by The Octopus Man
Hello all, I'm the new guy here at Atlanta Classic Comics. I like lists. This is a list. All right, now that that's settled, let's get started.
In my opinion, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the overall strongest Trek series, and I don't think it's close. Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation were great, but inconsistent, a problem which has plagued the franchise as a whole. DS9 overcame the consistency bug as much as any Trek show ever has and gave the franchise several of its greatest characters and storylines. The show also was one of the first series of any kind to embrace serialized storytelling, which has come to dominate the television landscape. The Paramount executives originally wanted the Dominion storyline to last through one two-part episode. The show ended up stretching that tale out over five seasons. That kind of thing may seem normal now, but it nearly required an act of Congress to make it to air in 1994. If you've never watched the show, this list probably won't do much for you, sorry; but if you have...prepare your angry comments.
Since Star Trek fans are known for their attention to detail, here's my methodology for this ranking. Every episode counts separately. Two-part episodes that didn't air together count as two distinct episodes. Each episode should be able to judged on its own as well as part of a longer story. The only real exceptions here are the pilot, the series finale, and the season four premiere, which all aired as one 90-minute episode (2 hours with commercials). Those are counted as one episode. All total, that means we have 173 episodes of this seven season behemoth to wade through. So, let's get down to it, and put our worst foot forward...
173. "The Passenger" - Season 1, Episode 9 (2/21/93)
"Make...me...live..." - Rao Vantika
We begin at the bottom with this horrid season one offering. The show didn't really become itself until season three (or season four if you want to fight about it), and several episodes from the first season in particular were reworked pitches for the then-still airing Next Generation. The show's cast of characters, which became arguably its greatest strength, weren't yet fully fleshed out, and Dr. Julian Bashir may be the prime example. The Bashir of season one was an annoying twerp who grated far more than the show's production team intended. This problem would be fixed by season two, but that didn't help this episode, which sees Bashir become infected with a dying master criminal's consciousness without knowing it. Alexander Siddig (credited as Siddig El Fadil at this point) struggles mightily with this criminal persona, and his line deliveries toward the end are pretty laughable. The character becomes one of the show's best, but this...this is just awful.
Trivial Note - This series did an admirable job of maintaining continuity with itself and the prior Trek productions (something the previous productions largely didn't do), but I feel like even the show was too embarrassed of this episode to reference it in season six's "Inquisition", where Bashir is accused of unknowingly being a Dominion sleeper agent. That episode points out other potentially suspicious instances from Bashir's past, but avoids this turd, even though pretty much the exact thing the Doctor is accused of in that episode happens to him in this one.
172. "Profit and Lace" - Season 6, Episode 23 (5/13/98)
"You may be a lousy son, but you made a wonderful daughter." - Ishka
Oh lord, this episode is hard to get through. Gender dynamics were never really Trek's strong suit (except on the otherwise unremarkable Star Trek: Voyager), but this episode ranks down among the lowest of the low when it comes to portrayals of women in popular culture, which is especially a shame considering how many strong female characters populate this series. In case you don't remember, or repressed the memory, Quark has to pose as a woman to impress a Ferengi businessman (played by the great Henry Gibson). There are a couple of funny moments in the script (or maybe I was drunk when I watched it), but they are few and far between. Armin Shimerman (who's great as Quark in general) apparently refused to film an earlier version of this script. I really cannot imagine how chauvinistic that version had to be.
Trivial Note - Not to pick on him, but this was the second of two episodes to be directed by Alexander Siddig, who plays Dr. Bashir (and who recently appeared on Game of Thrones as Prince Doran Martell). He and Armin Shimerman wanted to take a supposedly funny concept and push it into more serious territory. The producers wanted the episode to be a complete farce. It ended up being a farce, in all the wrong ways.
171. "Meridian" - Season 3, Episode 8 (11/14/94)
"After eight lifetimes as a humanoid, existing as pure consciousness...might be interesting." - Lt. Jadzia Dax
I would rank this episode as the worst of the show, if it weren't for one scene. That's the scene between Dax and Cmdr. Sisko when it appears Dax is leaving to exist in another dimension with that dude in the picture up there (that dude, by the way, is Brett Cullen, who's appeared in several notable projects, like Lost and The Dark Knight Rises). Avery Brooks and Terry Farrell play the scene well, and it legitimately feels like an emotional goodbye between long-time friends. Everything else in the episode is garbage, though, from the unconvincing romance between Farrell and Cullen, to the random impulsiveness of Dax wanting to leave, to the disgusting subplot about Quark making a sex hologram of Major Kira for a creepy alien (you read that right). And all this came at a point when the show should've grown out of such nonsense.
Trivial Note - The aforementioned creepy alien was played with impressive creepiness by Jeffrey Combs, in his first of many appearances on this show and Trek in general. He's best known for appearing in the Re-Animator film series, and apparently came in second to Jonathan Frakes for the role of Cmdr. Riker on The Next Generation. Frakes directed this episode and recommended Combs for the creep part. Combs would return to play two more wonderful creeps, Brunt and Weyoun, for the rest of the show.
