I Can Live with It...Ranking the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Episodes...Part II

by The Octopus Man

...And we're back. I hope you enjoyed Part I, because Part II's gonna be more of the same, just extra awesome. The episodes get better and better, and I don't know about of some of our international customers/readers, but we Americans have a hard time resisting lists. I'm not sure why - maybe we're just obsessed with being number one/finding out who is number one/various number one related things. Now that the underlying sociological purpose of this list has been examined, let's get to it.

Again, we're counting up a total of 173 episodes. 176 episodes of the show were produced, with three (or six, depending on how you want to look at it) aired as a two-hour presentation. Basically, if you stream the show on Netflix or wherever, it'll come in 173 episodes. I split the true two-parters (two episodes that air on different nights) into two because I feel like each one should be able to stand as its own episode, but the two-hour episodes weren't intended to be split, so I won't split them. There, got all that? No? Doesn't matter, we're rolling...

Part I

138. "Q-Less" - Season 1, Episode 7 (2/7/93)

"You hit me?! Picard never hit me!" - Q

First things first, Q should've kept that mustache (or moustache, as one that old-timey deserves the original spelling). Now that that's out in the open, this is otherwise a largely dopey episode. The plot's resolution is pretty much the exact same as the resolution to The Next Generation's pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint". Also, while I enjoy Q, he didn't fit here as well as he did on TNG (more on this below). Strangely, the TNG holdover who fares better here is Vash, Capt. Picard's former love interest from two episodes of that show who went off with Q at the end of her second appearance. She returns to the Alpha Quadrant in this episode, and her easy amorality seemed to fit better with this cast of characters. And, of course, the main draw to the episode is the encounter between Sisko and Q that both the picture and quote above are taken from. It's a classic Sisko moment.

Trivial Note - As alluded to above, Q and Vash were originally planned to be recurring characters on this series. After this episode, the producers agreed that Q wasn't the best fit with this cast, so he continued his appearances on TNG and then moved over to Voyager for a few guest spots there. Vash, however, was expected to return in season two, but, for whatever reason, those plans never came to fruition.

137. "Cardassians" - Season 2, Episode 5 (10/24/93)

"On Cardassia, family is everything. We care for our parents and children with equal devotion. In some households, four generations eat at the same table. Family...is everything." - Kotan Pa'Dar

This episode always felt like a bit of missed opportunity to me. It featured two solid storylines that flow organically, unlike some other entries here towards the bottom of the list. I guess the main issue I have is perhaps the two stories don't leave enough room for one another. I love the Garak/Bashir pairing as much as anyone, but this is an episode (maybe the only one) where I wish the other story was given more room to breathe. The show found its early voice when it picked at the relations between Bajor and Cardassia post-Occupation, and the story of the Cardassian children left behind on Bajor after the Occupation ended had all the makings of a classic Star Trek ethical test. Instead, the Garak/Bashir road show pushes the story too far to the side, and its resolution is yadda yadda'd over in the outro, with little real weight given to it.

Trivial Note - Garak only appeared in one episode in season one, "Past Prologue". The character was well-received by the audience and the producers, but no one thought to bring actor Andrew Robinson back before the season ended. This episode intended to rectify that oversight, as the character is beefed up, with his animosity towards Gul Dukat established and more of his mysterious backstory alluded to. Robinson appears as Garak in multiple episodes of every other season of the show.

136. "Body Parts" - Season 4, Episode 25 (6/10/96)

"It took me my whole life, but I'm gonna die a winner." - Quark

In a similar vein to "Ferengi Love Songs", this is a Ferengi episode with strong elements that don't quite cohere into a whole (which is oddly coincidental since this episode features a plot turn that that episode resolves). I say this largely ignoring the Kira/O'Brien baby plot, which is entirely unrelated to the Ferengi shenanigans here (more on that below). There are solid set pieces in Quark's A-story, like his odd glee at the idea of dying and being sold for such a huge profit at the beginning, his fussiness with Garak over how he should be killed, and the whole sequence that features Rom actor Max Grodenchik as the original Grand Nagus. But, I just don't think the story quite gets there.

Trivial Note - Nana Visitor (Kira) had become pregnant a few weeks before this episode (she and Alexander Siddig, who plays Bashir, were in a relationship at this time). She had largely been sidelined in the prior two episodes for plot reasons (not sure if this was related to her condition or a coincidence), but here the producers decide to come up with a way to write her pregnancy into the story. Considering its unexpected nature, the show does a pretty solid job of working this development into the series. It's resolved in season five's "The Begotten".

135. "Field of Fire" - Season 7, Episode 13 (2/10/99)

"If you want to know the answer, pull the trigger." - Joran Dax

Remember in Part I when I said Joran Dax returned in "Field of Fire" and was basically just a butthole? Yeah, that. This episode has a nice sense of style, and features some shots and set pieces (especially the big confrontation at the end) that seem almost Hitchcock-ian. So, those are the good things. That the episode relies heavily on the interplay between Ezri and Joran is the main failing. I mentioned in the "Equilibrium" entry that Joran is different every time you see him, and this version is the worst. The Hannibal Lecter-role the script wants Joran to slide into is undercut by him being written and played as an irritating jerkwad, as opposed to an intriguing monster. This major issue aside, the episode succeeds at tension, and the use of a old-school projectile weapon in Star Trek is an oddly welcome addition.

Trivial Note - The scripting boondoggle that was "Prodigal Daughter" tied up three of the show's writers, with two others working on "The Emperor's New Cloak". Those were the two episodes immediately prior to this one, with "Chimera", the next episode, also being prepared for filming. This strain on the writing staff led the show to reach out to Robert Hewitt Wolfe, who wrote this as a freelancer. Wolfe had been a major part of the writers room in the first five seasons, but left to work on Andromeda before season six. He had a sizable role in the development of several of the show's major plotlines.

134. "Dramatis Personae" - Season 1, Episode 18 (5/30/93)

"Just remember who your friends are." - Maj. Kira Nerys

This is another sort-of odd season one entry. This is the one where the crew ends up playing out a mutiny that occurred on a ship from the Gamma Quadrant long ago. The self-contained plot and the weird, science fiction-y explanation for said plot are both hallmarks of the prior two Trek series, but this episode feels a little more rooted in DS9's identity than other, similar season one outings. The alliance between Sisko and Kira really was uneasy early in season one, and the alliance between the Federation and Bajor becomes very uneasy at the start of season two. Plus, the medical emergency with Odo functions as both part of the plot and a bit of misdirection. I don't know if this episode would've have more impact if it had come earlier or later in the show's run, or if perhaps this was the perfect time for it.

