Sunday, 22 July 2012

Deep Space Nine Season Six

A Time to Stand written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: The Dominion is winning the war…

Single Father: ‘Its wartime! Its not up to me! I go where I’m sent!’ Homeless, jobless, on the run and with the crippling tension that his son is trapped behind enemy lines - Sisko has never been more interesting. He has to face the wrath of his father when he tells him the news about Jake and soon finds himself in his own office at a new Starbase and giving orders that will affect hundreds of lives. They’re setting up this character as the saviour of the Alpha Quadrant and I just hope he is ready for the responsibility that brings. Sisko is effectively a terrorist now, working behind enemy lines and destroying their facilities and murdering their people. How did it happen so that feels like the right thing?

Tasty Terrorist: A Time to Stand kicks off a fascinating character arc between Kira and Damar that would continue to evolve and surprise until the very last episode of DS9. At this stage they hate each other’s guts – she resents the fact that the Cardassians are running the station and he knows she is plotting their downfall. But at the moment with Weyoun and Dukat watching their every move all they can do is stand at a distance from each other and sneer. It wont be long before their hatred of each other breaks out into violence but at the moment this restrained tension is fascinating. Even worse is the lecherous advances of Dukat…but take a look at the ‘Moment to Watch For’ section for that.

Unknown Sample: Odo is now in a position of power that he refuses to wield with Weyoun attempting to please him left, right and centre. It takes Kira to remind him that they need to start making demands in order t ride through this storm. The way he simply gets what he wants when asking made me laugh my head off. He should have told Weyoun to hop on one foot as well. Now he’s a member of the station’s ruling council with a voice in its policies.

Mr Wolf: Trust Worf to be obsessing over a minor wedding detail in the midst of battle for weeks (everybody knows in a Klingon wedding you are supposed shed blood first and then feast!).

GE Doctor: Bashir suddenly looks less like an idealistic young Starfleet officer and more like a battle hardened veteran and the shift is definitely in his favour. I especially like the emphasis on his genetic engineering – Garak suggests he isn’t genetically engineered but a Vulcan when he calculates the ludicrously pessimistic likelihood about them losing the war (a 32.7% of survival – I guess he didn’t factor in the Prophets!). Garak is right; he’s not so boyish anymore.

Nine Lives: Dax is off shagging Worf before the pre credits sequence is over!

Community Leader: Its great to hear Quark saying that he misses the Federation and he also makes the point that things could be a lot worse such as they were during the Cardassian Occupation.

Young Sisko: Having Jake stuck on the station under Dominion rule is a great idea and the scene between him and Weyoun shows exactly this thread should be explored. Jake is writing news reports but Weyoun is not letting them go anywhere until he reports from  more balanced view. Jake refuses to writer Dominion propaganda and so they reach a stalemate. It’s the most interesting Jake has ever been within the running story arc too.

Slimy Snake: Dukat is completely in love with his role as Prefect of Terok Nor again and marches around the station like a kid in a sweet shop. He thinks it is only a matter of time before Earth becomes another conquered planet under Dominion rule which would be hyperbole had we not already seen how badly things were going for the Federation.

Wily Weyoun: Another major strength of the Dominion taking over the station is the fact that we get to spend six episodes (count them) with Weyoun. Did I mention that he was my favourite Star Trek character? Every line that comes out of Jeffrey Combs’ mouth is a gem – when we first see him he is enthusing about the Bajorans retuning to the station and the habitat ring echoing with the laughter of happy children! What a card! He’s desperate to prove to Odo that the Dominion is holding up their end of the bargain with regards to Bajor because he knows that the Founders don’t give a toss about the Alpha Quadrant when compared with the notion of bringing one of their own back into the fold. 

Head Chef: How great is it to see Joseph back in DS9? He’s such a marvellously cantankerous old git he lightens up any scene he is in and hive gives Sisko exactly the sort succour he needs right now. A reprimand about leaving Jake behind on the station and a great deal of love and support. It makes me smile to think we would be seeing him again in Far Beyond the Stars later in the season.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘We can’t keep taking these sorts of losses, sir, not if we expect to win this!’
‘I never expected to say this but as Occupations go, this one’s not so bad. Look around. Do you see any ghetto fences dividing the Promenade? Or exhausted Bajoran slaver labourers sprawled on the ground after some gruelling day in the Ore Processing Centre? Do you hear the cries of starving children? I don’t’ – leave it to Quark to find the silver lining in every cloud.
‘What about freedom of the press?’ ‘Please tell me you’re not that naive…’
‘You sold Cardassia to the Dominion!’ ‘Yes, a high price to be sure but look at what we’re getting in return…the Alpha Quadrant itself.’
‘I could make things very pleasant for you here, Kira’ ‘You could start by doing something about your breath.’
‘The computer agrees with Julian’ ‘Of course it does, they think alike!’

The Good: Now the wonderful writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe has moved on to pastures new it is Hans Beimler that has taken over his role of working with Ira Steven Behr to write the juicy arc episodes. At first the thought of the two writers responsible for Ferengi Love Songs in this role is daunting but the quality of this episode speaks for itself (and Sacrifice of Angels, His Way, Tears of the Prophets, Shadows and Symbols, The Siege of Ar-558, etc). Clearly everybody has an off day and there’s just happened to be their first! Another Trek reviewer mentioned that this episode has the same dark and twisted tone as Yesterday’s Enterprise but what is so exciting here is that this isn’t a parallel universe. Its real and the horror isn’t going anywhere. The opening shot of the Federation fleet limping home is a powerful one, exposing three months of ‘bloody slaughter’ at the hands of the Dominion. To be fair we have seen wartime before on Star Trek – Yesterday’s Enterprise and The Year from Hell but one was an alternate reality and the other was completely reset so it never happened! One DS9 it is the only time Trek faces a genuine long term conflict and it kicks of seasons six with a sense of determinism and strength that even Way of the Warrior with its mad Klingon developments had to work hard for. A Time to Stand was given a great gift by Call to Arms and pleasingly (what I should say is shockingly) it doesn’t drop the ball here by wrapping everything up but shows this episode as another chapter in the wars history. Star Trek has always traded on the optimistic and the glory of space exploration but DS9 has headed in the other direction focussing instead on the depressing anxiety of a long-term conflict and it is the most gripping any Trek has ever been. Go figure. Maybe Roddenberry did have it wrong after all. The whole idea of the Sisko living on the Defiant, homeless, and constantly on the run from the Dominion is glorious and it completely wrong foots the viewer expecting to tune in to another adventure on the station. By the end of the episode he isn’t even the Captain of the Defiant anymore! We cut to the Dominion ships around the station and Dukat giving a ‘Captain’s Log!’ Its so topsy-turvy and different it has to be applauded. What is so enthralling about the scenes on the station is how many character arcs are intertwining with the new status quo – Dukat trying to seduce Kira, Damar wanting to kill her, Weyoun trying to please Odo, Kira being comforted by the man who loves her and Weyoun and Dukat butting heads with their overawing arrogance. It’s a powder keg of tension that at this stage is bubbling along but you know there will be conflict and resolution down the line. The Dominion requires reinforcements and fresh supplies of Ketracel White from the Gamma Quadrant so there is a ticking clock on their efforts to bring down the minefield. Again this is the perfect get out clause for the writers to wrap everything up in this episode and by including this comment it almost feels as if they are playing with us. Nice to see DS9 using its own continuity to such good effect once again and the reappearance of the Jem H’adar warship they captured in The Ship is put to work infiltrating behind enemy lines. I love the visual quirkiness of the Vorta viewscreen in Sisko’s head, it affords the show to do a scene that has been seen ad nauseum in Trek shows in a fresh and exciting way. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you are off on a mission in a Dominion ship? You guessed it – a Federation ship starts attacking you! Brilliantly Sisko finds himself coming up against one of his friends and unable to warn him that he is in command of the Jem H’adar warship. Saving the mission until the last few scenes of the episode means that we leap from A Time to Stand on a dramatic high and with Kroeker in the directors chair every ounce of tension is wrung from this scene. Being trapped inside the forcefield with the bomb about to go off any second had me on the edge of my seat. The dark humour of the cliffhanger (with Bashir telling them how long it is going to take them to limp home) once they have been damaged by the bomb shows a series with absolute confidence in itself and this new direction and leaves us salivating for more.

The Bad: Amazingly Voyager almost (but the material is so good it doesn’t succeed) threatens to undo all of DS9’s sterling work with the war over the next two by only mentioning the conflict once (Message in a Bottle) and then after it is over (season six of Voyager onwards) failing to refer to the consequences in episodes like Pathfinder. It’s a shocking, almost insulting oversight on their part when just a tiny reference about rebuilding or a memorial service would have made all the difference.

Moment to Watch Out For: The scene between Kira and Dukat in his office is absolutely captivating. He dribbles all over her drunk on power and loving his control and she tells him in no uncertain terms that she would rather kill him than get into bed with him. Its an accumulation of several years worth of build up and the razor sharp tension is tangible throughout. If the character is going to be this strong through this mini arc we are in for a real treat. ‘Are you actually so deluded that you think that we’re going to have some kind of intimate relationship?’ ‘Ohhh…we already do.’

Fashion Statement: Kira goes through more different haircuts and uniforms than any other character in Trek but her season six and seven looks are without a doubt the best (despite being very different). I love her non nonsense hairdo (but unlike season one it isn’t in the style of a militant feminist lesbian but) and her uniform accentuates her body in all the right ways without being a spray on insult like Seven of Nine’s.

Result: Its like returning to a completely different show and its better than ever. A Time to Stand doesn’t offer the fireworks that were promised at the end of Call to Arms but instead flaunts a freshly laundered series with the enemy running the station and our heroes on the run, the Federation on the verge of collapsing and the Dominion a battle or two away from claiming the Alpha Quadrant as their prize. It’s a fascinating state of affairs and the way the characters react to the new status quo is what makes all this so gripping. Kira is in a claustrophobic nightmare, fighting of the advances of Dukat and the homicidal urges of Damar. Sisko is concerned for his son and forced to run suicidal terrorist missions in order to bring the enemy down. Odo is trying to take charge of his security force and wields some enticing power over Weyoun. Bashir is depressed at the odds of winning. Everyone gets a moment in the spotlight to shine and it is the way that these riveting character dynamics are juggled with the atmosphere of doom that makes this script so impressive. This is Trek like you’ve never seen it before and it is long past time one of these shows took such a big gamble. Wartime has come to DS9 and its exactly where this show needs to be. And what a cliffhanger: 9/10

Rocks & Shoals written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Michael Vejar

What’s it about: Marooned on a planet with Jem H’adar soldiers, Sisko and his crew have some tough choices to make.

Single Father: Sisko will happily comment that the Jem H’adar soldiers he worked with in Rocks and Shoals were professional and talented. His laughter when O’Brien cracks the joke about his pants sounds slightly hysterical and much needed. There is another of those excellent discussion amongst the crew that DS9 excels at and its probably one of the best because it is about something as real as massacring a group of defenceless soldiers. O’Brien thinks it is cowardly, Garak thinks that humans oppose far too many rules on combat that make victory a lot harder than it needs to be and Sisko steps in with the very convincing statement that everybody needs to leave their morals at the door because when it comes to a choice between us and them there is no choice. That’s what makes him such a good leader – its not a decision that Picard or Janeway could make without soul searching for five years afterwards but Sisko sees this situation for what it is and pushes the moral agony to one side for the sake of his men. He tries to talk to the Jem H’adar leader and find another option but even when he realises that these guys will commit suicide to maintain their integrity he still orders his crew to fire on these lambs to the slaughter. Its uncomfortable viewing but absolutely rivets you to the screen.

Tasty Terrorist: Rocks And Shoals is so carefully directed to ensure that we are with Kira every step of the way in her Dominion nightmare. So we see her day from when she wakes up in bed, getting to work, taking up her post twice over, once before the Vedek kills herself and once afterwards. You can see how she has almost adjusted to the Dominion having taken over the station and whilst she isn’t smiling about it she is at least getting on with her life. The details are subtle but in your face at the same time; a lift full of Jem H’adar soldiers and Kira casually thanking a Cardassian for bringing her a drink as she takes her station. Yassim reminds her why that is a mistake because the Dominion is evil but Kira (who cannot see any way around this situation) talks her down and suggests that there is nothing to be done and the Vedek simply doesn’t understand how politics work. It’s a glib answer and it is going to take something shocking to make Kira sit up and pay attention to what she is saying. It takes her horrific suicide to drive the point home to Kira that evil has to be opposed and by hanging herself the Major is forced to look at herself and she doesn’t like the Dominion puppet she has become. The scene where she realises this and looks around Ops in astonishment as if she is waking up for the first time and seeing that she surrounded by enemies is astonishingly powerful and all told without a single line of dialogue. This is some powerful storytelling and Vejar is more than up to the task of telling a powerful character arc without any need for an explanation. She can now get up in the morning and not be nauseated by what she sees in the mirror (she’s such a babe how could she say that?). Now it is time to fight back and I can’t wait to see terrorist Kira back at work.

Everyday Engineer: Proving what a wonderful character he really is, O’Brien manages to find the fun in the very dangerous situation they have wound up in by reacting in horror at his torn trousers! This in turn makes everybody laugh their head off at such ridiculous minutiae when they have just stared death in the face so intimately.

Plain and Simple: Who would have ever thought that scenes between Garak and Nog could be this amusing after last years camp farce Empok Nor? When the young Ferengi starts spouting his serial number to the Jem H’adar Garak spares them the trouble of telling them to shut up and does it for them! Its Garak that saves Nog’s life when he tells the truth (for a change!) about how many people there are in their camp.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Does this have anything to do with the unfortunate circumstances between you and me last year?’ ‘You tied me up and threatened to kill me!’ ‘There were extenuating circumstances!’ – nice to see that the ridiculous developments in last years Empok Nor are being referred in such a witty way!
‘Evil must be opposed!’
‘Your insides are being held together by cellular micro stitches and a lot of hope.’
‘I’m going to order the Jem H’adar to order your position tomorrow regardless of whether you agree to my terms or not so you can either kill them or they’ll kill you. Either way…they’re coming.
‘When I was in the resistance I despised people like me. I’m a Collaborator, Odo.’
‘It is not my life to give up, Captain. And it never was.’
‘You know Captain, if I’d had just two more vials of White you never would have had a chance’ – a Vorta’s gratitude.

The Good: From one of my favourite episodes comes one of my favourite pre-titles sequences picking up exactly where A Time to Stand ended with Sisko and his crew trapped on a damaged Jem H’adar fighter behind the lines. Within seconds they are detected and fired upon and it is a race against time to salvage the ship as it falls into orbit of a nearby planet. The dialogue is sharp and witty (‘Try the lateral impulse thrusters and watch your mouth!’), the pace relentless and the whole scene is imbued with a great deal of style (Garak’s ‘Oh no! Hold on!’ as he realises they are about to crash) and excitement. Season six really has gotten off to a fantastic start and this is all part of their mission statement. I guess the writers have realised that the audience that is still watching is the hardcore fans so there are no catch up speeches, we are flung straight in at the deep end and expected to cope along with these characters who have never been in greater danger (the exploding bulkhead that falls on Dax in slow motion looks really painful). As ever DS9 is flaunting cinematic location work and the opening shot of the two Jem H’adar on the sun kissed planet from atop a cliff looking down at the surf below is striking. Its through these Jem H’adar characters that you can see just how good the make job is – look at how intricate their craggy necks are and how the bones around their face are so realistically integrated into their split faces. Phil Morris manages to portray a Jem H’adar soldier with rare depth and vision. This is probably the most fascinating Jem H’adar character we have seen since the one who gave up his life for Worf in By Inferno’s Light and as well as being scary as hell they continue to show rare depth for Star Trek heavies (unlike, say, the Hirogen who were literally just shallow nasties with no character). Have we ever seen scenes of character swimming ashore from a crashed ship in the water before on Trek? Certainly it has never looked this cinematic and expensive and it really highlights the life or death situation our heroes are in. The effects shot of the sinking ship in the distance is a movie worthy special effect, it blows you away be being so subtle and in the foreground as if the director instead wants you to focus on the where the drama really is – the crew swimming ashore. Look at the striking lighting in the cave scenes, absolutely all the technical crew are giving 100% to this episode to ensure that it looks as filmic as possible even when we are in the studios. Dominion facilitators are moving down to Bajor to help with supplies – this is starting to look more and more like the Occupation as the Cardassians also offered to help to improve this backward species. Where do they find these superb actors to play the Vorta characters? Christopher Shea has exactly the same silk smooth menace as Jeffrey Combs and seems to be enjoying himself playing this loathsome character – I bet actors love it when they get a chance to abandon reality for a while and play characters that are this evil. Only this show could create such a thoughtful, hissable character and reduce him to the unforgettably humiliating fate he reaches in The Magnificent Ferengi. DS9 has often been referred to by its writing staff as a western in space and here at last we get to see a big budget gunfight played out in a sunny location – if you swapped these characters for cowboys and the phasers for rifles the gunfight could pretty play out in exactly the same way in a western movie. The gorgeously filmed prisoner exchange is another moment that could have leapt from a western. The slow motion slaughter is unforgettable and Keevan dancing through the corpses is an appropriately sour ending to such a discomforting piece of drama. I really like that despite everything Sisko still loses one of his people to the Jem H’adar, another little touch of despair

Moment to Watch Out For: Both plots reach a supremely dramatic conclusion which left my jaw hanging. Yassim hanging herself on the Promenade (how many people have done that now?) is filmed in slow motion and the focus is on Kira’s heart stopping reaction. Its this kind of scene that would never appear on TNG or VOY that really makes this show standout as one to watch. Sisko having to gun down all of the Jem H’adar in a kill or be killed scenario that leaves a bad taste in the mouth because there is no sense of honour in slaughtering an enemy that cannot fight back is a controversial way to end an episode. And I love it. When I said that everything has been turned on its head in the last episode I was talking about the basics of the series but now the writers are even applying that to standalone plot resolutions. At the end of A Time to Stand the mission is a success and a failure and our crew are left helpless and in danger in a complete contrast to the usual illogical Trek resolution. Here the dispatch of the enemy is treated as a cowardly, tasteless act (compare this to To the Death where they massacred a ton of Jem H’adar soldiers and nobody batted an eyelid) rather than a moment of victory. Whatever has happened to turn these conventions on their head the show has never been more gripping.

Orchestra: The music on this show has truly come into its own and the menacing build up to the final confrontation is extraordinarily tense and emotional.

Result: A stunning episode, Rocks & Shoals is a powerhouse moral dilemma episode that puts Sisko in the uncomfortable position of having to murder without honour and it handles the theme with absolute honesty. From the excitement of the opening to teaser to the unforgettable climax, this plot is unmissable and it we watch as Keevan the Vorta manipulates his way to freedom at the expense of his men’s lives and Sisko’s soul. The Kira subplot is just a dramatic with some exquisitely filmed sequences that show her journey from willing Dominion puppet to the realisation that she is in bed with the enemy and needs to get back to what she is good at – terrorising the bad the guys. Ronald D. Moore hits a Trek career high with this script and he imbues all of the characters with depth and a moral ambiguity that is discomforting to watch and never lets the plot take the easy option which makes the situation more powerful for it. Michael Vejar is basically directing a film with a television budget (albeit a very good budget) and every aspect of the production is worthy of praise from the luscious outdoor filming, strong lighting, exquisite effects and dramatic music. DS9 has stormed so far ahead of its franchise stable mates at this point in terms of the quality of the scripts, running storylines and production values and it has forced this universe into some dark, complex and riveting directions. Its far from typical Trek but it is all the better for it and this sumptuous looking masterpiece is another example of this show at its all time best: 10/10

Sons & Daughters written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle and directed by Jesus Salvador Trevino

What’s it about: Ziyal tries to reconcile Kira and Dukat’s differences and Worf and Alexander are reunited…

Tasty Terrorist: Its rather wonderful (and pretty scary) that Kira and Odo sit at Quark’s a stones throw away from Jem H’adar warriors and discuss their terrorist plans. It’s a not so subtle reminder that enemies could be around you at any time and yet look seemingly innocuous. As soon as you realise that Dukat is having Kira meet him from the airlock every time he returns to the station you realise that their scheming is fully justified. Suddenly Kira is trapped in a very awkward social situation as soon as Ziyal returns to the station at having to have dinner with the man she is plotting to overthrow.  Because of her love for Ziyal Kira cannot see that she is starting to enjoying her time with Dukat, enthusing over their daughter until the wonderful moment where he sends her a dress and she starts enthusing over it in a mirror. Who hasn’t had one of those ‘what the hell am I doing?’ moments? Throwing the gift back in his face and calling him an opportunistic, power hungry dictator is a great moment. She would never ask Ziyal to choose between them but there are certainly more fireworks to come.

Mr Wolf & his Boy: Bringing back Alexander is not something that inspires me with a lot of confidence because despite having a few amiable moments on TNG the majority of his storyline was predictable and dull (usually with massive dollops of counsellor Troi which is enough to depress anybody) and sunk by the one note, emotionless performance by Brian Boswell. Well hurrah for DS9 completely re-interpreting the character as a wanabees warrior now he has come of age and recasting him with the much more convincing Marc Worden. Worf is honest about Alexander’s rejection of Klingon society to Martok even though it might cost him his commission on the Rotaran (it could just be Worf’s way of explaining why the character of Alexander was there one minute and gone the next…because he didn’t really work). Alexander is slight, awkward in a warriors uniform and vaguely comical and you can sense Worf’s humiliation that he is attempting to embrace a lifestyle that clearly doesn’t suit him. You realise that Alexander has gotten in over his head when he approaches a knife fight by staring at the weapon as if he expects it to reveal its secrets! Michael Dorn is vicious in the sequence where he trains Alexander to fight with the Bat’leth and the uncomfortable disapproval feels very natural.  Worf admitting his parental mistakes and telling his son that he will stand by him is predictable but still satisfying.

Nine Lives: There is real passion between Dax and Worf and we open the episode with one pressed against the other on the bridge of the Rotaran snogging each other like mad! There is a real believability about their relationship, a need for each other that really convinces. She takes great delight in winding up Worf by refusing to join the House of Martok as a joke and he concludes that their lives together will be very interesting. If he knew how short as well.

Gentle Giant: ‘War is much more fun when you’re winning!’ A definite fixture in the series now, J.G. Hertzler’s Martok continues to be a massive asset to the show by brining a thoroughly entertaining Klingon presence and adding much depth to Worf’s character whilst also being a thoughtful character in his own right. The image of him growling on dialogue and holding up a handful of Gagh gives me the chuckles (‘Look at this Worf! Barely moving!’). With the insanely dangerous mission he is being forced to take part in Martok almost feels young again! He proves himself to be a good friend to Worf and a great leader by telling Alexander to get off his ship, it’s a tough decision to make but he doesn’t pull away from his punches. I loved him saying that serving the Empire is slogan and not what is in somebody’s heart – its almost as if he has been watching the old Klingon episodes and is bored by the clichés.

Cross Breed: Ziyal’s story about moving onto Bajor and trying to fit in but being ostracised by people who only see her as the daughter of the man who once ruled over their planet and has recently taken up the reins again rings true. Her desire to bridge the differences between Cardassia and Bajor is ingrained in her right down to her physiognomy but to encapsulate through old enemies Kira and Dukat is naïve and inadvisable. The station is the closest thing she has to a home now regardless of who is currently the administrator. She is so under her fathers charismatic spell she thinks he is really thoughtful when he palms his discarded gift for Kira onto her.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Or perhaps the son of our illustrious first officer would prefer an Earth beverage? A glass of root beer with a lump of ice cream…ummm!’ – it’s the last thing you would expect a Klingon officer to say it made me laugh so hard!
‘What is wrong with you?’ – a very realistic moment that many fathers and sons must go through when they don’t turn out to be what you hoped (from both angles). I had a moment like this with my Pops when I came out.
‘You don’t like the dress?’ ‘The dress is fine…I don’t like you!’
‘I wasn’t the kind of son you wanted so you pretended you had no son’ – ouch, I have said words like that too.
‘I will teach you what it is to be a warrior and you can teach me what it is to be a father.’

The Good: I’m very pleased that they didn’t just expect us to except that O’Brien could turn ‘rocks into replicators’ in Rocks & Shoals and we actually see them being picked up by the Rotaran. It ties this story into theirs and shows the baton being handed over from one to the other. The floor of the Rotaran is covered in blood splatters from the various fights that have taken place – I so wouldn’t want to work on that ship! Dukat forcing Damar to deliver the dress to Kira is very amusing. I’m glad that Worf and Alexander reconcile their differences and he joins the House of Martok, it’s a lovely moment of the two families coming together.

The Bad: Sons & Daughters is a bit of a two sided coin of good and bad when it comes to its placing in this arc. Its unfortunate because had this run through for five episodes without this the plot would have been rock solid throughout (Behind the Lines picks up the arc again with real passion whereas this episode almost forgets about it) and it does feel that this could have been slotted in later in the season. On the other hand this episode is so much standard Trek it completely fools you into thinking that the current status quo is going to be the norm for the entire season with the enemy in control of the station and lulls you into a false sense of security that the final three episodes obliterate. Like Soldiers of the Empire before it, Sons & Daughters (an appropriate episode tile given the material but not when you consider it is primarily a Klingon episode!) shies away from space battle action when that is exactly the sort of blood pounding material these episodes should promote. Once More Unto the Breach gets it right by enjoying a stunning ariel attack halfway through the episode and then pulling away from the action at the end to give Kor a mythic send off so at least they learn from their mistakes. Perhaps the scene where Alexander stages a fake action scene is supposed to parody this oddity?

Moment to Watch Out For: The cringeworthy embarrassment when we realise that Alexander has left the battle simulation plan running. I was hiding under a pillow!

Foreboding: Ziyal returning to the station is the slow burn build up to the most stunning moment of this six episode arc.

Result: Speaking as somebody who is estranged from his father I can completely I could invest in a lot of this material but even I have to accept that this is the weakest episode of the arc and a bit of a sore thumb amongst all the juicy arc material. However that doesn’t make Sons & Daughters a bad episode, just a misplaced one and had this turned up later in the season it wouldn’t have felt so incongruous.  If that was the case it couldn’t feature Ziyal (otherwise we would have to lose the gutting twist in Sacrifice of Angels) but I would be prepared to make that sacrifice (plus we could have given this a more aggressive title!). Whilst the actual plot doesn’t go anywhere especially surprising (in fact there is very little plot to comment on) there are lots of intelligent details that try and compensate. The Kira/Dukat subplot on the station is probably more interesting than Worf’s domestic arrangements (because there’s much more history within DS9 itself to call upon to make this tense) but there is a realistic strained chemistry between him and Alexander these days that rings true and this look like it might be the first of regular visits to his son. The five episodes are integral to the arc and have a real impetus about them and those are the things that are missing in this enjoyable, if slight character episode: 6/10

Behind the Lines written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Levar Burton

What’s it about: Odo is seduced by the Female Shapeshifter with disastrous consequences for the resistance…

Single Father: The secondary plot of Sisko being promoted and having to deal with the idea of his friends going off on dangerous missions without him isn’t as immediate as the Kira/Odo stuff on the station but it still shows a new facet to this war that we hadn’t considered. To wait in an office for the reports of a success or failiure in the wake of so many deaths must be an agonising experience, especially when you are the one who is used to giving the orders and taking the risks.

Tasty Terrorist: Kira proves that being subtle, by using a scalpel rather than a pipe, terrorism is much more effective and destructive. Simply dropping the wrong information into the hands of one half of this uneasy alliance and watching the fireworks ensue is far more satisfying than actually getting your hands dirty yourself. Kira’s reaction to Odo and the Female Shapeshifter linking is fascinating on so many levels; she’s frightened that the enemy might have acquired all the information regarding her terrorist actions against them, she seems genuinely affronted that he would seek comfort from another woman because they have had an argument and considering what was revealed to her in Children of Time she is genuinely jealous that he would shift his feelings towards somebody else so quickly. It is a scene packed with nuances that come from the compelling gestation of both characters it kept me riveted  by its possibilities. When I say that these characters are so well defined that the stories are practically self perpetuating this is the sort of thing I am talking about.

