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

by The Octopus Man


The endurance test continues. Hopefully, you've enjoyed reading the first two parts of this five-part series. I imagine if you haven't, you probably won't be reading this. We're continuing to rank the episodes of the underrated 90's sci-fi series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, for no real reason. It's just fun for me (and hopefully for you).

Once again, the methodology - this list features 173 entries. The episodes of the series were originally aired in 173 parts. Three of those were two-hour presentations, which means technically 176 episodes were produced (you'll see that number here and there). I'm counting each two-parter that didn't air as one long episode separately, but the two-hour episodes are counted as one entry each, since splitting them wasn't what the producers intended. So there...

Part I | Part II

105. "Tears of the Prophets" - Season 6, Episode 26 (6/17/98)

"His baseball...he took it with him." - Maj. Kira Nerys

This is a frustrating episode. It's one the of the most impactful tales the series ever told, but outside factors and some strange narrative decisions definitely hamstrung it. Maybe the situation with Terry Farrell's contract simply couldn't be helped, who knows? But her departure was narratively problematic in this episode. I understand the desire to allow her to have a final scene with Worf, but having her death be so hand-wavey (literally, as that's pretty much all Dukat does to her) robs the moment of any real impact. Plus, the episode had really laid it on thick up until this point, what with Worf and Dax's baby plans and Bashir and Quark's icky reaction to them. Aside from this, there's some cool sequences. The battle for the Chin'toka system is pretty awesome, as the series continued to present the best space battles in the franchise's history (aside from the one at the beginning of First Contact). Also, Damar and Weyoun's quick exchange about the Pah-wraiths and the Founders is one of the best bits of dialogue in the entire series, buoyed by being delivered by two of the show's best recurring players. And Kira's line quoted above may sting more than anything else in the episode, as Sisko's baseball was well entrenched in the show's symbology by this point. Still, Jadzia's death just sorta sucks.

Trivial Note - The death chant that Worf recites over Jadzia's body is actually a real Native American death chant, translated into Klingon. There were all sorts of alternate ideas proposed for how to off Jadzia, but they were all found unworkable for various reasons. In the writers' defense, having to kill her off in the Dukat storyline while everyone else was off fighting a battle, yet still give her a final scene with Worf and keep the Dax symbiont alive was all very logistically difficult (perhaps impossible). The sudden nature of her death and another event that occurs offscreen between here and the beginning of season seven do allow for Ezri to take a role in the series, as Trills traditionally wouldn't associate with their past lives in such a way.

104. "Ties of Blood and Water" - Season 5, Episode 19 (4/14/97)

"I owed it to him. I owed it to my father...to get it right this time." - Maj. Kira Nerys

This episode has the feel of another great post-Occupation story (and is a sequel to one), but there's a roteness to it that keeps it from achieving its potential. It's still a quality character piece, mind you; it just doesn't quite reach its ceiling. Nana Visitor was always excellent at portraying a woman with so much pain in her past, and she does more good work here. I'm also glad the episode follows up on the relationship between her and Legate Ghemor that was introduced back in "Second Skin". There's something lacking in the comparison of her father's death to Ghemor's that seems to be the episode's fatal flaw. Maybe they had just worn this path too much in the previous five and a half seasons.

Trivial Note - One other thing this episode features is the marvelous Dukat/Weyoun double act. Weyoun was killed in season four's "To the Death", but Jeffrey Combs was so good in the role that the writers cooked up the idea that the Vorta were clones, just so he could return. (This actually tracks pretty well with what we knew of the Founders and the Jem'Hadar at this point). Overall, we see five Weyouns in the show, and his numerous deaths are the subject of both great humor ("'Strange Bedfellows") and great drama ("Treachery, Faith, and the Great River").

