Sunday, October 10, 2010

DS9 Season 2

Season Two of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) originally aired during the 1993-94 season, which happened to coincide with the last season of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) and, ahem, my "first junior year" in college. It was a great year for the series, proving for the first time that a non-starship spinoff of Star Trek could achieve a successful, full-length season of 26 solid episodes, and (for the most part) without crossovers from TNG to give it a boost.

DS9 Season 2 was a watershed season in other ways. Its first three episodes formed a single story arc, at that time unique in Trek, and a first step toward the development of even larger and more ambitious stories in years to come. Its mid-season two-parter picked up a cue from TNG's episode "Journey's End" to establish the recurring threat of the Maquis, a terrorist group from the demilitarized zone between the Federation and Cardassia, who would figure in yet another episode of TNG ("Preemptive Strike") and several episodes of DS9 before becoming a key part of the premise for Star Trek: Voyager. It was also the year that gradually introduced the Dominion menace, which would eventually furnish the main tension of the entire series.

Besides playing into these important themes, Season 2 was simply great entertainment. It carried forward the development of an impressive ensemble of characters. It brought some top-drawer guest actors into the Trek universe. It explored exciting themes and nifty cultures, and boasted some of the strongest writing in all of Trek. It brought back three of the Klingon captains from The Original Series (TOS). It revisited the messed-up "mirror universe" from the classic TOS episode "Mirror, Mirror" for the first of several DS9 outings. It had romances, comedies, thrillers, actioners, noir mysteries, a touch of paranoia, some tragedy, some medical drama, a courtroom ditto, a tint of political relevancy, and a hint of sexual deviancy. Not to mention some great sci-fi concepts, decorated with lots of cool aliens! And it ended with a cliff-hanger that, together with its third-season continuation, forms yet another three-episode arc.

The Homecoming starts it off when Kira finds evidence that her planet's legendary freedom-fighter, presumed killed in battle, is actually holed up in a Cardassian labor camp. Recognizing that her planet needs a strong leader to heal a society damanged by a 26-year military occuption, Kira undertakes a risky mission to rescue Li Nalas and some of his fellow prisoners. The poor guy doesn't want to be pegged as a heroic leader, however. In an exquisite scene with Sisko, Li explains how he got his undeserved reputation as a great military leader. After attempting to run away, Li reluctantly agrees to accept a leadership role in the Bajoran government... only to be handed Kira's job in the concluding "hook" to keep you tuned in to the triptych. Guest stars include Richard Beymer of West Side Story and TV's "Twin Peaks" as Li Nalas, three-time Trek guest Michael Bell as a self-sacrificing Bajoran prisoner, and an uncredited Frank Langella (Dracula, Frost/Nixon) as the villainous Minister Jaro.

The Circle continues the developing crisis introduced in the previous episode. This one takes its name from a sort of Bajoran fascist movement whose campaign of vandalism and thuggery threatens to topple Bajor's Provisional Government. After a farewell-party in her quarters written like a piece of stage-caliber comedy, Kira spends time at the monastery with Vedek Bareil, exploring her spiritual side as well as a budding romance with the Vedek, while Louise Fletcher's Vedek Winn (who makes you smite your thigh and say, "What a piece of work!" every time she appears on screen) is conspiring with Frank Langella's Minister Jaro to take over the whole planet. This time the cliff-hanger comes when a faction of the Bajoran military controlled by the Circle orders all Federation personnel to hand over the space station. This episode's guest cast includes Stephen Macht (late of General Hospital) as General Krim, four-time Trek guest Bruce Gray as General Chekote (no relation to Voyager's Chakotay), a role he also played on TNG.

The Siege concludes this season-opening arc with a thrilling tale in which a small band of resistance fighters take DS9 back from the occupying Bajoran military mutineers, while Kira and Jadzia fly "by the seat of their pants" down to Bajor with crucial evidence proving that the Cardassians supplied the weapons for Minister Jaro's coup. After all the loathesome, lovey-dovey scenes between Winn and Jaro, it's astonishing how quickly Winn deserts him when this evidence comes to light. Truly a woman with strong instincts for political survival! In contrast, Richard Beymer's Li Nalas throws himself in front of a phaser (wielded by the obligatory villain screaming "No!" in slow motion) just in time to save Ben Sisko. The phaser-wielding villain is played by Stephen Weber of TV's "Wings."