Trivial Note - Kira's demeanor as the mutinous first officer is very similar to the ruthless, scheming, sexual predator vibe Nana Visitor cultivates as the Intendant, the Mirror Universe version of Kira we meet in season two's "Crossover" (and who appears in every MU episode thereafter). Perhaps this episode could be viewed as a dry run for that character.

133. "The Sound of Her Voice" - Season 6, Episode 25 (6/10/98)

"To Lisa, and the sweet sound of her voice..." - Chief Miles O'Brien

There are really only two major demerits for this episode. 1 - Why didn't the Defiant crew look up any biographical data on Capt. Cusak or her ship? They would've been able to figure the episode's twist ending without flying six days out of their way to find an unpleasant surprise. And 2 - O'Brien's toast at the end seems pretty out-of-the-blue. Yeah, the characters (particularly Sisko, Bashir, and O'Brien) are all a little grumpy in this episode, but this didn't seem like a huge issue throughout the season. In fact, you could argue that everyone should've been grumpier, considering the war and all. Basically, it just seems like it's there to let everyone know that someone's about to die (which happens the following week). A point in favor of the episode is Debra Wilson's work as the voice of Capt. Cusak. She made a character we never see (alive, anyway) feel like a real person. That's more than we get from several recurring characters (and some main characters) in Trek history. Wilson, by the way, is best known for appearing on MADtv for several years.

Trivial Note - Capt. Cusak's ship was returning from the Beta Quadrant before it crashed. This is one of relatively few mentions of this quadrant in Trek (as opposed to the Alpha, Gamma, and Delta Quadrants, which are all heavily featured in the franchise). This series operates under the assumption that all the major alien powers in the franchise (except the Dominion, Borg, and most of Voyager's nemeses) are located in the Alpha Quadrant. Other Trek series and books indicate that this isn't true, and that the Beta Quadrant is home to approximately half the species encountered in the franchise (and that the Federation, Romulans, and Klingons all have territory in both quadrants). I think simplifying the Dominion War as a war between single quadrants was probably a smart move, as all that Beta Quadrant stuff is a bit confusing.

132. "The Nagus" - Season 1, Episode 11 (3/21/93)

"You don't grab power; you accumulate it...quietly, without anyone noticing." - Grand Nagus Zek

And here we have our very first Ferengi episode. Personally, I enjoy that the show kept up with the Ferengi episodes, though that most definitely is not the consensus view. The main thing this outing accomplishes is it demonstrates the show's desire to start filling in the blanks on some of the alien races that populate this fictional universe. I love world-building in fiction, and this series does more of it than any other Trek show, at least when it comes to rounding out races like the Ferengi, Klingons, Cardassians, Jem'Hadar, Vorta, Bajorans, and so on. Too often on other Trek shows, alien civilizations are entirely defined by one trait (usually a negative human trait) and never developed any further. That was almost never the case on DS9, and the development of the Ferengi from shrill, greedy Wall Street villains into something resembling a real society begins here, though it's done far better in later episodes.

Trivial Note - If the voice doesn't give it away (and it totally should), that's Wallace Shawn (best known as the Sicilian Vizzini in The Princess Bride) as Zek, a role he returns to six more times. Both Armin Shimerman (Quark) and Max Grodenchik (Rom) had appeared as different Ferengi on TNG, but Shawn was new to the franchise, though still a perfect casting choice. His very non-tiny bodyguard/manservant Maihar'du is played by Tiny Ron, a role he also returns to six more times. Also, this is the first time Rom acts like Rom, as he had been portrayed as a more typical Ferengi in his previous appearances.

131. "The Darkness and the Light" - Season 5, Episode 11 (1/6/97)

"Talk and lies won't help you. You're in the light, and the light reveals the truth." - Silaran

Occasional horror episodes populate most of the Trek shows, and while I'm a huge fan of horror stories, I don't know if there's really ever been a true standout Trek horror story. This one gets somewhat close, but just doesn't quite work for me. Maybe the whole thing's just a bit too neat. Maybe the plot ends up being a little too familiar for horror fans. I'm not sure. The presentation of the episode's villain, Silaran, is largely successful, though. His scarred face, his coldly crazy dialogue, and the harsh lighting in his big scene at the end are all well-worn horror tropes, but they work. Basically, and this is the case for several episodes where a Trek show tries a different genre, the story ends up being a little too pat to be truly memorable.

Trivial Note - The story for this episode was written by Bryan Fuller, who had worn down Trek's producers with a never-ending series of script submissions and pitches. This is his first career writing credit. He'd get story credit for another DS9 horror episode, "Empok Nor", then move over to Voyager and take on a bigger role there. After that, he was the creator and showrunner of WonderfallsDead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, and Hannibal (where his horror leanings worked out better). He's now working on both American Gods (the Neil Gaiman adaptation) and the new Star Trek show, which is due to air early next year.

130. "Battle Lines" - Season 1, Episode 13 (4/25/93)

"They don't know how to do anything else but die. They've forgotten how to live." - Kai Opaka

Narratively speaking, this is a very important episode. Kai Opaka was a major part of Bajoran society both during and after the Occupation, and her departure from the Alpha Quadrant cleared the way for the Winn/Bareil rivalry in season two and Winn's general presence on the series (which is significant). Opaka was also notable in her few direct appearances, as her meeting with Sisko was a big part of the pilot and she appears again later to push Sisko further down his destined path. That she leaves her role as Kai in this episode is odd, as nothing about this planet or its people is ever mentioned again. That she's still on the planet is also never mentioned again (I hope someone remembered to bring them food or a book or something). Still, the scene with her and Kira that features in the shot above is excellent and continues the development of Kira into the show's strongest character in the early seasons.

Trivial Note - Yep, that's Jonathan Banks as the leader of the Ennis. Banks' craggy face and craggier voice are best known from Breaking Bad, where he played the infinitely badass Mike Ehrmentraut. My recent rewatch of DS9 coincided with a binge of Breaking Bad, so those two shows will always be linked in my mind. They have more in common than you might think.