Unknown Sample: One of the best examinations of Odo in the series that leads to some pretty frightening and unpredictable results. He is treating the resistance meetings as little more than time filler trying to stop Kira from stirring up the situation on the station and is furious when his advice is ignored. He takes it very personally because he is the one who is sitting on the Council ensuring Bajor survives the war intact. He is even more shocked when Kira accuses him of forgetting there is a war going on whilst he is in bed with the Dominion. When the Female Shapeshifter says that has been trapped behind enemy lines for too long and is desperate for the company of another changeling Odo scoffs at the irony considering how she rejecting him so dramatically at their last meeting. They have forgiven him since his punishment but the important thing is that he hasn’t forgiven her. The shift in Auberjonois’ performance after he has been in the Link, staring serenely out of the window and greeted Kira with such grace is brilliantly handled. He has so many questions about his people that can finally be answered.

Community Leader: Thus beings Quark’s heroic role in the retaking of the station as he is informed by a drunken Damar that the minefield is coming down which forces our favourite bartender to contact the resistance and inform them. He’s tried his best to run his establishment under Dominion rule but its no fun and he wants the Federation back (‘I want to sell root beer again!’).

War Criminal: Salome Jens is such a fine actress she can take a role like the Female Shapeshifter and imbue it with such depth and that is exactly what she does here. Whilst she has always been suspicious of outsiders, the one thing that has defined this character is her love for Odo and her wish to entice him back to the Great Link. What we discover here is that the Founders consider the return of one of their own to be more important than the entire Alpha Quadrant. It really drives home how alien these creatures really are that they would rather tuck themselves away and be together as one than conquer the universe but you cannot ensure one without the other. What impresses me about her characterisation here is that there isn’t a single moment that betrays what has gone before – even though her purpose is to seduce Odo and bring him home she still condemns him for his actions in The Adversary and considers his punishment in Broken Link and fair one. Her subtle seduction by getting him wound up discussing his feelings for Kira and then offering him a taste of the peace of the Link and asking ‘do you want me to stop?’ is beautifully done. I love the assertion that words are so clumsy and imprecise and the Link is a much more explorative way to communicate. She doesn’t consider herself a separate entity from the others in the Link and that is why she hasn’t bothered to give herself a name. She convinces Odo that he has made irrational promises to Kira by saying he wouldn’t Link with her and states he is the master of his own destiny and she shouldn’t hold him back.

Wily Weyoun: As a diplomat Weyoun knows that their men need to see that they are still allies despite the recent outbreak of violence and so whilst he is chastising Dukat he still has his arm around his shoulders and is smiling amiably as if everything is under control. Unlike Dukat he refuses to take any responsibility for the success of the war effort because he has merely followed the plan that the Founders laid out for him.

Dukat’s Aide: Its our first sight of Damar drinking heavily when he is in a stressful occasion and it is something that will become a major part in his character arc as he assumes the mantle of Dominion puppet shortly. If you want a great example of how much the situations and characters shift and develop on DS9 watch Kira and Damar in this episode and then compare them to events in just a season and a half later when they are allies, working together and learning a great deal about each other. It’ll take a lot of humility on both of their parts but you would never imagine it given their hatred towards each other here.

Starfleet Ferengi: He may be a cadet but he’s still a Ferengi and with a busy Starbase to exploit he manages to acquire a case of brandy for the crew to sup after battle.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Are you questioning my loyalties, Major?’
‘I’m so vulnerable to her. All she has to do is smile at me and I’m happy beyond reason. A minor disagreement between us and I’m devastated! Its absurd!’ – Odo discusses he feelings for Kira in a way we can all recognise when we are in love.
‘Ever since the day you to crossed paths she has lied to you, tricked you, stood in judgement of you. I don’t trust her, I don’t understand how you can!’
‘I just shared a bottle of Kanar with Damar! Hahahaha! That rhymes!’
‘Do you realise what you just did? You just handed the Alpha Quadrant to the Dominion!’
‘You look troubled, Odo. Did she upset you?’ ‘No. Not really…’

The Good: If the speech about the power cell seems a little cheesy for you put yourselves in the shoes of these officers that are living under constant and attack and are in need of some relief and morale boosting every now and again. Its tiny rituals like this that get soldiers through wars without cracking. We’ve been through plenty of Admirals in our time on DS9 (Leyton, Nechayev, Whatley) but finally they have chosen somebody to be a recurring presence on the show. Admiral Ross is something of a non entity for the most part, the bland face of Starfleet but he does have his moments along the way (especially Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges). Turns out the sneaky Dominion have been monitoring ship movements for over five months with a sensor array that has given them a massive tactical advantage and now the crew are involved in taking that benefit away from them. Its another awesome pre credits sequence with Kira and Rom narrating a story featuring Damar and the Jem H’adar getting into a bloody fight over the formers suggestion that they stop giving the latter their supply of white and let them die out before it runs out – intelligence that Kira has acquired and put into the hands of the foot soldiers of the Dominion. Its witty, exciting and beautifully paced. The return of the Female Shapeshifter couldn’t come at a worse time for Kira who is at loggerheads with Odo but it couldn’t come at a better time for us because it adds the dimension of the Dominion hierarchy to the situation on the station. Dukat is sleazy towards her and she practically ignores him, Weyoun is her right hand man and enthuses after her every word, Kira fears her and Odo is seduced by the peace that she offers him during wartime. Amazing how much substance one character can bring to the show. Sticking Dukat, Weyoun and the Female Shapeshifter in a room together and it explodes with great interaction. Like the Ketracel White mission in A Time to Stand and the Jem H’adar massacre in Rocks & Shoals, Behind the Lines provides a race against time set piece to sabotage the deflector array before Damar can use it to bring down the minefield with disastrous consequences for the Quadrant. Everything is running like clockwork until Kira strolls along the Promenade and realises that Odo isn’t in his office t disable the alarm that Rom will trip. As a result the Ferengi is arrested and charged with war crimes and Kira has no hope of stopping those Dominion reinforcements from spilling through the wormhole. Oh crap.

Moment to Watch Out For: It’s a conclusion that wont be forgotten in a hurry where Kira dashes down a corridor, assaults a door buzzer and delivers an emotional attack on Odo who has betrayed her and he stands there in disinterested tranquillity and says he just doesn’t seem to care anymore. It’s a slap around the face for Kira and the audience who have been following their romance angle for three seasons and I had to my jaw off the floor to consider how on Earth these characters could ever reconcile their differences after this. 

Result: Its something of a Trek career best for Rene Echevarria (I would say only Children of Time and Chimera are better than this and rather wonderfully it is the stepping from one to the other in the great Kira & Odo romance) and it doesn’t surprise me to read that this script had such a difficult gestation because every line is packed with nuance and meaning. Its astonishing how many compelling situations they are reaping from the decision to put the series on a war footing and the continuing Kira/Odo unrequited romance is dusted down and given its most attention grabbing development to date. By bringing the Female Shapeshifter back there is the opportunity to stir up all of the (already fascinating) relationships on the station and the news that Damar is close to brining down the minefield forces Kira and her terrorist cell to acting irrationally to prevent the Dominion from completely conquering the Alpha Quadrant. Both plots embrace in the gripping finale that goes about as badly as possible and causes some eye opening fireworks between our heroes. There is also a subtle subplot about Sisko being kept out of the action which cannot measure up to the astonishing material that is happening on the station but provides the contractual obligations amiably enough. Rom has been arrested, Odo has turned rogue and Kira is alone and powerless to prevent the sweeping events of war which have suddenly swung in the Dominion’s favour. Where are things going to go from here? Spellbinding: 9/10

Favor the Bold written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: Sisko heads a mission to retake DS9 and the minefield is coming down…

Single Father: Listening to Sisko enthusing about Bajor is a joy especially when you consider his reaction to his assignment in Emissary. Over the last six years he has grown to understand its people and enjoy the planet to a point now where when he talks about going home it will always be to Bajor. That is a massive statement and a very satisfying one. He talks of building a house on the planet and this is picked up again in Penumbra.

Tasty Terrorist: ‘Did you kill him?’ ‘No…but I thought about it’ is the exchange between Ziyal and Kira after she kicks the crap out of Damar!

Unknown Sample: Odo tries to teach the Female shapeshifter what it is like to experience intimacy as a solid but it backfires because she considers it a pale shadow compared to what they experience in the Link. Odo admits that when he has done it before he enjoyed it and wishes he could have gotten this close to Kira but that possibility is getting further and further away since he betrayed her. Even though it is heartbreaking to watch it is a real moment of justice when Kira rejects Odo in exactly the same manner that he did to her in the previous episode. Rene Auberjonois shows Odo physically crumbling at her dismissal which really sells the fact that he is still desperately in love with her.

Mr Wolf: Dax and Worf flirting across view screens feels very new, I honestly couldn’t imagine this in Picard’s day!

Community Leader: ‘Billions and billions of people are counting on you!’ ‘Boy are they going to be disappointed…’ How marvellous is the fact that Kira and Quark are not only allies but working together to bring down the Cardassian presence on the station? I can remember a time when she didn’t have the time of day for this ‘greedy, misogynistic little troll’ but difficult circumstances have brought them together to a point where he is the hero of the hour and she is relying on him to free her from the Dominion. Quark’s relationship with Odo gets some examination as well and he cannot believe that he would have arrested Rom by choice and he knows that he isn’t a collaborator. Wonderfully Leeta steps in and makes Quark’s heroic statement that he will rescue Rom whatever it takes less humanistic by agreeing to work his Dabo tables for two entire years for free!

Secret Genius: Isn’t it great that Rom has gone from being an idiot who ‘couldn’t fix a straw if it was bent’ to a ‘diabolical genius who came up with self replicating mines in the first place’ over six seasons? To take a comic relief character and give him such a pivotal role in this arc could have gone disastrously wrong but they treat it with as much conviction as everything else here and the result is a net win for a character that has kept the audience on the fence. All this talk of executions is strong stuff and how he calmly accepts his fate in the face of his brother and wife is commendable. He tries to talk Quark into finishing what he has started and brining down the deflector array even if it means ending up in the same position as him. Rom has become a true hero in every sense of the word.

Wily Weyoun: ‘Sometimes I think it would be nice to be able to carry a tune…’ Even Weyoun studying one of Ziyal’s pictures has depth to it as he tries to find meaning and artistic value in the work. He states that if aesthetics were truly worth anything then the Founders (being Gods) would have included it in their genetic make up. The way he wistfully wishes that things were different makes him so much more than just a stock baddie.

Plain and Simple: Garak is convinced that the Federation are so desperate to win the war that they have implant a neural transmitter in his brain to monitor his potentially treasonous thoughts! He always hopes for the best but experience has taught him to expect the worst!

War Criminal: It is fascinating to watch the shifts in Salome Jens’ performance as the Female Shapeshifter because she is so warm and considerate with Odo and then abuses and dictates to Weyoun. She goes from an enticing friend to a terrifying war criminal from one scene to the next but unlike the lost at sea characterisation of the Borg Queen in Voyager there is a conviction to her performance and a strong enough backstory to explain her very different relationships with the characters that makes it all feel very natural and part of a complex alien character. Whilst Dukat, Weyoun and Gowron are remembered as vivid Star Trek villains it is the Female Shapeshifter that I remember the most as a baddie on this show because she is so insidious and manipulative. You get the feeling that no matter how many lives she crushes in this war to bring order to the chaotic Alpha Quadrant she genuinely cares for Odo and wants to bring him home for no other reason than for him to rediscover himself (‘You are a changeling. You are timeless’). Talk about an actress that can bring depth and meaning to every line too, Jens is a real find and its another stonkingly good recurring character. She’s appalled at Weyoun’s suggestion that she has broken Odo and puts him in his place in no uncertain terms.

Dukat’s Aide: You almost feel bad for Damar despite the fact that he is so abusive towards Kira and is the man who could have handed the Alpha Quadrant to the Dominion because Dukat sends him on all kind of domestic tasks that he is so unsuited to. He’s such a bad judge of women that he thinks he can literally drag Ziyal back to her father and be by his side. Cue a very satisfying beating from Kira that we have been longing to see her dish out ever since he sneered at her when they took the station in Call to Arms.

Cross Breed: Ziyal bless her is still convinced that her father is a forgiving compassionate man who would free Rom at her request and soon learns that he is as much a puppet of the Dominion as everybody else. She declares that he is a true Cardassian and that she could never be like him. At this point when I first watched this I knew that this was leading somewhere I just never considered it would be as devastating as it turns out.

What’s Morn up to: Is upset that he has to attend his mothers birthday party! Isn’t it wonderful that even Morn is roped into helping retake the station by getting a message to Sisko that the minefield is on its way down and they need to step up any plans to retake the station.

Sparkling Dialogue:S ‘The Dominion wont attack Earth’ ‘How can you be sure?’ ‘Because Earth isn’t the key to the Alpha Quadrant. The wormhole is and whoever controls Deep Space Nine controls the wormhole!’ – I love the fact that we are watching a show that can contain such epic dialogue as this these days.
‘Weak eyes, good ears.’
‘I feel sorry for them’ ‘They need out guidance Odo, not our pity’ ‘They cherish their freedom’ ‘We’ll have to break them of that…’
‘We are way, way past sorry.’
‘There’s an old saying. ‘Fortune favors the bold’ – I guess we’re about to find out…’

The Good: Like Rocks & Shoals the writers are simply continuing their story without any need to include a ‘previously on…’ montage at the beginning of the episode despite the massive event that ended Behind the Lines so powerfully. I guess they have finally decided that if you haven’t been watching this phenomenal show since it returned in season six it is your own fault if you haven’t kept up with the developments. In a similar moment of confidence the show begins with the Defiant apparently dead in space and at the mercy of Jem H’adar ships…and we don’t have a clue as to why until the Rotaran cloaks. It’s a two finger salute to the fans that enjoy being spoon fed their plot on Voyager. The fact that they are a decoy is a terrifically brave tactic, risking half of our regular cast to destroy a pair of enemy ships is a bold move. When Sisko declares in the pre titles sequence that they are going to retake Deep Space Nine it is the first indication this season that things will ever get back to normal again – five episodes in! When all other Trek shows end on a powerhouse cliffhanger they always wrap it up at the beginning of the next season but this exercise in wrong footing the DS9 fans for six episodes has been a total success. What’s even better is that whilst things might have the illusion of returning to normal at the end of the next episode there is still a massive shift in the shows tone and political landscape which powers the storytelling for the last year and a half of the show. Odo’s horror that he is expected in a meeting that took place three days ago is a wonderful moment of shock where we realise that the Founders literally have no understanding of time and meetings and plans – they live their lives exploring themselves and each other and the rest of the universe can go hang. It’s a very alien way of looking at things, something that is antithetical to our way of life. The way the episode ratchets up the tension by suggesting a race against time to take the station before the Dominion brings down the minefield gives the upcoming battle a real sense of importance because so much is resting on its outcome. Having to go without the ninth fleet and the Klingons means Sisko will be desperately outnumbered but they kick ahead with the attack regardless because the consequences if they don’t could be ruinous. They outnumber them two to one and the powerful shot of the swarm of ships is enough to make you recoil from the screen. You wonder how on Earth the Federation is going to survive this one which is exactly the right note to end the episode on.

The Bad: Its only when Jake turns up that you realise that he is the one character who has been neglected this season.

Moment to Watch Out For: There’s a gloriously quiet moment when Odo and the Female Shapeshifter stand in judgement over the Solids on the Promenade where you get a real sense of how they view the rest of the universe and why the Founders want to impose their order on it. That’s some deft writing. It adds serious depth to an episode that ends on two giant military fleets facing off against each other with fingers hovering over the weapons buttons itching to start firing. I don’t know when Trek could give us such invaluable insight into the enemy and could whip up such an epic, exciting and edge of the seat scenario but I’m sure glad it did. This is top notch material.

Fashion Statement: Nog is now in a proper Starfleet uniform and it really suits him!

Orchestra: There is an awesome dramatic sting as the Federation fleet heads off to engage the Dominion.

Result: ‘One week and the Alpha Quadrant is ours…’ Character, character, character…you get the idea? Its is one terrific character scene after another as the foreboding plot gathers momentum for the biggest battle and most important conflict  to determine the fate of the entire Alpha Quadrant. This is an episode that is literally assembled by vignettes of the astonishing recurring cast that DS9 has managed to assemble over the years and Dukat, Weyoun, Damar, Ziyal, the Female Shapeshifter, Rom, Nog, Leeta and even Morn all manage to get a moment to shine. The Kira/Odo tension continues to bubble along, Sisko pulls together a daring plan to retake the station, the minefield is on the verge of coming down and the role of the saviour of the Alpha Quadrant is shifting onto Quark’s unlikely shoulders. Its ambitious stuff and massively entertaining to watch and would have only been a letdown had they fudged the conclusion and not given us the battle that we all salivated after but even that is as grand as expected. Favor the Bold is the accumulation of four episodes worth of set up converging to make an appetite whetter for the climactic end of season spectacular to come that brilliantly doesn’t even come at the end of the season. This mini arc has been an absolute triumph of striking plotting and embryonic characterisation and this is another top notch instalment: 9/10

The Sacrifice of Angels written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: It’s the battle to end all battles…

Single Father: Avery Brooks has never been more passionate in this role and more convincing than in the scene where he implores the Prophets to wipe out the Dominion fleet. What a time to get it bang on the nail. Why is it that Sisko cannot die? What is the penance that will be exacted for helping him?

Tasty Terrorist: Poor Kira stuck with Jake, Leeta and Quark as her only allies to help bring down the Dominion presence on the station. Like Call to Arms there is the wonderful reversal of our heroes attempting to sabotage or destroy the place we would usually be calling home.

Unknown Sample: No matter how much Odo has tried to convince himself that he belongs with his people the thought of his friends dying in a bloody war and his feelings for Kira tie him to the Solids in a way that the Founders could never appreciate. He might have a lot to make up for but he knows he wont be able to live with himself if he doesn’t do something to help. It’s the reactions of Odo and the rest of the characters on the station that give the fight that Sisko and the others are embracing all the more effective. Just watch the scene where the Female Shapeshifter asks Odo if he wants to come with her to Ops ad he states ‘I’ll be fine here’ – the dialogue is doing some of the work but Odo’s decision to remain behind and help his friends is completely sold by the performances of Auberjonois and Jens. This is what strong actors can bring to a show.

Community Leader: With Kira and her cohorts arrested Quark is the only person left can possibly do anything to help them and it’s the one and only time the fate of the entire Quadrant rests on the shoulders of the Ferengi comic relief character. Its such a crazy turn of events and Armin Shimmerman leaps at the chance to show the honourable side to his character and looks truly awesome wielding two guns and blasting the Jem H’adar guards who are holding his brother and friends. Shimmerman always said that Quark would only fire a weapon in defence of the people he loves and the shock on his face when he kills them is palpable and finally earns him Kira’s respect.

Slimy Snake: This is the ultimate downfall of Dukat who has been high on success and power so far this season and you slowly come to realise that the writers have been building up his arrogance to uncontrollable levels only to shove back down in the gutter which such a bump it is as emotionally affecting for the audience as it is for the character. Dukat is back in the heart of a war zone but giving the instructions from afar and loving that he understands the psychology of the conflict more than Weyoun. He restrains Damar from attacking the Dominion representatives that insult him regardless and informs him that their time will come. His arrogance is what brings him down as he freely admits that even if they did conquer the Earth he wouldn’t destroy its population but force them to acknowledge his greatness. Dukat is so obsessed with his image, he’s taken a hold of Kira’s planet and forced her to work for him and now he wants to do the same thing with Sisko. I could listen to this guy stroke his ego all day especially when he convinces himself that the Bajorans were lucky to have him as their liberator and that he cared for them as if they were his own children! 50,000,000 of them died during the Occupation!

Dukat’s Aide: From the beginning of this episode the signs are there that Damar would step in and protect Dukat from his feelings for his daughter. When he suggests that she might working with the resistance to bring him down Dukat is outraged and spells out his loyalty to her in no uncertain terms. It is going to take something massive to tear these two apart.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘War is such thirsty work. Don’t you agree?’ ‘Perhaps if you didn’t talk so much your throat wouldn’t get so dry…’
‘Never underestimate the element of surprise.’
‘Chief how does that poem end?’ ‘You don’t want to know…’
‘I don’t want to see Bajor destroyed and neither do you but we both know that is exactly what’s going to happen if the Dominion takes over the Alpha Quadrant! You say you don’t want me to sacrifice my life – well fine neither do I! You want to be Gods? Then be Gods! Stop those ships!’
‘Time to start packing!’ – one of my favourite lines in Trek, trust Weyoun to make light of this humiliating situation!

The Good: It feels like the space battles on DS9 have been building to this moment. There have been fantastic eye candy conflicts on this show stretching back as far as The Die is Cast but each has managed to best the last. The Cardassian/Dominion confrontation took place when there wasn’t really the resources to pull off the scale of such an attack (aside from the Defiant gloriously biting its way through a Jem H’adar fighter) so it sold the battle through its mesmerising performances. The Way of the Warrior had a massive injection of budget and mixed live action with effects to dazzling effect but it was still only the station against the fleet. Shattered Mirror impressed with a Defiant versus Klingon battle that saw the ships ducking and diving around the station with real dynamism. Finally Call to Arms offered a striking CGI shoot out with the Dominion forces giving the station a pounding and forcing its inhabitants to leave but again the defence force consisted of the station, one Klingon ship and the Defiant. These gorgeous effects set pieces are nothing compared with what we get in The Sacrifice of Angels which is the sight of an entire Federation and Dominion fleet squaring off against each other to fight for the entire Quadrant. The opening shots of the fleets facing each other and the way the ‘camera’ swoops around to bring the epic size of these armies in their entirety are extremely powerful. I have never found battle tactics to be anything worth writing home about by my husband is obsessed by them and loves playing battle simulation games like Total Annihilation and Star Trek Armada. He adores this episode with a passion bordering on insanity and loves telling me about how Sisko pokes at the Cardassians to get them to react and how Dukat realises that this what he is up to and arrogantly gives him an opening which eventually loses him the station. Simon talks about it all so passionately and the effects are so extraordinary that the whole fight takes on a new dimension for me. I remember Doctor Who writer Matt Jones complaining in his reviews for TV Zone that they were using the excuse to fill the screen with computer generated ships hacking away at each other as an excuse to pad out and dumb down the show. It simply is not the case. The stakes have never been higher and this battle has been exquisitely plotted into this arc to ensure that whoever departs victorious will claim the entire Alpha Quadrant and tying into the very tactics of the fight are Sisko and Dukat pitting their wits against other, Weyoun at sea, the Female Shapeshifter eyeing everything from afar and Worf leaping in to save the day. At the same time you have the unlikeliest of heroes stepping up to the plate on the station (Quark), Kira doing what she does best (kicking some serious butt) and a shocking punch the air turnabout from Odo. This fight is loaded with character moments and depth and you don’t even have to dig to see it – its about as far from the shallow action scene you get in each Voyager episode (whether it is needed or not) than you can get. All the crews reactions feel believable – Nog is scared, O’Brien quotes a foreboding poem and laughs at Bashir’s attempts to big him up, Garak complains about the lack of a Klingon presence… Ships tear across the screen gouging great holes out of each other and blossoming into flames, we swoop close to battleships and see torpedoes dancing around the Defiant, Galaxy class saucers curve into view wielding multi phaser beams, ships are struck by fire and split in half dramatically, the action comes straight at the audience in spots with beams of light leaping from the screen and the Klingons turn up at exactly the right point to drive a massive, destructive hole in the Dominion arrogance. This is the battle that was promised to us in The Best of Both Worlds but we only got to explore some of the debris thanks to a lack of funds needed to bring it to life. In the midst of the mêlée there is five minute sequence between Dukat and Weyoun that should feel horribly crowbarred in and distracting us from the explosive death count elsewhere but it is a vital scene that delivers the very crux of what the fight is about. Without this scene the battle would be worthless – Dukat talks about bringing the Federation to its knees and Weyoun suggests how this will be implemented (an enormous number of ships, a massive occupational army and the eradication of the populace of Earth). Its groundbreaking dialogue that you wont see on any other Trek show that isn’t afraid to shake up things to the point where these horrors seem like a genuine possibility. Garak and Dax’s reaction to the Klingons turning up and saving the day is a real punch the air moment of triumph. Gasp in astonishment at the final, amazing effect of the Defiant racing along the hull of a Dominion ship as it explodes. As if things weren’t exciting enough there is a glorious phaser fight which ends in a cargo bay with the Jem H’adar cut down and Kira saved by…Odo! A joyous moment. There is a terrific visual as the camera pulls away from four of the greatest villains you will ever see on TV – Dukat, Weyoun, Damar and the Female Shapeshifter – as the order is given to bring down the wormhole where Deep Space isn’t just the best Trek show but the best show on TV. Ever. I love a sting in the tale and the glorious ‘oh shit’ feeling when the minefield comes down still gets me bouncing on my seat! In the hands of Allan Kroeker the sequence with the Prophets is the best filmed since the pilot with some outstanding imagery and effects that make this a surreal, alien experience. A criticism levelled at this episode is how the inclusion of the Prophets is a deus ex machina – which literally means an unsolvable problem is abruptly solved by a contrived intervention. I would fully accept that being the case if this was the first time we had seen the Prophets but this is an element that has been weaved into the series from the very first episode and has been taken out for an airing every single season. How can you suggest that something that has been this much a staple of the show is contrived when the very make up of the bridging between these two Quadrants that brought the Dominion to us is constructed of these beings? They have been tied to Sisko in a very personal way (and this would make even more sense come season seven’s Shadows & Symbols) and would naturally want to protect him and they declared quite blatantly that they were ‘of Bajor’ in Accession. In fact rather than feel contrived it feels as if this concept has been bred into the series for this very moment and everything has been building to this point. Both the Dominion threat and the Prophets have been building to something spectacular as the show has continued – they are diametric opposites (a benevolent Godlike race and a devilish invading force) and the way one wipes out the other in this climactic moment feels very satisfying. Plus with all this talk of a penance and the Dominion now trapped in enemy territory and forced to rethink its tactics there is plenty of juicy threads left to pick up on. On all counts it works for me. Who ever expected for the show to feature such a sudden trauma inside the enemy camp but as Dukat’s dreams come crumbling around him the direction gets disorienting and claustrophobic. One of this shows many strengths is how it characterises its villains so well and reveals their ambitions and tactics in the conflicts – its come to a point in this arc when they are as much regulars as the usual cast. So when we see Dukat tripping along the Promenade desperate to reach his daughter, the one thing that he can hold onto now his dreams of conquest have been shattered we truly feel for this intergalactic despot. Who would have ever thought that would be the case? Its subverting our expectations again in all the best ways. It tinges the triumphant return of Sisko to the station with a touch of tragedy that makes the smiles almost discomforting. Garak desperately seeking out Ziyal still breaks my heart. The symbolic gesture of Dukat giving the baseball back to Sisko thus handing him back possession of the station is the perfect closing touch and ties in beautifully with Call to Arms.

Moment to Watch Out For: Everything about Ziyal’s death is stunningly handled from the lighting, the music, the sudden shot, the slow pan away from her body as Dukat cradles it. What really sells it though is Marc Alaimo’s mesmerising performance and although I have seen it ten times at least he still gave me goosebumps on this latest rewatch. A spine tingling moment of drama.

Teaser-tastic: Its one of the best ever pre credits ‘previously on’ montages you will ever see with clips that state things like ‘the Dominion wont attack Earth’, ‘Execute Rom?’, ‘we’ll take the ships we have and fight out way to Deep Space Nine…’ – it leaves you reeling with the ambition and thinking ‘oh my God what have I missed?’ if you happen to have skipped Favor the Bold. 