Invasive Procedures guest stars John Glover (late of TV's "Heroes") as a squirrely Trill who hijacks DS9 while (conveniently for him) only a skeleton crew is on board. His aim is to steal the Dax symbiont from Jadzia, which needless to say would spell the end for that young lady. Eventually, through a combination of guile, force, and persuasion, Sisko manages to separate Verad Dax from his henchpersons. These happen to be played by Megan Gallagher of TV's "Millennium," four-time Trek guest Steve Rankin, and--in one of his three Trek roles besides his regular part on Voyager--Tim Russ as one of the most intimidating Klingons ever.

Cardassians is the one where the problem of Cardassian war-orphans on Bajor becomes the focus of an interplanetary incident. It starts when Dr. Bashir's tailor friend Garak gets his hand bitten by a Cardassian boy who has been adopted by a Bajoran farmer. Gul Dukat sticks his oar in, revealing that the boy's natural father is a high-ranking Cardassian politician. Of course this turns out to be part of a diabolical political connivance, but until then (and even afterward) it is also raises thought-provoking ethical questions. Vidal Peterson, who played the Cardassian boy Rugal, also played a young Romulan in TNG's "Unification II." Playing his Bajoran "father" is three-time Trek guest Terrence Evans, who had previously played a mute Bajoran in Season 1's "Progress."

Melora is the one where Dr. Bashir gets romantically involved with a fiercely independent young Ensign from a planet with low gravity. As a result of her race's adaptation to its environment, Melora Pazlar has trouble getting around in normal gravity. Even with a 24th-century, full-body version of Forrest Gump's leg braces, she still needs at least a cane, and usually a motorized wheelchair, to get around. Bashir works out a medical fix that could permanently adapt her muscles to normal gravity, but then she would never be able to go home. This dilemma leads to the conclusion everybody expects, so there's not much point watching it. If you do, however, you might recognize the title character as played by Daphne Ashbrook, to-date the only Star Trek actress who also had a role on Doctor Who. This episode is also notable for featuring an alien (Fallit Kot by name) whose nose is connected by a bridge to his chin. Poor lamb, he could never enjoy corn on the cob...

Rules of Acquisition is the one where Quark's ambitious young associate turns out to be female, illegally wearing clothing and earning profit. Pel disguises herself with fake lobes and helps Quark broker a deal for the Nagus, opening the Gamma quadrant to Ferengi commercial interests for the first time. She might even get away with it, until Pel falls in love with Quark. The scene where she blows her cover is one of the most exquisitely funny, squirm-inducing scenes in all of Trek. Pel is played by Hélène Udy of "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman." One of the interestingly piebald Dosi aliens is played by Brian Thompson, whose four other Trek roles include a recurring Romulan, a Jem'Hadar, and two different Klingons. Besides being the second of seven appearances for both Grand Nagus Zek (played by The Princess Bride's Wallace Shawn) and his silent servant Maihar'du (played by the seven-foot-tall Tiny Ron), and further developing the whimsically inverted values of Ferengi culture, this episode is important because it contains the first mention of the Dominion.

Necessary Evil is DS9's nod to film noir, casting Odo in the role of a hardboiled detective--complete with a first-person narrative in the form of the Constable's log entries, and extended flashbacks to Odo's first case when DS9 was still a Cardassian ore-processing facility. A long-lost list of Bajoran collaborators and an attempt on Quark's life lead Odo to reconsider an unsolved murder whose investigation brought him face-to-face with Quark, Kira, and Gul Dukat for the first time. The surprising solution to the mystery underscores the uniqueness of this Trek spinoff's main cast. The first episode to suggest that Quark's hopeless brother Rom has an unusual aptitude for engineering, it stars the same Katherine Moffat who also guested in TNG's "The Game."