170. "The Storyteller" - Season 1, Episode 14 (5/2/93)
"Once upon a time...there was a Dal'Rok!" - Chief Miles O'Brien
So that blob up there in the picture is the big monster whatever in "The Storyteller". You can imagine why it's hard to take this episode very seriously. Prior to the Dominion storyline, Bajor was the major going concern on DS9 (and it remained a major part of the show all the way to the very end). The Bajorans are an interesting race of oppressed people with a strong sense of spirituality, or at least they normally are. Here, they're a bunch of morons who are afraid of a giant cloud of shaving cream that was created for...reasons. Something about making sure that these people's story gets told and remembered. So they created a floating cloud of shaving cream that can apparently fire energy bursts at people, injuring or killing them. Maybe this seemed like a better idea on the page.
Trivial Note - The friendship between O'Brien and Bashir is a cornerstone of the series, and it more-or-less starts here. The two had briefly bickered in prior episodes, but this was the first time they were paired together in an A-story and O'Brien's initial annoyance with Bashir was a major plot point. Somehow, we get to the Battle of Britain and The Alamo from here.
169. "Time's Orphan" - Season 6, Episode 24 (5/20/98)
"Molly...home" - Molly O'Brien
One of the more popular choices for worst episode of the series, "Time's Orphan" mostly sucks because of the super-bizarre decision-making of the O'Briens. They go from zero to abandon-our-daughter-on-a-deserted-planet pretty quickly. Like that's obviously the better option than having her get professional help. Um...OK. I know there are instances on the series where being studied by scientists is reasonably painted as a very bad thing (Odo's backstory, for example), but having a violently aggressive person receive specialized treatment from professionals doesn't sound so horrible to me. Of course, their abandonment plan works like a charm, and they get their original, non-feral daughter back. You know...how most time-displaced, feral child stories end.
Trivial Note - This, like many of DS9's dregs, was originally a Next Generation story, although season six was long past when that practice had largely stopped. Why did this one get produced four years after TNG went off the air? Because it was produced for that show, too, as the season seven episode "Firstborn", featuring a time-traveling Alexander confronting Worf. That episode was better. Much better.
168. "Move Along Home" - Season 1, Episode 10 (3/14/93)
"It's only a game." - Falow
Ah yes, the most popular choice for worst DS9 episode. I really can't say what it is about this stinkbomb that makes me rank it as merely the sixth-worst episode of the show, and not the worst-worst. Maybe it's hearing Avery Brooks sing the "Allamarine" rhyme in his macho man voice. Maybe it's the pleasantly laughable makeup the alien Wadi have on. Maybe it's super-high-strung season one Kira shouting her way through the game. Maybe it's Maybelline. But it's probably because the five episodes below this one are actively awful, and not merely childish and ridiculous. So there's that.
Trivial Note - This episode marks the first official, diplomatic contact between the crew and a Gamma Quadrant civilization. Fortunately for the viewer, the other Gamma Quadrant races are...not stupid and terrible.
167. "Prodigal Daughter" - Season 7, Episode 11 (1/6/99)
"You always said that I was too weak...to handle the tough ones. I'm not. I proved it. I handled the problem you couldn't. I handled it." - Norvo Tigan
This episode is a mess befitting the creative scramble that had to go on just to get it finished before its airdate. Originally, writers David Weddle and Bradley Thompson wanted to follow up on the Orion Syndicate storyline that had been kicked around on the show the previous two seasons. O'Brien was to be the main character, but the story proved too difficult to nail down in time, so the Ezri-family backstory plot was introduced. Somehow this episode manages to take two of the show's weaker elements in its later seasons, the Orion Syndicate and Ezri, and still not do justice to either of them. The amount of work required to get this one in the can also weakened the two subsequent episodes and contributed to the overexposure of Ezri in the final season, so congrats "Prodigal Daughter". Way to go.
Trivial Note - That's Mad Men's Kevin Rahm (he plays Ted Chaough in that show's later seasons) playing Ezri's sensitive artist brother Norvo. He does a reasonable job, and the defacing of his own art provided the episode with its only successful moment. Obviously, he'd fare better with the material on Mad Men than he did here.
166. "The Emperor's New Cloak" - Season 7, Episode 12 (2/3/99)
"I'm really beginning to hate this universe!" - Rom
The return of the Mirror Universe to Star Trek is generally considered a successful venture on DS9's part. After a recent rewatch of the series, though, the Mirror Universe hasn't aged super-well. Of course, no one really liked this episode when it first aired, so I don't know how far it could realistically fall. This was the episode directly after "Prodigal Daughter", and it's one of the episodes that was damaged by the amount of attention its predecessor had to receive just to get finished in time. There are funny bits here and there, particularly when Grand Nagus Zek explains his reasons for coming to the Mirror Universe in the first place - "It seemed like a good idea at the time," - but shoddy writing and a sad, softcore view of lesbians help drag down an episode that was both the last Ferengi episode and the last Mirror Universe episode.
Trivial Note - The episode's entire plot rests on there being no cloaking devices in the Mirror Universe, as this is presented as a tool that could change the balance of power in the dumb rebellion going on over there. Unfortunately, the second Mirror Universe episode, "Through the Looking Glass", shows MU ships cloaking. Oops. Though this did allow for the cloaked cloaking device sequence, which was the other successful part of this episode.