Orchestra: The stirring, moody, unpredictable score as the two sides in this bloody fight battle it out is unforgettable – David Bell is back on board and this is definitely a cinematic soundtrack worthy of a release.

Result: What can I say that I haven’t said already? This is more climactic, epic and far reaching than any of the Trek feature films and it pulls of a mini movie with a TV budget. Trek has such a bad hit rate at concluding its multi part storylines which is what makes the termination of this seven part arc such a magnificent achievement. We have been promised a big, explosive battle and boy do we get it – special effects in Star Trek have never been quite this revolutionary before and it really sells the excitement and the cost of this battle. Coupled with David Bell’s dynamic score these are some of the best action scenes ever seen in a TV series but it isn’t the eye candy that makes this episode such a standout. It’s the characters. Sisko proves himself to be a military tactician of the highest order, Dax beams with joy when Worf turns up to save them, Kira is enjoying her terrorist ways kicking some serious Dominion butt, Odo salvages a bad situation by doing the right thing at the right moment, Quark tosses away his arrogance and becomes the shows greatest hero, Weyoun wants to wipe out everybody on Earth, the Female Shapeshifter is heartbroken that Odo wants to remain behind and Damar commits a horrific act that brings this concluding story to an end with you jaw on the ground. Its extraordinary the way all of these characters are kept in the action whilst the epic sweep of the story passes us by and there isn’t a single character that is neglected. Ultimately we come to realise that this arc has been about Dukat more than anybody and the writers have fed his ego for so long just so they can tear him down and they do so in a spectacularly cruel fashion, having his daughter murdered before his eyes. This scene remains one of the most powerful in DS9’s run and the final shot of him cradling himself in a dark cell hiding away from dealing with the shock leaves fascinating potential for the future. Frankly this is a dazzling episode that manages to bring to an end the strongest arc on this series so far satisfactorily and still leave plenty of fallout to keep the show on fire for the next year and a half. Simon and I both love this one and despite the fact we have watched it ad nauseum and our shared enjoyment is just the cherry on the cake. Can I watch it again now please?: 10/10

You Are Cordially Invited written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Worf and Jadzia are getting married!

Single Father: The crane shot of Sisko watching his people enjoying themselves on the Promenade is a wonderful visual statement that this man has reclaimed his castle. He can’t stop beaming and telling people how good it is to be home and his chemistry with Kira has never been more apparent. The relationship between Sisko and Dax has always been treasurable and it has just gotten better as the show has continued. This is their last great confrontation before Jadzia’s dramatic exit from the series and they have saved the best for last. As much as she rants and raves Sisko can see right through her bluster and spells out the fact that she loves Worf enough to do anything for him, least of all suck up to some Klingon harridan (the way Avery Brooks says ‘and you are in love with him’ gets me every time). A glorious scene.

Unknown Sample: I was really fearing that we would have to go through a soul searching episode where Kira and Odo explore their feelings for each other but instead they consign their reconciliation to a quiet couple of hours in a closet where the party is being held. Its probably the most approach for all concerned. In a scene that parallels a similar moment in Favor the Bold Odo loses all track of time – it seems that only happens when there is a pretty (or gloopy) woman involved!

Mr Wolf: ‘She mocks everything while I take everything so seriously…’ What’s great about Martok is that he can take the piss out of Worf whilst still respecting him completely and by doing so he tips the wink to the audience that writers are aware of Worf’s flaws and they like him that way. He’s been droning on about the wedding to everybody and obsessing over the details and it is a glorious gender reversal for the man to get so caught up in all the preparations where the woman just wants to turn up! To show how much he has loosened up he changes his wedding plans on a sixpence when he realises that it will be a long time before he gets to see Alexander again. Being raised by human parents and joining Starfleet has left Worf clinging at every possible Klingon ceremony he can include in his life and a traditional Klingon wedding with all the trimmings is something he has longed for since he was a boy. Everybody is so rude to Worf in this episode (‘What is he doing here?’ ‘I meant no disrespect’ ‘Then leave!’ and Martok’s wonderfully awkward ‘the truth is…she doesn’t like you that much either’) you actually feel sorry for the grumpy Klingon. When they threaten to separate Worf points out all the reasons why they would be hopeless together, all the reason why they are complete opposites and the audience realises all the reason why they are perfect for each other. I’m as different to my husband as Dax is to Worf and that is a real strength in a marriage, not a weakness. 

Nine Lives: ‘I don’t beg…’ Could she be anymore relaxed about her wedding? Jadzia has been through so many ceremonies in her many lifetimes she is happy for Worf to deal with all the minutiae whilst she  parties the night away with her friends. There’s a lovely moment at the start of the episode where she, Worf and Alexander relax together in Quarks (as much as anybody can relax with that disastrous kid around!) and you can see the potential for a family unit here. She thinks that meeting the mother in law is going to be a piece of cake and has no idea of the torture she is about to be put through. She is described as an honourable woman and a formidable warrior by Martok but Sirella has already made up her mind regarding this party animal good time girl. Whether Sirella genuinely is as xenophobic as she seems or she is trying to push Jadzia to prove herself is a moot point, her insults simply make Dax more determined than ever to seek her approval. She goes a roundabout route to achieve this by having some fun distorting Sirella’s family history and suggesting that her grandmother was nothing but a peasant. She’s such a naughty thing! Things can’t get much worse than your prospective mother in law calling you a slut and you smacking her around the face! Her quarters are a wreck, there’s men strewn on the floor and she heads straight for the replicator to order a strong sweet coffee – I think we can assume that Dax had a good hen party! Worf considers their wedding the start of a spiritual journey but she sees it as a commitment to each other. As ever the pair of them don’t see eye to eye regardless of how much they love each other and if there hadn’t have been a near split before the wedding I would have been disappointed. Dax realises through her best friend that she has to grow a pair (metaphorically speaking) and give Sirella the respect she is due.

Community Leader: Quark turns up for some very funny dialogue and I really laughed when he described Worf as a ‘walking frown.’

Gentle Giant & His Missus: Its another superb episode for Martok and is it just me or does he get more winsome with every passing episode he appears in? He’s the new Supreme Commander of the Ninth Fleet which means far more responsibility (and paperwork) and its another step in his journey to become Chancellor of the Klingon Empire (but more on that later). What a fabulously bitchy harridan his wife turns out to be, expertly played by Shannon Cochran and proving once and for all the all mother in laws are evil people! She has the ability to insult her husband within seconds of seeing him for the first time an age just like all good partners who know how to take control of their relationship. I love seeing him and Worf having a good singsong and enjoying their trials in the road to Kalhaya whilst the others are suffering terribly (Alexander faints and cries ‘Grandma?’). The way Martok points out all of the horrendous flaws that his wife is made out of but how he longs to be with her all the time might be the finest description of love I have ever heard in Trek. J.G. Hertlzer is phenomenally good in this scene. 

What’s Morn up to: He loves the fact that his Starfleet broads are all back and gets a kiss from one of them in the opening scene whilst heading for Quarks. He’s a distinguished guest at Dax’s party and can’t resist a boogie and slapping chests with a Bolian! He wakes up the morning after Dax’s hen party on her floor with a glass still clenched in his hand.

Sparkling Dialogue: All men are sentimental. They just cover it up with scowls and clenched jaws’ – Jadzia describes the gender divide as well as any I have heard before!
‘I sold my first book today’ ‘Really how much did you get for it?’ ‘Its just a figure of speech’ ‘Well then you have my sympathies and the first round of drinks is on the house’ ‘Really?’ ‘No, it’s a figure of speech.’
‘Kill Worf…kill Worf…kill Worf…
‘Haven’t you heard – the wedding’s off!’ ‘Off? Why?’ ‘She says its because he is a stubborn, pig headed man who puts traditional before everything else. He says its because she’s a frivolous emotional woman who refuses to take him or his culture seriously. You can see the problem’ ‘Yeah. They’re both right.’
‘We are not accorded the luxury of choosing the women we fall in love with.’
‘No food for those on the path to Kalhaya!’ ‘No refunds for those on the path to Kalhaya either. Sorry.’
‘To this day, no-one can oppose the beating of two Klingon hearts.’

The Good: What’s so uplifting about the opening of this episode is that the series has been so turned on his head of late that something that opened practically every episode of the series in the first five years (Sisko narrating an explanation of what is going on at the station) can be seen as a moment of triumph. And without the tragedy of Dukat’s breakdown which slightly soured the closure of The Sacrifice of Angels there is a sense of optimism about things returning to normal whilst the war still bubbles along in the background so they have also dodged the Trek bullet of the reset being thrown. Trust those dastardly Klingons to turn their bachelor party into a mental and spiritual journey that sees its participants deprived of all worldly pleasures (including eating) for four days! Bad news for Bashir and O’Brien but good news for us as we get to enjoy watching them suffer! The five trials are fasting, blood, pain, sacrifice anguish and pain (which Bashir compares to marriage!) – I guess the Klingons have to make up for being such rowdy drunken louts when they get marries and have some discipline instilled in them for such a responsible act. Everyone stepping back so that Bashir is the first one to face the knife is really funny. What an insane party Dax throws with Hawaiian drums getting everybody jiggly, a half naked flame thrower and Nog dancing away like he is walking on hot coals! It’s a really enjoyable sequence because after all the grim war stuff its so nice to see these people smiling and relaxing in each others company. Captain Shelby? Nice to see that the ambitious Commander from The Best of Both Worlds made it and am I the only person who wants to know why she owes Dax several favours? Wow, the food that is presented to Bashir and O’Brien looks so good I want to make love to it! To have that snatched away from you when you must be so hungry, you really feel for these two (especially O’Brien who must be seeing steaks dancing in his dreams by now!).

The Bad: Sirella’s 180 regarding Dax comes completely out of the blue because they forgot to include a scene where she makes it up to her mother in law.

Moment to Watch Out For: It’s the most unusual of wedding ceremonies and it is beautifully done. The blood red lighting, the drums, the dress and the tale of the two Klingon hearts are all perfect. I’m not sure what is my favourite moment; Sirella’s dramatic reading, Quark looking seriously bored, Dax’s appearance, ‘my daughter’ or Bashir and O’Brien’s hilarious revenge on Worf. It’s sublime.

Fashion Statement: Kira looks beyond foxy in her red dress and with casual hair. However nothing could match up to Jadzia appearing in the Klingon wedding dress. I’m gay and even I was drooling.

Result: Perhaps the ultimate refreshment after seven episodes of war, You Are Cordially Invited is an uplifting, rowdy Klingon wedding with plenty frivolity and frolics, drunken parties, half naked men, bachelor hell and strained relationships. Anything that came after the emotional fireworks and dynamic action of the mini arc was going to be a struggle but Ronald D. Moore is on hand to provide something that we have never seen before – a full on Star Trek wedding (Data’s Day doesn’t count because we hardly knew O’Brien and the focus was on Data) with all the horrors (the mother in law from hell), recriminations (waking up with a half naked man in your quarters) and reconciliation (it’s a great time for other people to talk about their feelings as Dax and Worf tie the knot, as Kira & Odo take advantage of) that comes with it. So far season six has been the least conventional series of Star Trek and it has been all the stronger for it. Michael Dorn and Terry Farrell throw themselves into this episode with real gusto and its great opportunity to see the rest of the crew relaxing and having fun celebrating together. The wedding itself is exquisitely scripted and filmed, full of atmosphere and climaxes on a terrific gag. If you can’t go along with the party atmosphere of this instalment then that is your prerogative but I think this is precisely what was needed at this junction and provides some excellent light relief and warm sentiment: 9/10

Resurrection written by Michael Taylor and directed by Levar Burton

What’s it about: To Kira’s shock Bariel beams into Ops holding a gun on her!

Single Father: At least Sisko is wise enough to warn Kira away from the seductive experience of being reunited with a dead lover from the alternative universe.

Tasty Terrorist: I can understand that there might be an attraction to somebody who looks like a man you once loved deeply and I can also see the appeal in redeeming somebody who has made a lot of mistakes (Kira herself has been through this). What I don’t get is how she could possibly act on those feelings when Bariel is clearly manipulating her and surely she must see her Bariel every time she looks into this mans face? The tale that Bariel tells Kira in her quarters about the girl he never got to say I love you to is so appalling I was simultaneously guffawing and screaming at the telly for her naiveté. All it takes is one evening out and a dreadful sob story and she leaps in bed with the man! Doesn’t she know that Odo is waiting in the wings? 

Mr Wolf: Hurrah! Worf finally meets his match and gets that grumpy look wiped off his face when Bariel steals his Mek’Leth to cut their desert.

Nine Lives: After practically ignoring the friendship between Kira and Dax for a couple of years (she’s been busy having the O’Brien’s kid and she’s been busy bedding Worf) this is the second episode in a row that sees the two of them walking the corridors and having a good gossip. Dax’s taste in men frightens Kira and she points this out just as they are passing Worf in Ops! I cannot believe that Dax has the nerve to criticise somebody else (in this case Bashir who has come to Ops for no other reason but to find out what happened between Kira and Bariel) for being a gossip!

Community Leader: Quark gets a good scene when he tries to warn Kira that Bariel is up to something. There really has been a shift in their relationship ever since they worked together during the Dominion Occupation.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Admit it you’ve never found me more exciting. Its like having the best of both worlds’ – some might think this is the alternate Kira talking about cross dressing but all she has done is squeeze herself into the Major’s uniform.

The Good: We’ve heard so much talk about services in the Bajoran shrine it is nice to finally see one and it is very atmospherically lit. Thank goodness somebody mentioned the war halfway through the episode because I wondered if we had leapt backwards to season two again! Halfway through the episode I was so bored by all the romantic slush I actually cheered with the Indendant showed up to complicate things. It comes to something when the first surprising event occurs 25 minutes into the episode! The moment when she tries to find out what Bariel thinks of the normal Kira and then tries to punch him when he admits that she is incredible is one of the few moments of worthwhile psychology in this episode. I don’t know if the Indendant hates herself or just hates people liking anyone but her but she has some real issues.

The Bad: Did we really go to all that trouble to recapture the station from the Dominion to be served with episodes like this? Bring Dukat, Weyoun and the Female Shapeshifter back immediately. If they were really going for the jugular in this episode (and had it been written by Ira Steven Behr – the man who gave us the Indendant nibbling on the Nagus’ ear hair and militant lesbian Leeta) it would have been Kai Opaka who beamed into Ops wearing shiny black leather, spiky jet black hair and a huge whip to punish the Emissary for being a naughty boy! How odd that as Kira happens to be talking about her surprisingly vacant love life an alternate version of her dead lover beams into the station – sounds like a Voyager writer is contributing this episode! Oh wait, he is! Redemption is such a boring plot device and so for Bariel to come to his senses and double cross the Indendant guts the story so its one redeeming feature. It would have been much more fun had Bariel not discovered his soul and went riding off into the sunset with his kinky broad and his booty and  leaving Kira broken hearted and ready to fall into the arms of Odo. The direction surrounding the theft of the Orb is so bland Burton cannot be bothered to make it slightly tense or exciting. Bariel just walks in like he is going shopping.

Moment to Watch Out For: Nana Visitor is just too good at playing this naughty version of Kira its such a shame that we don’t get to see more of her but the scene where she knocks out a guard by coercing him into giving her a sensual massage is a delight (‘a little harder please…’).

Fashion Statement: Rough him up a bit, let his hair hang and Bariel becomes quite the hottie. He’s certainly a great deal more appealing than the man of peace Kira shacked up with in the early seasons of the show. Especially when he’s topless in bed. The Indendant giving this bit of rough a snog to pass on to Kira could be potential trouser tentage if you were a certain way inclined.

Result: A huge round of applause for trying something different for a mirror universe but an even bigger smack around the face for removing all the fun, naughtiness and humour that are the staples of those shows. After his dazzling turn in the directors chair in Behind the Lines Levar Burton once again shows signs of tiring of Star Trek although to be fair it would have been tricky for anybody to have salvaged much from this script. From the pre credits sequence you can pretty much plot out the rest of the story – Kira will fall in love with Bariel and Kira will lose Bariel – and besides an amusing return of the Indendant there’s little to get excited about. Frankly I find it very disturbing that Kira would so readily fall into the arms of a man who looks like her dead lover and the way everybody accepts it like it is the most normal thing ever baffles me. The performances of Nana Visitor and Philip Anglim are sincere and there is certainly a believable connection between the two characters but I am confused as to why the writers felt the need to tell a story where Kira is made to look so foolish. With a slothenly pace and predictable conclusion this is the weakest DS9 episode for an age and just about the nadir of season six: 4/10

Statistical Probabilities written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Anson Williams

What’s it about: A group of dysfunctional genetically engineered patients visits the station…

Single Father: ‘Surrender to the Dominion? Not on my watch!’ Thank goodness Sisko is smart enough (or should that be stupid enough) to want a more detailed explanation of the long term intelligence that Bashir bombards him with. He’s furious at the very suggestion that they should surrender to the inevitable and simply let the Dominion win to save as many lives as possible. Sisko would rather battle on against the odds rather than surrender to them because this is what a wonderfully stubborn human being would do.

Everyday Engineer: I’ve said it time and time again but O’Brien really is the most believable character in Star Trek simply because he is so wonderfully flawed and prejudiced. Take a good look at his face when he walks into the cargo bay and sees the crazies dancing because you might just see exactly the same discomfort you might feel around retarded people. It’s the way he opens a window through the centuries so we can see exactly how we might react to the same situations that makes him such a joy. Mind you if somebody read my body language quite so publicly as the crazies do to him I don’t know how happy I would be about it. He might be uncomplicated but he can still surprise at times and certainly remembers that Bashir is supposed to be playing darts from a distance!

GE Doctor: This is another terrific episode for Bashir who started off as the weakest character on the show but has evolved over time into one of the best. Its fascinating to watch him get to grips with this group because it is clear he feels he owes them some debt just for the privilege of having a normal life. When he looks at them he can see what he could have been but he also sees victims of their parents decisions and people that need help. In every way there is a personal stake in this for him. You can quickly see that the major difference between Bashir and Jack is that the good Doctor is ashamed of his genetic sequencing whereas Jack is proud and thinks he is better than others. He’s been an exception all of his life, first because of his genetic tampering and now because he is allowed to stay in Starfleet. Once he has gotten them engaged with wartime predictions it is easy to see how Bashir might get carried away with this assignment. He genuinely wants them to have a purpose and for people to see how they could be useful to the war effort but somewhere along the line he completely loses his objectivity. It would have been nice if Garak had turned up with a witty quip or two to tell him he is merely a statistical robot and no longer behaving like a human being. The conclusion that Bashir comes to that maybe their predictions were wrong and something completely unexpected might happen in the future (or in the words of Joseph Sisko: ‘The soufflé will either rise or it wont. There’s not a damn thing you can do about it…’) is a very worthy moment for the character.

Uncertain Leader: ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown…’ I don’t want to give you guys any ideas but it would appear that the best way to get a promotion is to murder your bosses daughter! How uncomfortable does he look when giving a speech that so clearly should be made by Dukat? You can almost see Weyoun in the background pulling the strings and prompting the words! I love the way the crazies read his body language so skilfully – it’s a field that I am fascinated in personally and to see it scripted so well here is a joy. Clearly he still loathes Kira and practically gobs phlegm at her when he walks onto the station.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘There are rules! Don’t talk with your mouthful. Don’t open an airlock when somebody is inside it. And don’t lie about your genetic status! You did! You lied and then when you got caught you cut a deal with Starfleet!’
‘Now do something about that noise or I will snap her neck!’
‘You want me to play with you do you Chief?’ 
‘I’m happy to hear your groups advice on how to win this war but I don’t need your advice on how to lose it!’
‘I know, I know…I honour you with my presence.’

The Good: The writer has really thought through Bashir’s crazies so they all have a unique and fascinating personality. There’s hyperactive, mildly psychotic Jack, super vamp Lauren who would give Lwaxana Troi a run for her money when it comes to dribbling over men, cuddly and nervous Patrick and ghostly quiet Serena. Together they make an eclectic and hugely memorable group of characters and it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that they were quickly booked for a return appearance in the shows final season. I especially like Tim Ransome’s dangerously unpredictable Jack (‘well why don’t you fix it dear fellow, dear fellow. Well why don’t you fix it before I go mad?’)  who is above resorting to getting his hands bloody if he can’t get his own way. They could have easily have dropped Bashir’s genetic engineering revelation into the mix and then forgotten all about it (indeed what happened to Bashir’s father seemed to wrap that up nicely) but instead they have used it as a springboard to explore the very notion of the science and to show why the Federation has such strict rules against it. Whilst Bashir turned out fairly normal (although I did fear for the female populace of the station in the first season!) here is an example of four individuals who could have lived perfectly productive, if simple lives had their parents not tried to play God. The result? Social maladjustment, hazardous behaviour and a life behind bars (or as good as). Its great to see a crew sitting around sharing drinks and talking about something that really matters – TNG gave us poker nights and the Voyager crew end up playing whatever the holodeck scenario of the season is but this is another example of the DS9 crew hanging around and having adult conversation. The speech by Gul Damar comes at exactly the right because after two episodes that practically ignore the war (aside from a few throwaway comments) this gets us back into the thick of things and proves that one of the best aspects of the ‘enemy on the station’ arc (being able to see the war intimately from the enemy camp) is going to continue. Negotiations for peace with the Dominion? Once again it feels like DS9 is looking for a way out of the dark and dangerous war it has found itself in only to snatch it away and keep going. Its almost as though they are teasing us – ‘sorry folks this is still Star Trek…and we’re going to do it our way!’ The way the crazies intelligently deduct that the Dominion are willing to give up plenty of their own territory to obtain the Cabrell system (currently within Federation territory) so they can use the elements that grow their to synthesise more Ketracel White is brilliantly done. Plus its exactly the sort of long winded politics that the Dominion are famous for (remember the fake Martok/Klingon plot?). In a way the projected misfortunes of the Federation is like a game of chess – the best strategists in the world can factor in some many possible moves to try and predict how the game is played but in the end you have to wait for the other person to make their move before you are sure. Before that it is all statistical probabilities. Bashir presenting a conclusion that the Dominion are going to win the war and they should surrender seems laughable but when you consider the next couple of years and the causalities that the Federation would suffer it does put a lot of this in context. Would there have been more lives saved had they surrendered to the Dominion? Very possibly. Would life be intolerable for the many who managed to make it? Most definitely. So which is the better option? More people alive or a more agreeable outcome? Factor yourself into that equation – you will be one of the billions of corpses that doesn’t make it if they continue to fight on and tell me what your answer would be. It would appear there was one element they never factored into their equations – Damar. But that is still to come… With one single stroke the crazies prove why they are danger to society when they decide to give Federation intelligent to the Dominion to ensure that their victory comes at a reduced death count. Weyoun’s reaction to discovering Odo as their contact is hilarious – he genuinely thinks the Odo is going to defect and finds all this subterfuge exciting! When O’Brien says it seems that they have become too complacent about the Dominion I think he is a mouthpiece for the writers and now they have gotten us right back on track.

Moment to Watch Out For: Bashir imploring Serena to untie him and save the Alpha Quadrant from being completely wiped out is beautifully done. You can see why they brought these two together for the sequel.

Result: ‘Its kind of a relief in one way. After all who wants to wave a white flag?’ The writers continues to find unexpected ways to explore the war theme with this intelligent, psychological piece. The way Rene Echevarria weaves both Bashir’s genetic engineering and the war threads together very cleverly allows us to get a new take on both and give the ongoing story a pleasing push in the right direction. The crazies are a colourful bunch, well played and written (Patrick is just adorable) and the way they engage with the details of the war reminds me amusingly of a Star Trek fan trying to figure out from what we have already seen how the story is going to end! There’s so much clever detail in the script and some gorgeous discussion of pre-determinism but I did feel that Bashir pushed a little too hard at the end when his calculations were rejected outright. However the conclusion is salvaged beautifully by a star turn from Faith Salie who manages to express her love for Jack without saying a single word. No wonder upon their return she is given the starring role. I could imagine the concepts of this episode playing out in the other Trek series but when you factor in the war this series has nurtured so carefully it becomes something unique and special. I don’t know much about the future, but I know what I like and I like Statistical Probabilities: 8/10

The Magnificent Ferengi written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Chip Chalmers

What’s it about: Quark, Rom and Nog take on the Dominion to rescue Moogie…

Tasty Terrorist: Kira almost talks to Quark reverentially these days after he rescued her from the Dominion. It’s a very warm development of both characters born out of their desperation during the Occupation.

Community Leader: Despite his efforts during the Dominion Occupation Quark knows that within his everyday life as a bartender he is no hero and his thunder is well and truly stolen when a group of Starfleet heroes enter the bar as he is bewitching the customers with a tale of his latest financial cunning. The Magnificent Ferengi then goes onto to explain that when the life of one of his family is in danger (just like in Favor the Bold/The Sacrifice of Angels) he will always step up to the plate and fight for them. That’s a hero in my book. Quark is always going wind up a winner and he offers and even split of the reward money minus his usual finders fee. Quark wants to prove that Ferengi can be tough as any other race as long as they have the right incentive! He’s pretty embarrassed by his families antics when they are reunited but Keevan doesn’t understand (‘I was cloned’).

What’s Morn up to: He’s forbidden to touch the syrup of Squill, a rare commodity that Quark is going to force people to pay through their noses for!

The Good: I love Quark, Rom and Nog for very different reasons and so bringing them together for a fun action adventure is definitely my idea of a good time. Quark is great because he remains the one true Ferengi of his family, fleecing his customers and reaping the rewards of a greedy life whilst still succumbing to morality at the most unfortunate of moments. Rom makes me smile because he is completely without guile and tries his utmost to ensure that his brother and son are happy usually to his own detriment. And Nog managed to climb out of the hole that was waiting for him as an adult by joining Starfleet and making a man out of himself – and proving that not all kids on Trek shows have to be annoying swots when it comes to joining Starfleet. Together they are a formidable team and highly watchable. Leck is a really gigglesome character to add to the mix, a hardcore action Ferengi who enjoys polishing knives, discussing how to dissect the enemy and enjoys a challenge. Cousin Gailia made an instant impact in last years Business As Usual and now he is broke and stuck in prison and Quark secures his rescue to ensure his co-operation in his little enterprise to save his mother. Nobody would even consider allowing a disgraced Brunt to come along and restore his reputation with the Nagus until he mentions that he has a ship… ‘A child, a moron, a failiure and a psychopath!’ as Brunt says, its quite a little team Quark has put together! I know some people had a problem with a character like Keevan who was so gripping in Rocks & Shoals being used as a pawn in a diabolically funny Ferengi episode but frankly after what he did in that episode I cannot think of a better fate for the guy than to be mistreated and abused in such a way. I think a return to Empok Nor was always on the cards but I never thought it would be in this type of episode…fortunately for us it seems far more suited as a backdrop for some blackly funny antics than it was for an all out psychological horror. The shot of a whole battalion aiming their guns at Nog as he tentatively peers through the Infirmary door is the moment I realised they had really managed to pull off this most insane of concepts! Iggy Pop? Seriously, Iggy Pop is in this! That’s just nuts! Brilliant, but completely nuts. I cannot believe they had the nerve to do an out and out homage to the scene where the three cowboys walk along main street in The Magnificent Seven!