Second Sight stars Emmy-winning actor Richard Kiley ("The Thorn Birds") as an egocentric terraforming scientist whose beautiful alien wife is subject to something called "pscyhoprojective telepathy." This apparently means that her subconscious mind manifests itself as an identical woman who, without the original Mrs. Seyetik's knowledge, falls in love with Ben Sisko. It takes him a while to work out that his "Fenna" is not the same woman as Seyetik's "Nidell"--not even a real woman, for that matter--and that Nidell will die unless something is done to bring her powers back under control. It turns out that the cause of the problem is marital unhappiness, and (Lo! A sci-fi concept almost as mindblowing as psychopathic whatever!) Nidell's people are incapable of getting divorced. Seyetik heroically resolves both this problem and a hitch in his plan to reignite a dormant star by flying a kamikaze shuttlepod mission, culminating in a memorable reference to Genesis 1:3 ("Let there be light!"). The dual role of Fenna/Nidell is played by Salli Richardson, late of the Syfy's "Eureka."

Sanctuary The young Skrreean pictured here was played by the late Andrew Koenig, a son of TOS co-star Walter Koenig who tragically died this past spring in an apparent suicide. His character in this episode also kind of commits suicide in the final act of a tragedy that pits a swarm of flaky-skinned Gamma Quadrant refugees against the petty interests of the Bajoran Provisional Government. The desperate, displaced Skrreeans believe that Bajor is the "planet of tears" foretold to become their home, and that they can help bring happiness and prosperity to that war-ravaged world. Bajor's ruling ministers, however, consider the Skrreeans to be nothing but trouble. It's a moving, potentially conversation-starting parable on immigration issues, also featuring William Schallert (of TOS's "The Trouble with Tribbles") as a Bajoran composer; Michael Durrell (of the original "V" miniseries and "Matlock") as a Bajoran general; recognizable character-actor Robert Curtis-Brown (in one of his two Trek guest roles) as a Bajoran minister; and Armin Shimerman's wife Kitty Swink (who later played a Vorta on this same series) as still another Bajoran minister. Leland Orser (a three-time guest on DS9 who also played the chief of surgery in the last five seasons of "ER") appears as another one of the passive-aggressive Skrreean males, and soap opera maven Deborah May heads up the guest cast as Skrreean leader Haneek.

Rivals is the one about a rascally member of Guinan's El Aurian race, a.k.a. "the listeners." Chris Sarandon (also of The Princess Bride) plays Martus Mazur, a con-man whose luck changes when his cell-mate in Odo's jail dies, leaving him a mysterious alien gadget that soon becomes the Promenade's latest gambling sensation. At first, Martus seems in a good way to put Quark out of business. But as weirdly improbable happenings spread throughout the station, it becomes increasingly clear that Martus's device is more than a toy. Thus, for example, the flabby O'Brien delivers a crushing racquetball defeat to the athletic Bashir. Mazur was originally meant to be a recurring character, but that plan was dropped when viewers failed to appreciate the episode's light wit. I think the producers made a mistake there. Anyway, the guest cast includes K Callan (Superman's mom on "Lois & Clark"), Barbara Bosson (who earned multiple Emmy nominations for her role on "Hill Street Blues"), and Albert Henderson (of Serpico and "Car 54, Where Are You?").

The Alternate stars frequent Trek guest James Sloyan in his first of two DS9 appearances as Dr. Mora, the scientist who discovered the puddle of goo that we know as Odo. An archeological discovery on a Gamma Quadrant planet provides another tantalizing clue to Odo's origin. Almost as fascinating, however, is the shape-shifter's relationship with Dr. Mora, rather like an estranged child's resentful feelings toward its father. These two facets of the story come together when a metamorphic entity goes on a rampage through the decks of DS9... only to turn out to be an embodiment of Odo's repressed anger. I guess when you're a shape-shifter, your psychological problems can take a really wild form!