129. "Empok Nor" - Season 5, Episode 24 (5/19/97)

"Lately, I've noticed everyone seems to trust me. It's quite unnerving; I'm still trying to get used to it. Next thing I know, people are going to be inviting me to their homes for dinner." - Elim Garak

And here's the other Bryan Fuller episode. As with "The Darkness and the Light", this is a horror story, and again, it doesn't entirely work. What does work, though, is the directorial style. "The Darkness and the Light" had its moments, but director Mike Vejar really does well with this one. The Deep Space Nine station model is basically just tilted to create the Empok Nor establishing shots (the two stations are supposed to be identical in design), and that super cheap and practical effect works extremely well in this episode and the two others that feature this setting. Also, Vejar gives the story a real haunted house vibe, which is helped along by the gray, gloomy Cardassian architecture. The main issue I have is the sense that you knew all the randos were going to eat it, but that O'Brien, Garak, and Nog were never in danger. That greatly lessons the episode's suspense.

Trivial Note - The existence of Empok Nor (or any sister station of Deep Space Nine) was never even indirectly alluded to prior to this episode, though it isn't at all ridiculous that the Cardassians would build multiple stations from the same design (in fact, it would be ridiculous if they didn't). As mentioned above, the station appears twice more on the show, in season six's wonderful "The Magnificent Ferengi" and season seven's less wonderful "Covenant". Nog being taken hostage by Garak at the end is brought up in a bit of throwaway dialogue in season six's also wonderful "Rocks and Shoals".

128. "Shattered Mirror" - Season 4, Episode 20 (4/22/96)

"I look at Jake...and all I see...is the son that I'll never have." - Jennifer Sisko

The best part of this trip to the Mirror Universe is the banter between our newly introduced evil Regent Worf and his also-evil prisoner Garak. Frankly, there's not enough banter between regular Worf and Garak in the show, so it's nice that their gleefully villainous Mirror personas get to share so much screen time in this episode. Honestly, I could've watched a whole episode of Regent Worf's bloviating and Gul Garak's sycophantic attempts to curry his favor. The actual main story of the episode is far less interesting and involves Mirror Jennifer Sisko using Jake as a way to lure Capt. Sisko back to Mirrorland. It's not a terrible plot, but neither version of Jennifer that we see in the series is particularly memorable. Also, the Intendant spares Jake's life at the end, claiming that she'll collect on that debt from his father, which never happens.

Trivial Note - As mentioned above, Mirror Worf is introduced here. The plan for "Crossover" in season two was to have Mirror Worf be the Intendant's second-in-command, but Michael Dorn couldn't get away from filming TNG's final season. His character was replaced by Garak, which is coincidental since Worf's original character and his actual character are paired together here. Also, as is the case with most Mirror episodes, jokey references abound. The best is probably Worf's quoting of TNG's Capt. Picard, "Make it so!"

127. "The Reckoning" - Season 6, Episode 21 (4/29/98)

"The time of Reckoning is at hand. The Prophets will weep. Their sorrow will consume...the Gateway to the Temple." - Capt. Ben Sisko

Ah, the Pah-wraiths. I said we'd get into their story more, and here's our first opportunity. I probably feel a little better about their role in the show than I know many others do. DS9 embraces the concept of faith far, far more than any other iteration of Trek, and the series features multiple enlightening discussions on the topic involving both believers (Kira, Worf, eventually Sisko) and non-believers (O'Brien, Dax, Odo). The Prophets as gods, the Pah-wraiths as a holy evil, the Founders as gods, the Ferengi Great River, and the Klingon concept of honor all have a stake in the series, and much of this storytelling is rich and beautiful. Of those examples, the Pah-wraiths catch the most flak for being too one-dimensional (and uncomfortably taking up a lot of space in the series' jam-packed final arc), and maybe that's true, but they do echo many great evils that exist in religious storytelling, even if that type of tale lacks nuance. We'll continue to pick at this throughout the list. As far as this episode goes specifically, credit to director Jesus Salvador Trevino for his work with the final showdown. It looked suitably epic and gave me an odd Ghostbusters vibe, with the possessions of Kira and Jake and Kira's general look and demeanor at the end.

Trivial Note - Speaking of religious storytelling, Jake being chosen as the host for the Pah-wraith and Sisko deciding to let it play out echo similar instances of a deity asking a faithful servant to potentially sacrifice his or her own child (the Binding of Isaac in the Holy Bible/Torah probably being the most famous). When viewed with the rest of the series, Sisko putting Jake in this kind of danger seems out of character, but when viewed through the religious lens, it fits with what often happens in those tales. (Also, how you feel about this story often depends on how much stock you put in those tales, as, on a basic level, this is a horrible thing for any god to ask.) It should be noted that Jake was put in a similar position in season five's excellent "Rapture" and chose to protect his father's safety over following the will of the Prophets.

126. "Change of Heart" - Season 6, Episode 16 (3/4/98)

"I had to go back, and it did not matter what Starfleet thought or what the consequences were. She was my wife, and I could not leave her." - Lt. Cmdr. Worf

Much like "Empok Nor" or "The Sound of Her Voice", this is a pretty well-made, entertaining hour of TV that's undercut by a foundational flaw in the story. Married personnel aren't sent out on missions like the one Worf and Jadzia go on in this episode nowadays, and I don't know why that wouldn't be the case at any point in the future, even as far off as the 24th century. The possibility for a conflict of interest (which is exactly what happens here) is too great, so modern militaries don't (and haven't) allowed this to be an issue, if at all possible. It's just common sense, really. So, that's a hard fact to ignore, since we're talking about the entire central conflict of this story. Beyond that, there's good stuff. Michael Dorn and Terry Farrell were always wonderful together, and the heartbeat sequence that leads up to Worf making his final decision is nicely done. Also, it's hard not to feel a little squishy inside when Worf gives the speech that's partially quoted above to Sisko at the end. Those Klingons are nothing if not hopeless romantics. (A man died, probably horribly, because of Worf's decision, but still...romantic.)