103. "Invasive Prodecures" - Season 2, Episode 4 (10/17/93)

"I feel so alone." - Lt. Jadzia Idaris

Another early Dax focused episode where Terry Farrell doesn't get to do all that much, this episode overcomes a few structural problems largely on the strength of a great guest star. John Glover has a lot on his plate here as Verad. First, unjoined Verad has to be convincingly meek, awkward, and desperate. You have to immediately buy that this character would be rejected for joining by the Trill authorities, and that he'd become so desperate that he's resort to this type of violence. Second, the joined Verad Dax has to be (nearly) a new man, and he is. He's confident and assured, full of the traits Jadzia displays (and Curzon displayed, according to the stories about him). Glover nails all of this almost effortlessly, and he really carries the episode. Farrell may not be given much, but the scene featuring the line quoted above is suitably heartbreaking. Megan Gallagher also shines as Verad's conflicted partner. All of this helps overcome the station being evacuated for the second straight episode (after "The Siege", where it's a big damn deal, and here it's just halfway mentioned in the opening narration), and Quark's selling-out of everyone else with no real consequences.

Trivial Note - I pulled Idaris from the DS9 novels, as Jadzia's pre-host family name is never mentioned on the show (Ezri's is a couple of times - Tigan), and Jadzia delivers that line after her symbiont was removed. Glover never returns to DS9, but Gallagher and fellow guest star Tim Russ are seen again. Gallagher plays one of the humans from 1947 in the awesome "Little Green Men", and Russ (who plays a Klingon mercenary here) plays Tuvok on Voyager and one episode of this show.

102. "Past Tense, Part I" - Season 3, Episode 11 (1/2/95)

"The name is Bell...Gabriel Bell." - Cmdr. Ben Sisko

This two-parter from season three is strong, on the whole, but the first half is too padded out. Most of the really important stuff happens in Part II, and too much of this episode is devoted to establishing the time period Sisko, Bashir, and Dax have found themselves in. There's a cool story here, and some trenchant social commentary; it just needed to move faster. Among the many multi-part DS9 episodes, this one feels the least like a DS9 story, as time travel and overt social commentary were more common on TOS and TNG. Of course, that this story was able to feature two humans of color be immediately detained by the authorities, while an actual extra-terrestrial was able to move about freely since she looks like a white woman, was something this series was best equipped to do.

Trivial Note - There are numerous references to the TOS classic "City on the Edge of Forever" scattered throughout this episode and the follow-up, as there are definite similarities between the two stories. We'll do the real-world timeline note now, and save the fictional world timeline note for Part II's entry. Shortly after these episodes aired, an actual proposal to create fenced-in havens for Los Angeles's homeless population was floated. This was shocking to the cast and crew, who had just produced a dystopian story where this happens in San Francisco in twenty years' time. Also, in the present-day, we're only eight years shy of this episode's "past", 2024. Given how things are going politically, I can't completely rule out the idea that those sorts of havens may not still come into existence by then.

101. "Valiant" - Season 6, Episode 22 (5/6/98)

"We're Red Squad! And we can do anything!" - Capt. Tim Watters

If only all shows full of irritating characters had the nerve to blow them all up at the end. This episode is irritating most of the way through, not all of which was intentional. The cadets are all snotty (intentional), and Jake comes off as a big lame-o when he keeps going on about his dad during his objections to the cadets' plan (not intentional). Still, I like how the story picks up on Nog's Red Squad fascination established in "Homefront" and his general desire to be accepted as a true member of Starfleet (as the only Ferengi to ever be in Starfleet, this makes perfect sense). Plus, the hero montage that airs just before everything goes to poop is note-perfect. This is the exact kind of montage you see right before the intrepid heroes do intrepid hero stuff, and the episode follows it up with almost everybody dying horribly (and fittingly). The arrogance of youth is, and will always be, an issue. I don't think even the Star Trek utopia would make it go away. In fact, it may encourage it further.

Trivial Note - To my knowledge, the show never follows up on Nog's original mission in this episode, which was to contact the Grand Nagus about helping with the war effort. It's never brought up again, and the Ferengi Alliance (shown in TNG to be a more significant military threat than they ever were in this show) is never actively seen joining the Federation/Klingon/Romulan coalition. I always thought the show should've addressed that. Also, Valiant was writer Ronald Moore's original name for the Defiant, but the higher-ups vetoed it as Voyager was about to be used for the ship in that series and they didn't want two ships that both started with a V. The name is reused here for a ship of the same design as the Defiant.