Armageddon Game is the one where O'Brien and Bashir help two alien races put an end to a long and costly war by disposing of their biogenetic weapons. The downside of their success? The governments of both planets decide that the only way to ensure that nobody tries to recreate those terrible weapons is to kill anyone who knows about them. Including O'Brien and Bashir. While they go on the run, Sisko is informed that the pair was killed in a freak accident. A heartbroken Keiko triggers a search for possible survivors when she detects a discrepancy in the video record of the accident. The episode has an "O. Henry ending" in which Keiko learns, after her husband is rescued, that her supposed discrepancy didn't exist. Guest stars include Larry Cedar ("Deadwood") in his first of three roles in as many Trek spinoffs, Darlene Carr (whose singing is on the soundtrack of The Sound of Music), and Bill Mondy of TV's "The Dead Zone."

Whispers is this season's most paranoid episode. O'Brien returns from a pre-meeting meeting with the civil-war-torn Parada, to plan security arrangements for peace talks on DS9, and senses that his colleagues--and even his wife--are not acting like themselves. Was everyone replaced by the pod-people while he was off-station? Increasingly convinced that he is being shut out of the security arrangements for sinister reasons, O'Brien finally goes on the run. Only when he is fatally shot do you find out that Miles is really the clone/sleeper assassin, and everyone has been trying to humor him while they search for the real him. Todd Waring, who later played an ill-fated Cardassian informant in Season 6's "Change of Heart," here plays an engineer who seems to be in on the "plot," while Susan Bay (a.k.a. Mrs. Leonard Nimoy) puts in her second appearance as Admiral Rollman.

Paradise is the one where Sisko and O'Brien park their runabout in orbit around a fertile planet that, to their surprise, already hosts an undocumented human colony. Only after they beam down to investigate do they realize that the colony is surrounded by an energy field that renders all advanced technology useless. By an amazing coincidence, the colony is headed by a certain Alixus (played by Gail Strickland of the distinctively shaky voice), who happens to be a social philosopher with fanatically Luddite leanings. When Sisko insists on trying to find a way through the dampening field, Alixus puts him in the "hell box"--a form of punishment she must have invented after watching Cool Hand Luke. Alixus's son and chief henchman is played by a scantily-clad Michael Buchman Silver, late of "CSI: Miami" and "NYPD Blue." The frequent shots of this actor, then in his physical prime, running and flexing and performing feats of archery, seem to have been planned as a bid to increase the show's female viewership. Meanwhile, the core audience (Trek nerds) will be more edified by the knowledge that guest actors Julia Nickson and Erick Weiss had both appeared on TNG.

Shadowplay is an episode that could serve as a talking piece on gaming addiction. Odo and Dax follow a trail of *insert technobabble* to a planet where the entire population is confined to a single village, in a fertile valley surrounded by arid desert. The villagers at first suspect the two of having something to do with a recent spate of disappearances, then decide to ask for help in solving the mystery before anyone else vanishes. The answer has to do with a machine in the center of the village, and with a lone refugee from a Dominion-conquered world. He had only meant to create a holo-simulation of his forever lost homeworld, to ease his homesickness a bit; by the time the emitter started to malfunction, he had all but forgotten that his fellow villagers aren't real. Prolific character actor Kenneth Tobey (Strange Invaders, etc.) played the key role of Rurigan, while child actress Noley Thornton (TNG's "Imaginary Friend") elicits a peek into Odo's tender side. The local magistrate is played by comic actor Kenneth Mars (Young Frankenstein and the original film version of The Producters).

Playing God is the episode where Dax entertains a Trill initiate as part of the selection process for the rare privilege (in her culture) of joining with a symbiont. While Jadzia tries to live down the bad reputation of her previous host, Curzon Dax, as a "docent" who frequently got his initiates kicked out of the program--including Jadzia herself(!)--young Arjin has a long way to go before he can demonstrate the strength of character to hold his own against the force of a worm's personality. Their awkward relationship is almost upstaged by an ethically provocative B-plot about a miniature universe that contains evidence of possibly intelligent life... and that may have to be destroyed in order to save our universe. Richard Poe here makes his first of six appearances on three Trek spinoffs, all within one year, as the Cardassian Gul later identified as Evek.