165. "The Muse" - Season 4, Episode 21 (4/29/96)
"The day I met her...is the day I stopped feeling alone." - Constable Odo
Such are the disadvantages of Star Trek's bloated 26-episode seasons (at least on this show and TNG) that even the best season of the series had this clunker in it. A quick look at the writing credits would make you think that Majel Barrett, widow of franchise creator Gene Roddenberry, had used her clout to get a lousy story made, but this isn't entirely the problem. The story that featured Barrett as Lwaxana Troi isn't great by any means, but it's not completely objectionable. I actually liked the interplay between her and Odo in the three episodes they have together. Odo's quote above is from his wedding speech (oh yeah, they get married in this episode, though it's only for show), and it has real feeling behind it, given what we'd seen between those characters before. No, the problem here is the plot that gives the episode its title. Meg Foster (They Live, Leviathan, Masters of the Universe) plays a good creepy woman, but her story with Jake here is just a complete zero.
Trivial Note - The novel that Jake starts writing with the assistance of a life force-draining alien temptress is called Anslem, which is also the name of his acclaimed novel in the future-set parts of "The Visitor", an episode which is about a zillion bajillion times better than this one.
164. "Through the Looking Glass" - Season 3, Episode 19 (4/17/95)
"I can't let her die. Not again." - Cmdr. Benjamin Sisko
Hey, it's the Mirror Universe again. This episode (the second trip to Mirrorland) more or less has the same strengths and weaknesses of the other MU episodes. If you don't mind how nonsensical the MU is, it's a lot of fun. If you can't get the past all the ridiculousness, though, these episodes are a tough watch. This one, though, has three issues the others don't have. 1 - It kills off the space pirate Mirror Ben Sisko that appeared in "Crossover". I don't think killing a space pirate offscreen is ever a good idea. 2 - Sisko casually sleeps with Mirror Dax (and it's implied he may have hit it with Mirror Kira, too). 3 - Sisko does this in order to help Mirror Jennifer Sisko (the MU version of his dead wife). Number two on that list is enough to torpedo the whole episode, as it's awfully creepy for the generally decent Sisko to sex up women who are identical in appearance to two of his closest friends, but it's extra sleazy that he does this in order to help his dead wife's doppelgänger.
Trivial Note - Yes, that's Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager appearing in the Mirror Universe here. Sure, why not? (Actually, this makes more sense than most things in the MU.) Also, the MU isn't kind to the Ferengi characters, as they drop like flies over there. Mirror Rom bites it in this one.
163. "A Man Alone" - Season 1, Episode 4 (1/17/93)
"Commander, laws change depending on who's making them - Cardassians one day, Federation the next - but justice is justice." - Constable Odo
Counting the 90 minute pilot as one, this was actually the second episode produced for the show, and the first to be produced on a normal schedule with a normal budget. Sadly, this type of episode was the norm for season one, as it plays at something kind of interesting (Odo's role in the Occupation doesn't come up as much as you might think), but delivers a flat, bland story that's resolved with some convenient sci-fi nonsense. There was good material to mine here, but the episode just doesn't succeed, coming off more like a crappy Law & Order story...in SPAAACE!
Trivial Note - Seeing as how this is such an early episode, several characters and relationships are established here. Rom is given a name, and his familial relationships to Quark and Nog are made explicit, though he acts like a typical Ferengi and not the Rom we come to know later (actor Max Grodenchik appeared as a Ferengi in the pilot, but his name and biographical info went unmentioned). Also, the Jake/Nog friendship is established, as is Keiko O'Brien's early role of schoolteacher.
162. "Rivals" - Season 2, Episode 11 (1/2/94)
"In the end, it all comes down to luck." - Cos
Even by early DS9 standards, this is a doofy episode. That's actor Chris Sarandon up there, and if you recognize him, it's probably from his work in great movies like Dog Day Afternoon or, more likely, The Princess Bride. Here, he plays some rando con artist who acquires a device that controls luck...or something like that. He starts a casino-type place that hurts Quark's business, which in turn leads Quark to set up a racquetball match between Bashir and O'Brien, which is also affected by this luck device, which has now been replicated and enlarged by con artist casino-man. Got all that? No? Well, it doesn't play any better on screen, either.
Trivial Note - Bashir and O'Brien's racquetball rivalry is easily the best part of the episode (the outfits they wear while they play aren't, however.) This was meant to be a recurring part of their friendship, but the futuristic racquetball set was too costly, so racquetball became darts in future episodes. Decisions like these are why Hollywood producers get paid the big bucks, people.
161. "A Simple Investigation" - Season 5, Episode 17 (3/31/97)
"I fell in love with a woman who never really existed." - Constable Odo
Odo is among the best characters on DS9, but the episode where he gets a little sexytime does not rank among his shining moments. As with any episode where a one-off romance is the driving force behind the plot, chemistry between (what is usually) a series regular and a one-time guest star makes or breaks the story. Here, that chemistry is sadly lacking, as is anything to make the skin tone of Rene Auberjonois' Odo mask match the color of the rest of his body, which makes his shirtless, post-coital scene weirdly upsetting. Also, this is an Orion Syndicate episode, and none of those are any good.
Trivial Note - Dey Young is the actress who plays Odo's love interest here, and she's perhaps best known as the snobby saleswoman in Pretty Woman (that's actually how she's credited in that movie). Once my wife (the Octopus Woman) realized that, there was no coming back for this character in her mind. Playing such a hateable character can follow you around for a while.