100. "The Assignment" - Season 5, Episode 5 (10/28/96)

"Strange, these corporeal bodies of yours...so fragile." - Pah-wraith in possession of Keiko O'Brien

I'm not sure anyone would've guessed when this episode aired early in season five that the Pah-wraiths would become perhaps the series' ultimate villains. Keiko returns from a trip to study the Fire Caves of Bajor (mentioned back in season one, but not seen on the show until the series finale) possessed by an unnamed Pah-wraith, and tries to blackmail O'Brien into murdering all the Prophets. In a way, this smaller-scale story works more elegantly than the grand, prophesied tale that ends the series. Keiko O'Brien is one of the few regular or recurring characters on the show to truly get shorted by the series. With just a few small exceptions, the character never really develops beyond O'Brien's wife. This isn't really Rosalind Chao's fault (unless her schedule was to blame, that I don't know), but this episode provides her with her best chance to sink her teeth into the material. She plays the Pah-wraith with the perfect amount of menace, drawing the most chills when she does something seemingly benign, like brush Molly's hair. It's a wonderful performance. Plus, Rom gets a nice spotlight, too, and that's always welcome. There are relatively few episodes that feature the Pah-wraiths as the one main story (since they're so prominent in the final arc, when ten other things are also going on). This, the first one, is the best.

Trivial Note - In The Next Generation's "Power Play", O'Brien, along with Troi and Data, is possessed by a malevolent entity, and Keiko gets caught up in the aliens' plot. Here, that situation is reversed. In season one's "The Nagus", Sisko mentions the Fire Caves to Jake, and a line was cut that would've referred to the Pah-wraiths. In an effort to tie the original story for this episode more closely into the series' overarching plot, the Pah-wraiths were resurrected for this episode, as the being that possesses Keiko was originally to be a new, different entity. Nana Visitor doesn't appear in this episode (a first for the series), as she went into labor with her and Alexander Siddig's baby at the start of production. This is also the first Trek episode to be directed by Allan Kroeker, who would later helm "Sacrifice of Angels" and "Tears of the Prophets", which would both feature huge space battles, as well as the series finales for DS9Voyager, and Enterprise, among numerous other episodes.

99. "His Way" - Season 6, Episode 20 (4/22/98)

"Talk about your cranky aliens; you two really are made for each other." - Vic Fontaine

I've mentioned several times at this point how divisive the Pah-wraith storyline is for fans of the show. One of the few other DS9 elements that could draw such strong opinions on both sides is Vic Fontaine. Vic is a holographic lounge singer who seems entirely out-of-place on this series - especially here toward the end of the show with a war going on - but who becomes a larger and larger part of the show's ensemble as it heads to the finish line. Sure, this was probably just a product of showrunner Ira Steven Behr's love of lounge jazz, but somehow Vic manages to become a not insignificant part of the show's identity, at least in my opinion. The other episodes to feature him this prominently are better, again in my opinion, but he gets a fairly solid intro here, as the man playing love guru to Odo. His appearance is particularly unexpected as this was the episode directly after "In the Pale Moonlight", one of the series' best and darkest outings. Thoughts vary on Vic Fontaine, but, in the end, he's all right by me.

Trivial Note - This character was originally dreamed up for Frank Sinatra, Jr. to play. Junior grew up a big Trek fan and was interested in taking a role on the show, but only if he could play an alien. Realizing that that would defeat the purpose of hiring him, the producers went elsewhere. After making a run at several established singers, they eventually hired James Darren, an actor/performer. He does a great job. Also, after first being obliquely introduced all the way back in season two's "The Collaborator", Odo and Kira finally become a romantic couple. Speaking of Kira, Nana Visitor did her own singing when the holographic Kira performed "Fever".