Trivial Note - Terry Farrell, who had already decided to leave the series after season six, pushed for Worf to make the opposite decision in this episode, sacrificing Jadzia to complete the mission. Whether she felt that was the better story choice or she just wanted to go ahead and be done with the show is left for you to decide (she has explained her logic behind it as a story choice in interviews). While it's good they didn't go that route, as it would've been a difficult thing for Worf to get past as a character, it would've been a better death than the one Jadzia ends up getting. Also, the Bashir/Quark tongo B-story introduces the lousy subplot where it's revealed that they're both in love with Jadzia. This continues into season seven and just doesn't really work. They kinda both seem like creeps at times because of it.

125. "The Quickening" - Season 4, Episode 24 (5/20/96)

"But it's even more arrogant to think there isn't a cure just because you couldn't find it." - Lt. Cmdr. Jadzia Dax

Pursuant to my notion that the two horror-themed episodes just came off like OK attempts at that genre, this medical drama episode comes off like an OK attempt at this genre. The story here is fairly reminiscent of something you'd see on House or ER, and it never really breaks away from the predictability those shows often suffered from. You do get some nice drama with Bashir and the people on the planet, and this is first of a handful of incidents that begin to sour Bashir's sunny disposition, but this episode is just kind of there. If anything, it's another important, fairly early reminder of how ruthless the Dominion is.

Trivial Note - The blight is brought back up in season seven's also Bashir-focused "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges". The story resonated with much of the cast and crew as it had originally began as a more obvious AIDS-allegory, which was a major concern for society at the time the episode was produced.

124. "The Forsaken" - Season 1, Episode 17 (5/23/93)

"It looks ordinary. I've never cared to be ordinary." - Ambassador Lwaxana Troi

In contrast to some of the other episodes around here, this episode is largely ranked this high due to one sequence. That's the centerpiece scenes with Odo and Lwaxana trapped in the turbolift. The rest of the episode is pretty forgettable, but that sequence kicks off an interesting relationship between the mismatched pair. It's easy to forget how much gruffer Odo was in the show's early days, but Lwaxana's friendship with him is one of the things that helped soften the Constable a bit. As for Lwaxana herself, this episode follows up on her later appearances on The Next Generation, where instead of being merely used as broad comic relief (pun intended), she becomes an avatar for all sorts of insecurities about aging, physical appearance, and parental relations. This began in the excellent "Half a Life" on that show, and persisted in every appearance she made afterwards. The quote above is a fairly succint encapsulation of a character that started out as a tremendous irritant but became far more dignified as time went on.

Trivial Note - This episode reuses a TNG gag where Capt. Picard nervously steps off a turbolift and searches the area for Lwaxana before completely exiting the lift. That happens in the aforementioned "Half a Life", and happens again here, with Odo in the Picard role. Also, Odo establishes that his hair and general humanoid appearance are modeled after Dr. Mora, who we haven't met yet, but will in season two's "The Alternate". And, while not really a trivial note, the way Majel Barrett delivers the line where she calls the Odo "the thin beige line" cracks me up.

123. "Facets" - Season 3, Episode 25 (6/12/95)

"If you don't mind, I'd like to borrow your bodies for a few hours." - Lt. Jadzia Dax

Here's another sort-of oddball episode, at least structurally. This is the one where Jadzia undergoes a Trill ceremony where she can directly interact with all the prior Dax hosts. The B-plot is basically the first half of the episode, where all her previous hosts save Curzon inhabit Kira, O'Brien, Leeta, Quark, Bashir, and Sisko. We don't get to spend much time with any of them, although Avery Brooks definitely makes a searing impression as the host of the serial killer Joran (the most terrifying appearance of the three Jorans seen on the show). After that, the A-plot kicks in, where Curzon inhabits Odo, but really melds with him, since Odo's Changeling-nature apparently allows for such a thing. There are interesting subplots to this, one featuring the ethics of Curzon permanently melding with Odo and the other allowing for Jadzia to work through some of her bitterness toward Curzon that was established in "Playing God". This is all interesting development for Dax (singly and collectively), but the weird structure definitely makes this episode an odd watch.

Trivial Note - There is a C-plot here, which the creators probably intended to be a B-plot, but all that Dax stuff is too disjointed to really feel like one coherent story. The C-plot involves Quark rigging part of Nog's Starfleet entrance exam, so the younger Ferengi would fail. This mainly allows for a cool scene where Rom confronts Quark and continues to be awesome. The real trivial note is that Chase Masterson's Leeta is established as a recurring player here. Masterson was set to play Jake's dabo girl love interest Mardah earlier in season three, but the age difference between Masterson and Cirroc Lofton was too great. She was then given a role later in season three where she basically had one quick scene with Bashir, not really a role you would expect to recur. Circumstances here allowed for that, though, as the producers needed another woman to serve as one of Dax's female past selves, and Masterson was brought back. This is all an odd way for a character who eventually becomes First Lady of the Ferengi Alliance to get her start.

122. "Sanctuary" - Season 2, Episode 10 (11/28/93)

"You were right. Bajor is not Kentanna." - Haneek

Another early example of the importance Bajoran politics played in the early seasons, "Sanctuary" is a mid-season two episode that inverts the formula with the Bajoran storyline that we'd seen to that point. The Skrreea come through the wormhole and claim that Bajor is their sacred, original homeworld Kentanna. The success of this episode largely rests on the series steering into the idea that the Bajor that existed before the Cardassians came was gone, with a fundamentally different society left behind in the Cardassians' wake. By this point, we'd already seen plenty of Bajoran infighting, but seeing them turn away a society so similar to their own puts a different face on it. (It's notable that the Skrreea aren't the most reasonable culture, either, since Starfleet offers them a perfectly acceptable alternate solution. But what works is that it's the Skrreea's faith that pulls them to Bajor, something the Bajorans should uniquely understand, yet still reject. Everyone ends up acting logically and reasonably, not faithfully.)

Trivial Note - The Skrreea become the second Gamma Quadrant race to mention the Dominion, and the first to mention them directly to Starfleet personnel (the Dosi mentioned them to Ferengi characters a few episodes prior). We'd be hearing about those Dominion fellows a fair amount over the rest of the series.