Profit and Loss sets out to be DS9's homage to Casablanca, but it rather comes across like a piece of romantic "slash" fan-fiction undeservingly elevated to canon status. Mary Crosby (Bing's daughter, Denise's aunt, and the actress whose character on "Dallas" famously shot J.R.) plays the Cardassian love of Quark's life. Crosby's Dr. Natima Lang is a forward-thinking professor of political ethics who, together with two of her students, is on the run from the repressive Cardassian regime. She blames Quark for betraying the underground during Bajor's occupation, but the ordinarily weaselly Ferengi is willing to take (anti-)heroic measures to win her back. Though it is remarkable to see two actors covered in heavy makeup and facial prosthetics pull off a steamy love-scene and make it look easy, the episode suffers from taking itself way too seriously. Played for broad comedy, it might have worked; played straight, as it is, it forces Quark to act painfully out of character. The result is an episode marked with a sense of wrongness so potent that it makes me wince. In the guest cast of this undistinguished outing, Crosby is joined by Michael Reilly Burke, who had played a Borg on TNG and went on, in Enterprise, to make three appearances as the Vulcan who eventually married T'Pol; Edward Wiley, who on TNG played a particularly memorable Klingon; and Heidi Swedberg, best known from her role on "Seinfeld" as George Costanza's ill-fated fiancee, laid low by cheap wedding invitations and poisonous envelope glue.

Blood Oath is the one that rehabilitates three Klingon villains of TOS lore--Michael Ansara's Kang from "Day of the Dove," William Campbell's Koloth from "The Trouble with Tribbles," and John Colicos's Kor from the first-ever Klingon episode "Errand of Mercy." Older if not wiser, they return complete with knobbly foreheads, prodigious amounts of hair, and a character more in keeping with the post-TOS depiction of Klingons as a race of honorable warriors. Thanks to her previous host Curzon, Jadzia gets to join them in carrying out a vendetta against the nefarious Albino, whose chief henchman (by the way) is played by four-time Trek guest Christopher Collins. As a Federation type unaccustomed to cold-blooded killing, Dax is alternately thrilled, unnerved, and ethically challenged by the prospect of mortal combat. The episode uses this moral dilemma to good effect in complicating Dax's already richly complex relationship with Ben Sisko, and in setting up a uniquely effective, though dialogue-free, final scene. Though his buddies lose the number of their mess in this episode, "Dahar Master" Kor returns twice more in DS9, including one appearance after the demise of Jadzia.

The Maquis, Part I sets up the mid-season cliffhanger in which Sisko's only command-level colleague in the Cardassian sector turns out to be working with... Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Maquis, as you may already know from my chronologically-challenged reviews of TNG Season 7 and Voyager Season 1, are the guerillas who have sprung up among the colonies that the Federation ceded to the Cardassians in the treaty that ended their war. Though this is the first episode to feature them, their backstory was established in a TNG episode that had aired a few weeks earlier and reinforced by a subsequent TNG episode. You remember, those were the episodes that incinerated Wesley Crusher and Ro Laren, respectively. The Maquis rampage of destruction continued for some time, heightening tensions between the Federation and Cardassia and generating several DS9 stories before fulfilling its real purpose in establishing Star Trek: Voyager. In this first part of their initial outing, the Maquis commit acts of sabotage, kidnapping, and arms smuggling, forcing Sisko to make some uncomfortable decisions about whose side he is on. The guest players here include Tony Plana (late of "Ugly Betty"), three-time Trek guest Bertila Damas (as an arms-smuggling Vulcan chick), three-time ditto Michael Krawic, and Bernie Casey (who once played James Bond's CIA friend Felix) as the ambiguously heroic Commander Hudson.

The Maquis, Part II This was the last Trekisode directed by Corey Allen, who passed away recently, and whose nine Trek directing credits include three episodes this season and the pilot for TNG. Though Sisko and Dukat bump heads on how harshly to respond to the treason of Cal Hudson, they must work together to prevent a terrorist attack that could trigger another Federation-Cardassian war. Meanwhile, Quark delivers the unforgettable "the price of peace is at an all-time low" speech to persuade a curiously bloodthirsty Vulcan to rat out her Maquis brethren and sistren. This episode features appearances by six-time Trek guests Natalia Nogulich (in her recurring TNG role as Admiral Nechayev) and John Schuck (as one of only two non-Klingon characters he played from the TOS feature films through Enterprise). The freaky-looking alien Drofo Awa was played not by Jeffrey Combs (as I initially thought) but by the same Michael Bell whose first Trek appearance (in the TNG pilot) was also directed by Corey Allen.