98. "The Collaborator" - Season 2, Episode 24 (5/22/94)

"I believed in you! I defended you! And Winn was right all along. And now she's gonna destroy you." - Maj. Kira Nerys

For such a spiritual people, the Bajorans can be pretty cutthroat when it comes to internal politics. This episode probably represents the tip of that iceberg, as the ongoing plotline of who would succeed the revered Kai Opaka is resolved here. Perhaps you thought the good guy Vedek who's sexing up one of the show's main characters would eventually win the day? Yeah, perhaps not. While the writers didn't go so far as to actually make Bareil a collaborator, it's definitely an interesting narrative choice to have the smugly loathsome Winn politic her way into power. Again, the show's early seasons just kept picking at post-Occupation Bajor, and Winn's a way more intriguing character than the bland Bareil, especially now that she has real power.

Trivial Note - As mentioned in the last entry, Odo's longing look at Kira when she reveals her feelings for Bareil is the first hint at his love for her. Also, the decision to have Winn become the next Kai was a last-minute change of direction. Bareil had been planned to assume the role since his character was introduced at the end of season one.

97. "Who Mourns for Morn?" - Season 6, Episode 12 (2/4/98)

"Think of me as Morn...I can't believe I just said that." - Quark

This is an amusing little episode. Morn was used for some pretty awesome little moments of comic relief throughout the series, and the show manages to squeeze a whole episode out of his "death" here. Some of the plotting in the middle is a bit tortured, but Armin Shimerman gets to shine as Quark, who actually experiences a range of emotions in this one. He's greedy, sure, but he also gets to show some legitimate sadness when it's believed that Morn is gone. Plus, he remains the eye of the storm as the episode's con artist plot starts to get crazy. This isn't an absolutely essential episode as it has no bearing on anything that comes afterward, but it is fun.

Trivial Note - Mark Allen Shepherd gets to play the Bajoran man Quark asks to sit in Morn's seat at the bar during the memorial service, as well as the big guy himself. Even in this episode, which features his character's name in the title, he goes uncredited. Also, humorously, you see the painting that Morn bought at the auction in season five's "In the Cards" in his quarters. And that portrait of Morn in the picture above is magnificent.

96. "You Are Cordially Invited..." - Season 6, Episode 7 (11/10/97)

"To this very day, no one can oppose the beating of two Klingon hearts, not even me." - Sirella

After the six-episode arc that kicks off season six, the Worf/Dax wedding episode needed to be a lot of fun, and it was. The party scene in Dax's quarters is particularly crazy, with Nog's hysterical dancing in the foreground while an important conversation goes on in the background being one of my favorite little visual gags in the entire show. And speaking of important conversations, the decision to have Odo and Kira deal with the fallout from the events of the previous three episodes off-screen at the party is a wonderfully cruel narrative choice. Whoever had that idea was a genius. Some of the drama on the way to the wedding is pretty unnecessary, and the lack of anyone from The Next Generation cast attending Worf's nuptials seems really weird, but this was a nice dessert after the main course the show had doled out over the previous six weeks.

Trivial Note - Jonathan Frakes and LeVar Burton would've appeared in this episode as Riker and La Forge, but the producers wanted to get everyone from TNG or no one. The lack of Riker and Picard in particular is very noticeable. Aron Eisenberg improvised his awesomely horrible dancing at Dax's party, and Terry Farrell improvised along with him when she joined in. In general, the party scene is delightful, and was intentionally shot during an actual loud party, forcing the actors to shout to be heard. Many people on the staff, including the actors, didn't like the off-screen resolution between Odo and Kira, but those people are wrong.

95. "Penumbra" - Season 7, Episode 17 (4/7/99)

"Stay on the path, Benjamin." - Prophet posing as Sarah Sisko

The much-discussed final story arc of DS9 kicks off with this episode, which in many ways acts a season premiere. As the first of a nine (or ten) part story, this outing doesn't really stand on its own, but it accomplishes its mission. Sisko proposes to Kasidy, but the Prophets have other ideas. Worf goes missing during a mission in the Badlands, and Ezri steals a runabout in order to find him. Damar grows more and more uncomfortable with the situation on Cardassia Prime. And why are the Breen taking Worf and Ezri prisoner? All will be revealed in later installments, but there are successful little moments here. The scene with Ezri in Worf's quarters is well done, with overt callbacks to key moments between Worf and Jadzia and a stylistic similarity to Worf's climactic decision in "Change of Heart". Also, I do enjoy Quark's reassurance to Ezri that Worf wouldn't die owing him money. It's humorous, sweet, and true to some degree.