Great Gags: The Magnificent Ferengi is full of moments that genuinely made me belly laugh and here are some of my favourite moments…
  • The very idea of Moogie being kidnapped by the Dominion makes me laugh! Why would they do such a thing? What could they possibly want from Ferenginar? I have the awful vision of a shapeshifter being present during the events of Ferengi Love Songs collecting intelligence as, say, a bowl of freshly chewed tube grubs!
  • ‘Its about the Nagus and Moogie. They’re lovers’ ‘Noooo…’ ‘Its been going on for over a year’ ‘Nooooo…’ ‘She’s his secret financial advisor. She helps him run the entire Ferengi Alliance!’ ‘Noooooo…’ Max Grodenchik nails Rom’s reaction so perfectly.
  • The very fact that there is a dialogue scene between Quark and Rom that sees them continuously moving along the Jeffries tubes and winding up in Sisko’s office. ‘I was following you…’ I love Sisko’s deadpan reaction and the way he practically turns to the camera and goes ‘eh?’
  • Almost as if it is a comment on how TNG tried to make the Ferengi a genuine threat in the first season Quark suggests he is just going to use Ferengi in his commando rescue attempt and Rom replies ‘then we’ll all die!’
  • When Rom tries to implore Nog to help them out you realise how much trouble they are in when he admits that his son is the only person who knows how to fire a phaser!
  • The practice run for rescuing Moogie from the Jem H’adar is like a hilarious parody of the dry run of action in Dark Frontier. It gets me every time I see it! Quark is shot in the leg, Gailia runs away screaming, Rom walks into a wall and Leck kills Moogie! ‘I saw we weren’t going to rescue her so I put her out of her misery!’ Bloody funny!
  • I love the scenes as the Ferengi characters spill out onto the Promenade and when they try and stop Keevan from escaping because they all have such distinct personalities as they try and man up and explore the creepy space station and dash into action. Even better all of these comic actors are trying desperately to upstage each other! All the farcical bumping into walls is a glorious reminder of comedy from yesteryear.
  • ‘The Vorta where is he?’ ‘I don’t know!’ ‘What do you mean you don’t know? You were guarding him!’ ‘He must have slipped away whilst I was sleeping!’
  • ‘Why are we hiding?’ ‘There are Jem H’adar out there!’ ‘Of course they’re out there! We asked them to come!’
  • Nog cuts his own grandmother to make sure that she isn’t a shapeshifter! ‘Now lets see if you’re a changeling!’ she screams smacking him on the head over and over! ‘That’s no way to tell if he’s a changeling!’ declares Rom. ‘You’re right…give me that knife!’
  • Whilst I am shaking my head with despair I am also biting my tongue to stop myself from laughing – sending out Keevan’s corpse by remote control is so side splittingly disgusting how can you resist the laughter? Its like when you hear that somebody has died straining on the toilet, its disgusting, its tragic but its also really funny despite all that. If this were Voyager they would be taking this blackly funny idea deadly serious but on DS9 they simply run with the insane humour and have him walking into walls and tripping over his own feet! ‘What have they done to him?’ Only the Ferengi could possibly think this is a good idea…and that’s why I love them. Plus the way the Keevan corpse walks looks as if the Federation has been committing constant anal rape on him ever since they got their hands on him!
  • ‘This is the sloppiest, most amateurish operation I have ever seen! If you ever do something like this again…count me in!

Moment to Watch Out For: I’ve seen other examples of the ‘accidental death of the hostage’ scenario (I remember The New Avengers pulled it off by having the exchange take place in a lift – yaaaawn!) but this is certainly the funniest. I don’t know if it’s the hysterics (‘you’ve had this coming for a long time cousin!’), the despairing look on Keevan’s face that it has come to this or the camera angle from the corpses point of view of the Ferengi characters all staring down in horror but this just makes me howl.

Result: The funniest, darkest Ferengi comedy on this show since Little Green Men, The Magnificent Ferengi sees this sub genre get right back on track after the dismal Ferengi Love Songs last year. How they manage to weave this insane plot into the Dominion war arc is worthy of praise on its own but this episode manages to offer constant gags, both witty and visual ones and some really tasteless black humour that proves that even when it is being funny this show is still pushing the boundaries. By bringing all of the great Ferengi characters together on this show (it’s a shame Wallace Shawn wasn’t available for this one) you can see just how much time and effort has gone into making these comedy heroes some of the finest characters in the DS9 ensemble (and Leck is a fine addition to the crowd). Its written and filmed in the style of a spaghetti western with lots of inventive camerawork and the way it gets away with confidently pastiching both The Magnificent Seven and the gloriously oddball TOS episode ‘Spock’s Brain’ really makes me smile. Any time I get to spend with Armin Shimmerman, Max Grodenchik, Aron Eisenberg, Cecily Adams, Jeffrey Combs and Josh Pais (& Iggy Pop!) is time I consider very well spent: 8/10

Waltz written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Rene Auberjonois

What’s it about: Its that old DS9 golden formula of isolating two people and letting them battle out their differences.

Single Father: Sisko prefers to think of Dukat as a crazy man and a part of him wishes that he was dead even though he recognises that those are the sorts of thoughts he should be recording in an official log. It definitely sets the tone for the rest of the episode. In the early scenes Sisko treats Dukat sensitively, unlike his razor sharp hatred for Eddington because I think he knows in his heart that Dukat would always have gotten into bed with the Dominion. Its in his character to be nefarious and you can’t punish a man for who he is. Eddington lied about his true nature and drew Sisko into a web of those lies. That’s the big difference between them. Sisko is trapped in an impossible situation of having to feed Dukat’s ego gently whilst still remaining true to his character and telling him what he thinks. He’s in the unenviable position of being the person that Dukat needs approval from and that is something he simply cannot give. Dukat knows that Sisko isn’t a man who hesitates to make snap judgements when the decision calls for it but he cannot tell the man what he really thinks of him whilst he is at his mercy. When Sisko says that Dukat was a soldier and he had to carry out his orders he is merely mollifying him but I think Sisko forgets that he said something very similar in A Time to Stand (‘its war time, I go where I’m sent…) just before he headed a mission that saw the destruction of a Ketracel White facility and a high death count. Maybe there are similarities between these two after all if you look hard enough. His beating at Sisko’s hands is mostly implied rather than shown but from Avery Brooks’ pained, shivering performance you can see how brutal it must have been.

Mr Wolf: There are over 30,000 troops in the defenceless convoy that he has to protect and the Captain is one man…it doesn’t take him any time at all to figure which is more vital.

Slimy Snake: Marc Alaimo has truly become one of the unsung heroes of DS9 over the years. He’s an actor of no small talent and he has been handed a fascinating, three dimensional character that is constantly evolving and surprising its audience. He must have been thrilled each time a new script arrived! I love the ambiguity surrounding the talk of the Lieutenant who was killed when the Hanshu was attacked. Did shrapnel really lodge in his head or did Dukat murder him so he could have this time alone with Sisko? The visions give Dukat’s madness an sinister outlet and all tell us something very interesting about how Dukat sees these people. Weyoun taunts and gloats at him because Dukat saw him as a rival, Damar is his loyal friend and Kira viciously dissects his character as his long term enemy. When Sisko asks Dukat to change the subject he spits on the ground and says ‘the Emissary has spoken.’ For that moment he feels like a man who is jealous that the Bajoran people opened their hearts to Sisko when they couldn’t find it in them to do the same thing for him. He fails to understand why Kira, Odo and the rest didn’t appreciate his gentler policies towards the Bajorans during this Occupation. He’s convinced that he and Benjamin are old friends but he stopped being able to use that term when he got in bed with the enemy and started throwing his weight around the Quadrant. One thing that Dukat has always demanded is that people respect him (he made an announcement to Weyoun in The Sacrifice of Angels that this is his biggest regret during the Cardassian Occupation) which makes him one of the most tragic characters in Star Trek because he simply cannot see the terrible things he does that prevents that. He genuinely thinks anything that elevates him is for the good of everybody else. When you see Dukat having a deep conversation with a rock (that he thinks is Damar) you realise the depths of his psychosis – these visions aren’t just happening in his head but he is seeing these people for real. By the time he became Prefect of Bajor the Occupation had been going on for almost 40 years and the planet still wasn’t ready for full scale colonisation – Central Command wanted the situation rectified ad they didn’t care how it was done. Because the death rate had dropped by 20% at the end of his first month of his administration of the planet Dukat thinks he is some kind of hero – what he forgets is that beside his benevolent acts he was still a tyrant. He’s got unfinished business on Bajor and wants to wipe out the entire populace – finally Star Trek has truly frightening villain to watch out for.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You’re going to share your feelings of isolation and loneliness with your long time adversary! Dr Cox would be so proud!’
‘What do you think they would say if they could see the Emissary of the Prophets and the evil Gul Dukat were sitting her together getting along just like the two old friends that they really are’ – man he really is nuttier than squirrel shit, isn’t he?
‘Yes but Neyrs wont leave well enough alone! She’s always interfering, always trying to upset me!’ ‘Maybe we should just ignore her. Lets pretend that the Major isn’t even here…’ – this manages to be very scary and very funny at the same time, a very hard act to pull off this well.
‘You will forgive me if I don’t consider your honour to be worth Captain Sisko’s life’ ‘You may leave the Bridge, Doctor’ – a surprising exchange from both parties.
Sisko asks Dukat why the Bajorans didn’t appreciate his benevolent leadership during the Occupation and he replies ‘because they were blind, ignorant fools…’ Dukat is one of the finest Trek characters, isn’t he? That level of self deception has to be applauded! ‘We did not choose to be the superior race! Fate handed us that role!’
‘I should have killed every last one of them! I should have turned their planet into a graveyard the likes of which the galaxy has never seen! I should have killed them all!’ – and that’s where Dukat stops being funny and starts being terrifying.

The Good: The opening is extremely strong with Sisko walking the shadowy bowels of a ship we have never seen before to visit the beaten dictator he bested in The Sacrifice of Angels. The opening narrations is one of my favourites – ‘He lost an Empire, he lost his daughter and he nearly lost his mind…whatever his crimes isn’t that enough punishment for one lifetime?’ Dukat is being tried as a war criminal that betrayed the Alpha Quadrant to the Dominion and whilst Sisko states that in the Federation you are innocent until proven guilty Dukat knows that the outcome of his trial will be as certain as that of a Cardassian one. What a brilliant scenario Ron Moore has concocted with Dukat deliberately keeping Sisko on a planet to help him exorcise his demons with Sisko trying desperately attempting to contact his people and get away from this hell hole (whilst making it appear he has been tricked). It adds a desperate Misery-like feeling of claustrophobia to the story which would have been gripping enough had we just dealt with Dukat’s crazy visions in the Starfleet prison. Its not just some ridiculous anomaly that brings the Hanshu down – this is still war time and it’s a Federation ship struck down by Dominion forces. The dilemma of whether to protect the convoy or search for Sisko is pleasingly dramatised and only works this well because of this shows well nurtured characters. Worf is a man of honour who will do as he is told and stop the search to the second to obey his orders, Bashir is a humanitarian who argues that Worf’s honour is not worth Sisko’s life, Dax is appalled at the little time that they have been given by Starfleet and Kira understands that Sisko would do exactly the same thing and abandon the search. Just stick these characters in a sticky situation and watch the fireworks ensue. ‘You’ve got to laugh at a universe that allows such radical shifts in fortune’ – that and a Star Trek universe that is now taking risks with its radical shifts! Imagine if Dukat really did kill Sisko and bring the body of the Emissary back to the Bajorans – what a riot that would cause! Even though I knew it will be a cheat there is still some little part of my mind wondered if they would rescue Sisko when they picked up a distress signal only for two Starfleet nobodies to appear on the transporter pad. The fight between Sisko and Dukat in the runabout is really nasty, there is something unquestionably savage about the way they go at each other which marks this out from the usual camp Trek fights. That final shot of Dukat leaving in the shuttle with the ghosts surrounding him is genuinely nightmarish and one of my most enduring images of this series.

The Bad: There’s that horrendous TNG studio planetary backdrop again! I kind of like it here though because director Rene Auberjonois throws everything he possibly can at Sisko from lightning, savage winds and gritty sand and the backdrop accentuates the dramatic theatrical nature of this story.

Moment to Watch Out For: All of the visions are superbly performed by Jeffrey Combs, Casey Biggs and Nana Visitor  and Marc Alaimo twists his performance so that each one affects him in a very different, disturbing way. Combs gets to play Weyoun as a sadistically cruel version of our usual amiable Vorta and the camera and smiles with relish as he drives home the extent of Dukat’s madness. Casey Biggs offers a silky smooth Damar that feeds Dukat’s ego and whispers to him like an unrequited lover and it makes a lovely change from the brutish aide that we know and love (well hate would be a better word). But nothing could touch Nana Visitor’s bitingly ferocious turn as Kira who feeds on every drop of Dukat’s paranoia and insecurities. ‘I’ll tell you what I think. I think you’re an evil, sadistic man who should have been tried as a war criminal years ago, put up against a wall and shot!’ Brilliantly there is even something vaguely sexual about her performance, the way she fires her insults so directly by leaning in so close to his face is more akin to a lover than an enemy and that makes her words even more frightening. Whilst he is consumed with a rage that Kira despises him he still can’t quite get the idea of them formalising their relationship out of his head. ‘I’m going to enjoy watching this. He’s going to beat you, Dukat. He’s going to escape and go back to DS9 and his friends and we’re all going to have a good, long laugh at your expense…’

Plus the entire sequence where Dukat and Sisko finally have it out with each other. Intense doesn’t cover the fireworks that fly here. ‘Behold, Captain Sisko. I man of such high moral calibre that he can sit in judgement over all the rest of us!’ ‘What the hell do you want from me? My approval? Is that what this is all about? You want me to give you my permission to cause more suffering and death? Well if that’s what you’re after you might as well pull out that phaser and end this right now because I will never give it to you!’ This is the court case that we were denied by his escape in this episode, where the Kira, Damar and Weyoun ghosts get to have their own say on his defence of his dictatorship. It’s a gripping scene, stunningly performed and I was glued to the screen throughout.

Result: A sequel to Duet? Has Ronald D. Moore gone insane? Well apparently not because this is another spellbinding season six effort that takes the controversial route (because in Trek we are so used to humanising the villains) of making Dukat dangerously, unpredictably mad. It’s a phenomenal chance to stick Sisko and Dukat on a remote planet and argue through the decisions made in the past two years and reach the conclusion that they really are enemies despite the Cardassian’s insistence otherwise. What marks this out as something really different are the bitter, twisted and sadistic visions that Dukat has that show the audience directly just what horrors are going on in his head. Marc Alaimo and Avery Brooks are both exceptional and Rene Auberjonois directs the episode with such intensity you might feel as if you have succumbed to its twisted atmosphere before the credits role. The final court room scene where Dukat reaches some truly frightening decisions about his character and the future of Bajor may just be the finest acted scene ever in Star Trek. Waltz is a transfixing psychological piece of drama with outstanding dialogue and is buoyed by the contractual appearances of the regulars rather than suffer because of it. Mesmerising: 10/10

Who Mourns for Morn written by Mark Gehred-O’Connell and directed by Victor Lobl

What’s it about: Morn has died and Quark is left to pick up the pieces…

Unknown Sample: Odo invents a regulation where the contents of a dead mans storage locker has to be inspected by security when the truth is he is just a nosy git!

Mr Wolf: The thought of Worf and Morn being sparring partners and enjoying weekly combat in the holosuites is hilarious! When he is back it is a shame we never got to see them going at it because I would pay good money for that!

Nine Lives: As we all know Dax used to have a little crush on Morn but unfortunately (for her) he wasn’t interested. She was probably a little too easy for him.

Community Leader: It amuses Quark to see his hologram of Morn completely fooling Odo. Quark has cottoned on to the fact that people adore him and so whenever he is away on business he has a fake Morn propped up on the bar! Now that makes me wonder when in all those times I have spotted him I have been seeing the real Morn! When he learns of Morn’s death you can see Quark is thinking of his dropping sales and not the loss of a friend! However being the shrewd Ferengi that he is he soon starts exploiting people with regards to the death customs of Morn’s people, flogging Yuridian ale by the case load! He’s such a lecherous old creep and he enjoys stroking Larell’s legs and nibbling on her chest when he has the power of Morn’s wealth on his side! When a shoot out ensues Quark finds the most agreeable place to run and hide – in a vat of gold!

What’s Morn up to: Ha! Only this show would create a non speaking semi regular who over time starts being weaved into huge plots (he helps get a message to Sisko during the Dominion Occupation) and then gets a whole episode to himself! I think it is about this delightful character is rewarded with some decent exploration and character background, he is adorable and I cannot imagine this show without him and his drunken, flirty presence! Morn had two stomachs to fill so his food and drink bar bill was often extortionate and he died without paying off this months! There are Klingons, humans, Ferengi and Bajorans at his funeral so it would appear the one person who could have united the Quadrant is Morn! He slept in a bed of bubbling, warm mud in otherwise sparse quarters and he was approaching bankruptcy before his death. Apparently he won a thousand bricks of latinum in the Lisepian lottery and has it stashed away as his retirement fund! Basically we learn in this episode that Morn is what we always suspected he was…a talisman at Quark’s and a thoroughly agreeable fellow. Works for me, although I don’t know if we needed a whole episode to figure that one out.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Why doesn’t it talk?’ ‘Do you know how much an interactive hologram costs? Besides it’s a relief to not have to hear him go on…you know Morn, he never shuts up!’ – a chucklesome reference to Morn’s gossipy nature!
‘I bet the Royal Family sleep soundly knowing you’re on the job!’
‘Take that gold dust of yours. I hear there are some cultures that consider it quite valuable…’

The Good: The brothers work in exactly the same way as the two goons in A Simple Investigation didn’t, they bounce well off each other and have witty line in sadistic threats. And for once it’s a humanoid make up job which looks a lot more interesting than just a few bumps or a change of skin colour – these guys look like a cross between man and salamander! At about the half an hour mark you realise that Quark has been fed nothing but a pack of lies throughout the entire episode and that Morn wasn’t a lottery winner, indebted to the brothers or a Prince! He is in fact a shady criminal whose business partners are extremely adept at spinning a web of deceit to get their hands on their share of their last job together. Gregory Itzin has appeared in DS9 before in a far more dramatically satisfying role (Tandrell in season one’s Dax) but he’s such a good actor and he definitely makes the most of what little he gets here. I love the shot of all the criminals pointing their guns at one another and Quark backing up into the path of each one.

The Bad: To the cynically minded this episode could be seen as a pointless jog around the station learning little that is new about its characters and filling up an episode slot in the season. If the acting on display wasn’t so good I might be inclined to waver in favour of that argument.

Moment to Watch Out For: The fact the Morn isn’t dead is not a terrific surprise but where he has been hiding the latinum is! His second stomach! And giving Quark a hundred bricks worth is a very sweet gesture.

Orchestra: I have lauded David Bell’s scores in the dramatic episodes but like The Bride of Chaotica his morose musical style rally doesn’t match up with the lighter ones. Imagine if this had been treated to a truly whacky The Trouble With Tribbles style score?

Fashion Statement: Quark must think that his luck has finally come in when the gorgeous Larell (claiming to be Morn’s wife) appears in his mud bath completely naked!

Result: I never quite know what to make of Who Mourns for Morn which is an agreeable episode but it never really makes me laugh (oh I tell a lie Quark’s screams when the criminals try and take his thumb off had me howling!). Its placing in the season is a little odd because we have only just had a riotous Ferengi episode so another dollop of Quark so soon feels like overkill. However it features a cast of enjoyable characters from Morn’s life that pop up and I wouldn’t mind seeing any of this colourful lot again. As a treasure hunt it lacks the mystery to really lure you in but surprisingly the big revelation at the end really comes as a pleasing surprise. Victor Lobl would go on to direct the seasons finest episode and yet here he doesn’t utilise any of the pacing or weird camerawork that would have made this funnier. I love Morn and I do appreciate this peek into his background but something tells me this might have been better consigned to a subplot. Enjoyable but slack, comfortable but never compelling – its an odd episode for sure but I will take this over the trips to Risa and Ferenginar last year: 6/10

Far Beyond the Stars written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Avery Brooks

What’s it about: A man who dreams of the future where a coloured man could be the head of a space station…

Single Father: The war is really taking its toll on Sisko as another ship is destroyed with one of his friends killed in action. He’s frustrated that every time he achieves a real victory something comes along and snatches it away. Benny is a shy, retiring sort of man who adopts that role so that he isn’t noticed because of his colour. He’s so proud of his story even though he knows that it is revolutionary and everybody admits that it is fantastic before Pabst tears his dream away of it ever being published. The hurt that Avery Brooks expresses and the desperate need to get this message out there is devastating to watch. When they agree to publish his stories Brooks plays Benny in a blur of euphoria and he takes the audience right along with him. We should know by now with this show that when things get too happy we are heading for a fall (indeed Sisko says it himself in the first scene) but its so great to see Benny so happy you cannot help but smile! He suffers the indignity and pain of a beating at the hands of the cops and then is informed that the issue his story is due to be published in is to be pulped. He is crushed, this is the epitome of a beaten man and has raging, breathless outburst is his final act of defiance to a system that constantly knocks him down because of his race. Calm never got him a damn thing and now he needs to scream at a punishing world before collapsing to the floor with every ounce of fight bled from him.

Mr Wolf: Michael Dorn is an absolute revelation in his role as a charismatic, egotistical baseball player who is allowed to play because he is so good. Its so different from his grumpy, deadpan turn as Worf its like being slapped around the face to see what a versatile actor he is.

Community Leader: Herbert Ross is a man who is full of his own self importance and can take a picture that he declares garbage and turn it into a story worthy of the name art. Armin Shimmerman has been pleasingly vocal about his pride in this episode and you can tell how much he enjoyed the chance to rip off the make up and say something really important for a change. Don’t get me wrong he’s always great in his role as Quark but there is a blazing eyed passion to his performance here that left me reeling.

Young Sisko: ‘The only reason they would let us in space would be if they want someone to shine their shoes!’ Hurrah to Cirroc Lofton for completely throwing himself into the role of Jimmy. Considering how little we have seen of Jake of late its another great performance in an episode packed with them.

Freighter Captain: Its been ages since we last saw Kassidy (nearly an entire season ago in Rapture) so her appearance is long overdue (that’s what happens when you cast a much sought after actress like Penny Johnson). And you can see why she is much sought after with her performance here, footloose and fancy free and offering a great deal of sex appeal.

Head Chef: Twice in one season! Go Joseph! He was always taught when you are asked a question say something nice so he describes the station as…big. Joseph has finally decided to stop being so stubborn and come visit his son because its clear that he has been carrying the fate of the entire Alpha Quadrant on his shoulders and it is now or never.

Starfleet Ferengi: Just as I suspect…Aron Eisenberg is the cutest thing on two legs sans makeup and his little cameo at the beginning is delightful. ‘Machine guns blazing…ahahaha!’

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Oh I bet you can! I can see it now…a lonely little girl befriended by apathetic aliens who teach her how to smile! Its enough to make you want to go out and buy a television set!’
‘If the world’s not ready for a woman writer imagine what happen if it learnt about a Negro with a typewriter? Run for the hills, it’s the end of civilisation!’
‘You see Albert’s got the right idea. He’s not interested in Negroes or whites he writes about robots!’ ‘That’s because he is a robot! No offence Albert…’
‘Well I’ve got news for you. Today or a hundred years from now it don’t make a bit of difference…to them we’ll always be niggers.’
‘You cannot destroy an idea!’
‘For all we know at this very moment somewhere far beyond all those distant stars…Benny Russell is dreaming of us.’

The Good: Lets start with the title which is beautiful and the premise of a black man in the fifties looking to the future and hoping for better things. The racism angle is really well done on two counts because it reveals how far we have come since the sixties (with Avery Brooks cast as the series’ lead and strong black presence in this show) but also how far we still have to go (during the scenes of racial violence in this episode you only have to watch the news to see similar stories being told on a day to day basis). Exploring the theme through Benny dreaming of life among the stars running a space station called Deep Space Nine in the 24th Century is ingenious and imaginative and allows the writers the chance to blow their own trumpets and add lots of funny details as the 50s characters discuss DS9 and its cast. There’s a terrific reminder to the audience that the war is far from over in the first scene and Sisko has a teasing line about everybody thinking that the war was done with once they had retaken the station and pushed the Dominion back into Cardassian space. That’s what the audience has come to expect from Star Trek – even if you play out a war over seven episodes! The ghostly slow motion appearances of Odo and Worf in human guises are cute but its how Brooks effortlessly transports himself from the station to a street in Chicago only to be knocked down by a car that really impresses. I’m glad the writers chose to remind us about the vision in Rapture to which this episode could be seen as a sequel. As soon as we head back in time the whole episode is imbued with a glorious period atmosphere that is filmed so authentically it is easy to relax your way into just before the story gets more and more intense and makes you want to get away as soon as possible. Benny gets buoyed up by the image of Deep Space Nine and the storytelling possibilities that it offers just as the writers have been throughout the last six years. I love the idea that a single image can fire a writers imagination, its why there are so many wonderful stories out there. Brooks introduces us to two distinct worlds – the area of town where the black community is segregated and the rest and one is welcoming and full of warm characters and the other is a danger zone where people will judge you as soon as they look at you. To not make the story so black and white in both you have the exception to the norm – Herb is a supporter of black peoples rights and Jimmy is a criminal lowlife who conforms to every stereotype the white community would throw at him. The fact the editor of the magazine cannot buy into the idea of a Negro as the head of a space station is chilling – if people can’t even respect the ideas as fiction then how on Earth would something like that ever become a reality? Pabst’s line about sticking the story in a draw until the human race becomes colour blind really hits home. I love how Brooks switches between Benny & Cassie and Ben & Kassidy dancing together, the music suggests a dreamlike state and we are swept along with it. You would never believe that the scene where Benny and Cassie depart a nightclub was filmed on the Paramount backlot, its bursting with extras, cars and plenty of character. It looks like it has leapt from the cinema straight onto our screens at home. You could be critical about Avery Brooks’ performance when Benny breaks down but I think he is phenomenal, injecting all of his passion into a speech that he is clearly invested in. To watch a man fall to the floor in tears because of something as dreadful as racism is really hard to watch. This time the good guys don’t win and we are left with a lingering feeling of disappointment that prejudice could win through. Its precisely the right note to leave this story on because it gives you plenty to think about. Just as good is Sisko’s wrap up speech questioning reality and suggesting that they are all figments of Benny Russell’s imagination.

In Joke: There are so many lovely little touches in this episode I thought I would have a section to list them…
  • In the Bennyverse the characters played by Nana Visitor and Alexander Siddig are a couple…just as they were in real life at the time!
  • Pabst and Herb are constantly at loggerheads with each…just as Odo and Quark always are and it gives Rene Auberjonois and Armin Shimmerman to do what they do best, to spar delightfully!
  • Kay has to sleep late the day there is a photo shoot of the writers because god forbid anybody finds out that she is a woman. It’s a poignant reminder that it wasn’t just the ethnic community that were persecuted for who they were in this period – women had a rough time of it as well. The story really hits home when it parallels what D.C Fontana went through when she wrote for the original Star Trek series in the sixties.
  • Marc Alaimo and Jeffrey Combs are (brilliantly) playing the villains, a pair of sadistic cops who are just looking for an excuse to beat up Benny simply because he is black.
  • When Sisko writes six sequels to his story I wonder if they were called ‘Past Prologue’, ‘A Man Alone’, ‘Babel’, ‘Captive Pursuit’, ‘Q-Less’ and ‘Dax.’

Moment to Watch Out For: We stare racism right in the face as the camera swings up from Jimmy who has bled to death by gunshot wounds and experience Benny getting a vicious beating at the hands of the police (the authority figures!). Its shockingly graphic and Brooks never shies away from the violence, in fact he forces you to endure it far longer than Trek would usually dwell on such things because he wants to show you this is where prejudice can lead. Very cleverly he films some of this scene from our POV so it is literally the audience that is getting beaten up. This could be you if somebody felt that strongly that you were different. Its probably the most important scene in Star Trek ever.

Fashion Statement: Its glorious to get the chance to see what these actors look like without their make up and so whilst Alexander Siddig, Colm Meaney and Avery Brooks hold no surprises we get to see some real expression from Shimmerman, Auberjonois, Hetzler, Combs & Alaimo. Whilst we see most of Penny Johnson, Nana Visitor and Terry Farrell anyway it is amazing how different they look with a wrinkled nose and spots. Stick the girls in some period costumes and they look sophisticated and very beautiful. How cool does Brooks look in his suit and hat humming with the kids as they walk down the streets?

Orchestra: Every detail has been considered in this episode and that includes the music. The saxophone plays throughout the day to day scenes of Benny’s life, stressing the period this is set.