The Wire develops Garak's background as a probable Cardassian agent, though the "simple tailor" tells so many conflicting versions of the reason for his exile on DS9 that you can't be sure of anything.
BASHIR: Of all the stories you told me, which ones were true and which ones weren't?

GARAK: My dear Doctor, they're all true!

BASHIR: Even the lies?

GARAK (with the sly smile that only Andrew Robinson can pull off): Especially the lies!
This episode is part medical mystery, part psycho-study of a pathological loner (not to say liar) whose calm facade conceals a deep emotional anguish that almost destroys him. The ambiguity of the basis of this pain (apart from pining for his homeworld) is one of the reasons I have always considered this one of DS9's most fascinating episodes, and Garak one of its subtlest characters. I would even call him flamboyantly subtle, if that's possible! The episode features the late Jimmie Skaggs of the cult sci-fi western Oblivion as an ill-fated Cardassian official, Paul Dooley (late of Sixteen Candles) in his first of four appearances as Cardassian spymaster Enabran Tain, and Ann Gillespie (late of "Beverly Hills 90210") in one of her four appearances as Bashir's Bajoran nurse.

Crossover is the first DS9's five sequels to the classic TOS episode "Mirror, Mirror," depicting a bizarro parallel universe which also figured in two episodes of Enterprise. One would think that after our universe's James T. Kirk had planted the seeds of enlightenment in the mind of Mirror-Spock, things would eventually work out so that the crossover universe wouldn't be quite so kitty-wumpus. On the contrary! Things are even more screwed up, now that the Terran Empire has declined and fallen. The new power in town is the Alliance of the Klingons, Cardassians, and Bajorans, who between them have turned DS9 into a hellish work-camp for enslaved humans. Our Kira and Bashir get there via a misadventure in the wormhole, and before they can go back they, too, sow seeds... not of enlightenment, but of rebellion. It's so deliciously wicked, seeing Sisko as a charismatic scoundrel, Kira as the vampish "Intendant" who unabashedly crushes on herself, O'Brien as a nebbishy tightwad who barely rises even when the class bully dubs him Smiley, etc., that it's no wonder the series returned to this reality again and again. Both mirror-Quark and mirror-Odo come to a sticky end in this one. The plug-ugly named Telok was played by John Cothran, Jr., in his second of four Trek roles--and not his first Klingon one!

The Collaborator is another Bajorocentric episode emblematic of something that makes DS9 unique within the Trek franchise: its willingness to accept religious faith as an aspect of life, even within a sci-fi framework. As the election approaches to replace the late Kai Opaka as spiritual leader of Bajor, Kira's main squeeze Vedek Bareil emerges as a front-runner. But then, wouldn't you know it, a Bajoran persona non grata turns up, seeking to return home even after being banned due to his activities as a collaborator during the Cardassian occupation. Secretary Kubus does what any vile traitor would do in his position: he agrees to name names, in exchange for sanctuary. Naturally, Kubus implicates Bareil in the conspiracy to betray to their death an entire resistance cell--including the sainted Opaka's son. Torn between her reluctance to believe the worst of her lover and friend and her need to ensure that Bajor's next spiritual leader is not fatally compromised, Kira agrees to investigate Kubus's claim and report her findings to Vedek Winn (yes, "that piece of work," played by Oscar-winner Louise Fletcher). The deeply poignant and unexpected results are that (1) Bareil drops out of the election, clearing the way for the awfulness that would be Kai Winn; and (2) Kira belatedly finds out that the real traitor was none other than Opaka herself, sacrificing her son and his arm of the resistance in order to save thousands of civilizan lives. Can you imagine that? It would be sort of like finding out that Pope John Paul II was secretly spying for the Soviets in exchange for keeping Russian tanks out of Poland. This episode's abundance of strange, religious-vision imagery contributes to its atmosphere of tragic mystery.