160. "Honor Among Thieves" - Season 6, Episode 15 (2/25/98)
"I don't forget my friends, cause friends - they're like family. Nothing's more important. Nothing." - Liam Bilby
Hey, look, another Orion Syndicate episode. I don't know if this storyline was ever going to amount to anything on the show, but it seems they either should've been a bigger part of the series or just done away with altogether. There's really nothing here, and the nominal work that was done in "The Ascent" and "A Simple Investigation" to make them seem like the hardest of the hardcore criminals is undercut here by presenting them as...just a bunch of schmos. The Bilby character isn't terrible, but he seems like a real sad sack to be part of this supposedly elite space mafia. Also, why the hell did Starfleet send O'Brien on this mission? The only scene that features most of the main cast basically serves as a reminder of why it's stupid to take the chief engineer of a critical space station off duty during wartime. The short answer - stuff breaks.
Trivial Note - Many of the trivial notes here at the bottom of the list involve guest stars, as most of these episodes have little to no bearing on the rest of the series. This one's no different. That's Michael Harney in the role of O'Brien's Starfleet Intelligence handler. Harney's best known for brilliantly playing the deeply insecure prison counselor Sam Healy on Orange Is the New Black.
159. "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." - Season 5, Episode 7 (11/11/96)
"I will do as I please! I am on vacation." - Lt. Cmdr. Worf
If imdb.com is to be believed, this is the worst episode of the series, as it sits at the bottom of their rating barrel. And yes, it's not good, but I don't believe it to be the worst of the series. The scene where Worf explains why he's so stoic is worth bumping the episode up a few notches on its own. That scene works beautifully, and helps the episode overcome its deeply stupid plot. Some futuristic moral majority buttholes try to keep everyone from having fun on Risa, the Federation's already established hedonistic vacation planet. Their logic isn't entirely ridiculous, as they warn of what would happen to the Federation if the Borg, Dominion, or Romulans decide to attack, and the Trek universe experiences two of those events within the year. But their tactics are dumb, their leader is dumb, and this plot is dumb. Also, Vanessa Williams is there.
Trivial Note - The in-universe explanation for Worf's un-Klingon-like stoicism is given here, and it's the best part of the episode. The real reason for it is that Michael Dorn's prosthetics wouldn't stay in place if he became too animated during the early Next Generation episodes, so the producers changed his character from a more typically boisterous Klingon to the stern, gruff character that we came to know and love.
158. "One Little Ship" - Season 6, Episode 14 (2/18/98)
"This is the story of a little ship, that took a little trip." - Lt. Cmdr. Worf
I'm not going to say that this episode is completely unenjoyable (and we're not that far from moving into the "good episode" section of the list), but all the dumb on display here is nearly too much to take. I know Star Trek has made a long habit of trading on science fiction-y dumbness, but this one may be a little bridge too far. As much as the shrunken runabout plot is ridiculous on its face, the stupidity of the Jem'Hadar here is probably harder to take. The whole concept of a rivalry between Jem'Hadar created in the Alpha Quadrant and the originals who were bred in the Gamma Quadrant isn't ludicrous, but the Alphas act like colossal morons. That stupidity is the only reason all our heroes aren't violently killed, so it's difficult to accept. Plus, the Jem'Hadar always managed to maintain their air of ultimate badassery in the series, except here.
Trivial Note - Unusually for the series - especially this late in the game - the whole Alpha-Gamma Jem'Hadar thing is never mentioned again. This could be attributed to all the Gamma Quadrant troops being killed off, since no replacements are ever able to arrive from that side of the wormhole. Or it could be attributed to how dumb the concept came off in this episode. If being engineered specifically for combat in the Alpha Quadrant means becoming an arrogant buffoon, the Founders must really have thought very little of the Alpha Quadrant powers.
157. "Playing God" - Season 2, Episode 17 (2/27/94)
"Jadzia Dax is not Curzon Dax, but I am Dax. And I'm slowly coming to terms with what that means to me." - Lt. Jadzia Dax
This is an oddball story, as it's clearly two very different ideas sort-of uncomfortably crammed together. The episode's title and some of it's most interesting material comes from what's really the B-plot, the story of the proto-universe that starts developing into a full one. The A-story is focused on Dax trying to show a potential Trill host the ropes, and it picks at the nature of how Jadzia herself ended up becoming the host of the Dax symbiont. Neither story is bad, but they don't really go together and both wind up getting short-shrifted a little bit. Honestly, I have no idea how the resolution of the proto-universe plot actually solves anything, since they just dump the stuff in the Gamma Quadrant. Shouldn't it still become a full universe and destroy everything, just like it would've done if they had dumped it in the Alpha Quadrant?
Trivial Note - Sisko mentions the Borg in his log entry about the proto-universe. The Borg are only seen in this show in the pilot, and they're only occasionally referenced after that. This would've seemed strange when the show premiered, since the Borg had quickly become one of Trek's most recognizable creations, but keeping them on the sidelines worked out well for the show, as they got an unstoppable threat of their own at the end of season two in the form of the Dominion. The Borg were left to be dealt with (effectively) by the Next Generation crew in Star Trek: First Contact (easily one of the three best Trek movies) and (less effectively) by the Voyager crew on that series.