Foreboding: The visions would be back to plague Sisko one last time in seasons seven’s Shadows & Symbols.

Result: Avery Brooks’ masterpiece, exquisitely directed and acted by the shows leading man in an episode that promotes Sisko as a modern day icon. Far Beyond the Stars is one of the most extraordinary episodes in an extraordinary season and manages to be many things at once. It’s a unflinching, touching treatise on racism, a gripping character drama, a chance to see all of the regulars out of their make up and a promotion of the idea that the future will be better if we work to make it so. In every way this is the perfect Star Trek episode and coming from the bastard child of the franchise that is quite a feat. Its also the point where the cast of DS9 prove without a shadow of a doubt that they are finest arsenal of acting talent that the franchise has at its disposal and everybody from the regulars to the recurring cast are on superb form. Is Benny and his experience a dream handed down by the Prophets or is our DS9 Trek universe created by the imagination of a discouraged man dreaming of a better future? Who knows? All that can be sure is that this episode opens a revolving door between the two and teaches us something very profound about ourselves at the same time. A classic: 10/10

One Little Ship written by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: Honey I Shrunk the Runabout!

Single Father: Sisko is the reason that Alpha Quadrant Jem H’adar exist so the First thanks him for being so bloody minded and stopping the reinforcements from coming through the wormhole. When Sisko started reeling off all the technobabble that the enemy are going to have to learn in order to fly the ship I thought I had slipped back in time to the TNG episode Rascals when Riker did pretty much the same thing. Until I realised that the Jem H’adar are way scarier than the Ferengi and Sisko is in much greater danger if he gets caught. He’s smart enough to recognise that the relationship between the Alphas and the Gammas is explosive and subtly manipulates both to his advantage.

Tasty Terrorist: Kira accepts that they are about to blown to pieces but takes comfort with the fact that they will take the Jem H’adar with them.

Mr Wolf: He’s angry at himself for losing the ship to the Jem H’adar and takes it out on Nog – sacrilege darling!

Everyday Engineer: ‘Are you telling my I’m gonna be this bloody tall of the rest of my life?’

GE Doctor: ‘I’m sorry…it was very small of me’ Even Bashir has found the fun again (he’s been a little depressed of late) and I love his upside down revelation of what has happened to the runabout.

Nine Lives: Dax doesn’t need any persuasion to pilot their tiny ship inside the Defiant! She just says ‘I love it, let go!’ and gets on with the plot. Its almost as if the character know how we want this to proceed.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I do not see what is so humorous about being small’ ‘Neither do I!’ – poor titchy Nog!
‘And they say you don’t have a sense of humour…’

The Good: Things get off on exactly the right foot with Kira laughing her head off at the sheer ridiculousness of the premise and the writers letting us know that they know how barmy it is and just to go with it for a fun ride. Voyager writers (especially when it comes to evolving the Captain and helmsman into lizards) please take note. Just when we think we are in for an episode of Honey I Shrunk the Runabout along comes a Jem H’adar attack squad to kick the shit out of the Defiant and take the crew hostage! Now they have my attention. Its nice to see after two seasons of treating the Jem H’adar as mindless thugs (I like them that way, they’re scarier) there is some development of their race by introducing a new breed of soldiers created in the Alpha Quadrant. The conflict between the Alphas and the Gammas works for the purposes of this episode although it might have been nice to have worked their conflict into the overall arc of season seven (although to be fair they did have rather a lot to wrap up without adding further complications). There are some very effective effect shots in this episode but I think the one which impressed me the most was the dramatic zoom away from the runabout and along the Defiant’s hull. Every rivet on that ship looks real these days thanks to some impressive CGI. Tee hee…I have always taken the Michael at how ridiculous the runabouts are as offensive weapons (especially when Sisko ordered their launch in By Inferno’s Light) and here they have built an entire episode around the idea that a shrunken version can take down an entire squad of Jem H’adar soldiers! I’ll never take the piss again! And doesn’t it look just the cutest thing the way it hovers around like a lazy bumble bee up plasma shafts and along corridors? Leland Crooke is no Jeffrey Combs but he still gives a pleasingly slimy portrayal of Gelnon and it is nice to see him turn up in the next episode too. O’Brien talking us through who is actually working on the warp drive and all the subterfuge that is going on elsewhere. Seriously – how is this episode this good? We’ve seen giant isolinear chips since season one of TNG so to have Bashir and O’Brien walking around a crazy, colourful set mapped out with giant versions is great fun. It’s the most delightful coda since Accession with Worf cracking a joke about his (lack of a) poem and Odo and Quark playing a prank on Bashir and O’Brien about their size (the giant Dabo girl is hilarious!).

The Bad: I wouldn’t have even bothered to try and squeeze in the science element of the episode about the oxygen particles although you just know there would be a number of science geeks out there whose heads explode with the illogic of the idea of beaming off the ship!

Moment to Watch Out For: I find it astonishing that they would use up such a large chunk of budget on such a ridiculous set piece but I’m really glad they took the plunge because the all out action in Engineering at the climax had me bouncing up and down on my seat. The gunplay is impressive and this crew once again show their formidable talent in combat but what makes it so special for me is the teeny tiny runabout and its pellet like torpedoes striking the chests of the Jem H’adar soldiers! Its funny, exciting and really barmy!

Result: Somehow (and please don’t ask me how) this singularly failed to suck! One Little Ship has one of the most ridiculous concepts ever to come out of the Voyager bargain bin and yet the show as presented is glossy, pacy and most of all funny! The interaction between the regulars is better than ever and they are just running with the lighter tone of the piece (‘is it my imagination or did the kid just cover for him?’). After helming some awesomely significant arc episodes Allan Kroeker gets the chance to have some fun and with some dazzling effects work and a sparkling script he has all the tools at his disposal to pull of a first class hour of entertainment. What really makes One Little Ship work is how it should be another daft Trek schedule filler but the Dominion war arc butts its nose in before the titles have even run and so afford the episode some bold visuals and a truly wonderful action sequence at the climax. I remember just before I first saw this one preparing myself for it to be dreadful and smiling all the way through at how stylish and engaging it was. Against all the odds this is a really agreeable slice of high concept madness: 8/10

Honor Amongst Thieves written by Rene Echevarria and directed by Allan Eastman

What’s it about: O’Brien is working undercover to infiltrate the Orion Syndicate…

Everyday Engineer: O’Brien is the perfect man to be handed this assignment because he doesn’t have to try to be a normal man who is down on his luck. Like the alternative Smiley in Crossover it is a role that Colm Meaney can completely sell with his puppy dog eyes and weary attitude and you could imagine anybody wanting to befriend this guy. It might be a little odd that Starfleet security chose a low ranking officer (and a family man at that) for this dangerous assignment but these are desperate times and they must have all agreed that he just looked the part. This episodes is so beautifully performed I’m happy to skip over the reason of why O’Brien was chosen and just enjoy his time amongst the criminal class. It would appear O’Brien is as invaluable as everybody says since the station seems to fall apart the second he is off on his mission for Starfleet security! Goodness knows what they did when he left post What You Leave Behind. Its not his perfectly detailed credentials that convinces Bilby of O’Briens sincerity, it is his honest reaction to his wife’s dry cake. As soon as Bilby witnesses for him O’Brien realises how far this has gone and a mans life hangs in the balance and he is too much of a human being to write him off just because he has committed criminal acts. He’s not so much seduced by the lifestyle but the company of Bilby and begins enjoying his assignment because he gets to spent time with his friend. O’Briens awkward reaction to having to turn down the prostitute is very funny! O’Brien should have left well alone because he forced Bilby into a position where he has to choose to die, but he couldn’t live with his conscience if he hadn’t at least tried to stop him.

GE Doctor: There’s a really interesting relationship developing between Bashir and Sisko this season that I like a lot. It appears that Bashir is the one character who isn’t willing to put up with Sisko’s excuses and there are scenes between them in Statistical Probabilities, Honor Amongst Thieves and In the Pale Moonlight that are great examples of the character conflict that DS9 is celebrated for.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Gentleman we just robbed the bank of Bolias!’ ‘I was thinking of opening an account there…’
‘Don’t tell me you don’t like girls?’
‘I wasn’t even your target…I suppose I’m not important enough.’

The Good: Star Trek is notorious for its pretty but unexciting (and shockingly repetitive) establishing planet shots. There are a few exceptions that are stunning (Bajor & Cardassia both say a lot about their respective races) but on the whole we get the same matte shot over and over for new planets (this is especially apparent in TNG and VOY which head off to other worlds all the time). Honor Amongst Thieves has a gorgeous establishing shot of the industrial park on Farius and it is packed with detail (walkways, skyscrapers in the distance, shuttles rushing about, a transit system, people walking the streets and a general dark, oppressive atmosphere) that makes it look like a place that is truly worth exploring. We move around a bar where there is gambling, drugs being sniffed, drinking and a dishevelled looking O’Brien at the bar. It’s a dark, dingy opening that really captures your attention. Its great to finally get to explore the seedy world of the Orion Syndicate after discovering about the criminal organisation in The Ascent (where they tried to kill Odo & Quark) and A Simple Investigation (where we were introduced to the idea of cyber crime). Secret meetings in dark, smoky passageways…this is what espionage tales are all about! They have really got the hang of these ‘contractual obligation’ scenes for the regulars these days when they want to focus on one character for the most part – Quark and Odo clashing in Ops is great fun and Bashir’s concern for his friends is palpable. I love the bar set, it is a terrifically seedy location to set the main action in and has been lit to perfection to allows for some vivid theatrical shots. Rene Echevarria is perfect to script a character like Bilby because he excels at this kind of intimate drama and bringing guest characters to life with real economy and shrewdness (Yedrin Dax and Laas from Children of Time & Chimera are too similar examples of his ability in this discipline). He’s a family man who has fallen into a bad crowd that allows him to give them the life they deserve, he’s in over his head and cannot break free and has been seduced by the responsibility and control that his job gives him. He’s essentially a decent man who does terrible things for a living for all the right reasons. Nick Tate excels in bringing this complex character to life and any scene between him and Colm Meaney shines with acting talent. I love the scene where Bilby shoots his contact in the leg and then murders him because until that point he has been portrayed as quite a nice guy but suddenly his dangerous side emerges and you know a similar fate awaits O’Brien if he is ever discovered as a fraud. Poor Bilby tells O’Brien that he can read people really well and knows what’s in their hearts…however this episode ends you know his confidence in himself is going to be shot to hell. Speaking as cat person (I have two gorgeous girls) Chester makes my heart melt! The episode starts with O’Brien out to expose the Orion Syndicate contact in Starfleet but soon becomes much more interesting when the Dominion make their presence known. What the Dominion/Orion Syndicate are planning is monstrous but the Federation taking a step back and allowing the Klingons to execute the criminals is similarly discomforting. You can see why O’Brien is trapped in moral dilemma. O’Brien admitting his deception to Bilby is a wonderfully acted moment and it genuinely feels like a climactic moment in their relationship despite the fact they hadn’t set eyes on each other before this episode. The fact that Bilby walks off to face his death at the hands of the Klingons to protect his family is heartbreaking and he finally proves how honourable he is. Hurrah – Chester is now staying with the O’Briens!

Moment to Watch Out For: I love the sequence where a traitor in the ranks is exposed and you are so sure that it is going to be O’Brien. The way Gelnon enjoys purring past the four men who are crapping themselves trying to figure out which one of them it is another example of Dominion cruelty. The performances, music and lighting here are just superb (as they are for the rest of the episode too). And then they hit us with the awesome revelation that the Klingon disruptors are for an assassination of the Klingon Ambassador at Farius to tear the Empire apart. To suggest that Gowron has executed this man because of his political leanings - that the Klingons should break away from them and concentrate on defending the Empire - is typical insidious Dominion politics.

Result: To think this is exactly the sort of filler episode that would be completely forgettable in earlier seasons but thanks to the exposure of the Orion Syndicate, Colm Meaney and Nick Tate’s gorgeous performances and the tense atmospherics that Allan Eastman achieves in this fresh environment it is a massively enjoyable character piece. What I love about this season is how even the standalone episodes are dragged into the Dominion war arc and the sudden twist in the heart of Honor Amongst Thieves offers another intriguing angle that the enemy is engaging to bring down the great powers in the Alpha Quadrant. How they are scrutinising the war through so many angles is coalescing to create one of the most detailed and thought provoking arcs I have seen in science fiction. The O’Brien/Bilby relationship is written superbly and we are never allowed to forget the danger that our everyday engineer is in right up until the climax where he makes a powerful decision. It’s a quiet episode that deals with some dark possibilities (assassinating the Klingon High Council) but never forgets about its character so it drives one hell of an emotional punch at the end. Any episode that pushes Colm Meaney to the front of the pack is destined to be a winner and this is another example of the ‘torture O’Brien’ sub genre that really hits the spot: 8/10

Change of Heart written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by David Livingston

What’s it about: Dax and Worf are off on a mission behind enemy lines together…

Single Father: It seems that every episode these days has a great Sisko scene. He chews Worf out at the end for failing to complete the mission but sympathises with him by saying he would have probably done the same thing.

Mr Wolf: The story opens on the familiar scene of Dax and Quark playing Tongo which we have seen several times now (Playing God, Business as Usual) but with the added pleasure of having Worf watching her from the rafters and placing a wager on her with O’Brien at the outcome of the game. It shows how much he has grown because he has always hated Quark and everything that he stands for but he is willing to hanging around and watch the game because his wife is playing. Even when he has absolutely no idea how the game is played! And to top it off…she loses and he owes O’Brien a bottle of single malt from the Highlands but he still doesn’t care because he lost a bet on his wife and got to enjoy the game. I don’t know if I’ve ever liked Worf quite as much as I do in this episode. His ‘Jadzia, get up…’ before pulling away the covers and leaving her naked and freezing in bed is hilarious – Simon does the very same thing to me whenever I have to get up early! He capitulates to her wish to visit Casperia Prime and cheekily asks her if she wanted to fight over it. Clearly married life really agrees with him!  I love the way they bicker amusingly…it feels so real and Worf listing all of Jadzia’s irritating domestic rituals had me laughing my head off. The way Dax hits Worf when he is trying to clean her wound…that’s something I do to Simon! There two really remind me of us at times. Using the mating cries to detect approaching Jem H’adar shows off Worf’s ability to read nature. Worf is trapped in an impossible dilemma of whether to save his wife or save the Dominion contact. Everything in his life is about honour and duty and it is wonderful to see him abandon that in order to save the woman he loves. If there was ever a moment to high five Worf, this would be it! The information Losaren had could have saved millions of lives but Worf could not ignore the beating of his heart, consequences be damned. He has risked his career and he probably wont be offered a command after his actions but he still knows he has done the right thing.

I could have never have left my husband to die like this even if it had cost me my life in the bargain – the few times he has been in pain it has felt like agony for me too. To be able to walk away and leave him to die would take a braver, more heartless man than me.

Everyday Engineer: ‘Think of it as a challenge!’ ‘That’s your obsession Miles, not mine’ Clearly Keiko has been away for a while and the very horny and frustrated Irishman has to get his kicks elsewhere and so ropes Julian into crushing Quark’s winning streak at Tongo (since he’s hopeless at it himself). The relaxed chemistry between Meaney and Siddig make these scenes very easy to watch even though they aren’t really about anything in particular.

GE Doctor: ‘Genetically engineered or not…you’re still hew-mon’ Julian thinks he is so smart taking on Quark at Tongo and he might think that he has learnt all the rules and strategies but he has forgotten the psychological angle that Quark exploits to his advantage. There’s actually some very useful set up in this subplot that creeped up on me unexpectedly. It resurrects the feelings that Bashir once had for Jadzia (which was neatly put to rest in Starship Down) and he walks away from the game thinking he has missed his opportunity with the one woman who might have made him truly happy. He doesn’t know what the future holds but there will be a new, single Dax along pretty soon and things may start to develop…

Nine Lives: ‘Just kiss me and go…’ The Dax/Worf relationship is at its peak and examined in real depth here – even something as simple as their bedroom rituals with Dax gossiping away and falling silent as Worf prays and then Dax enticing him into bed wrapped in furs feels very real to me. She rejects all of Worf’s energetic honeymoon ideas and he crumples as she says that she wants a room with a view that makes you want to break down and cry at the sheer beauty of it…because he fears she is talking about Risa again (and so are we!). Seeing her wrap the blanket around Worf to keep out the cold and then cuddle him tight is so charming it made me purr. This material isn’t revolutionary but for Star Trek it certainly is and its like being cuddled yourself to watch it. With Terry Farrell’s incredible performance and some effective make up Dax looks really ill and it sells the danger of the situation. She can’t resist cracking jokes even when her life hangs in the balance, bless her. Farrell’s performance when she tells Worf to leave her might just break your heart.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘On the Enterprise I was considered to be quite amusing’ ‘That must have been one dull ship!’ – where do I start with the funny?
‘When this mission is over I will smile all you want’ ‘Oh you promise?’
‘You come first. Before career. Before duty. Before anything.’

The Good: Ron Moore has such an ear for entertaining, believable dialogue and the runabout scenes features Dax and Worf batting back and forth one great line after another. Although this is primarily a character study of our newlyweds, its another piece of the Dominion war puzzle with Losaren wanting to defect from the enemy with valuable information that could aid with the war effort (in particular he knows how many changelings there are in the Alpha Quadrant and what their current locations are). Its coming at the war from yet another angle to give it more substance. Losaren’s blatant racism towards his rescue party is another intelligent detail. The runabout weaving through the asteroid field is a completely pointless and yet gorgeously detailed effect as is the ship making an atmospheric landing over the cluster of trees. Its one of the most convincing jungle sets we have ever seen in Trek, exquisitely lit to looks humid as a rainforest and filled with snakes and lizards to add some exotic detail. For some shots you would swear they dumped Michael Dorn and Terry Farrell in the middle of a real jungle with a camera and told them to film the episode! Moore wisely ends his subplot halfway through the episode so as not to gut the tragedy of the main plot – he really did learn his lesson from Life Support!

I’m on the fence about the ending of this episode – not that Worf went back to save his wife because I would have felt that it was a complete betrayal of the character had he let her die – but this would have been the perfect point for Jadzia to die. It really feels as if we are leading up to that climax and it is snatched away at the last minute. The performances are so sensitive it would have broken my heart to have lost her at this point. However the scenes between the couple after Worf does save her are so beautifully done I really cannot complain. And I do rather like the sudden, tragically unfortunate way that Jadzia dies in Tears of the Prophets. This feels like it is made to say goodbye to a character whereas her shocking death at Dukat’s hands for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time is somehow more tragic because it just happens. Like I said, I’m on the fence. Had she died here I wouldn’t have objected because it would have felt right (although Worf would have had to have at least tried to have saved her and been too late for that to have felt natural) but the very wrongness of the actual death at the end of the season has much more of an impact.

The Bad: Putting a married couple together on a mission is probably the least smartest move you could make…especially when they have to head behind enemy lines. A compromised mission is a dead certainty. The subplot of O’Brien and Bashir taking on Quark at Tongo to wipe the smile off his face is really cute but let’s not pretend it is anything more than filling time to pad out the episode.

Moment to Watch Out For: The last scene between Dax and Worf is just beautiful. I don’t know if I have seen a better example of love in Star Trek.

Result: A vastly underrated episode that proves to be the finest character study of Dax and Worf we would get with both characters on top form. I love the relaxing, natural chemistry between Michael Dorn and Terry Farrell at this stage of the show and they get the chance to bring some superb Ronald D. Moore dialogue to life. The plot is pretty predictable until the end but that isn’t the point of what we are watching. The whole idea of going on this dangerous mission with the newlyweds is to be entranced in their company and then to ask the audience to question themselves at the climax and see what they would do in Worf’s impossible dilemma. As a example of the new places that DS9 took Worf there is no finer episode and I have to say he has never been more likable. There’s some more detail added to the Dominion war, a cute subplot that sets up some future developments for Bashir and Dax and a heart-warming conclusion that puts the icing on the cake as far as the weight of this marriage is concerned. Change of Heart isn’t the most gripping episode of Deep Space Nine but its nicely directed, gorgeously acted and is packed with real sentiment that proves to be quite seducing. If this is how good the mid season filler episodes are we are in fantastic shape: 8/10

Wrongs Darker than Death or Night written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Jonathan West

What’s it about: Kira has to face up to her mothers mucky past…

Single Father: Another Sisko cameo and another great scene. His ‘excuse me?’ when Kira says she is going to use the Orb of Time to head back in time to find out the truth about her mother is the equivalent of Avery Brooks raising an arched eyebrow directly to the audience to let us know the writers know it is an insane idea but go with it. He starts telling her that the Federation has strict regulations about time travel but what he rally means is he dreads another visit from Temporal Investigations!

Tasty Terrorist: We’ve all been watching Star Trek for too long now not to recognise when a character is heading for a fall and Kira admitting that her father always said that her mother was the bravest woman he ever met is a classic warning sign. Kira is already the most explored Star Trek character and now we get to skip back in time and meet her family and look at the grey areas that they faced during the occupation. She really is one of the finest female characters to have been represented on television because there is so much substance to her personality and history. I love the scene where Kira tells Bashir to piss off back to work and reminds everybody in Ops that it isn’t gossips corner – whilst I am pleased that there is a much more relaxed atmosphere on the station than in the earlier seasons its good to remind people they are still at work! The way she comfortingly tries to befriend her mother and protects her is touching, especially during the scene where she discovers the scar on her face. Whilst unsavoury, Kira’s interaction with her sleazy Cardassian suitor is also very funny (‘You’d like to get us all drunk and kill us in our beds’ ‘Are you sure you’re not part Betazoid?’). The horror of seeing her mother seduced by the comforting lifestyle that Dukat offers and slipping so effortlessly into the regime that she has always thought so hard against makes Kira sick to her stomach. She tries to reason with her mother but the truth of the matter is that Meru is too fragile to resist Dukat’s charms and has bought into every one of his excuses. The choice to murder her own mother is a massive moment for Kira, it’s a moment of violent emotion that she will have to come to peace with in her own time but within the confines of this story and given Kira’s beliefs and history it makes perfect sense when confronted with such a repulsive shock. Where Voyager would have offered a nice tidy ending DS9 leaves us upset that Kira’s opinion of her mother has been completely soured by this experience. It’s an honest, satisfying ending that means something for the character.

Unknown Sample: In the face of Kira’s wrath only Odo is willing to speak up and make her realise how abusively she is behaving. 

Nine Lives: Jadzia does not believe there is such a thing as privacy between friends. That explains why she is such a merciless gossip!

Slimy Snake: After his revelatory chills in Waltz I have been chomping at the bit to see Dukat return to take his vengeance on Bajor and this is an intriguing start to his revenge plan. Contacting Kira in the early hours to inform her, sitcom style, that he used to her mother’s lover wasn’t exactly what I had in mind but as far as Kira is concerned that is more horrific than anything he could have done to the planet and its populace. I remember when I first watched this episode and I was unconvinced at first and felt as though the writers were making this up to create some drama between the two characters but the more I thought about, the more it made sense. Since season four Dukat has been trying to get close to Kira for some unknown reason and we always thought it was because he wanted to seduce her. On the one hand it would make perfect sense that he would like to get to know the daughter of the woman he loved during the Occupation (one of the many women he took to his bed it would seem) and on the other it is very Dukat to want to take to his bed both mother and daughter to feed his ego and try and salvage something of Meru in Kira. Either way it is a stomach churning twist that opens up a nasty wound, gives the episode a solid issue to explore and leaves dramatic possibilities for the future. Not bad going at all! You definitely get the sense that Dukat loves being able to parade up and down and make these Bajoran women feel comfortable on the station, strutting his stuff and flirting with the ladies are two of his most favourite things! What is frightening is that within the confines of his quarters Dukat can be a good man and a generous lover to Meru but as soon as he walks out of the door each morning he is once again a sadistic dictator controlling the lives of millions.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Whilst your busy in here playing parlour games he is carrying out the extermination of our people…’ – it warms my cockles to think that a Star trek show flaunted fantastic dialogue like this.
‘Is that what you tell yourself that you’re doing it for the children? The clothes, the food, the easy living…that you’re doing it for them - are you that deluded? Its not for them, its for you. You like it here, you enjoy playing house with that murderer. Don’t you see what you are? What you’ve allowed yourself to become? You’re a collaborator!’

The Good: There is a very subtle effects shot of the exterior of the station where you can see the colours of the Promenade through the windows on the upper level. Frankly these Trek shows use so many extreme and unconvincing methods to travel through time I am glad that DS9 has skipped all the pretence and created a device wherein they can pop back to the past whenever they choose! If that sounds like a glib answer to the Orb of Time’s convenient abilities I’ll counter that with the fact that nobody minded during Trials and Tribble-ations. I’ve always believed that good lighting can make or break a show and Jonathan West goes out of his way to prove that by filling this episode with beautiful images. He manages to use the neon backdrops of the station well, adds a real sense of mysticism to the temple scenes on Bajor and uses striking sunlight to catch the faces of the characters on the station to point out that the mining facility is still in orbit of Bajor. The wormhole has been a source of creative and visual joy on this show but the glorious way the sunlight spills through the windows in this episode almost makes me wish the station had stayed in orbit of Bajor. We’ve heard much about the Singha refugee camp so it is great to finally see it and its about as unhealthy an environment to bring up children as you can imagine with Bajorans holding knives on to each others throats to steal what little food they are given from each other. These kind of details that make the Bajorans more than just victims but idealists too (especially Basso, Dukat’s vile Bajoran aide who has definitely made the best of a bad situation and even Meru eventually who is seduced by the luxury Dukat can offer her) makes the situation far from black and white. Just when you think the Cardassians cannot be portrayed any more hatefully along comes their requests for ‘comfort women’, literally cherry picking the prettiest ladies of the race they have conquered to make their tour of duty raping their planet more comfortable. Having their egos (and a lot more besides) stroked by the women they have dominated – its so tasteless (especially Basso telling the ladies that Cardassians value cleanliness so to scrub up well when they are being forced to do something so dirty) it turns my stomach. The scene where Meru is dragged from her family might have been overplayed if it wasn’t for the fact that Kira can see herself experiencing the loss of her mother which is heartbreaking. Visiting the station at its inception is a healthy reminder that the very location we visit every week had a much more sinister purpose when it was first built and the history that comes with it. Whilst we were never going to see full blown shagging against a wall on primetime television there is a repulsive shot of a Cardassian literally devouring Meru’s neck whilst she struggles against him. Just as we have written off Meru as a collaborator along comes the message from her husband that makes her break down and forces both the audience and Kira to rethink our position. Is she making a sacrifice to give her family a better life or has she abandoned them to a better life with Dukat? The episode offers both possibilities and allows the audience to make up its own mind on the presentation and I like the moral ambiguity of that.

The Bad: And the award for the most pretentious title goes too…Wrongs Darker than Death or night! In a hotly competitive race against other stalemates such as Nor the Battle to the Strong, The Darkness and the Light, Ties of Blood and Water and Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges this has to be the most tongue twistingly over the top episode title. Especially when the wrongs aren’t anywhere near as dark as death or night. I realise a lot of these titles have been selected from poems and sayings but the sad truth of the matter is that plenty of poetry and proverbs are pretty pretentious too. I do feel that they genuinely missed a trick in not making Meru Ziyal’s mother…this would have been the perfect opportunity to have tied in her character and given her relationship with Kira more depth posthumously. Kira meeting herself as a child is very cute but shouldn’t the universe implode when they shake hands or something?

Moment to Watch Out For: Watch the fireworks fly between Kira and Meru as they come to blows over her relationship with Dukat. The dialogue is exceptional.

Fashion Statement: Are they going to some effort to make Kira look more feminine this year? She looks adorable when she wakes up sleepy to take Dukat’s call and dressing her up as a sophisticated looking hooker can only have increased viewers at the time!