121. "Destiny" - Season 3, Episode 15 (2/13/95)

"It's hard to work for someone who's a religious icon." - Major Kira Nerys

While Bajoran politics were the major concern on DS9 before the Dominion showed up, Sisko's role as Emissary of the Prophets, established in the pilot, doesn't really come up that often during those years. This mid-season three episode is the first time since the pilot that his role as Emissary is directly addressed, and it was overdue. The most illuminating sequence in the episode is the one where Sisko and Kira finally have a conversation about her view of him. Is he simply her commanding officer, or does she, a faithful Bajoran, really see him as the Emissary? It's sort-of amazing that the show managed to go this long without that specific question arising, but it did. While the final resolution of Sisko's Emissary storyline may not be the greatest, the show mines some wonderful, low-key drama out of it in the long-term. Seeing him slowly grow more comfortable in the role and how his crewmates and colleagues react to it makes the storyline worthwhile in and of itself. And all that work basically starts here.

Trivial Note - Almost everything significant that happens in the show's final arc is foreshadowed somewhere (some events more subtly than others). Sisko's final confrontation with Dukat in the Fire Caves is alluded to in this episode's final bit of dialogue, as Vedek Yarka tells the Commander about Trakor's Fourth Prophecy, wherein the Emissary will face a fiery challenge...

120. "Image in the Sand" - Season 7, Episode 1 (9/30/98)

"Well, from here on out, I hope the Prophets keep their noses out of my business." - Joseph Sisko

I hashed this list out before I started writing this, editing it a couple of times and researching information like writers/directors for each episode and notable quotes. So, it comes as a surprise to me that I'm just now realizing that this is the lowest-rated season premiere on the list and the lowest-rated half of a multi-parter. I say that because I don't feel any ill will toward this episode, and really it does a fairly decent job of picking up the pieces from an impactful, but unsatisfying (for multiple reasons) season six finale and kicking off a fresh arc for the show. Any episode with Brock Peters as Sisko's father is improved by his presence, and the premiere wisely waits to the very end to bring Ezri into the mix. I guess it's 1 - That the episode doesn't stand on its own as well as other pieces of a two-parter and 2 -  The Pah-wraith story just doesn't feel complete at any point, and this episode heavily features that plotline. There are also two subplots, one involving a Romulan incursion into Bajoran territory and the other setting up Worf, Bashir, O'Brien, and Quark's attempt to get Jadzia's soul in Sto-vo-kor. The Bashir/Quark pining over Jadzia thing isn't good, and the Romulan move on Bajor ends up not making any bit of difference in the end, so those stories just don't take off.

Trivial Note - This is our first entry featuring Sisko's baseball since I went on and on about it in the note for "If Wishes Were Horses". The baseball falling off the piano at the beginning is what triggers Sisko's vision. It'll be a major part of the follow-up episode, "Shadows and Symbols", as well. Sisko's baseball is one of the cleanest and most effective bits of symbolism ever deployed on a TV show, as it hearkens back to the Prophets using baseball to try to understand Sisko (and vice versa) in the pilot. It still blows my mind that such a major piece of the show's mythology was introduced in an episode as goofy as "If Wishes Were Horses". The show pulled similar tricks by introducing important characters like Leeta and, especially, Damar in inauspicious ways.

119. "The Alternate" - Season 2, Episode 12 (1/9/94)

"I've done it to you again, haven't I, Odo? Made you a prisoner. Dear God, what have I done?" - Dr. Mora Pol

Star Trek has always made a habit of reusing certain actors. Character actors like James Cromwell, Tony Todd, Susanna Thompson, and Jeffrey Combs have been moving in-and-out of different roles in the different Trek productions since the days of the Original Series (which Cromwell appeared in). Another of those always welcome recurring players is James Sloyan, who made two notable appearances on The Next Generation (in "The Defector" and "Firstborn") and who appears here for the first time as Dr. Mora (he also appeared later on Voyager). He has a really cool voice and his worldly gravitas makes him uniquely able to really sell some of Trek's often crazy dialogue. This episode features two elements I really like. One is Dr. Mora's confrontational relationship with his "son", Odo. Their dialogue has all the feeling of a bitter, resentful child speaking to a distant, emotionally manipulative parent. The second is the mild horror homage that breaks out in the episode's latter half. I actually find all the Alien and The Thing parallels here far more effective than the more overt horror stylings of "The Darkness and the Light" and "Empok Nor".

Trivial Note - Rene Auberjonois was originally slated to play both Odo and Mora, with the idea being that Odo would've taken on a form similar to Mora's when they were together in the lab (he had already mentioned to Lwaxana Troi that his hair was modeled after Mora's). This would've echoed Brent Spiner's role as Dr. Soong, creator of Data and Lore, on TNG and Robert Picardo's role as Dr. Zimmerman, creator of the Emergency Medical Hologram, on both DS9 and Voyager (the latter example would happen after this). The makeup changes would've taken too long for the episode to film on schedule, so the idea was scrapped. A secondary note is that the monolith seen on the planet where the lifeform was found is also seen on the planet in the Omarion Nebula where Odo and Kira meet the Changelings in "The Search" two-parter.

118. "Emissary" - Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2 (1/3/93)

"Good luck, Mr. Sisko." - Capt. Jean-Luc Picard

The pilot for Deep Space Nine is a tough episode to rate, as it's, of course, tremendously important to the series, yet also deeply, deeply flawed. For much of the first season, the writers and actors on the show slowly gained a better handle on the characters, but the pilot, more than any other episode, shows how far off everybody was in the beginning. Avery Brooks is asked to do a lot here, and his performance is very up-and-down. Major Kira comes off a bit overcooked in several early episodes, and, as already mentioned, Bashir is irritating for most of the first season. The exposition in the episode is similarly all-over-the-place, highlighted by Odo's out-of-nowhere revelation that he's the only one of his kind (we didn't know that, but he was talking to Kira, who did, so why would he say it out loud?). There are plenty of moments that work, from the introductions of Dukat and Opaka to most of Picard's scenes (Patrick Stewart is always great), but, like most pilots, this one is extremely uneven (and overlong).

Trivial Note - Several things - this is the only episode that doesn't show the wormhole in the opening credits, to maintain the surprise when Sisko and Dax find it in the second hour. That's J.G. Hertzler playing the Vulcan captain of the Saratoga during the fight with the Borg. He later played General Martok in several episodes, and the Changeling Laas in "Chimera" (credited under a different name for each role). Of course, the Battle of Wolf 359 occurred offscreen in the TNG classic "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II", and is only ever seen onscreen here, in flashback. This is also the only time the Borg ever appear on this series, though they do receive a few mentions. Finally, some other guy was cast as Gul Dukat originally, but he was replaced with Marc Alaimo after the other actor had already filmed Dukat's intro scene. Alaimo had played Gul Macet in TNG's "The Wounded", where the Cardassians were introduced to the franchise, and the general look of the Cardassian makeup was largely modeled off of him.