156. "Babel" - Season 1, Episode 5 (1/24/93)
"Major larks true pepper..." - Chief Miles O'Brien
Of all the reworked Next Generation pitches that populate the first couple of seasons of DS9, this is the reworked Next Generation-est. Everything about this episode screams TNG (or even The Original Series), and not what this series would become. Other than that, though, it's a more-or-less reasonable hour of TV. It is one of a handful of episodes from the various Trek shows that had way higher stakes than the viewer is likely to remember. Because it's such a dopey sci-fi plot, it's easy to forget that people die from the language disease, and the entire population of the station was close to dying to from it. Somehow, it doesn't feel that grandiose in retrospect, probably because it's obvious all the way through that nobody important was ever in any real danger. Such are the rules of television.
Trivial Note - This is Ira Steven Behr's first writing credit for the show (he's one of four credited writers). Behr wrote for The Next Generation during season three of that series, but left afterward because he didn't like writing for characters who weren't allowed to conflict with one another (one of Gene Roddenberry's stupid, leftover rules from the rough early days of that show). He returned to write for this series since character conflict was to be major component and eventually became the showrunner for the final five seasons.
155. "Distant Voices" - Season 3, Episode 18 (4/10/95)
"After experiencing life at a hundred-plus, turning thirty doesn't seem that bad anymore." - Dr. Julian Bashir
This episode's plot is thoroughly ridiculous, even by Star Trek standards, but the main selling point is Alexander Siddig's performance as Bashir (he was still credited as Siddig El Fadil in these days). Somehow, through all the old age makeup, he maintains an air of dignity to the end, plus he doesn't come off as a moron reciting some the preposterous expository dialogue he's given in the middle. And even though the Garak who's in this episode isn't actually Garak most of the time, the pairing of Siddig and Andrew Robinson almost always works. But, still, this story is pretty ridiculous.
Trivial Note - In season one's "Q-Less", Bashir tells a woman he's flirting with why he finished second in his class at Starfleet Medical instead of first. He mistook a pre-ganglionic fiber for a post-ganglionic nerve. The writers thought these things were similar because they sorta sound similar, but really they are nothing alike and no medical student would ever confuse them. This episode implies that Bashir erred on purpose to explain away the prior line to audience members who actually know what those medical terms mean. Season five's "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?" firmly establishes that Bashir did err on purpose, for reasons the writers hadn't yet thought of.
154. "Prophet Motive" - Season 3, Episode 16 (2/20/95)
"If they want their money back...give it to them?!" - Quark
This is an odd episode, even by Ferengi standards, because it involves the Prophets in a way that's strange for the show. They never seem to take any interest in anything that doesn't directly involve Sisko and his purpose as Emissary, except here. The script explains how this happens satisfactorily, but the whole flow feels a bit off, still. There's some wonderful interplay between Armin Shimerman, Max Grodenchik, and Wallace Shawn in the middle of the episode, with Grodenchik starting to emerge as one of the show's secret weapons. His delivery of, "He says I'm malleable," is one of the single best line readings on the series. But still, the episode sort of falls flat overall.
Trivial Note - Several notes, actually. This is the first episode to be directed by Rene Auberjonois, who plays Odo. He was the second cast member to become a regular director for the series, after Avery Brooks. Many of his directorial efforts are Ferengi episodes. This is only time that Zek's manservant Maihar'du speaks, though he only speaks as a representation of the Prophets (this is also done with Morn later). Also, Zek and Quark are the only characters to have contact with the Prophets aside from Sisko. And finally, the idea that the Prophets' sense of morality may not line up with ours begins here, as they basically mind-rape Zek. That's a pretty heinous thing to do, no matter the intent. This comes up again later when the truth about Sisko's mother is revealed in season seven, though the show itself never really examines the Prophets' actions in either case.
153. "Second Sight" - Season 2, Episode 9 (11/21/93)
"Let there be light!" - Prof. Gideon Seyetik
This is another season two episode that doesn't seem to quite know what it wants to be. The two storylines are dovetailed together in the later stages of the script, a la "Playing God", but they still feel too disjointed to flow into one cohesive whole. The rule about one-off romances applies here, as Sisko and Fenna only kinda feel like a possible couple, and the whole astral projection reveal at the end is fairly ludicrous. But the real winner of the episode is Richard Kiley, who plays the egomaniacal Prof. Seyetik to the hilt. I don't know - as forced as it may have been, his noble sacrifice at the end had some real feeling to it.
Trivial Note - Sisko mentions that the anniversary of his wife's death was "yesterday" in the beginning. As the pilot episode establishes, Jennifer Sisko was killed at the Battle of Wolf 359, which took place during the Next Generation classic "The Best of Both Worlds". The anniversary date seems to be off by a few months, but whatever. It's not like Star Trek fans would notice a detail like that.