Trivial Note - The Son'a receive a quick mention, as the Dominion divert some of their forces to protect a Son'a outpost. The Son'a are the villainous race introduced in the then-recently released Star Trek: Insurrection. This is as far as the franchise goes to tie that film to this war. While I understand the desire to keep the film and TV franchises separate (even in today's world of mega-franchises, the two media rarely cross over), it's narratively nonsensical that the Enterprise, Starfleet's flagship and commanded by an officer as revered as Jean-Luc Picard, doesn't take a more active role in this massive interstellar war (on-screen, at least).

94. "Tribunal" - Season 2, Episode 25 (6/5/94)

"There is an old Cardassian expression, 'Confession is good for the soul.'" - Kovat

This is a pretty solid episode considering it basically owes its existence to a small bit of dialogue in "The Maquis" two-parter, which only aired about a month earlier (no idea when each episode was produced). While the plot here isn't too different from multiple films (American travels abroad, gets arrested for a minor crime or framed for a major one, gets crushed by a brutal foreign justice system), this late season two entry does give the audience further illumination about the Cardassian psyche. We'd heard bits and pieces about them over the first couple of seasons (and some on TNG), but here we see some of their zealous love of order in practice (and it is terrifying). While I don't believe the writing staff had codified the O'Brien Must Suffer rule at this point, he really was the perfect character for this story, as his distaste for Cardassians had already been well established, which plays right into the plot's hands.

Trivial Note - O'Brien Must Suffer refers to a loose rule the writing staff adopted during the series, as they had a habit of crafting stories where O'Brien would be put through the wringer in some way or other. This was because they felt that the Chief - being a non-commissioned officer, a jack-of-all-trades type of guy, and a family man - was someone the audience would identify with in these intense situations, more so than some of the other main characters, who were aliens, genetically enhanced, a child, or in command. The nature of the Cardassian legal system was established in a conversation between Sisko and Dukat in "The Maquis" two-parter, and the idea was fleshed out here to fill out the season. Avery Brooks makes his series directorial debut with this episode. He was the first cast member to direct for the show and remained a regular director for the remainder of DS9's run.

93. "Shadowplay" - Season 2, Episode 16 (2/20/94)

"She's real to you, and she's real to me, too. They're all real, and you can't turn your back on them now." - Constable Odo

One of the show's more overlooked episodes, this mid-season two offering benefits from perfect timing. We get to see a softer side of Odo in his interactions with Taya, the little girl, than we had seen at any point prior in the series, and it helps further fuel his (and the audience's) desire to see him find his own people. I also enjoy that the script pairs Odo and Dax in an A-plot, something which hadn't happened before and wouldn't happen very much afterward. Trek had picked at the notion of holographic projections as sentient beings before (in TNG, with mixed results), and would do so again (on this series and heavily on Voyager). This episode is quietly among the most successful to tackle that concept, as it avoids heavy-handed philosophizing (Odo's too much of a straight shooter for that) and grounds the whole thing with Rurigan's very human tale of loneliness. Of the early, TNG-style episodes, this is one of the strongest.

Trivial Note - The Dominion is mentioned by Rurigan, which is the final time we hear about them before we are rudely introduced to (some of) them in "The Jem'Hadar". Taya's children's story about the Changeling is a riff on a section of Puss in Boots. In the B-stories on the station, several biographical bits are introduced (or reintroduced). O'Brien references his musical background, as he was seen playing the cello in a TNG episode. Kira mentions having two brothers, who are seen as children in "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night". And, in the biggest development, Jake tells his father he doesn't want to join Starfleet, which kicks off his writing subplot. 