17. "Life Support" - Season 3, Episode 13 (1/31/95)

"If he dies, then peace with Cardassia dies with him." - Kai Winn Adami

This is a very intriguing episode, but also an oddly focused one. The death of Vedek Bareil is the first major death on the series (even if the character was never a fan favorite), but instead of focusing the story on Kira, the episode puts Bashir in the spotlight. This is a holdover from an earlier concept for the story that makes a more overt connection to Frankenstein, but most of that was toned way down in the final script, which makes the prominence of Bashir in the episode seem out of place. Still, this is an impactful episode, mostly for what it gives us with Kai Winn. Until very late in the show, she was a nearly perfect villain, in the sense that she was deeply loathsome yet also someone with clear, not necessarily villainous motivations. She had an ego, sure, but she was convinced what she was doing was the will of the Prophets (many religious fanatics in real life could be described the same way, just sub out whichever deity for the Prophets). Here, she almost gets too much venom directed at her from Bashir, as the peace made with Cardassia is a major accomplishment for Bajor, but she's just so hateable that it's hard to know what to make of her in this episode. Also, when Kira finally gets to have her moment with Bareil at the end, it's really sad, and it reminds us how important Kira is to the series.

Trivial Note - There's a subplot about Jake and Nog going on a double date, and Nog making an ass out of himself with his reductive Ferengi views on women. The story is fine, but writer Ronald D. Moore (one of the major creative forces behind this series from season three on) hated the way the A and B-plots played against each other. Also, that's Saved by the Bell's Lark Voorhies as Jake's date. Separately, while it doesn't directly lead to the events that transpire later in the season, the peace treaty between Bajor and Cardassia plays heavily in the Cardassian political upheaval that unfolds over the next several seasons.

116. "Behind the Lines" - Season 6, Episode 4 (10/20/97)

"Do you realize what you just did?! You just handed the Alpha Quadrant to the Dominion!" - Major Kira Nerys

The first of the six episodes that cover the "re-taking Deep Space Nine" arc that begins season six to appear on the list, "Behind the Lines" basically commits one major error. The storyline where Sisko pines for command of the Defiant after being bumped up in Starfleet's hierarchy just takes up too much time in an episode where so much else is going on. While the title could be read as being about both this storyline and the events on the station itself, it more directly refers to Sisko's longing, which is in keeping with Trek's romantic views on captains and their ships, but not in keeping with what's really important in the moment. The parts of the episode that focus on Terok Nor are strong, however, as they were in all six episodes of this arc. The way the Female Changeling mind-f@#$s Odo is masterful, and you can feel her manipulation in every scene she's in. Perhaps I ding this episode too much because of the bad taste it leaves in your mouth, because that bad taste is intentional and sets up the following two-parter.

Trivial Note - As I said before, almost every major event that occurs in the show's final arc is foreshadowed somewhere. This episode establishes Damar's love of kanar (he's also promoted from Glinn to Gul, which isn't unimportant). His drinking is generally representative of his discomfort with Cardassia's alliance with the Dominion, and the things he does in service of that alliance.

115. "Rules of Acquisition" - Season 2, Episode 7 (11/7/93)

"This is not about profit anymore, it's about love!" - Pel

I've mentioned before that the show had a habit of introducing important characters/plot elements in very random ways, and this episode takes the cake when it comes to that, but I'll leave that for the trivial note. This is the first of the Ferengi episodes to directly address the rampant chauvinism in Ferengi society, something that continues to be a concern for the rest of the series. Pel is a nice little character, the kind whose instantly likability immediately makes the audience root for her. That she's likable makes this episode work, and it's a nice job by the writers and the actress since Ferengi aren't usually ever likable, and definitely not instantly. Plus, you get more Rules of Acquisition, which are always welcome, and you get the Dosi, who may have the best/worst makeup of any Trek race (and there is some fierce competition in that category). It's truly astounding, in a colorfully hideous way.

Trivial Note - So yeah, that big reveal. The Dominion receive their first mention in this episode, when one of the Dosi talks about putting Quark and Pel in touch with the Karemma, a member race. The Karemma reappear in both "The Search, Part I", where they help the Defiant track down the Jem'Hadar, and in "Starship Down". Quark is used in both episodes as an intermediary, as the Ferengi and Karemma continue their business dealings even after early hostilities break out between the Dominion and the Alpha Quadrant powers. While the writers hadn't yet decided on much about the Dominion when they were scripting this episode, they knew they were going to make them some kind of significant threat, and specifically made first mention of them here to throw the audience off a little bit. I don't know why I really love this, but I do.

114. "Statistical Probabilities" - Season 6, Episode 9 (11/24/97)

"But sometimes, when the odds are so stacked against you, you've just got to take a chance." - Dr. Julian Bashir

Another entry, another episode that could be fairly described as "odd". The oddness here is definitely by design, at least in part, as this is the episode that introduces the Jack Pack, a group of strange, genetically engineered super-geniuses, who are too difficult for anyone but Bashir, himself also genetically engineered, to work with. The episode begins as a bit of lighthearted farce, as Bashir attempts to interact with a bunch of near-cartoon characters, but things turn serious after the Pack comes to the mathematical conclusion that the Federation and its allies have no real chance to defeat the Dominion. Do these two segments fit together at all? Sorta, kinda. And things get even more disjointed when the Pack attempts to leak classified intel to the Dominion and force the Federation to surrender. This all makes a bit more sense on the screen, but the episode is supposed to be off-kilter. While the individual Jack Pack members may be annoying, I do like that the series shows some of the downsides of the utopia that Gene Roddenberry dreamed up. Not everyone's gonna get to live happy, normal lives, and these oddballs are one of the few examples of a wart in paradise.

Trivial Note - The middle section of the episode, where Bashir and the others predict the fall of the Federation and the later rise of a similar, stronger organization, is a riff on Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels. Another bit of foreshadowing (although this is less foreshadowing, and more of an outright declaration from Jack and Lauren), Damar is going through internal turmoil after he killed Ziyal in "Sacrifice of Angels". This feeds heavily into his final character arc. Finally, this is the first of two episodes of the series to be directed by Anson Williams, best known as Potsie on Happy Days. He also helmed the season seven classic "It's Only a Paper Moon".