152. "Extreme Measures" - Season 7, Episode 23 (5/19/99)
"Next time you take a trip inside someone's mind, you're going on your own!" - Chief Miles O'Brien
That quote up there from O'Brien is really just good advice in general. This episode is almost amazingly ridiculous, especially since apparently the inside of a master spy's mind is just a series of bland corridors, but the fact that it takes place during the show's closing nine-episode arc both helps and hurts it. Given what happens in the episodes around it, this tale seems even more ludicrous, but it's narrative importance in the final arc helps buoy it a bit. It also helps that 1 - William Sadler always played Luther Sloan really well, no matter how ridiculous the material he was given was, and 2 - the episode starts with a great scene between Kira and a near-death Odo. Plus, I guess this story isn't all that different from Inception, and people liked that, right?
Trivial Note - While this had already been revealed in the previous episode, this story deals most directly with Section 31's use of Odo as the vector for a virus that was intended to eventually wipe out all the Changelings in the Great Link. They infected him when he was on Earth back in season four's "Homefront", though at the time that episode aired, Section 31, Luther Sloan, and the virus had not yet been concocted by the writers.
151. "Dax" - Season 1, Episode 8 (2/14/93)
"When one of my kind stumbles, Benjamin, it is a mistake that's there forever." - Lt. Jadzia Dax
Of all the characters in season one, Dax receives easily the least amount of development. This is the only Dax-focused story in the season, and even here, in an episode named after her character, Terry Farrell mostly just sits around while other people do all the talking. Sisko and Odo are the real active protagonists here, with Sisko acting as Dax's attorney and Odo doing his awesome Odo-cop thing. I do think there's something to the episode's reveal about the ungentlemanly actions of the oft-mentioned Curzon, but you can still see the series slowly settling into what it would later become.
Trivial Note - D.C. Fontana is one of the credited writers of this episode. Fontana was one of the core writers on The Original Series and The Animated Series, and also wrote for The Next Generation in its early days. The D in D.C. is for Dorothy, but she went by her initials to hide her gender from her mostly male audience. She's also a partial inspiration (though not the main one) for Major Kira's 1950's Earth analogue in the season six classic "Far Beyond the Stars".
150. "Resurrection" - Season 6, Episode 8 (11/17/97)
"You know what I saw when I looked into that orb? You and me, together on Bajor. We had a life, a family." - Bareil Antos
In a comeback that not many were really clamoring for, the Mirror Universe allows for the return of Bareil, Kira's fairly bland love interest from the first three seasons. Oddly though, Philip Anglim seems a thousand times more comfortable playing this version of Bareil, a scoundrelous thief, than he ever did playing Bareil the holy man. I don't know, maybe he just felt more at ease playing a guy who was able to relax a little bit. The dinner scene between he, Kira, Dax, and Worf is legitimately charming. Unfortunately (I'm using that word a lot here in the early portion of the list), the Intendant shows up and more-or-less derails the story. It's amazing that such a fan favorite character could ruin such a fan unfavorite character's episode, but thems the breaks.
Trivial Note - This is such a bottle episode that they didn't even bother rearranging the standing sets to film scenes in the Mirror Universe. Of all the MU episodes, this is the only one that takes place entirely in the regular universe.
149. "Melora" - Season 2, Episode 6 (10/31/93)
"You let me fly for the first time. I let you walk. We're even." - Dr. Julian Bashir
This episode is mainly interesting for one thing, and that's seeing that season two Bashir isn't going to be the irritating motormouth he was in season one. We'd already had five episodes to notice the difference, but this is the first one where it's plainly apparent, as his way with women is way less sleazy than it was in the prior season. Fortunately, this more likable Bashir was here to stay. Beyond that, we get a loose disability allegory, which the Melora character sort of hammers home too hard. She softens as the episode progresses, but her entrance into the story doesn't do the character any favors.
Trivial Note - Melora's low-gravity home environment was the original concept for the character that would become Jadzia Dax. The inability to walk in regular gravity, but the ability to fly in her native lower gravity would've been a major aspect of the Dax character. The budget wouldn't allow for it, however, as the technical challenges of rigging the actress for flight would've dragged the whole production down, so the idea was recycled for a one-off here.
148. "The Ascent" - Season 5, Episode 9 (11/25/96)
"Because Solid or Changeling, you're still a miserable, self-hating misanthrope. That's who you are, and that's who you'll always be." - Quark
The best of the Orion Syndicate episodes is the one where nobody from the Orion Syndicate actually shows up. Also, it's still only number 148 out of 173. So, yeah, not really feeling the Orion Syndicate. Here, Quark and Odo are marooned together on a planet that looks like the mountains in California, and they have to climb to the top of Mt. Whitney, basically, to have any hope of surviving. As always, there's some good banter between the two, but the story just doesn't really do much for me. There was never a sense that they were in any real danger. Also, the location shooting makes their makeup look way less convincing for some reason, especially Quark's.
Trivial Note - Before the runabout crashes, Quark offers to play a game of fizzbin with Odo, which Odo declines. Fizzbin is the made-up card game that Capt. Kirk used to pull one over on the mob planet guys in the awesomely stupid Original Series classic "A Piece of the Action". Popular fiction these days could use a few more mob planets.