92. "The Circle" - Season 2, Episode 2 (10/3/93)

"If you want to change the government, Minister Jaro, you vote to change it. You don't sneak up from behind it with a dagger." - Maj. Kira Nerys

One of the key developments over DS9's run was the show's experimentation with story serialization. The Trek higher-ups had always pushed back against overarching plots, normally only allowing for two-part episodes at most. There are no real long-running storylines on The Original Series, and The Next Generation has a scant few (the most notable, the Klingon storyline, carried over to this series). While the show would go whole hog with this concept in later seasons, the three-part Circle storyline that begins season two is a key moment in the show's development. It takes its cue from the season one finale but is not a direct sequel to that episode (which is how TNG usually did it). Instead, it lets its story grow naturally from the seemingly standalone "The Homecoming", which directly precedes this effort. As the middle part of the trilogy, "The Circle" is the most dependent on the other two parts, but the early scene from which the picture above is taken is one of the show's all-time greatest bits of comedy and character.

Trivial Note - Frank Langella appeared uncredited as Minister Jaro in all three of the Circle episodes. His children were big Trekkies, and he took this role for them. This was the first true three-parter in Trek history. The humorous scene in Kira's quarters was shot in one long take and was based on the Marx Brothers film A Night at the Opera. And in Sisko baseball-watch, the ball takes its normal place on the Commander's desk for the first time in this episode.

91. "Starship Down" - Season 4, Episode 7 (11/6/95)

"I hate the Gamma Quadrant." - Quark

The cat-and-mouse game between the Starfleet ship with our heroes on it and the enemy vessel(s) out to destroy them is a tale Star Trek returns to many times. TOS's "Balance of Terror", which is one the franchise's gold-standard episodes, was the first to go down this path, with Star Trek II, the franchise's gold-standard film, being one of several entries to follow. With that lofty bar to reach, "Starship Down" can be seen as a mild failure. It never quite musters up the tension of those encounters (not seeing anything from the Jem'Hadar perspective is a notable difference in structure), nor does every character beat work (looking at you Dax and Bashir). But beyond all that, this is still a quality episode. The character pieces with Sisko and Kira, Worf and the engineers, and Quark and James Cromwell's Karemma representative are all strong, which once again reminds us of the show's greatest strength, its deep well of interesting characters.

Trivial Note - David Mack and John J. Ordover are the credited writers of this episode, and went on to become bigwigs in the field of Star Trek tie-in novels. Their most direct inspiration was the submarine classic Das Boot, and they originally wanted the ship to be sinking in an actual ocean. This was deemed too expensive, so a CGI gas giant was used instead. The baseball cap that Kira wears at the end is a Homestead Grays hat. The Grays are probably the most famous of the old Negro League teams.

90. "The Maquis, Part I" - Season 2, Episode 20 (4/24/94)

"Now do you begin to see, Commander? That without any help from either of us, they've managed to start their own little war out here." - Gul Dukat

This episode (and its sequel) had a lot on its shoulders when it was being prepped. The Next Generation was winding down, and the Paramount bosses had already given the greenlight to Voyager. All three series would have a hand in establishing the Maquis plotline, which would provide the new series with its backdrop. Of the three, DS9 had the most heavy lifting to do, and, somewhat surprisingly, it ended up being the series that dealt with the Maquis the most, in a large sense. (Maquis characters persisted on Voyager from start to finish, but their identity as Maquis had little bearing on the series as a whole.) This episode is a solid part one, setting up more than just what happens in part two. The rapport between Sisko and Dukat is sharp, continuing to develop the complicated relationship between the two men (complicated until the last season and a half, at least). The big flaw here, and in the next episode, is Bernie Casey's performance as Cal Hudson. He's about as wooden a guest star as has ever appeared on Star Trek, which puts him at the top of a long, sad list.

