," phasering Worf and Kor in "The Sword of Kahless," and a general improvement in her dialogue, both Dax's presence and Terry Farrell's performances are seeming more deeply involved and less perfunctory.
Worf: Aside from the way focus has been shifted away from Kira, Worf's presence has worked just fine—as well as I could've expected. He had some good personal struggle in "Way of the Warrior" and "Sons of Mogh," a classic comic look of terror when he learns of Keiko's pregnancy in "Accession," good dialogue in "Sword of Kahless," and the usually humorous Worf lines spread out during the season. Not bad at all. It could be better if the writers tried some new character combinations—like pairing Worf with other regulars.
O'Brien: Great as DS9's everyday man, reliable in just about every situation, Colm Meaney is a terrific actor (I can't think of a show where he hasn't been credible and engaging). This was demonstrated in full force by the very gripping "Hard Time," one of the season's best episodes—a large part of the success of which should be credited to Meaney's performance. "Hippocratic Oath" was also quite nice. Now if we could just see him be the lead character in more shows...
Bashir: "The Quickening" was a very good show for Bashir as a medic, "Hippocratic Oath" gave him a chance to stand up for his opinion, and his holosuite fantasy life in "Our Man Bashir" was a humorous joy, as was the usual banter between Bashir and Garak (of which there could've been more this season). Still, Bashir is one character that could stand to have his edge sharpened, and given more interaction with the other characters beyond his usual medical technobabble.
Jake: "The Visitor" gave Cirroc Lofton more significant material than he's probably ever had to carry on the series to date (and that episode's analysis of an Old Jake who had become the main character in a tragedy was, as I've already said a million times, one of the best Treks ever). Jake's use is usually most relevant and works best in terms of father/son scenes with the elder Sisko. But with Cirroc Lofton in only roughly half of the episodes, there's not much that can be done with him plotwise. His role in "The Muse" was awful.
Quark: Not my favorite character, but I must say that he's been looking much better of late. This year Quark was more amusing than he's been in the past. "Little Green Men," though transparent, was tolerable, and "Bar Association," while completely stupid, had some zip. A return to form in the Odo/Quark scenes was noteworthy in "Crossfire," and the writers had a surprise in store when they actually used the character in a halfway serious way in "Body Parts." A big improvement over last season, but if the writers would play him less obvious, it would be for the better.
Garak: So after resolving most of Garak's backstory and likely path for the future in last season's "Improbable Cause"/"Die is Cast" thread, the question for this season became "what are they going to do with this guy?" I'm not sure that this has been answered, but I am sure that Garak is just as puzzling, enigmatic, entertaining, and well performed by Andrew Robinson as ever. He can still banter with the best of them, as particularly demonstrated in "Our Man Bashir." "Broken Link" revealed a rather devious ploy on his mind, and "Way of the Warrior" gave him some interesting plot things to do. But other than that, he's mostly B-story material—albeit, a fountain of good dialogue for B-story material.
Dukat: It was nice to see that "Indiscretion" actually had some noteworthy impact on Dukat's character, and that "Return to Grace" showed that his life had been destroyed due to his, well, indiscretion. But since it was unclear what exactly he intended to do with that Klingon ship he stole, and what that will mean down the road, I'd say the vote's still out on this one.
So, if you haven't gathered already by my droning on here, my opinion is that there has been good characterization and decent use of the DS9 personalities overall. Good work.
However (and you knew that word was coming), as much as I liked this season of DS9, I won't hesitate to add that, yes, it could've been better. The series as a whole would be more impressive if the creators would take some more goal-oriented, long-term risks. As entertaining and effective as this season was, it still wasn't as sophisticated or compelling in its overarching subject matter as the first two seasons were, and I still get the feeling the series is capable of plenty more. The series' premise initially presented the goal of rebuilding Bajor, but then it got sidetracked when the creators attempted to re-invent it at the beginning of the third season (with the introduction of the Dominion threat) and then re-re-invent it at the beginning of this season (with the introduction of the Klingon threat)—both examples of ratings ploys that managed to be entertaining, all while successfully avoiding the bastardization of the series.
Still, it's surprising how little has been done with these threads this season, and as a result I'm still not sure exactly what the real goal of the series is. If the Changelings are indeed "everywhere" like "The Adversary" seemed to say, then why haven't we had some sort of payoff? True, we had the very involving "Homefront" story, but it was in itself a cliffhanger—a cliffhanger that made a complete about-face in its apparent intentions when "Paradise Lost" came along. Likewise, we had the Klingons show up in the season premiere, but since then we've seen surprisingly little of them in the most important ways. Sure, there have been some examples of their planning, such as the minefield thing in "Sons of Mogh," their kidnapping of delegates in "Return to Grace," and so forth, but like the Dominion storyline, there hasn't been a real payoff that affects the whole series in big ways for more than an episode.
That brings us back to something I've been complaining about quite a bit lately with both DS9 and Voyager: the Trekkian Reset Button Plot and the creators' fear of deviating from the status quo. While the reset switch hasn't been nearly as obvious and damaging to DS9 as a series as it has been to Voyager, I'd be lying if I said the reset wasn't present in Trek's Alpha Quadrant showcase. There still seems to be a lack of commitment when it comes to long-term storylines that significantly change and develop from episode to episode. "Paradise Lost" and "To the Death" were two Dominion shows that, while entertaining, didn't have a whole lot to add. And virtually all the Klingon episodes were light in their impact, "Way of the Warrior's" insinuations (but not its follow-ups) notwithstanding. And "Accession," a rarity of Bajoran topics these days, while a marvelously told story, didn't have the huge storyline effects I had hoped for.
I've heard all the rumors circulating on the Internet about a 10-episode war storyline involving the Klingons and/or Dominion that's supposedly going to launch next season. However, I take these rumors pretty lightly; I really don't believe them, and although I would be extremely enthusiastic of such a 10-show arc, I don't want to get too excited now because I frankly doubt the possibilities of such a thing happening. Rick Berman and the producers have a format of Trek that they've been using for many years now, and I don't see it changing anytime soon.
But objections to the reset button aside, DS9 has had an outstanding season that I've enjoyed. If the producers would look into taking more risks with their storylines, I would be that much happier, but as it stands I'm quite satisfied with the series and optimistic about season five. I hope to see you back here then.