147. "Rules of Engagement" - Season 4, Episode 18 (4/8/96)
"Life is a great deal more complicated in this red uniform." - Lt. Cmdr. Worf
Another clunky episode in the otherwise sterling fourth season, this episode fails on several basic levels. Why would a ship be cloaked if it was just a civilian transport that got lost? Why would the Federation allow an extradition hearing with a government that it has no formal relations with? Who knows? Plus, courtroom episodes tend to be sort-of bland. But this one does have a few things going for it. Director LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge on TNG, and of course, star of Roots and Reading Rainbow) uses an interesting technique during the many testimonies in the episode, having the actors speak directly to the camera both in the courtroom itself and in the flashbacks. That was a cool twist on something that's usually pretty dull. Also, the idea of a Klingon lawyer is sorta fun. More fun than the Vulcan judge, at least.
Trivial Note - I mentioned that LeVar Burton directed this episode. He directed ten episodes of the show overall, and four in season four alone. He started directing episodes of The Next Generation late in that show's run and carried over to this series after that one ended. He also directed several episodes of Voyager and Enterprise.
146. "Afterimage" - Season 7, Episode 3 (10/14/98)
"It's a strange sensation, dying. No matter how many time it happens to you, you never get used to it." - Ensign Ezri Dax
The necessary Ezri episode early in season seven, "Afterimage" is an odd mixture of successes and failures, much like the Ezri character in general. She's a bit of a punching bag for many fans of the series, but I don't know exactly how the show was supposed to make this character work, with only a season left to do it. While the character's neuroses may be off-putting to many, they really make a lot of sense given the traumatic nature of her joining with the Dax symbiont. This episode wades pretty far into that, and kind-of gets where it needs to go at the end. The logic by which she's made station counselor is pretty tortured, but her scenes with Garak and Worf are mostly successful. And Andrew Robinson's performance during Garak's dressing down of Ezri is viciously wonderful (or was it wonderfully vicious?).
Trivial Note - In the margins here, Bashir and O'Brien's Alamo holosuite program is first introduced. This program is mentioned, but not seen, several times in season seven, with O'Brien making a diorama of the battle as well. The idea of a small force facing overwhelming odds definitely jibes with the Dominion War arc in the last two seasons of the show. The Alamo also inspires a wonderful little conversation between Bashir, O'Brien, and Worf in "Once More Unto the Breach", which I'll probably bring up in that episode's entry.
145. "Equilibrium" - Season 3, Episode 4 (10/17/94)
"If you want to know who you are, it's important to know who you've been." - Lt. Jadzia Dax
This is a fine enough story, I guess. We're hitting the stretch of the list where the episodes are fairly average, which often makes it hard to say anything about them. The whole conspiracy about the Trills BS-ing the initiation process for hosts is basically forgotten after this episode, and I'm not sure where that story realistically could've gone. Jadzia is great, but the sociological details of her species are way less interesting than the sociological details of most of the rest of the major alien races present in the series. I don't know why that is, it just is.
Trivial Note - The serial killer Joran Dax is introduced here, and a version of him reappears two more times, in season three's "Facets" and season seven's "Field of Fire". His character is presented pretty differently in each appearance. Here, he's a misunderstood artist who violently lashes out. In "Facets", he's a deeply terrifying monster, and in "Field of Fire", he's basically just a butthole. More on that later.
144. "Profit and Loss" - Season 2, Episode 18 (3/20/94)
"That's the thing about love - no one really understands it, do they?" - Elim Garak
Of all the episodes down here toward the bottom of the list, this one had the most potential. The script is pretty obviously a riff on Casablanca, which was apparently even more obvious in the original drafts, but threats of legal action forced the producers to ease back on the homage. The end result of all that wrangling is an episode that needed to either be less of a Casablanca remake or more of one. The whole thing just feels forced, and is a waste of a plot that seemed well-suited to the more roguish characters that populate DS9's margins. Still, I give them points for the effort.
Trivial Note - An earthquake hit Southern California during the filming of this episode, and many of the actors went home while still in full makeup to check on family members. This had to really screw with at least one person's head. Also, Mary Crosby, who plays Quark's Cardassian love interest, is the daughter of Bing Crosby and the aunt of Denise Crosby, who played Tasha Yar on The Next Generation.
143. "Chrysalis" - Season 7, Episode 5 (10/28/98)
"We're genetically engineered. We do everything fast." - Dr. Julian Bashir
The main issue I have with this episode is how medically unethical Bashir's relationship with Sarina is. As opposed to other one-off romance episodes, the chemistry between Alexander Siddig and Faith Salie is on-point here, and Salie generally plays Sarina as a very likable, sympathetic character. It's Bashir who's really off, as he hurtles headlong into a relationship that he should've been smart enough to slow-play (and professional enough to avoid altogether). Also, while impressive, the singing scene with Bashir's genetically enhanced misfits went on entirely too long.
Trivial Note - Strangely enough, Faith Salie is the best part of the episode as Sarina, but she actually had to re-audition for the role. She played Sarina as nearly catatonic in season six's "Statistical Probabilities", and was asked to re-audition here since the character would now be given dialogue and have to carry much of the plot. Recasting would've been a big mistake.
142. "Ferengi Love Songs" - Season 5, Episode 20 (4/21/97)
"But living with those people, day in and day out, being exposed to their ethics...their morality...it's like I've been brainwashed!" - Quark
Among the more farcical of the Ferengi farces is this late season five entry. This is the episode where Ishka, Quark and Rom's mother, begins her affair with the Grand Nagus. Back on the station, Rom and Leeta have a dispute about money that threatens their impending marriage. As is the case with a few episodes in this stretch of the list, the two stories are mostly fine, but they don't flow together super well. Forced farce (oh yeah) is the worst kind of farce. It becomes tiresome too easily. Redeeming the episode, though, is Ishka's general awesomeness and the running gag of everyone transporting in and out of Quark's closet. That's the kind of nonsense that shouldn't work, but does.