113. "Sons and Daughters" - Season 6, Episode 3 (10/13/97)

"I cannot change the mistakes I have made, but from this day forward, I promise I will stand with you." - Lt. Cmdr. Worf

While I rate this episode higher than "Behind the Lines", this is probably the least essential to the opening arc of season six. That this episode mostly focuses on the Klingons, particularly Worf and his estranged son Alexander, keeps it from feeling completely in step with the five episodes around it. With that said, it's still a fairly strong episode. The biggest black mark is Marc Worden's performance as Alexander, who doesn't really have the fire needed to hold his own in a story filled with so many Klingons. The familial drama between he and Worf is reasonably solid (especially compared to some of their weaker encounters on TNG), and any episode that features J.G. Hertzler's General Martok is better for it. The Kira-centered story on Terok Nor is also less necessary than the station-set scenes in the other five episodes of this arc, as she ends the episode in largely the same place she began it, but the reintroduction of Ziyal will be hugely important very soon (and we get to see Dukat be as oily as he ever is on this show, and that's saying a whole lot).

Trivial Note - Many, many notable actors and actresses got a boost early in their careers playing a random Star Trek role. Adam Scott, Ashley Judd, Tom Hardy, Kirsten Dunst, Sarah Silverman, Teri Hatcher, Famke Janssen, Dwayne Johnson, and on and on and on. I don't know if any example is more random, though, than Gabrielle Union appearing as a Klingon crew member in this episode.

112. "'Til Death Do Us Part" - Season 7, Episode 18 (4/14/99)

"They say that marrying Kasidy is a mistake - and maybe it is - but it's my mistake to make." - Capt. Ben Sisko

And now we come to the series' final arc. "Extreme Measures" is technically part of the closing storyline, but it's easily the most disconnected of the nine segments, so rating it low wasn't a difficult call. As for the other eight, they're a different animal altogether. Separating each one and judging it on its own merits is rather difficult, considering how interconnected the storytelling is. This one gets bumped down to the lowest spot of the group mainly due to the repetitive nature of the Worf/Ezri encounters. Their storyline in these early episodes is fine, and they have a knockout scene together later in the arc, but it's too static in these early episodes, as the writers had to stretch out their imprisonment to line up with the other stories, particularly Damar's. Damar's, by the way, is probably the best story in the closing arc, and it hasn't really gotten going at this point, which also dings the episode just a bit. All that said, this is an essential episode for series viewing, as all the final nine episodes are.

Trivial Note - Hardly a trivial matter at all, but the storyline that gives this episode its title is the Sisko/Yates marriage plot. This sort of ties in to the Pah-wraith plot, which also begins in this episode with the arrival of Winn and a disguised Dukat to the station. I'll save these breakdowns for later. As for the actual wedding itself, note that Admiral Ross officiates, as the show quickly forgets about the revelations about him from "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges". Also, Sisko and Yates hang on for four seasons before getting hitched, which includes some time she spent in the slammer. Yates isn't the show's strongest character, but she complements Sisko well (and vice versa), and I like how the show plays out their relationship.

111. "Vortex" - Season 1, Episode 12 (4/18/93)

"Home? Where is it? Someday we'll know...cousin." - Constable Odo

OK, so while that quote above is best representative of this episode, it's painfully on-the-nose. Such is the nature of season one of this series. Beyond that, though, you can start to see the series' identity take more shape in this episode. By this point, "Past Prologue" had helped give us a good sense of Kira, and it and "Captive Pursuit" had given us an idea of the more complicated ethical questions the show would raise. This is another of the first season's stronger outings, as it starts to push Odo in the direction that would eventually lead him back to the Great Link at the series' end. I ragged on the lousy dialogue in the pilot that established Odo's mysterious backstory and just ragged on the quote above for both lacking any sense of nuance (or need to be said aloud), but this episode starts to give some shading to the character, who was mainly a gruff policeman up to this point. Also, Cliff DeYoung brings an easy, slacker charisma to the role of Croden.

Trivial Note - Morn's name is first mentioned here, and the first mention of his talkative nature is made. Even though he's never credited, Mark Allen Shepherd appears in more episodes as Morn than Cirroc Lofton does as Jake Sisko (and he's in the opening credits). The name Morn is an anagram of Norm, an oblique reference to the barfly from Cheers. As for Odo's plot, this is the first time his species is referred to as Changelings (which is the most accepted name for them going forward, more so than Shapeshifters). Also, Croden speaks of Changelings who live in the Gamma Quadrant on a planet hidden inside a nebula. Albeit on a different planet in a different nebula, this turns out to be true in "The Search, Part I".

110. "Strange Bedfellows" - Season 7, Episode 19 (4/21/99)

"Go! Crawl back to your Prophets! Beg their forgiveness! Live the rest of your life in Sisko's shadow!" - Dukat

The Winn character arc in this episode is a particularly thorny one. I've written before about how effective Winn was as a kind-of villain in the first six seasons. Her major role in the final arc is a questionable heel turn that I still don't know how to feel about. Disguised Dukat plays her like a fiddle in the tirade that's quoted above, especially with that last part. Kira spat some venom at her at the end of "The Reckoning" that picked at the same wound, and the two have another excellent conversation here that serves as the highlight of the entire episode. Watch Louise Fletcher's face change from somber to defensive after Kira suggests Winn step down as Kai. In one swoop, any sympathy she had gained earlier in the story was gone, and hateable Winn was back. Unfortunately, hateable Winn goes full-on Bond villain with Dukat in the final scene, which is pretty laughable. Such is the nebulous nature of the final Pah-wraith arc. More on the other stories in the note...

Trivial Note - Worf and Ezri continue to bicker, as they did for most of the prior two episodes. Worf does get to hand Weyoun his most hilarious death, though, with a quick neck snap during an interrogation. Damar's reaction, and his reaction to meeting the next Weyoun are both priceless. Of course, Damar makes his ultimate decision to rebel against the Dominion is this episode, but we'll discuss that more in the entries for later episodes. Also, after the previous episode ended with a teaser about it, the Breen officially align themselves with the Dominion at the start of this episode, which turns the war on its head. I have much to say about the Breen, one of my favorite Trek creations, which I will unleash on you at some point.