Result: DS9 explores the horrors of forced prostitution and Kira gets a sharp shock about her mother in this focussed, unrelenting drama. Like the mirror universe episode this year it takes a staple ingredient of the show (the Occupation as seen in Necessary Evil & Things Past) and does something very different with it but unlike Ressurection it works a treat because Kira is written so honestly and has to face up to the loathsome idea that her mother got in bed with Dukat during this horrific period of Bajor’s history. Nana Visitor is so good at bringing these emotional journeys to life and everything from her reaction to Dukat’s shocking news, her irritable behaviour in Ops, her protectiveness towards her mother and her final condemnation of Meru’s decision to live with this monster rings true. Jonathan West’s direction is a thing of beauty and the way he uses the lighting to create sensual, memorable images is extraordinary. The time travel element is skipped over in a glorious example of how to shrug the insanity of such a concept off and getting to visit the station when it is first built and about to be put into action adds to the mythology of the show. It’s the oddest of episodes this because there is so much that is a great about it and yet it isn’t one of the most standout dramas simply because it is quite quiet for DS9. But it handles its themes with sensitivity, it doesn’t cheat the audience and it gives Marc Alaimo the chance to be as smooth as silk with the ladies. It’s the third mid season character tale in a row that I enjoy (although given the themes I’m not sure that’s appropriate) a lot: 8/10

Inquisition written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle and directed by Michael Dorn

What’s it about: Is Bashir really a Dominion agent?

Single Father: ‘I don’t think you’re lying Julian…’ Once again Sisko is used in a very clever way. By having him admit that Bashir has made some questionable decision and actually asking if engromatic dissociation is possible it eats away at whatever assurances Bashir had about himself. 

GE Doctor: ‘This man concealed the truth about his illegal genetic enhancements for over thirty years! He lied to get his medical licence! He lied to get into Starfleet. He lied to you when he came aboard this station and he’s been lying to you ever since!’ Another top notch Bashir episode – this guy has got the Midas touch! The medical conference that Bashir was supposed to attend was to take place on the latest Federation holiday spot, Casperia Prime (they can’t talk about Risa in the same seductive breath anymore not after we visited it last year). The fact that the entire episode is told from Bashir’s point of view works on two counts – it gives a very personal view of this type of intrusion into your life and it also gives the viewer an inkling (although I was completely in the dark the first time I watched it) that this is all for his benefit and not real. Would Bashir have come forward and told Sisko the truth about his genetic enhancements if he hadn’t been found out? The fact that he cannot answer that question says everything the you need to know. There’s a glorious Second Skin moment in this episode where even Bashir starts to doubt his own loyalty  and when it comes to that point (just as Kira thought she might genuinely be a Cardassian) the audience is left wondering if the writers are going to go through with this and genuinely push the character in this direction. The trouble with manhunts like this is that once you have been pinned for a crime no matter how much you wriggle and object it simply makes you look more guilty. Introducing Section 31 via Bashir was such a smart move because it taps into that desire of his to become a spy like Garak (why do you think he plays at secret agent in the holosuite?) but it is also antithetical to his naïve opinion of the Federation and everything it stands for. Its both seductive and appalling to him and that’s a great mix to whip up some drama through the character. He condemns their methods at the conclusion of this story but also looks as though he is looking forward to tackling his first assignment working for the Federation to expose them and bring them down. Its another really exciting development for Bashir’s character who is unrecognisable from the irritating womaniser from season one.

Section 31: William Sadler is an outstanding actor (he was the best thing about Roswell by miles) and he brings a real presence and gravitas to this story aided by a script that offers him some dramatic opportunities. When he stands that in Ops staring down at the assembled DS9 crew as though they are all lambs to the slaughter I felt a shiver down my spine. You realise he is after one of them and has shuffle that victim into the pack to make them complacent. He’s clearly a master psychologist and approaches Bashir initially in a warm and affable manner, praising his work and calming his nerves. Its just a softening up technique so he can completely floor the Doctor with some outrageous accusations. And yet even when he is being kind there is suspicion behind those eyes and a darkness to his tone. His second interview is much more clipped and to the point, it feels as if Sloan is closing his fist around Bashir’s life and squeezing out all of its dirty secrets. After making his intentions clear he starts working on Sisko and his doubts about Bashir and treats him like the criminal he so clearly believes him to be. Sadler is extraordinary during the interrogation scenes, wringing every last iota of threat out of his dialogue. Finally Sloan offers Bashir a way out of prison by confessing to the crimes he has committed. He has him from every direction. Sloan is the head of Section 31, a covert organisation that protects the security of the Federation. He is not afraid of bending the rules, his actions are unaccountable and his morality is to ensure that the good people of Starfleet can sleep at night through whatever means maybe necessary. He’s an awesome character and ticks all my boxes.

The evidence that Sloan cooks up against Bashir is so convincing that he even had me going for a little while. Its another astonishing example of DS9’s ability to capitalise on what has gone before and they use plot details from Hippocratic Oath, In Purgatory’s Shadow, Dr Bashir, I Presume and Statistical Probabilities to whip up a compelling case that he is a Dominion spy. Bashir was  kidnapped and and held in a Dominion prison for five weeks, he lied about his genetic enhancements, he did sympathise with a group of rogue Jem H’adar and he did almost cause the Federation to lose the war when his genetically enhanced group tried to give intelligence to the Dominion. Even better the writers use the much criticised ‘runabout left in orbit’ plot detail from By Inferno’s Light to suggest that it was a deliberate ploy by the Dominion to allow Bashir to escape and begin working for them behind the lines. Its inspired writing. The truth of the matter is there is a pattern of deceptive behaviour and it is very possible that the Dominion might have broken him in prison and convinced him to work for them for humanitarian reasons – his attempts to convince Sisko to surrender to the enemy in Statistical Probabilities could have been a peaceful way for him to achieve that.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘We constructed a transmitter using components from the barracks life support system and we used it to contact our runabout in orbit and beam ourselves out of the camp. Now forgive me Doctor, that sounds a little hard to believe’ – Sloan reviewing the climax of By Inferno’s Light!
‘You’re saying that I’m a Dominion spy and don’t even know it!’
‘I’ve had enough of your lies, Doctor! You think you’re smarter than the rest of us, don’t you? You think you’re smarter than the millions of brave men and women that put their lives on the line for the Federation? You want to do things the hard way, fine! But I’m going to get the truth out of you and when I’m done I’m going to take whatever’s left of you and I’m going to lock it away…’
‘Do you remember when I first offered scones?’
‘How do you deal with them?’ ‘Quietly.’
‘The next time he asks you to join his little group you will say yes…

The Good: Cleverly the deception begins from the second scene where Bashir wakes up in what feels an hour after he has gone to sleep (haven’t we all had a moment like that?) which has in fact only been an hour to instantly unnerve and disorient him. Isn’t it great that Kookalaka the stuffed bear who began his life in a throwaway story in The Quickening is now being utilised as an instrument of suspense? What is it about being told that your work is being monitored or evaluated that makes you so paranoid. I remember when I used to work in an office and when the auditors were in there was a feeling of disquiet and self doubt despite the fact that nobody had done anything wrong. The DS9 universe is in the middle of a nasty war so the very suggestion that there could be a traitor on board is enough to get everybody suspecting and pointing the finger and the episode utilises that same feeling of oppressive paranoia really well. It’s a great premise and if it was going to be explored now is absolutely the best time. I love the way that little details like the pencil under the sofa are focused on so intensely that they create suspense. Armed soldiers run down corridors to freak out Bashir further and Michael Dorn cleverly shoots Bashir’s walks too and from the ward room in the style of a criminal being taken to his execution chamber. Given the twist about Bashir being a shapeshifter in In Purgatory’s Shadow and genetically enhanced in Dr Bashir, I Presume we know the writers are willing to take risks with this character. Which means there is a real possibility that he really could be a Dominion spy! Dragging Bashir through the Promenade is a great visual that wont be forgotten in a hurry. The sudden beaming out of Bashir by Weyoun was when I finally came around to thinking this was an illusion…but its such a great scene with the Vorta Ambassador at his seductive best and it works because this is where Bashir is really questioning himself. To say that the introduction of Section 31 is like a copycat version of Babylon 5’s Psi Corps is to do this episode and the series a massive injustice. For one thing these aren’t telepaths and they do use magical science fiction trickery to manipulative people, they use psychology which is far more effective dramatically speaking. Secondly Sadler is ten times the actor Walter Koenig is (I’m sorry to all of you TOS aficionados but its true). Thirdly the Psi Corps doesn’t destabilise the very nature of the show like Section 31 does. We have been told about the flawless, superior Federation ever since the early days of TNG and Picard and Janeway have held up the values of this conglomerate of planets as a badge of honour, sometimes insultingly so. For us to learn that there is an inscrutable, insidious organisation working beneath the public persona of the Federation to murder, corrupt and destroy any potential threats is jaw droppingly exciting and makes a mockery of all those drawn out egotistical speeches of Picard’s about the infallibility of the Prime Directive. To pioneer such an organisation is to DS9’s credit as they have always taken a far more realistic approach to the Federation (it is criticised at every possibility by the alien characters and quite rightly too) and as Odo says it seems brainless to think that there isn’t a dark underbelly looking out for the Federation’s best interests. What this means is there is an avenue for more stories exploring the activities of Section 31 and a chance for the superb William Sadler to return. To massive plus points in this shows favour.

The Bad: The two security officers are a little overplayed at times (‘I believe that but yours were Jem H’adar!’).When he is quickly rescued by the Defiant so quickly and the crew are so overwrought about his betrayal (‘Why did you do it Julian?’) the cleverly built up scenario comes tumbling down. Its all in the execution rather than the script but I think this is the point where the walls are supposed to come crashing down because that is when they reveal the deception. You’d think we were heading for an appalling Star Trek wrap up when nothing could be further than the truth…

Moment to Watch Out For: The final confrontation between Bashir and Sloan is one of the best conclusions to a DS9 episode. No quick fixes, no technobabble, no Trek clichés…its an exploration of ‘the end justifying the means’, a genuinely innovative addition to the Trek universe and a two finger salute to the tedious morality of Roddenberry inflicted upon this series. The sooner Section 31 returns, the better.

Fashion Statement: Spare me the sight of O’Brien in his tight fitting lycra kayaking gear!

Result: ‘We search out and identify potential dangers to the Federation…’ A clever, intense episode that genuinely opens a door in the Star Trek universe to somewhere much darker and sinister. There are so many great things about Inquisition from its dark, oppressive atmosphere, its twists and turns, an extremely strong role for Bashir, a compelling turn by William Sadler and an ending that threatens to disappoint but then completely floors you by shifting the morality of the Federation as we know it. I doubt that Gene Roddenberry would have liked the direction this episode takes Star Trek in and it is so much the better for it in my eyes! Michael Dorn’s sophomore effort is another confidently told piece with lots of subtle details adding up to make the tone as repressive as possible and you genuinely feel for Bashir as his past decisions come back to haunt him and damn his character. The interrogation scenes are awesomely scripted and performed with plot details from previous episodes cohering to create a convincing case against Bashir and for a while it is possible to believe that Dominion really did break him. The introduction of Sloan and Section 31 proves that even now when we are a stones throw away from the series’ end DS9 is still innovating and adding to its legacy and what an addition this is. If we hadn’t have seen this perfidious organisation again I would have been disappointed but Inquisition spawns the equally deft Inta Arma Enim Silent Leges. A terrific instalment: 9/10

In the Pale Moonlight written by Michael Taylor (although it has Ronald D. Moore’s fingerprints all over it and he should deservedly get the credit)  and directed by Victor Lobl

What’s it about: Sisko is going to bring the Romulans into the war…

Single Father: We open on Sisko making his log, distracted and frustrated and its easy to see that this isn’t going to be an easy ride. He can’t even talk to his closest friend (Dax) about what he has done so he has to lay it out in a message that he knows can never be entered officially into the log. Sisko has always been a realist and a fighter but his decision to bring an entire race of people into their conflict with the Dominion takes his recklessness and risk taking to a whole new level. He will single handedly be condemning a race of people to terrible casualties to make the losses his side is taking less severe. That’s dark territory for any character but for Sisko who has always been characterised as a builder of things to see him tear a society down so brazenly is shocking. Its another example of this war pushing the characters into dark corners and forcing them to make tough calls that will relieve the situation but eat at the soul. What’s very sweet is that initially Sisko does believe that he might be able to dredge up some genuine evidence of Dominion duplicity. His intentions were good but I don’t think he realises (at first) the lengths he is going to have to go to to see this thing through. Sisko steps over the line as soon as Garak suggests manufacturing evidence to convince the Romulans of the Dominion’s intended treachery and he listens. He had the choice to walk away and he didn’t take it. Sisko thinks that he is off the hook by getting permission to go ahead with this insane plan from Starfleet Command but the moral implications soon sink their claws into him. I get goosebumps every time I see Brooks addressing the camera directly and telling us that people are dying out there everyday and his morality will have to be shoved aside to save lives. If you want to see how intimidating Sisko can be as a character and Avery Brooks can be as an actor watch the scene where he threatens Tolar, pinning him to the wall. Brrrr. The trouble with Sisko’s argument to Vreenak is that he is talking about what will happen after the war is over…the Romulan has facts at his fingertips the prove that there is a more likely chance that the Dominion will win given the current statistics. He lied, he cheated, he bribed men to cover the crimes of other men, he is an accessory to murder…and yet he thinks he can live with it. Sisko looks directly at the audience and tells us that he can live with his guilty conscience…but faltering repeats the statement as though even he can’t quite believe it.

GE Doctor: Bashir has become a tough bastard this year, hasn’t he? I love the way he stands up to Sisko in this episode and refuses to be cowed by his intimidation.

Nine Lives: It’s the last great Sisko/Dax scene of the series where she steps into the role of a Romulan leader and tries to make Sisko see that he is going to have to provide some pretty compelling evidence in order to get them to side with the Federation. Her controlled, eyebrow raising delivery is spot on and Sisko is right when he suggests that Dax would have made a good Vulcan! ‘So their crossing my backyard to give the Federation a bloody nose? I can’t say that makes me feel very sad…’

Community Leader: The look of satisfaction on Quark’s face when he realises that every man has his price is a golden moment in this drama. Neelix would have been only too willing to have helped Janeway out of this sticky situation with the law whereas Quark is revelling in the fact that he has the good Captain at his mercy and exploits the situation for all the profit that he can.

Plain and Simple: It’s a tough call but this probably just about inches out The Wire, Improbable Cause and In Purgatory’s Shadow as the finest Garak episode but it is a very tough contest. Andrew Robinson gives a tour de force performance in this instalment and manages to deliver some stunning expository dialogue to the audience with razor sharp wit and compelling menace. After Garak’s disturbing revelation that everybody seems to trust him these days along comes an episode that shows how dangerous this man can be and how far he is willing to go to get results. Infiltrating enemy territory and dredging up damning evidence against the Dominion is a suicide mission and that is way outside his field of expertise. I love the way Garak informs Sisko that all of his contacts on Cardassia are all dead within one day of speaking to him (‘I guess that’s a testament to Dominion security…’) because he is wide eyed and amused by the idea! It seems that since the murder of Ziyal he has lost all interest in relationships and is focussing on the bigger picture. Garak’s plan to convince the most openly pro-Dominion Romulan senator to back them and forcing the rest of the Senate to fall into line is a strong one but what a risky strategy to use faked evidence of a planned invasion of Romulus. Despite things being this perilous there’s still time for some great humour with Garak as he tells Tolar that he will be along to say hello and winds up Worf just by telling him it’s a pleasure to see him.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘That was the moment I made the decision. It was like I had stepped through a door and locked it behind me. I was going to bring the Romulans into the war!’
‘It may be a very messy, very bloody business. Are you prepared for that?’
‘You will tell the Senator that this information was obtained through various covert means at great cost to the Federation. At least ten good men lost their lives bringing it across the line, that sort of thing.’
‘I have to promise to stay away from the Klingon Empire. That’ll be tough!
‘I’m making a new agreement. If that programme passes inspection, you walk free but if there is even the slightest flaw then I will send you back to that Klingon prison and tell Gowron to take his time while he executes you!
‘To be honest my opinion of Starfleet officers is so low you’d have to work very hard in indeed to disappoint me…’
‘The soufflé will either rise or it wont. There’s not a damn thing you can do about it!’
It’s a faaaaake!
‘And what about Tolar? Did you kill him too?’ ‘Think of them both as tragic victims of war!’
‘That’s why you came to me, wasn’t it Captain? Because you knew I could do those things that you weren’t capable of doing. Well it worked and you’ll get what you wanted, a war between the Romulans and the Dominion. And if your conscience is bothering you you should soothe it with the knowledge that you may have just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant and all it cost was the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal and the self respect of one Starfleet officer. I don’t know about you but I’d call that a bargain.’

The Good: The idea of framing the story with Sisko’s log entries is a stroke of genius because throughout it guides us through this web of lies and deceit, it emphasises moments of drama and makes them even more tense than they already are and it allows us closer to Sisko than we have ever been before and it his darkest moment of the war. It gives us a direct window to Sisko’s soul, he isn’t really making a log, he is talking to directly to us and asking for us to make a judgement on these events. The fourth wall has well and truly been smashed. The very idea of a weekly casualty list being posted and becoming a grim ritual on board the station during wartime is terrifying – Sisko mentions that not a week goes by when somebody doesn’t spot the name of a friend, an acquaintance or a family member on that damned list. It’s a crushing reminder that peoples lives are being affected everyday by this devastating war and Sisko has grown to hate Friday’s when he has to post them. The Romulans have always been the most evasive and insidious of Alpha Quadrant races and as Dax says they are in the perfect position to watch their biggest rivals slug it out in a long bloody war. It makes what Sisko suggests so dangerous, by attempting to bring the Romulans into the war it could go either way. They could ally themselves with either side and since the Federation is taking such heavy losses already it would just about finish them off to have another fleet turn against them. With so many lives hanging in the balance and an example of the dramatic uprooting of peoples of lives if this goes wrong being epitomised in the opening six episodes of this season, the stakes have never been higher. That is a great place to start an episode. The Dominion has invaded Betazed? About damn time! We can only hope that Counsellor busybody was visiting her mother at the time (Troi has never been a decent character and Lwaxana failed to impress in either Fascination or The Muse) and was caught in a horrific blast by a Jem H’adar strike party. What’s that? She turns up on Voyager? Trust them to spoil the party! Tolar is exactly the sort of weird looking alien that turns up on Voyager every week (in fact I think he might be the very alien from The Voyager conspiracy painted blue!) but he is given a DS9 makeover and winds up being a seedy, drunken, violent criminal that Sisko just happens to need to see this scheme through. Throughout Victor Lobl’s direction is claustrophobic and tenser than the elastic on a fat mans waistline but the way he executes the sneaking in of the Romulan ship invisibly is expertly done. Stephen McHattie provides a memorable Romulan character and probably the most important appearance of anybody from that species in the Trek franchise. His signature line has gone down in Trek history (its there in the sparkling dialogue section). The Dominion shipyards are operating at peak efficiency whilst the Federation ones are being rebuilt, the Dominion is breeding legions of Jem H’adar warriors and Starfleet is experiencing a manpower shortage…which side would you choose? Garak has set up Vreenak as evidence that the Dominion is planning to invade Romulus. By murdering him on a secret detour to a Federation station when publicly he is returning from Dominion territory it looks like they have tried to assassinate him because he has found out something dreadful. With the data rod surviving and any imperfections put down to the explosion there is all the evidence they need to join forces with the Federation against an enemy that was planning to conquer them. Clever bastard. Sisko deleting his log means we as the audience are the only people that will ever know what has happened to bring the Romulans into the war, its our secret now. Absolute perfection.

The Bad: This is not a criticism of this episode but of the sort of people that suggest that because this is an episode of Star Trek this isn’t a drama that is entering dark territory like ‘real life’ dramas do. The horrendously underwritten and overpriced Trek review book Final Frontier suggests this and it made me want to use the breeze block of a book and use it for toilet paper but I wouldn’t assail my arse with such disagreeable scribblings. Whilst shows such as The West Wing do open our eyes to the tough decisions of government and how people are affected about those decisions it is the scale of this episode that makes it so impressively sinister and penalties so colossal. We’re not talking about one planet but an entire Quadrant. One mans soul is the tipping point between saving billions of lives and throwing them away. We are never allowed to forget the consequences if Sisko’s plan is compromised (indeed we saw that in The Sacrifice of Angels when Weyoun suggested that the entire population of Earth would be wiped out if the Dominion managed to take the Quadrant) and we are reminded of the crushing effect on his morality if he does go through with it. Under any circumstances this is dangerous material, ominously presented and it genuinely pushes DS9 (a show that is no stranger to presenting the less savoury side of life in the 24th Century) into even darker territory. Its fascinating to compare the lives of Sisko and Janeway in their respective series six – he is juggling the fates of Empires whilst she is personalising her own dildo!

Moment to Watch Out For: Has there ever been a better ‘oh shit!’ moment than the one where Vreenak turns on Sisko in appalled fury and declares that he knows the data rod is a fake. All of the worrying, the buttock clenching, the soul searching…all of that for nothing as the whole plan crumbles before Sisko as the Romulan plans to expose his deception to the entire Quadrant. The first time I watched this I was gasping for air! Like the minefield being deactivated and Dukat’s declaration that he is going to murder everybody on Bajor it is another season six moment where I genuinely thought ‘how the hell are they going to get out of this one?’ If that wasn’t enough the final dialogue between Garak and Sisko is possibly one the best scripted exchanges ever seen in Trek. Go and watch it now and bask in the riveting performances.

Only DS9: Erm, yes

Orchestra: Rocks & Shoals, The Sacrifice of Angels and Tacking the Wind all have outstanding David Bell soundtracks but I don’t think his music has ever felt more appropriate than in In the Pale Moonlight. As soon as Sisko embarks on this scheme it is greeted by a foreboding notes that suggest this is going to be an ominous ride and the dark forcefulness of the score when Sisko shoves his principles aside and pushes on gave me chills.

Foreboding: This is the beginning of a strong Romulan presence on DS9 which would turn out to be another fine innovation late in the day that would reap some dramatic rewards. Check out Shadows & Symbols and Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges for the best examples of this.

Result: Justifiably one of the most popular episodes of Star Trek and paradoxically one of the least Roddenberryesque pieces of drama the franchise ever put out, In the Pale Moonlight is a triumph of taking risks and winning and establishes itself as a benchmark in quality for DS9. Sisko has the germ of an idea that could help the Federation win the war but in order to put that into practice he has to make a deal with the devil, wrestle with his conscience and put the lives of billions of innocent people before his own integrity. Before you know it the Captain is breaking crooks out of jail, manipulating logs, blackmailing local crooks and obtaining illicit tender for the criminal classes. It’s an astonishing downward spiral of events that fights against the grain of Roddenberry’s idea of the perfect leader. The next time you want to criticise Avery Brooks’ performance as Sisko remember this episode and bite your tongue. Between Far Beyond the Stars, Waltz and In the Pale Moonlight you have an actor that has blossomed into his role and is delivering powerhouse performances on a regular basis. Coupled with Andy Robinson’s tour de force as Garak who is characterised so sharply he might just slash your wrists if you get too close and you have a drama that is truly bolstered by the gob smacking quality of the dialogue and performances. The epic sweep of events and the fiendishness of Garak’s plan kept me on tenterhooks throughout and at one point I genuinely thought it was all over for the Federation. I’ve said it before but I don’t think it is more appropriate than during this episode (and selected highlights of season seven) but putting DS9 on a war footing has been the best decision Trek has ever made. It has forced the show to raise its game even higher, delivered consistently powerful drama and afforded the Trek franchise to explore some edgier, more controversial themes. In the Pale Moonlight is the epitome of all of these innovations and top class drama in its own right: 10/10

His Way written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: Odo is lost in love and needs some help to get the girl…

Single Father: Its possibly the best Sisko cameo of all the wonderful contractual appearances he has made this year! Odo turns up in his office and delivers a report and starts singing and the good Captain joins in with him! Its delightfully played (Brooks really has been superb this year) and somehow I can’t imagine the Worf/Picard or Tuvok/Janeway alternative ever taking place.

Tasty Terrorist: Even if everything in her is telling her not to go on a date with Odo who could possibly resist the charms of James Darren? If he told me to go on a date with Neelix I think I would have to relent. All of Kira’s reactions on their first date are right on the money from her feeling silly being in a holosuite, losing her appetite, seeing Odo enjoying himself and opening herself up to the possibility of a future with him and her laughter as they dance together. The chemistry between Auberjonois and Visitor has never been better.

Unknown Sample: ‘You’ve got about as much personality as an icicle. Cool is one thing but you’re frozen solid!’ The embarrassed look between Odo and Kira at Vic’s says everything about how much help these two need to get them to admit how they feel to each other. Vic can see what we have all seen for the past four seasons, that Odo is crazy about Kira but he’s too afraid to do anything about it. He also knows that Kira thinks of him as a friend and that women have been known to change their minds with a good enough reason. I love the way he tenses up again as soon his friends are mentioned, he simply doesn’t know how to let go around them. The scene where he gets to hold the fake Kira should be lecherous and uncomfortable but Rene Auberjonois absolutely sells the moment. It feels as though an ambition that has weighing on him for so long has finally been fulfilled and we almost breathe a sigh of relief with him. But its still not the real thing…and surely they would never go all the way with this romance and have the real Kira fall under his charms? His awkward rejection of the fake Kira proves how bad Odo is at this sort of thing and makes you wonder how on Bajor he is going to manage with the real thing! The horror that crosses Odo’s face when he realises he has romancing the real Kira is worthy of Shakespearean character in one of the Bard’s comedy of errors!

Everyday Engineer: Rather than having his wrist slapped for eyeing up the ladies at Vic’s he is encouraged to do so…you can look at the menu with greedy eyes but you can’t order anything.

Nine Lives: Whilst we usually get to catch up with Dax when she is being heroic or witty His Way exposes what she gets up to the rest of the time – gossiping in the turbo lifts! Oh she’s a terror for gossip, that one.

Community Leader: This is another surprising use of Quark this year has managed to be an action hero twice (The Sacrifice of Angels, The Magnificent Ferengi) and now gets to be the best friend that Odo never had by giving him some tough advice and keeping his evening trips to Vic’s quiet. Odo has had over a year to approach Kira since she found out how he feels and he has let every opportunity slip away…and Quark tells him that simply and directly just like a good friend needs to.

50s Crooner: Introducing Vic Fontaine, the character with the daftest spec and yet one of DS9s best successes. He’s a smart, amiable fellow who has seen much of life and is ready to help out whenever you need him. He also has pretty sweet lungs for a light bulb! I laughed my head off when he told Bashir that his entourage need to wear smarter clothes next time they visit…coming in their Starfleet/Bajoran uniforms they look like a trapeze act! Cleverly Vic uses Odo playing the piano to prove that with the right style you can make people believe anything and by the end he is thoroughly enjoying himself – the ice cube has melted! He arranges for some gorgeous buxom babes to accompany Odo and him on a night out so he can practice his charm offensive…and by the looks of it he is going to need as much rehearsal as possible! I love the way Vic cheekily skips from his programme to Kira’s meditation one to set up a date! Its bonkers and on verge on implausible but its terrifically shot and performed so who gives a damn?

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You know what a square is, right?’ ‘Its one side of a cube!’ ‘Well I guess that answers my question…’
‘You’re not exactly the most lovable person in the galaxy. You’re not even the most lovable person in this sector. Or on the station. Or even in this room.’
‘Maybe I could help you get your diploma…’ – kinky bitch!
‘And after that I suppose you’ll expect me to kiss you?’ ‘It’s possible!’ ‘Well who needs dinner why don’t I just get it over with and kiss you right now?’ ‘Well why don’t you?’ – I don’t know how I thought Kira and Odo would get together but this was the furthest thing from my mind! And I couldn’t be happier!

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘Catch you later baby!’ just sounds wrong coming out of Bashir’s mouth!