Trivial Note - This is the third of four episodes to deal directly with the situation faced by Ferengi females, after "Rules of Acquisition" and "Family Business", and before "Profit and Lace". (It's also mentioned or is part of a B-plot in several other episodes.) This move towards gender equality is the only real ongoing storyline in the Ferengi farces, and the story is worthwhile, even as the episodes dip in quality as it goes along.
141. "Fascination" - Season 3, Episode 10 (11/28/94)
"Commander, you throw one hell of a party!" - Quark
Speaking of farce, "Fascination" is about as old-school a farce as DS9 ever attempted, and the results are mixed. Avery Brooks (Capt. Sisko) directs this episode rather well, his third directorial effort of the series. The orchestrated chaos that breaks out at Sisko's party at the end is well-staged, and the episode maintains a sense of energy that "Ferengi Love Songs" doesn't. The explanation for why everybody's suddenly deeply in love with somebody random is pretty damn silly, but I'm generally OK with this episode. Nana Visitor, Terry Farrell, and Rosalind Chao all get to wear much better clothes than most people in a Star Trek series are ever allowed to wear, and the Odo/Lwaxana relationship continues to work better than it should.
Trivial Note - I'll tread lightly, so as to avoid spoiling another show, but this is the last time Vedek Bareil appears before he's killed off in "Life Support". That his second-to-last appearance comes in a romantic farce involving characters suddenly, artificially becoming infatuated with one another is very similar to what happens to a certain love interest in season two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In both cases, these characters were the first major recurring players to be killed off on their respective series.
140. "Covenant" - Season 7, Episode 9 (11/25/98)
"I have always found that, uh, when people try to convince others of their beliefs, it's because they're really just trying to convince themselves." - Col. Kira Nerys
This episode is difficult to rate because certain aspects of it work really well, while others fall horribly flat. First the bad - this is not a well-directed hour of TV. The pacing is weird, the editing is weird, and many of the performances are wooden. It's hard to overcome these issues. However, there is good stuff here. Just about any episode featuring the pairing Kira and Dukat is going to have some redeeming value, and the script's exploration of cult behavior was actually very timely (more on that below). I'll dig into the Pah-wraith storyline more as more episodes involving it pop up, but this one, like just about every episode involving the PW's, is a decidedly mixed bag.
Trivial Note - This episode was inspired by the Heaven's Gate cult. In 1997, 39 people committed mass suicide as the Hale-Bopp Comet passed by Earth, believing that they were aliens and would be transported to a spaceship that was hidden behind the comet. Episode co-writer David Weddle had written about cults for a couple of newspapers prior to his stint as a writer on DS9, and felt the need to write about one again here. This is probably why the cult behavior element of the episode works so well.
139. "If Wishes Were Horses" - Season 1, Episode 16 (5/16/93)
"I wonder if you appreciate how unique that imagination of yours really is." - Buck Bokai
You might think 139 is too high for an episode with a premise like this, and maybe you're right. I've mentioned that multiple early episodes were reworked Next Generation stories. Well, this one feels more like an Original Series episode (or an early, bad TNG episode) than any other DS9 effort (even the one where the crew actually goes back in time to The Original Series). The goofy premise; the humanity is a special flower-type moral. Those are the all-too-common tenets of Gene Roddenberry's influential, yet flawed and repetitive style of storytelling. I mean, look at that quote up there. Believe me, nothing that doofy ever comes up on DS9 again. Yet, I rate this episode at least quasi-high because it's competently made (and was apparently somewhat difficult to film), and...
Trivial Note - ...because this is where Sisko gets his baseball. I mentioned before (back in the first entry) that DS9 did an admirable job of maintaining narrative continuity over its seven seasons, as the events of season one (largely disconnected from the other seasons stylistically) still get referenced fairly often throughout the rest of the show. No example is clearer than the baseball the alien masquerading as Buck Bokai gives to Sisko at the end. The sport of baseball is a powerful metaphor in the series, starting in the pilot, and this actual baseball comes to represent everything about our intrepid hero, Benjamin Lafayette Sisko. We'll discuss this more in the entries for "Call to Arms", "Sacrifice of Angels", "Tears of the Prophets", "Image in the Sand", "Shadows and Symbols", and "What You Leave Behind". Also, the character Buck Bokai was mentioned by Jake in "The Storyteller", and the London Kings, his team, were mentioned in a throwaway line by Data in TNG's "The Big Goodbye". Data established that the man who broke Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak record played for the Kings, so kudos to the DS9 staff for keeping up with that in the pre-internet era.
Okey dokey, that's 35 down and approximately 57,312 to go. (Actually 138.) I'll keep the line moving with this list over the next several days, so look for Part 2 soon. While you've got both Star Trek and Atlanta Classic Comics on your mind-grapes, perhaps maybe you should check out ACC's selection of Trek comics, figurines, and whatnot. We may very well have what you want, as per the will of the Great River.
Until next time, walk with the Prophets, children.