109. "Armageddon Game" - Season 2, Episode 13 (1/30/94)

"It was hell. You can see for yourself; the man never stops talking." - Chief Miles O'Brien

I mentioned in the entry for season one's awful "The Storyteller" that the Bashir/O'Brien friendship storyline began there, and that's true. However, the Bashir/O'Brien friendship storyline that's, ya know, good begins here. This is a fairly self-contained episode otherwise, but it's nice to go back and see when the two characters really start to develop their banter, as this bromance becomes one of the cornerstones of the series going forward. Keiko also gets something to do, which doesn't happen as often as it should, as her persistence is what finally convinces Sisko and the others to not give up hope on the dynamic duo, though that all gets undercut with the episode's humorous final exchange. That exchange is admittedly funny, but poor Keiko can't do right even when she does right.

Trivial Note - This episode was nominated for an Emmy for Best Hairstyling. The aliens' hairpieces are alarmingly ridiculous, even by Star Trek standards, so who's to say where that nomination came from. Apparently, the strain in the relationship between Bashir and O'Brien in the early seasons was somewhat mirrored by actors Alexander Siddig and Colm Meaney, who argued over their political views and national heritages (Siddig was raised in England and Meaney is Irish), though these seem to be as much friendly disputes as anything.

108. "Waltz" - Season 6, Episode 11 (1/8/98)

"They thought I was their enemy?! They don't know what it is to be my enemy! But they will!" - Gul Dukat

This is an extremely difficult episode to rate, one of the hardest of the series. On one hand, it has a bit of a forced climax, and leads Dukat down a character path that's basically insane. On the other hand, it's tense and well-directed, with nice character insights into Dukat before his over-the-top meltdown at the end and an interesting, successful take on three characters presented completely from Dukat's perspective. I do enjoy the interplay between Avery Brooks and Marc Alaimo, as Alaimo, in particular, modulates easily from a broken, defeated Dukat to a restless, tortured Dukat to a psychopathic supervillain Dukat. The episodes where Avery Brooks was asked to get loud and preachy didn't normally feature him at his best, but here he pulls off a truth-telling Sisko who's also wounded and desperate. And I do enjoy Dukat's projections of Weyoun, Damar, and Kira, each believably the version of those characters that Dukat would imagine in his head. It's too bad the climax goes so far with the character, and leads him in a less enjoyable direction for the remainder of the series.

Trivial Note - Somewhat famously, this episode and Dukat's general heel turn in the final season and a half were responses to a growing number of Trek fans online who were trying to argue that Dukat was really a hero. The writing staff was dumbfounded by this, as Dukat had always been presented as a war criminal, so they wanted to force him to confront his past actions, which would finally push him over the edge into full-on villainy. This doesn't entirely work, as it robs the character of his one true defining trait. He was always the hero in his own mind. He laid out his philosophy on true conquest to Weyoun in "Sacrifice of Angels", and his desire for others to accept him and recognize his true greatness is largely, though not entirely, missing from this point on.

107. "Shakaar" - Season 3, Episode 24 (5/22/95)

"I didn't fight the Cardassians for 25 years just so I can start shooting other Bajorans." - Shakaar Edon

This episode features some interesting character work, as the series loved picking at the Occupation, the Resistance, and those who took part in them. Shakaar, former leader of Kira's Resistance cell, is introduced here and quickly becomes a major player in the series (even though most of what he accomplishes actually occurs off-screen). The episode's resolution is perhaps a bit too neat (Shakaar's election as First Minister sorta comes out of nowhere), but the real meat on this bone comes from the character interactions, mostly those involving the former Resistance fighters, but also Kai Winn. She's at her most megalomaniacal here (at least until the final arc), and her big speech to Sisko is shot very effectively. As for Kira and her merry men (and women), all their relationships feel real and lived-in, which is impressive considering Kira was the only one we'd seen before this episode. The Dominion storyline defined the show, but the Bajor-Cardassia fallout contained multitudes.

Trivial Note - That's John Noble from The Wire and Gotham struggling to not look ridiculous in a Bajoran uniform at the end. He plays Lenaris Holem, the officer pursuing Shakaar's rebels. Also, Duncan Regehr makes the first of several appearances as the title character. I mention this merely because his prior appearance on Trek came in TNG's laughably insane "Sub Rosa". Playing Shakaar was a major step up from playing a seductive Scottish ghost.

106. "Business as Usual" - Season 5, Episode 18 (4/7/97)

"28 million dead? Can't we just wound some of them?" - Quark

This episode's more-or-less a straight morality play, which would fit in more on one of the previous Trek incarnations. DS9 was usually never quite so black-and-white when it came to ethics, particularly with non-human characters. Quark, in particular, holds on to chauvinistic Ferengi views toward women and venal capitalistic notions all the way to the end of the series, though his exposure to Federation (and occasionally Klingon) principles affects him at several points in the show. You could argue whether his balking at the notion of staying in the weapons dealing business is just some Federation morality rubbing off on him, or if it's simply too ghastly a racket for even a true Ferengi like him to stay in. Either way, the episode attacks something that was more an overt concern in the 90's than it perhaps is now (even though international arms dealing has continued unabated in the interim, we just care more about domestic gun ownership now), and does it effectively, while keeping from straying into Trek's often off-putting preachiness.

Trivial Note - The cast here is great. Josh Pais plays Quark's cousin Gaila, who had been mentioned multiple times on the show before this and who returns in "The Magnificent Ferengi". He slurs his way through his sleazy lines perfectly. The always terrifying Steven Berkoff is typically intimidating at Hagath, and the great gangster heavy Lawrence Tierney plays the Regent. Alexander Sidding (credited again as Siddig El Fadil) directed this outing, the first of two directorial efforts for him on the show. His uncle, Malcolm McDowell (a Trek veteran), was originally eyed for the Hagath role, but was sadly unavailable, though Berkoff was extremely effective.

Okey doke, that's two segments of the list down. We'll have three more segments of 35 coming soon, so keep your eyes peeled. Again, check out Atlanta Classic Comics selection of Trek comics and memorabilia. You never know what you may find. Also, please comment if you're digging this list (or not). A little discussion is always welcome. Until then, qapla'. (Look it up.)

Part III | Part IV | Part V