The Good: I love the closeness of everybody in the first scene as Vic belts out his first number – Dax & Worf are cuddling at the bar, Bashir and O’Brien are practically holding hands and Odo & Kira are on the verge of consummating their relationship. The bar itself is a masterful piece of design, so completely un-Star Trek in its style and atmosphere that it makes an instantly fun place for the characters to hang out. Unlike Sandrines on Voyager (which was similarly anachronistic and a delight to visit) the DS9 production team know when they are onto a good thing and don’t chuck it away. Like all good romantic musicals the director makes his cast look as pretty as possible so notice how soft and warm the lighting is throughout this episode. Come on admit it…you want to have a few sips of a Warp Core Breach as much as I do! Sticking Odo in a tux is a mighty fine idea and they way he chases the piano keys during his performance makes me laugh every time. The date between Kira and Odo is one of my favourite sequences of the year – everything about it is just perfect. The mood, the music, the performances…this is one episode I find it really easy to luxuriate into. What an old romantic…I can’t tell you how many times I rewound the scene where Odo and Kira argue on the Promenade and end up in a passionate embrace for everybody to see! Its sensational, spectacular, totally out of this world…and I love it! Quark’s smile, Dax’s raised eyebrow, the music…oops sorry I’ve gone off to my happy place again!

The Bad: I agree that a 1950s crooner who dispenses advice on love, life and women and winds up counselling half the regular cast is a ridiculous idea. But d’you know what – they make it work. His Way, Its Only a Paper Moon and Badda Bing, Badda Bang are three terrific episodes and in James Darren’s hands Vic is a delight. Now I believe that this production team can pull anything off. The only scene that really makes me cringe is the ‘total clarity’ advice that Dax gives. What is she going on about?

Moment to Watch Out For: It has to be Nana Visitor’s scorching turn as Lola Crystale and her smouldering rendition of Fever (which was another of my wedding songs…). Boy oh boy she is smoking hot. I don’t butter my bread that way but I would!

Fashion Statement: How great does Odo look in a tuxedo? Kira as Lola is smoking hot but Kira as Kira in eveningwear just about takes the biscuit. Whenever they get Nana Visitor out of that figure hugging monstrosity I am reminded of just how beautiful this woman is.

Result: Commentators on His Way fall into two categories; those that love it and those that hate it. Can you guess which category I fall under? I had no relationship with 50s music before I watched this episode and because of it I now have a stunning CD collection of tunes that includes the James Darren soundtrack. Even better I fell so much in love with ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ as heard here when Odo and Kira finally clinch the deal that it was mine and Simon’s first dance on our wedding day. This just ticks all of my boxes, its witty, passionate, visually stunning and played with such sunniness and delight that my critical faculties melt away and I just bask in the glorious atmosphere of it all. The songs are fantastic and it’s the closest we are ever going to get to a musical in this franchise (incidentally a genre I adore) with James Darren stepping into the series as though he has always been there and oozes style and charisma. Auberjonois, Visitor deliver sparkling performances too and Allan Kroeker proves to be as adept at bringing romantic comedy to life as memorably as drama. It takes hold of the Odo/Kira romance plot and does something that nobody expected…they finally get it together! If you feel that it happened on such a fluffy, superficial episode then don’t panic because there is plenty of deep stuff to come for these two but for now just bask in the warm glow of sentimentality exudes because things are going to get a lot darker soon. Is it corny? You bet your life! Does it give me a great big hug and make me feel like kissing the man I love? Without a doubt. I’ve got His Way under my skin and every rewatch reminds me of the first time this all singing, all romanticising dazzler first enchanted me: 9/10

The Reckoning written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle and directed by Jesus Salvador Trevino

What’s it about: War has broken out between the Prophets and the Pah Wraiths…

Single Father: Kira is right, it is nice for Sisko to find something else to obsess over for a while than the Dominion. . Rapture brought out something very special in Avery Brooks as Sisko tackled the mystery of the lost city in a gentle but compulsive manner and here he taps into that energy again but the man is in a much darker place than he was then (he’s coping with a bloody war rather than the potential coming together of Bajor and the Federation). Dax recalling that Sisko used to call the Prophets ‘wormhole aliens’ is another reminder of how much his opinion has changed about Bajor since he first arrived. There’s a great scene between Sisko and Kira where he admits that Winn is not an easy woman to like and Kira admits that she is envious of how he gets to speak with her Gods and they listen to him. Its not a gift he sought and that is why she doesn’t resent him. Its very satisfying that Sisko demands that the Prophets tell him what they want him to do and stop being so damned mysterious and even though he tries to suggest that they wanted him to smash the tablet I bet he enjoyed doing it too as a two finger salute in the Kai’s face. When his staff are all telling him the same thing – to not allow the battle between these elemental forces to take place on the station – Sisko is firm in letting it take place because he owes the Prophets. That is until he sees who the enemy vessel is… They just love tossing Sisko about, don’t they these elemental forces? He’s sure that the Prophets wont let anything happen to Jake but as Dax points out they are currently trying to kill him!

Tasty Terrorist: The way Kira subtly mentions that she doesn’t know how people get through the day without faith is another of those grand moments that reminds you that this is an openly religious character on television who isn’t a psychopath or cult nutter (we’ll leave all that to Winn). Its actually rarer than you might think. Odo thinks the Prophets chose her because she has faith and humility.

Unknown Sample: It’s like Odo is a different person now he is in a relationship with Kira and the way they flirt and touch foreheads after everybody has left the ward room is lovely. Odo has only just found love with Kira which is something he has pined for for a long time and that makes his support of her wishes to be a vessel for the Prophets all the more meaningful. That’s the mark of true respect between lovers, to allow them to proceed with something that you don’t agree with because it is something they need to do. He is rewarded for that moment of selflessness and it gives their relationship an extra layer of depth.

Nine Lives: ‘I had a pretty good idea of what this was when I first laid eyes on it…it’s a slab of stone with some writing on it!’ Dax is in an especially cheeky mood this week but then to be fair she has often been quite clipped and humorous when talking about Sisko’s role as the Emissary. It’s Dax who reminds Sisko that the Prophets said he would have to exact a penance…brrr!

Young Sisko: How nice to be reminded that Jake exists! Was Cirroc Lofton unavailable for most of this year or something? I always thought it was season seven that neglected him the most (but thinking about it he turns up in Image in the Sand, Shadows & Symbols, Afterimage, Take Me Out to the Holosuite, It’s Only a Paper Moon, Til Death Do Us Part and What You Leave Behind) but to my knowledge this the first we have seen of him since…Far Beyond the Stars! And he wasn’t even himself for much of that episode! With his large role in The Reckoning, Valiant, The Sound of Her Voice and Tears of the Prophets its nice that one of the quietest and yet most talented guest performers is about to get some real focus again. Jake is disappointed with B’Hala and considers them just a load of old ruins…he was probably hoping to get acquainted with a Pah Wraith. Be careful what you wish for Jake! Twice in one year Dr Bashir has called him to the Infirmary to tell him that something is wrong with his father, that’s why this Emissary stuff scares him so much. I have to give Cirroc Lofton his due, he plays the evil sonofaPahWraith with real melodramatic fervour. 

Spiritual Leader: ‘Perhaps the next time we have a disagreement he’ll consider my wishes more thoughtfully’ ‘The next time? You’re anticipating more disagreements?’ Winn is back for her annual visit and this time she is determined to make Sisko’s life a political hell. She’s appalled that Sisko has taken the artefact from an archaeological site without her consultation but promises to let the Prophets decide whether it was a good idea. Then as soon as his back is turned she’s on the phone to Shakaar and Starfleet and piling on the bureaucratic pressure to have it taken back into her custody! You’ve got to watch that one! She has spent her whole life in the service of the Prophets and after all those years of self sacrifice and commitment they choose an outsider, a non believer as their Emissary. When put like that you can see why she is so bitter. She has to share the role of spiritual leader with Sisko and she is jealous of his relationship with the Prophets. The Kai implores the Prophets to speak to her but it resolutely ignores her…if they really can see the past and the future as one they must recognise her and the allegiance that she is going to make in the next season. Kira blatantly points out the mistake that Winn has made. Sisko was willing to sacrifice his own son to ensure that the Pah Wraiths were destroyed but Winn stepped in because she couldn’t bear for him to be the saviour of Bajor. It’s a decision she will dearly regret for the short time she has left to live.

What’s Morn up to: He doesn’t look particularly impressed when the Kira Prophet stats smashing up his favourite bar!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The time of reckoning is at hand. The Prophets will weep. Their sorrow will consume the gateway to the temple…’
‘During the Reckoning the Bajorans will either suffer horribly…or eat fruit. Given the tone of the rest of the inscriptions I would I would bet on horrible suffering.’
‘If you talk to the Prophets again, ask for a dictionary.’
‘You’re not getting another urge, are you?’

The Good: The opening scene is carefully crafted to get all the viewers up to speed on the latest developments – the Dominion is winning the war, the Romulans have recently joined in the fight and Kira and Odo are now a couple…and there is even still time these days to enjoy some further exploration of Bajoran mythology! The last time the show was focussing on B’Hala it was a rich episode so even the mention of the lost city gives me happy feelings. Unlike Voyager, DS9 usually gets around its zanier of premises by having its regular cast all having conflicting opinions on the matter – Sisko risking his life for his visions in Rapture sparked off some dramatic dialogue, as did the descendant dilemma of Children of Time and now here Bashir, Odo and Quark discuss the relevance of the prophecies of doom that the tablet has forecasted. Most people would just shrug off the forewarnings like Bashir, Worf is worried but does not necessarily believe it and Odo believes in always preparing for the worst. With so many intriguing opinions flying about the place the insane premise (a divination of doom) feels real, relevant and like something worth arguing about. You could have learnt a lot from this show, Voyager! I’ve heard a lot of complaints about how the Prophets and the Pah Wraiths actualise their battle but I think it works a treat, both in how its realised and on a deeper, character level. Kira is willing to give up her life to serve the Prophets and finds it a great honour to be chosen as their vessel and Sisko has to see this thing through but might lose the one thing that means the most to him in the world, his son. On a visual level Kira looks awesome with blue contacts and the explosions that rock the station and noses oozing blood give this fight a real sense of tension.

The Bad: The Kai recounts the terrible sufferings that Bajorans are facing because of Sisko’s act of sacrilege but its all just words. If we had been able to see the elements turning against the people it would have made this feel far more epic. During the evacuation Worf seems to be at an airlock and in Ops at exactly the same time. That’s not the sort of blatant continuity error I have come to expect from DS9. Who are those random kids that Dax finds in the corridor? Did some dreadful Bajoran parents just abandon them as soon as the station began shaking itself apart?

Moment to Watch Out For: What Winn doesn’t realise is that the Prophet was driving the Pah Wraith back and about to destroy it when she activates the increase in chronoton particles that drive them both out of their hosts. She is indirectly responsible for all of the lengths that the Pah Wraiths go to to try and destroy the Prophets, including Dax’s sudden murder. I was literally screaming at the TV for Winn not to get involved!

Foreboding: Reckoning literally means ‘a settling of accounts’ and after Sisko’s warning that a ‘a penance will be exacted’ this title and the sudden focus on the Prophets gets my tummy in knots. What’s lovely is that this episode convinces you that the price for their help in destroying the Dominion fleet is Jake but it’s all smoke and mirrors, the real penance is the shocking developments in the season finale. Winn looks positively hurt when she says the Prophets have never spoken to her…something that would be explored (and explained) in some depth in season seven. The Pah Wraiths were introduced in The Assignment last year when they tried to wipe out the Prophets for good and we got a good look at their age old conflict. Now it looks as if that conflict is going to take place writ large in the Alpha Quadrant after their differences were failed to be resolved in their battle here. God help anybody that gets in the way of elemental forces waging a war!

Result: The Reckoning is an odd beast for sure because it isn’t as strong as either Accession or Rapture but it still managed to hold my attention and had an abundance of rich dialogue and strong characterisation and despite the unhurried pace I found this addictive viewing. Sisko is back in passive obsessive mode, Kira deftly discusses her faith, Jake is worried that he is going to lose his father to the Prophets (which is quite portentous), Dax is devastatingly witty, Winn is pulling political strings and everybody else is chipping in with their unique take on the foreboding prophecies that are affecting the station. As soon as Kira and Jake start blasting the crap out of each other as the Prophets and the Pah Wraiths you can see that the first half an hour has all been set up to make this action sequence work on a personal level as well as a epic and visceral one and I was jumping up and down on my seat to see how it would work out. The intervention comes from a surprising source and would lead to some dramatic developments down the line including the destruction of the wormhole, the return of Benny Russell and a deliciously loathsome romance between Winn and Dukat! This is the first step on that path and whilst it isn’t the sharpest DS9 episode ever produced it is still ominous, exciting and packed full of substance. Give it another go and you might just be surprised at how good it is: 8/10

Valiant written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Mike Vejar

What’s it about: Red Squad are trapped behind enemy lines…

Community Leader: I like how the subplot looks as though it is completely throwaway, a reminder of how much Quark would like to get into Jadzia’s knickers and steal her away from Worf. When in fact it brings this up at exactly the right time for her imminent demise so that his feelings can transfer to Ezri and the competition with Bashir can begin. Plus its nice to see Odo teasing Quark about being in love when he was just as succinct with his feelings about Odo’s unrequited romance with Kira just a few episodes previously.

Young Sisko: Wowza, the Federation must be desperate indeed if they are turning to the Grand Nagus to make an alliance with Ferenginar! Jake is on hand to get the first scoop as Nog delivers the message to the Nagus and it is timely reminder of his job as a reporter for the Federation New Service. When Jake gets to gobby in the face of their rescue by the Valiant his console explodes and he is thrown to the floor – Moore fills his tale with lots of little moments like that. Little touches that prevent the story from getting too pat. Jake has always been one to talk a lot of good sense (his commentary about cowardice in Nor the Battle to the Strong still resonates) but never more so than here where he cuts through all the arrogance and sees these kids for what they are – a bunch of Starfleet fanatics looking to blaze their names in the stars even if it costs them their lives.

Starfleet Ferengi: Remember when Jake and Nog were last seen in a runabout together at the end of season two? Nog was hopelessly out of his depth, screaming at the computer to fire the torpedoes with Jake calming him down and trying to pilot the ship. Now Nog is in Starfleet uniform, dodging a squadron of Jem H’adar fighters and calmly giving Jake the instructions. You can’t argue with that kind of development. Nog’s willingness to give his allegiance to Watters and the Valiant crew might seem a little naïve until you remember that a) he was desperate to join this group in Homefront/Paradise and this is a direct continuation of that and b) he has become something of a Starfleet drone just as they are (albeit a little more jaded hanging around with the pleasingly robust DS9 crew). He’s being offered a promotion, a position of real responsibility and a great deal of respect…who wouldn’t be seduced by that? Losing this fight so badly is a hard lesson for Nog to learn but its all part of his education to becoming a better Starfleet officer, one who doesn’t blindly follow orders. To be continues in The Siege of AR-558 where he follows an order that affects him very deeply indeed.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘And then we destroyed that Cardie ship!’ – that’s coming from the Captain, a commanding officer that has been bred to express such racist opinions. We aren’t in Roddenberry territory anymore…
‘Dawn is so shocking on the moon. One minute you’re in the darkest night you can imagine and the next instant the sun lifts up and this glorious, pure light just explodes across the surface…I felt like I met God every morning’ – what a gorgeous description!

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘I don’t remember anyone inviting you to the Bridge!’ – where’s that trout?

The Good: Defiant or Valiant…that make of ship blasting the crap out of Jem H’adar fighters is a whole world of cool. Sheppard turning up at the helm is a lovely touch of continuity after his appearance in Paradise Lost. Watching this bunch of teenagers (I don’t think they are meant to be much older) pretending to have the authority and the judgement of adults is genuinely awkward to watch and I think that was supposed to be the idea. Most of the performances work because they are trapped in that uncomfortable phase between being an immature kid and being a sensible adult where there are flickers of both so seeing them trying to behave in a similar manner to the well oiled DS9 crew sets my teeth on edge. Its just asking for trouble. When they start screaming out their squadron name you can see how they have been completely brainwashed to aspire to perfection by Starfleet and as I have said about Janeway on many times when she tries to break her wayward crewmembers it strays uncomfortably close to parallels with the Nazi youth. This is the most dominant example yet, their screaming mantra sounds just like a Nazi rally and like Hitler’s army they think they are untouchable, the best that humanity has to offer. Its an uncomfortable area to explore but one that I think is well worth touching upon if only to expose further flaws in Gene Roddenberry’s pleasant but unrealistic hopes for the future. Ashley Brianne McDonogh is the perfect example of this childish maturity and she pitches her performance perfectly. She’s uncomfortable with the responsibility she has been given and cries because she misses her parents and yet tries to maintain a professional attitude at all times. Her spiral into depression is quite fascinating to watch and the cost of acting like a good Starfleet officer is that she loses all of her colleagues and friends. That’s a tough lesson to learn. Watters with his melodramatic poses and smooth charm is like a proto Kirk (the way he spins around in his chair on the Bridge during the ‘preparing for the attack’ montage is especially buttock clenching in that respect) and its cringeworthy to watch…but that is the whole point. Its holding a mirror up to how ridiculous these Starfleet Captain’s are with their unflappable arrogance and superior attitudes and encapsulating all that heroism into a child that cannot pull it off (the character, not the actor) really drives that point home. I really admire that kind of criticism of the franchise. Watters ‘We’re Red Squad and we can do anything!’ is paradoxically one of the best and worst lines ever uttered in a Star Trek episode – the worst because it is utterly humiliating in its fallacy but one of the best because it is absolutely terrifying. These stupid, brainwashed kids actually believe they can take on the toughest ship of the most badass enemy the Federation has ever faced! Its at this point where I got those grumbles in my belly that this wasn’t going to go down well (plus the Ron Moore name of the credits and the memory of the end of Rocks & Shoals). Its astonishing that they would afford a throwaway episode (and I mean that only in the sense that it is only loosely connected to the central arc and the regulars) like this such a dazzling effects sequence. The attack on the Dominion warship is another top notch triumph for the CGI team with the Valiant sliding along the hull and releasing a volley of torpedoes and some glorious shots from the POV of the viewscreen. Physical effects match the graphics and the ship literally feels as though it is being torn apart from the inside out. As the corpses start piling up you have a graphic visual representation of how dangerous Starfleet ideals can be when taken to the extreme. Does the destruction of a Defiant class ship gut the similar scene that takes place this time next year? Maybe. Is it still an astonishing effect anyway? Absolutely.

The Bad: Not since the last Voyager episode that I watched have I wanted to slap somebody around the chops with a freshly caught trout that is still wet and slimy as much as Courtney Peldon’s Farris. She’s is the epitome of everything that is wrong with Starfleet, unwavering arrogance, the ability to look down her nose at everybody that isn’t a member of Starfleet and a square vision. There is more than a touch of Picard in this character and to top it off Peldon plays the role with an atrociously wooden superiority. Frankly if she didn’t die in the climax I would have demanded a refund for my box set. This has been a pretty expensive year for DS9 all told with some glorious space battles and luxurious production values in evidence (Far Beyond the Stars, His Way). Some of that money has been recouped by reusing the DS9 sets (Empok Nor in The Magnificent Ferengi & Terok Nor in Wrongs Darker & the holosuite in Inquisition) and the Defiant sets in this episode. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, just that it is a noticeable money saving exercise.

Moment to Watch Out For: ‘You don’t understand because you’ve never put on one of these uniforms! You don’t know anything about sacrifice or honour or duty or any other thing that makes up a soldiers life! I’m part of something larger than myself, something bigger than just me. All you care about is you’ ‘That’s right! All I care about is Jake Sisko and whether he’s going to be killed by a bunch of delusional fanatics looking for martyrdom!’ An astonishing moment between these two characters who were inseparable as children but have gone on to choose very different paths in life that has led to some sizable differences that have driven a wedge between them. It strikes me as very realistic development, if not likable because I have seen this sort of thing happen so often between friends who were tight at an early age and because estranged as they grew up and found out who they really are.

Plus the moment of triumph when the Valiant crew think they have destroyed the ship that is so cruelly yanked away from them is an absolute triumph in defying expectations. If this wasn’t a critique on the absurdity of Federation principles they would be cheering all the way home to Earth. Instead the ship survives the explosion (the effect when it careers towards them through the flames is very menacing) and unleashes hell on the kiddies, slaughtering all but a handful of their crew and completely destroying the ship. What an ending! I especially love how the ruthless Dominion soldiers open fire on the escape pods, destroying a handful of them as they start to push away from the ship. Imagine the relieved teens in those pods, terrified but glad to have escaped and going up in flames…

Fashion Statement: Is it wrong for me to fancy Captain Watters? How old was he when he made this? 25…phew!

Result: Simon hates this episode (I think it has something to do with irritating kids…) but I am much more favourable towards it because of Mike Vejar’s urgent direction and Ron Moore’s refusal to allow these supercilious kiddiewinks have a happy ending. Its probably the best ‘crazy cult’ episode that Star Trek has ever attempted because this time its personal and the attack is against the Federation itself. Its another unique look at the war from a fresh perspective and if you find the crew of the Valiant tough to bear there is a dramatic schism between Jake and Nog to enjoy that shows just how far both characters have come in unexpected directions. Some of the guest performances aren’t the greatest (yeah Courtney Peldon I’m looking at you) but as a look at how the Federation can actually cause more harm than good at trying to breed people who think they are the best of the best I think the presentation here is admirable. What really sells the episode is the last ten minutes which features a terrifically nasty action sequence that wipes the smiles of this arrogant bunch of cadets faces and reminds us of what a menacing foe the Dominion is. The way it refuses to take the Star Trek route of everything turning out for the best is commendably downbeat (had this been Voyager they would be at home hugging their parents by the end), the death count is shocking (and bloody) and the realisation of the Valiant’s destruction unforgettable. This is the second episode in a row that hasn’t quite made it into the upper echelons of DS9 but I still have a high regard for because it pushes the show into some uncomfortable directions which I think might account for its marmite reputation: 7/10

Profit and Lace written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Alexander Siddig

What’s it about: Quark’s cross dressing, Rom’s acting like a gayer, the Grand Nagus is coming onto men…just a normal day on DS9!

Community Leader: We open this episode with Quark demanding outrageous sexual favours from one of his female employees and threatening to sack her if she doesn’t comply. Talk about tackling the theme from the off. This isn’t even a perversion of his character because this misogynistic side to his character has been in evidence since Captive Pursuit in season one. He’s utterly patronising in the way that he compliments and then manipulates her…but they have also been mainstays in his character since day one. If Quark’s outraged reaction to the news that Ferengi women are being given equal rights (‘that can’t be the good news?’) is anything to go by this is going to be one hell of a fight! I could really buy into what Quark says about he and his mother showing affection is by arguing – it would sure explain a lot about my family! Most of the criticism of this episode seems to stem from Quark’s characterisation when he is transformed into the luscious beauty that is Lumba! Detractors comment that when he becomes a she there is a sudden vanity, light headedness and melodramatic streak. What they fail to mention is that Quark behaves like that as a man most of the time too! Lumba is also shrewd, resourceful, improvisonal (‘doesn’t wearing all those clothes make you feel like a deviant?’ ‘Not at all. Because I know that under these clothes…I’m totally naked’), witty and smart. That’s a little bit like Quark too. So is this episode actually saying that men and women are quite alike in many ways? He suggests that his hormones are racing out of control because he has only been a man again for a few hours…oh Quark, you’re that sensitive all the time!

Secret Genius: Rom mincing across the room and sitting down like a man who has dropped the soap a few times in prison made me laugh so hard.

Starfleet Ferengi: ‘And this my son Nog…he’s the first Ferengi to join Starfleet!’ ‘I’ll try not to hold that against him.’ I’ve always said the Nagus was a very perceptive man.

Wrinkly Tycoon: If you get the chance switch the DVD to German and listen to the guy who is playing the Nagus…bloody hilarious! Playing the DVDs on my computer has this weird effect of opening the episodes on German rather than English and listening to the voice dubs can sometimes provoke some real laughter! However there is only one Wallace Shawn and he is having a blast and a half in this episode flirting with men and women, attempting a bar fight and smoothing his way with Ferengi businessmen. He’s a delight to watch. Before he met Moogie Zek was a lonely, unhappy man…but he was rich. It depends which you think is more worthwhile as to which side of this argument you support.

Flighty Female: ‘Get used to it limp lobes! This is the future…’ Moogie has big plans to liberate all females on Ferenginar and to one day see a woman take the role of Grand Nagus! Even Zek looks shocked to hear that. Whilst they have never exactly been the model mother and son unit in the past they reach new levels of dynsfunctionalism here. When Quark criticises his mother suggesting that she has been whispering feminist propaganda in the Nagus’ ear ever since they have been together there is a hint of truth in his words.

Acting Grand Nagus: Proving that perhaps these Ferengi episode aren’t quite as realistically portrayed as the dramatic instalments…having Brunt go from a pauper to Grand Nagus in the space of 10 episode is not exactly a convincing development. But we’ll go with it because he’s such a slimy backstabber who’s loving the moment.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘A Dominion invasion of Ferenginar?’ ‘Think of the terrible repercussions to the Alpha Quadrant!’ ‘I cannot think of any…’
‘Boys together we’re going to retake an Empire or diiiieeeee in the attempt!’
‘Remember she’s Rom’s wife!’ ‘Meaning what?’ ‘Meaning she’s broke!’ ‘She doesn’t look broke to me…’ – continuing the sexism theme, the Nagus admires Leeta’s…umm attributes.
‘Tell him that tomorrow he’ll be meeting with another of my female financial advisors….ueggggh….Lumba!
‘I need you!’ ‘What you need is a cold shower!’
‘You maybe a lousy son but you made a wonderful daughter!’

The Good: The Nagus has supported a bill to allow Ferengi females to wear clothes and go to work…and even earn profit. Say what you will about these Ferengi episodes they flaunt more development that Voyager manages in any of its plotlines throughout all of its seven series. I always laugh my head off when all of the actors start singing the ‘Slug-o-Cola’ jingle! How great are these guys together (‘I just kicked the Grand Nagus out of my bar!’ Everyone: ‘Acting Grand Nagus!’)? Its pretty amusing to think that Profit & Lace is pretty much a re-run of the same events in In the Pale Moonlight albeit with a comic slant. It’s a massive deception to get the get the staunchest member of a race to agree to a radical change in policy to promote a revolution. Moogie’s comedy faint shouldn’t be funny but it gets me every time…I’m rally glad they were made to re-film these scenes. For once I think Paramount was right on the ball - this shouldn’t have been a sinister exploration of the mother/son dynamic. Sometimes it is a lot easier to make your point effectively by making people laugh and when I did at this point I suddenly thought…should I be laughing at this? Dragging up men has been a staple of comedy since Shakespeare’s time and beyond and with the advent of pantomime it is something that is celebrated en masse. I’m not sure why people have a problem with Quark having a sex change and decking himself in disgraceful women’s clothing but this is the sort of thing I have been exposed to ever since I was three every single Christmas. The comic misunderstandings (‘you may walk like a man but you make a very attractive female…confusing, isn’t it?’, questions of sexuality (Rom is a total gayer!) and social commentary (‘would you stop staring at your chest!’ says a lot about how men view women) that this transformation encourages is worthy of the Bard. Shoving in the man on man (or should that be man on man who has become a woman) kiss is merely the icing on the cake!

The Bad: I think it will upset people more if I find no fault in this at all.

Moment to Watch Out For: The sad truth is there are an awful lot of men like Nilva who enjoy indulging in things that society would consider utterly reprehensible. The fact of the matter is that this is a comedy attempted rape scene…and whilst it should be deeply uncomfortable to watch it is played so outrageously over the top it is impossible to look at it in that manner. It’s a madly energetic slapstick scene with Quark running around a table, threatening him with a chair and hanging from the ceiling. Its utterly ridiculous and I can completely understand why some fans would hate it but forgive if in the same breath I can enjoy it all the more so because of that. ‘Come to me my little love slave!’