Tribunal gives us an inside look at the daft Cardassian justice system, whose judicial norms are as thought-provokingly upside-down as Ferengi business practices. At first it seems that an old shipmate of O'Brien's, who has since gone over to the Maquis, is framing him for smuggling arms into the Demilitarized Zone. Later, the true plot turns out to be even more diabolical. In the meantime, O'Brien suffers for it--as he does so often and so well--beginning with his surprise arrest during a romantic getaway with Keiko and culminating in a trial, where the verdict (guilty) and the sentence (death) are determined before the proceedings even begin. The guest cast includes John Beck (late of TV's "Dallas") and Tony-winning actor Fritz Weaver (who starred in the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair).

The Jem'Hadar ends the season with a cliff-hanger, resolved in Season 3's opening two-part episode "The Search." This is the episode that introduces two of the principal races of the Dominion: the crocodilian Jem'Hadar shock-troops, as well as an alien girl who, though at first she seems like an innocent victim of Dominion brutality, eventually turns out to be a member of the Vorta--a sort of caste of diplomats, serving as the public face of the Dominion and as officers in command of the Jem'Hadar. For now (pretending that we haven't seen subsequent episodes) we don't know quite that much about them, though the Vorta and Jem'Hadar had already been described. The Federation's first contact with the Dominion comes about when a Sisko father-son camping trip on the Gamma side of the wormhole turns into a somewhat disappointing foursome with Ben, Jake, Quark, and Nog struggling to endure each other's company on a planet inhabited mainly by biting insects. A nice life-or-death crisis brightens the scene considerably. It was strange to come back to this episode after having seen Seasons 3 through 7, so that the only thing surprising about the Vorta girl being in league with the Jem'Hadar was that it's supposed to be a surprise; though I don't remember the Vorta having Eris's telekinetic powers after this episode. Molly Hagan, who gets the honor of playing the first Vorta ever, had also played one of the four voices inside "Herman's Head," an early Fox series that I still fondly remember. The ill-fated Captain Keogh is one of three Trek characters played by prolific voice-actor Alan Oppenheimer. Cress Williams, late of "Prison Break," here plays the first speaking Jem'Hadar character, who finds humans and Ferengi to be disappointing adversaries: "I was really hoping to meet a Klingon." Poor baby!

I think DS9 Season 2 stands up pretty well, even among the seasons of this best of all Star Trek spinoffs. It was because of the strength of this and the following season that I was initially upset by the decision to add Worf (of TNG fame) to the show in Year 4. I didn't think the series needed the help! And while I could go on and on about its strengths and its importance to the development of the series, I don't think I can really say better of this season than that it was already the most deeply engrossing, consistently excellent Trek series up to that time. And it just got better and better from there!

Want to brush up on your Star Trek? See my reviews of TOS seasons one, two, and three; of TNG seasons one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven; of DS9 seasons one, six, and seven; of Voyager season one; and of Enterprise season one. As a control group, see also my review of Babylon 5 seasons one, two, three, and four.


RobbieFish said...

I didn't feel I had room to say this in the post itself, but you start to notice an unusual tendency in this series right around Season 2. In contrast to TOS, in which nearly every episode had the same hero character (Kirk), and even TNG, Voyager & Enterprise where the Captain was undeniably the star in at least a majority of episodes, DS9 has a tendency to cast Sisko as a minor supporting character in many episodes. You start to notice this tendency already in Season 2, where for whole fistfuls of episodes you see Sisko, at best, in one or two brief scenes. Sometimes (as in "Blood Oath") it's such a terrific scene that you almost forget that the hero of the show was barely in it. It's just a weird decision that the writers made, and one of the few things that probably takes away from the power DS9 could have had.

Tonyony said...

According to what I've read from people who were involved in DS9's production, Avery Brooks was quite happy to be the head of an ensemble, rather than the show's undisputed star. His limited screentime gave him more freedom to pursue other endeavors (he's a teacher and a stage actor) and kept some of the pressure off of I've read, anyway.