Fashion Statement: Enhancing the pantomime feel of this episode out steps Moogie wearing something that even a panto dame might blush at putting on! Sequins & baubles & silks and bobbly bits!

Result: The worst Star Trek episode of all time! That is what some insane people declare about Profit & Lace (obviously they haven’t seen The Naked Now, Code of Honor, The Last Outpost, Justice, Hide & Q, Home Soil, Where Silence Has Lease, The Outrageous Okona, Shades of Grey, Captain’s Holiday, Devil’s Due, New Ground, Man of the People, Aquiel, Suspicions, Descent, Gambit, Force of Nature, Sub Rosa, Masks, Emergence, The Passenger, Melora, Second Sight, Rivals, Meridian, Fascination, Life Support, Sons of Mogh, The Muse, Let He Who is Without Sin, Ferengi Love Songs, Ressurection, The Emperor’s New Cloak – and not to mention two thirds of Voyager’s overall output). I don’t even think it is the worst Ferengi episode. Far from it. It’s a witty and watchable sitcom episode that takes hold of sexism as a theme and absolutely murders it. I can more or less sum up these Ferengi episodes by comparing them with a quaint old British sitcom that was very popular in the 1990s…’Allo ‘Allo. The two have a great deal in common. They are a mixture of farce and slapstick comedy, they employ the services of confident actors with good chemistry to drive the witty scripts, they rely on repeated (and ever more extreme) catchphrases to get the best audience laughs and they spend a lot of time exploring the baser side of humanity. This isn’t the sort of US sitcom where people walk into a room and smile and get a round of applause without doing a thing (ala Friends & Will and Grace), it is paradoxically (for a comedy) much darker and more introverted than that (dealing with issues such as greed, gender disassociation, union strikes and sexism). Frankly I can understand why the majority of the American market didn’t go for these episodes because they aren’t shallow, cute and full of sexy performers flirting madly with each other (odd how episodes such as Take Me Out to the Holosuite & Badda Bing Badda Bang were much better received in the US). Profit and Lace is patronising? Not from where I am sitting. Quark’s transformation is outrageous and gaudy but it still has some interesting things to say about how men treat women. Over the top? This is a comedy, dammit! This is the last great outing for my Ferengi family and with Quark, Rom, Nog, Moogie, the Nagus, Leeta and Brunt all on top form the chemistry between the actors is more palpable then ever. You might think that I have gone clinically insane to slaughter so many Voyager episodes and praise this one but I can genuinely see a difference in quality between the two. Plus this gets an extra point for the glorious sequence where the show finally tips over into old school slapstick (I can hear the Benny Hill theme tune playing) and has Quark running around a table trying to escape the clutches of a lecherous misogynist. I can hear the teeth grinding of po faced Star Trek fans everywhere during that scene and it makes me laugh all the more. Chill out guys…put Rise and Favourite Son on if you need and antidote to all this fun. Chucklesome: 8/10

Time’s Orphan written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: Molly falls through a time portal and returns ten years older…

Tasty Terrorist: I love the fact that even during its lesser episodes DS9 can still creep in the odd astonishing moment of characterisation and Kira admitting that she might want a baby of her own one day (and Odo’s pained reaction) really hits home.

Unknown Sample: Odo’s decision to help the O’Brien’s to escape is really lovely and Keiko giving him a kiss and a cuddle practically made me purr.

Mr Wolf: You know things are a little off when the best material of the episode is ‘Worf the babysitter’ but that is underselling just hoe charming this subplot really is. Michael Dorn is so chilled out in the role these days he simply exudes charisma and his quirky chemistry with Terry Farrell really makes me smile. He feeds, changes, sings and reads Kirayoshi a story but still he cries…it’s the sort of horror that every new parent faces. But Worf is trying to prove himself to Jadzia that he would be a good enough father to her children so he wont give up. We get a glimpse of the old Worf when he complete overreacts about Kirayoshi taking a little tumble but fortunately Dax is there to sort him out.

The O’Briens: Its only during the first handful of scenes that I realised how much we have seen the O’Brien household grow since Miles and Keiko got together. We’ve watched their marriage, the birth of Molly, the move to the station, the birth of Kirayoshi and now the addition of Chester. Whilst these scenes are hardly a gripping start to an episode they do expose just how natural they have cohered into a family unit. O’Brien promises his daughter that they will never be apart again and aside from the massive irony of that statement given what happens next he is true to his word and moves himself and his family to Earth when the war is over. Even when the situation is as ridiculous as this its great that the performances are so vivid – Rosalind Chao and Colm Meaney really convince as parents sick with worry about their missing little girl. Keiko has known Miles long enough to know when he is planning something and she wants to face the consequences of whatever it is with him. Their decision to let go of Molly and allow her to live her live back in the past is a huge sacrifice but the way the material has been presented it is clearly the best thing for her.

GE Doctor: I’m not really the best person to discuss temporal mechanics with but I’m pretty sure the excuse Bashir spins as to why they cannot return the older Molly to the portal and retrieve the younger one is absolute nonsense. Surely it would just be a simple rewriting of her history? And since the Doctor is isn’t around it doesn’t seem as though it is going to impact much that is going on at the moment. Apart from there was something a little off about Alexander Siddig’s performance here…he seemed a little smug and self satisfied in each of his scenes. Go back and watch it and see what I mean.

What’s Morn up to: He just about manages to avoid being stabbed in the gut by Warrior Molly!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Oh bollocks!
‘No. I am a Klingon warrior and a Starfleet officer. I have piloted Starships through Dominion minefields. I have stood in battle against Kelvin’s twice my size! I courted and one the heart of the magnificent Jadzia Dax! If I can do these things I can make this child go to sleep!’

Dreadful Dialogue: ‘This is a ball Molly’ ‘May I have the ball? Would you like the ball Molly?’ – have we wondered into a Voyager script conference?

The Good: Imagine the horror of losing your kid down a precipice like this? Trying to grab hold of her hand but just not being quick enough? Little details like the older Molly bending down because she remembers looking up them as a child help to see the situation (although I could have done without O’Brien pointing this out). As ever the location is absolutely stunning – this is definitely the sort of place I would love to go for a picnic (minus the time portal of course). Molly’s blaze of destruction through Quark’s superbly directed. It takes a lot of skill to make that kind of planned chaos look completely accidental.

The Bad: I get the idea of shoehorning One Little Ship into season six to try and show that whilst the series is immersing itself into a long bloody war there is still space to tell fluffy Trek high concept bollocks. I get that because they introduce a strong Dominion element into the story. Time’s Orphan feels right out of place on the other hand because unlike the rest of the season it is literally a standalone episode that has nothing to do with anything much. Its just kind of there. It’s a pleasant enough watch for the sincerity of the performances, etc but I cannot understand why it has a place in the show at this stage of the game. It honestly feels like it heralds from season three and the fact it sticks out like such a sore thumb shows that this kind of Trek standby isn’t what DS9 is about anymore. So let me get this straight Molly just happened to find the only time portal on the planet and accidentally slipped into it? That just happened to be the spot where they had their picnic and nobody did a scan for alien tech?

Moment to Watch Out For: The most blatant reset DS9 has pulled off in many a year and its just as annoying as any of the myriad of Voyager examples. Wouldn’t it have been hilarious if O’Brien had destroyed the time portal just before the younger Molly was about to walk through? Or does that make me sick?

Result: Molly, Warrior Woman? The writers are getting pretty desperate at finding new ways to torture O’Brien, aren’t they? I cannot deny that the performances are gorgeous and the musical score is absolutely triumphant but this is surface gloss that hides the fact that Time’s Orphan serves no other purpose but to fill an episode slot in the season and have no impact on it whatsoever. I have never seen such a blatant attempt at a show having its cake and eating it than when the O’Brien’s make a shocking decision to lose their daughter for her happiness and then the younger version is returned to them anyway. Molly has no role to play at all in season seven so there is no reason why shouldn’t have been written out at this stage and it would have certainly turned this unmemorable episode into something much more powerful. The adventures of Worf the Supernanny should have continued…gungungung! Completely disposable but entirely without merit: 5/10

The Sound of Her Voice written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Winrich Kolbe

What’s it about: A lone voice in the night is the answer to the Defiant crews problems…

Single Father: Things are really strained between Sisko and Kassidy and he is barely bothering to disguise it. Their brief scene in the Mess Hall is one of awkward glances and discomfort. Just what Lisa needs to hear is bunch of updates about a horrific war that she never even knew had been raging! Nice one Sisko! Lisa can tell that Sisko and Kassidy are having problems the second he mentions her name because there is no joy in his voice. Its true actually, whenever I talk about Simon I usually find myself smiling. I would hate for there to come a day when I stop. Lisa charms Sisko with her own tale of woe concerning mixing work with pleasure and then dishes out some great advice. She really should be a counsellor you know, or at least they should get one aboard DS9 post haste because its clear that there are a lot of issues that need discussing. Off duty Kassidy is exactly what Sisko needs but she doesn’t belong in his work life. She’s a distraction and that’s a problem and that’s why he doesn’t know how to handle her in this environment. When Sisko heads over to apologise to Kassidy at Lisa’s wake for his rude behaviour her whole body language screams of somebody who thinks they are about to be given the push. This is a relationship that has hit some patches but always manages to ride them. I heard them described as the dullest couple on TV (stand up Gary Russell who actually took the honour of writing that himself when he poisoned the Doctor/Charley relationship over at Big Finish Productions) but I think they share a very believable chemistry and their continuing development just makes them more watchable to me. I’m really glad we’ll be seeing a lot more of Kassidy next year.

Everyday Engineer: Strangely this is a far better episode for O’Brien than Time’s Orphan was (‘this is a ball Molly!’) and he once again gets the chance to flaunt how great a character he is just by being so normal. Having Lisa’s distressing whinings playing in the background as he tries to establish contact just so somebody is listening is very sweet. He’s seen a lot of combat and it’s a heavy burden to carry around and when Lisa asks where his friends are and why he can’t discuss this with it opens his eyes to how he has been isolating himself.

GE Doctor: As Kassidy points out once upon a time you couldn’t shut Bashir up and now he barely allows you a syllable before sitting on his own and immersing himself in his work. He deserved everything he got when Lisa pretended to be attacked by a great scary monster! Fancy leaving a damsel in distress hanging like that and focussing solely on your work. Actually I have to be honest I’ve had a few phone conversations with my mum like this…as much as I love her she can go on a bit so the standard ‘uh-huh’, ‘oh really?’ and ‘you don’t say’ responses come into play as I surf the web! How did they let him out of medical school with this kind of bedside manner?

Community Leader: Quark is being persecuted by Odo again but notices that as soon as Kira is in the bar his attention slides clean away from him. Money spins in the air as Quark sees an opportunity to exploit their relationship to distract Odo and make some profit. Quark spells out that he helped Odo find love with Kira (which is true) and unbeknownst to him Odo is listening from a disguised location and ponders thoughtfully on whether to let the little toad get away with this one. He does of course and the delicious irony is that Quark thinks that just this once he has beaten Odo when it is in fact a rare moment of kindness from his nemesis. That makes me glow.

Young Sisko: Nice to get some Jake subplot action of the sort we used to enjoy on a regular basis but has been put on hold since the war broke out. He’s pretending that he’s working on a story and needs some nefarious background detail for a criminal character but I think he just wants to get his hands dirty and to see what Quark gets up to behind the scenes.

What’s Morn up to: Morn is stuck between Odo and Quark’s usual round of bitching with the security officer suggesting he may tumble from his stool and puncture one of his lungs (which makes him stand up) and Quark rebutting that his body weight is perfectly distributed (and gives him a couple of spins to prove it!). Poor sod.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘She’s gone! I have eaten her!’ – hahaha!
‘I have this growing sense of isolation. I see people, I talk to them, I laugh with them but some part of me is always saying they may not be here tomorrow. Don’t get too close.’
‘I owe him one. So he’ll get this one. But just this one.’
‘Contrary to public opinion I am not the arrogant, self absorbed God-like Doctor that I appear to be on occasion. Why don’t I hear anybody objecting to that statement?’ ‘I will if you insist’ ‘I insist’ ‘Then I object!’
‘I never shook her hand and I never saw her face but she made me laugh and she made me weep. She was all by herself and I was surrounded by my friends yet I felt more alone than she did. We’ve grown apart, a lot of us. We didn’t mean for it to happen but it did. The war changed us, pulled us apart. Lisa Cusak my friend but you are also my friends and I want my friends in my life because some day we’re going to wake up and we’re going to find that someone is missing from this circle. And on that day we’re going to mourn and we shouldn’t have to mourn alone. To Lisa and the sweet sound of her voice!’ – if you ever needed proof of what an astonishing actor Colm Meaney is then stick this scene on. He’s incredible and always reduces me to tears.

The Good: You can always tell when an episode is underunning a tad because there is a very apparent b plot shoehorned in to make up the time. Time’s Orphan was buoyed by a narrative of Worf holding the baby and The Sound of Her Voice gets most of its laughs from the charming Odo/Quark subplot (the likes of which we haven’t seen for too long) that is saturated with great character moments. Whoever decided to keep the actors and Debra Wilson apart so they only ever performed against her voice was a genius because there is a palpable feeling of distant between the ship and the wreck throughout the episode. Wilson is extraordinarily good, warm and witty despite being in a dreadful situation and unlike Voyager’s attempts to bring a strong personality to the mix (ala Ashes to Ashes) there isn’t the sense that she towers above the rest of the crew. It’s a great character interacting with great characters. In a way I wish we could have enjoyed this episode without the daft twist at the end because the idea of a lone voice speaking to all of the crew and effectively counselling them during their crisis whilst experiencing one herself is a fantastic premise for a show and it does go most of the way towards realising it. It’s a shame that the twist is ultimately so hackneyed because the production levels are superb with the new craft leaving the Defiant and landing on the storm lashed planet and then the physical effects taking over and offering the most convincingly inhospitable planet since TNG’s The Enemy. What does work about the ending is the thought that all this hope that the DS9 crew have been offering this woman was for nought. She was always going to die. That’s really quite tragic. The last scene is quite divine for its performances and optimistic tone but could they have signposted Dax’s death any more obviously? Lisa taught them all it was necessary to say important things to your friends and this last scene reflects their shard intimacy extremely well.

The Bad: Think of all the co-incidences that would have to be aligned in order for this distress call to reach this location. It just happens to be a ship that went off exploring the Beta Quadrant so it has been away for x amount of time, it just happens to have hit the singularity that bends it through time into the future… It does begin to sound a little unlikely, doesn’t it? Time travel bollocks, bending the beam through time bollocks…its just a deeply unsatisfying ending. Its not often that I would say something this outrageous but Voyager did this sort of thing much better in Eye of the Needle.

Moment to Watch Out For: O’Brien’s conversation with Lisa about how the war is affecting demonstrates why DS9 is a different sort of Trek than we are used to. The dialogue is dark and delicious, the psychology warped and fascinating. This sort of scene can only come off if you have developed a character and an arc to this extent where one is literally feeding the other and both are saying interesting things about each other.

Result: Basically an early episode of In Treatment fifteen years early with a daft Star Trek twist at the end. I think the character work in The Sound of Her Voice is outstanding which is a relief because the plot itself is old hat with a twist that is guessable about five minutes into the episode. So the fate of this episode lies on the shoulders of the regulars so lets be thankful that we are not watching Voyager! Its been a dark season and this is a chance to reflect on the horrors that our heroes have faced and see how the prolonged fight is affecting them. Watch Winrich Kolbe’s direction of this episode really carefully (I knew it was one of his before his name even showed up after the titles) and how he brings the camera really close to the actors faces so they are completely exposed and have to really sell the scene they are in. Fortunately the DS9 regulars are at the top of their game more than ever and up to the task of driving home how the war is haunting their every move and pushing them towards depression. With the aid of Lisa (played to perfection by Debra Wilson) they manage to find some peace and realise that they are lucky to have each other. If that sounds twee it really isn’t, its all achieve with some typically reflective and memorable Ron Moore dialogue. Add to the mix a delightful Odo and Quark subplot which ensures the episode is a balance of light and dark and has a heartfelt ending and you have a pretty strong episode all told. It would be even stronger had the initial premise been tweaked to toss out the Trek clichés and implausibilities but its still a muscular hour with plenty to say and well timed just before the war steps up a notch: 8/10

Tears of the Prophets written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler and directed by Allan Kroeker

What’s it about: The invasion of Cardassia has begun…

Single Father: ‘You are even the Emissary or a Starfleet Captain! You can’t be both…’ Of all the Captains I think Sisko deserves the medal of valour more than any of his stable mates for the hell he has been through this year and still managing to stay (reasonably) sane (it was touch and go in Waltz and In the Pale Moonlight). Sisko has been pushing for an advancement into Dominion territory ever since the Romulans joined the war and finally Starfleet is listening. Look at him go giving the other great powers of the Alpha Quadrant a slap on the wrist for griping at each other when they have a common goal of bringing down the Dominion. He really has been set up as the saviour of the Quadrant, hasn’t he? Sisko being torn between his duties to Starfleet and his duties to Bajor have been in evidence since the beginning of the series but what has changed so significantly is his feelings on the matter. He has grown so attached to the planet now that he considers it his home so when Admiral Ross demands that he makes a commitment to the Prophets or to Starfleet it really is a big moment for the show. Once again DS9 shows that choosing to walk the Federation path (see also Valiant) is not always for the best and the resulting punishments for him and Bajor may both have been avoided had he chosen his faith. Sisko’s decision to leave the station is a massive one for the series which is why his goodbye scene to Jadzia is so vital. It reminds us of how much he needed this character in his life, how much he has suffered at the hands of the Dominion and explains why it is so vital that he get away for a bit to clear his head and try and find himself again. To abandon your crew because of your feelings of loss and failiure is very un-Starfleet and that’s why I like it because it feels very real. This is not the action of a hero but a bruised man who cannot take any more hurt. The final shot of him scrubbing potatoes at his fathers restaurant sees him as far away from his life as possible and leaving the audience wondering if he will ever return. That baseball really has become a symbol of his character, hasn’t it? Because he has taken it with him Kira isn’t sure if he will ever be back. Those are some pretty metaphorical tatties he is working at too, scrubbing them clean just as he is trying to do with his soul.

Tasty Terrorist: After a month or so of the honeymoon period its about time for Odo & Kira to have their first tiff and when he arrests a Vedek on the Promenade for raising funds for the Bajoran war orphans it gives her a great opportunity to get in a massive grump with him! When it comes to Dax’s death it was the close up on Kira that got me the most, Nana Visitor plays the scene as though it is the last thing she ever expected to hear and its all the more effective for it.

Mr Wolf: He’s become such a kinky bastard these days…and he certainly doesn’t consider making a baby with Dax work. We don’t really have to ponder on Worf’s reaction to Dax’s death but that’s okay because he has an entire season to follow up on those feelings to come.

GE Doctor: Space is big and there are a lot of nice girls out there…but Bashir is depressed at the thought of having lost Jadzia to that walking frown of a husband. It’s going to take something pretty huge to turn that around and see him in with a chance again…

Nine Lives: Last chance to saloon to see Worf and Dax enjoying that special chemistry that exists between them. It is slightly manipulative to have them discussing having a baby in the episode that she is torn from him but since this was all set up so well in Time’s Orphan it doesn’t feel at all out of place. Its seems an odd moment for her to stay behind on the station until you realise why but its about time somebody from the senior staff was left to housesit whilst everybody charges off to war. Dax literally says goodbye to everybody at the airlock for the last time…sniff, sniff… Let’s chalk Sisko and Kira as two more potential targets for the blame of Dax’s death – him because he didn’t heed the warning of the Prophets and stay behind when he could have potentially have protected Dax and Kira because she said a prayer for their hopes of having a baby which lead our sacrificial Trill to the shrine to thank the Prophets. Add Kai Winn into the mix for enforcing a long struggle between the Prophets and the Pah Wraiths (which could have ended in The Reckoning) and Dukat for being the instrument of her demise and there is plenty of finger pointing to go around. Whilst some people might have liked a big heroic death for Dax what I love about it is that it is so low key. It is literally a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with none of the tedious hero worship a lot of fictional characters get during their exits. This is more akin to real life (not being killed by an elemental force trying to bring down a wormhole, the being in the wrong place at the wrong time bit) and its great that just this once there is something so avoidable about how events play out and the tragedy comes from the fact that it wasn’t. The way she is casually tossed aside like a rag doll means that she wasn’t even the target of this rage, she was just in the way. A complete irrelevance. What a horrible way to go. I’m so pleased that they followed this unheroic method of death up at the beginning of season seven. The way she is killed is so quick and nasty that you don’t have time to mourn (added to the fact that there is so much going on elsewhere) which leaves a massive window of opportunity to drive some drama from this event in the next season. Its probably the first time I have seen a character written out this way, blunting the impact of the moment to make the consequences much more vital and heartbreaking later but you can’t argue with the successive drama that follows. Again DS9 takes risks and wins. Worf has lost his wife, Sisko his mentor, Kira her friend and Bashir the one that got away…so much to capitalise on in the last season plus the introduction of a new Dax character. Who said writing out a character this close to the end was a bad idea? Its possibly the best boost the show could have had going into its final year. 

Community Leader: ‘And I’m worried that the kid’ll end up looking like its father!’

Young Sisko: ‘We’re talking about the invasion of Cardassia! A savage thrust into the very heart of the Dominion!’ Even Sisko looks appalled at that line and Jake promises not to write it up that way. After a half season absence Jake is very much part of this show again in a major way and Sisko allowing him to come with them during the battle is a great way to get him up close and personal to the Dominion war in his career.

Plain and Simple: It would appear that Garak is going to turn up on the bridge during every battle now and yet as soon as he mentions it is his homeworld is being liberated his presence makes perfect sense. Like Jake though, he kind of gets lost in the mix.

Wily Weyoun: It has been too long since we last caught up with Weyoun (In the Pale Moonlight to my knowledge and then only in the form of a faked recording) and the lack of scenes in the enemy camp has made the second half of the season less superior to the first half. Its not a mistake they would make with the shows seventh season which has plenty of Weyoun/Damar action throughout. His opinion of Dukat has not improved (‘you’ve got from being a self important egotist to a self deluded madman…’) and the look that he gives Damar when the former Cardassian leader starts chanting Bajoran script is hilarious.

Slimy Snake: ‘Heroes get welcomed home Dukat, not failures…’ You have to admire the sheer gall of Dukat simply strolling into Central Command on Cardassia and making demands. It would appear that the loss of Deep Space Nine has been aimed squarely at Dukat whereas (as he points out) Weyoun was by his side agreeing with every decision he made at the time. It would appear that his time with Sisko during Waltz has truly unhinged the man and he now blames every misfortune he has suffered on the man who is living his life. Even the loss of his daughter is no longer attributed to Damar, he genuinely believes that Sisko forced his hand. He’s far beyond conquest and power now, he just wants his revenge on the man who belittled and insulted him and he’s turned to an unexpected ally to make this happen. That Dukat and the Pah Wraiths should join forces makes sense because of who he is trying to bring down – if Sisko has allied himself with the Prophets then who better to aid him in his revenge than their greatest enemies?

Gentle Giant: Martok is displeased about the Romulan alliance despite the military advantages it adds to their war effort. He finds them an arrogant, untrustworthy people although whether that is simply racism of a genuine observation is unclear.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘It is a private matter’ ‘We’re thinking about having a baby!’ ‘It was a private matter…’
‘Romulans don’t believe in luck…’ ‘All the better! Leaves more for the rest of us!’
‘Look at Dax and Worf. They love each other but they fight all the time!’ ‘Are you saying that you love me?’ ‘Don’t change the subject!’ – they’ve taken a relationship that could have gone either way and made it work. More, they’ve managed to make it the best domestic relationship between two regulars from any of Star Trek series.
‘All this talk of Gods strikes me as little more than superstitious nonsense!’ ‘You believe the Founders as Gods, don’t you?’ ‘That’s different’ ‘In what way?’ ‘The Founders are Gods.’

The Good: Excuse me? The invasion of Cardassia? Lead by Sisko and featuring the combined forces of the Federation, the Klingons and the Romulans? Are you kidding me? That is the most exciting plot development in any Star Trek show ever. Slap me just to make sure this isn’t all a dream and that a Trek show definitely has developed to a point where the Federation is invading other worlds! Its such a two finger salute at Gene Roddenberry’s golden vision of the future (which as I have said in the past is a nice idea in theory and offers hope to future generations but doesn’t equate to a decent dramatic television show) it makes me feel even more golden! Once again DS9 offers an intimate glimpse behind enemy lines to see how the Dominion reacts to every move that Sisko makes. Has any other show developed an arc in this with as much focus on the villains as on the heroes? With such gorgeous baddies as this I’m sure it must have been irresistible but it also has the effect of making this conflict a lot more in depth. The conference session featuring the Federation, Klingons and Romulans just goes to show what a great idea it was allying these three great powers because despite their common goal there are massive differences between them which makes for great tension and amusing asides. Any show that can stick a musical number in the middle of this epic storytelling gets my vote! Its great to see Vic back providing a charming (and hilarious) number to Bashir and Quark who are mooning over their lost love, Jadzia. Here’s to the losers indeed! Trust the Prophets to show up and offer word of a terrible future should Sisko head the mission to Cardassia…still you can’t say they didn’t warn him! How fecking awesome are those weapons platforms? When the first one powers up and starts fire a volley of phasers and torpedoes I started screaming encouraging words…until I realised I was cheering on the enemy! We haven’t had a battle with planets providing a backdrop before and the effects work is striking and unusual in that respect. Once again DS9 is boasting cinematic CGI and its another massive strength of the episode. The Jem H’adar front a series of suicide runs to destroy the Klingon ships in the first wave, literally throwing down their lives for their Gods and buying time to get the weapons platforms operational. The scene in which Dukat vomits the Pah Wraith into the Orb, turning it black plus completely wiping the wormhole from existence is not only a frightening sequence but also has massive ramifications for the series. Federation soldiers have landed on Cardassian soil and the wormhole is gone without any chance of reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant so things aren’t looking too rosy for the Dominion either. It will be interesting to see how both sides jump in the last season.

The Bad: ‘Our baby would have been so beautiful’ is the only note that I don’t like. It feels blatantly manipulative. Fortunately Worf’s anguished growl brushes that aside in a hurry.

Moment to Watch Out For: The way the script affords Sisko a massive victory in taking the Chin’toka system and then snatches it away with the loss of Dax and the wormhole is deliberately very cruel and you wonder how much longer these characters will be able to take these one step forwards, two steps back setbacks. For the sakes of drama though, its excellent.

Foreboding: ‘Mark my word! By this time next year the three of us will drink blood wine in the halls of Cardassia’s Central Command!’ You can’t say that Martok isn’t a man of his word, can you?

Result: Tears of the Prophets brings the season to a close on a truly unexpected note with the wormhole destroyed, Dax dead and Sisko resigning his post and moving back to Earth. After season five ended on such an optimistic note despite the Dominion takeover of the station it is a massive gamble to plunge the series into such a state of depression at the end of the sixth year. But then DS9 has always been known to take risks and this is a perfectly formed finale which plays out like a mini movie in three stages – character vignettes as we lead up to combat, the fight itself and then the consequences. It’s a massive series overview encapsulated in one instalment with the central Dominion arc taking priority but with time for Kira & Odo’s relationship, mooning losers Quark & Bashir, Dax & Worf’s desire to have a baby, Jake’s continuing career, tension between the Klingons and the Romulans and even a song from Vic Fontaine. The way the writers manage to juggle this material and still make the episode feel fluid and with plenty of dramatic momentum is extraordinary and the space battle sequences and Dax’s death are both exquisitely filmed to provide some real consequences for Sisko’s decision to head the mission. Some might accuse the episode of being over stuffed but I simply didn’t see that as being the case…it’s a dizzying mixture of style and substance that rounds of an incredible year of Star Trek on an memorable note. With so many developments to explore and wrap up in the last series it looks like DS9 is going to go out on a real high: 9/10

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