Trivial Note - This plotline was worked on by several Trek power players. Rick Berman, more or less the overall boss of Star Trek after Gene Roddenberry passed away, received story credit, as did Michael Piller, showrunner for TNG and DS9 during these days, and Jeri Taylor, soon to be the showrunner for Voyager. Ira Steven Behr, who would take over for Piller as DS9's showrunner starting in season three, receives a writing credit for the next episode. You could easily argue that no other episode (or episodes) of Trek ever received this much high-level attention. This episode also features the first mention of Captain Boday, an unseen alien with a transparent skull who apparently has a thing for Dax (much to Worf's chagrin later).

89. "Things Past" - Season 5, Episode 8 (11/18/96)

"I thought of myself as the outsider, a shapeshifter who cared for nothing but justice. It never occurred to me that I could fail, but I did." - Constable Odo

The biggest failing of this episode is that is doesn't recreate the magic of "Necessary Evil", a season two classic that shares this episode's look and feel. While that episode is an early standout, this one falls a bit short of its high bar. Still, it's a strong piece, and, surprisingly, the only one that really digs into the notion of Odo being a collaborator during the Occupation. While "Necessary Evil" and a few other early episodes make it clear that Odo was respected by both sides for his work on Terok Nor, the series never puts together two things we know about Odo and the Cardassians. The Constable is all about order, and the Cardassian justice system is the Orwellian nightmare we saw back in "Tribunal". Since the vast majority of Bajorans who were hauled in by Odo during his time on Terok Nor were likely executed, it's important for the show to deal with this directly. The conversation between Odo and Kira at the end is largely a reversal of a similar one between them from the end of "Necessary Evil", and it's something that needed to happen.

Trivial Note - Kurtwood Smith is generally awesome, and his appearance here as Thrax is no exception. He plays a Cardassian who's pretty clearly not an actual Cardassian, with the audience gradually realizing that he's playing Odo in a different skin. It's a strong performance. He'd previously appeared as the President of the Federation in Star Trek VI. Both roles bury him under alien prosthetics, but that voice is difficult to miss.

88. "Visionary" - Season 3, Episode 17 (2/27/95)

"I hate temporal mechanics!" - Chief Miles O'Brien(s)

In this installment of O'Brien Must Suffer, the Chief starts to have visions of himself from the future. He gets to see a brawl (twice), and eventually sees the whole station destroyed. It's not a good day to be Miles O'Brien. Fortunately, we can reverse the polarity through the static temporal nodes to cause an inversion in the tachyons in the upper pylon which will release a burst of focused gamma radiation that we can bounce off the deflector dish into a warp nacelle which, in turn, will cause the chronitons in O'Brien's bloodstream to cease their state of flux. (This does not actually happen in the episode...probably.) Really, Romulan treachery is to blame, but the one thing they didn't count on is two Chief O'Briens (or is it Chiefs O'Brien?). The general storyline here is sharp and elegant (Romulan treachery is the best kind of treachery), which helps dull the impact of all the technobabble.

Trivial Note - It was around this time, with Ira Steven Behr now serving as showrunner and major figures like Ronald Moore and Rene Echevarria on the writing staff, that the idea of using O'Brien for stories like these started to be codified. One of the most successful aspects of the script, the use of the Romulans and their general deviousness, was added late in the game. The Romulans really weren't a major part of this show until season six, which was a few years too late, in my opinion.

87. "Sons of Mogh" - Season 4, Episode 15 (2/12/96)

"I have no life. I have no death. Whatever is to become of me is up to you." - Kurn

This is a really great episode all the way to the end, which is deeply unsettling. The House of Mogh drama that begins in TNG's "Sins of the Father" is one of Trek's first, and most rewarding, running plotlines. Tony Todd, he of the wonderful voice, was a perfect casting choice for Worf's brother Kurn, and he and Michael Dorn always worked well together. Plus, there's a certain air of Shakespearean tragedy about it all. The tragedy draws to its conclusion here, but that conclusion is sort of horrifying from a character perspective. Kurn's death wish aside, what Worf, Dax, and Bashir do to him is incredibly unethical and should've drawn an ever harsher dressing down from Sisko (and more) than Worf and Dax had already received from the Captain earlier in the episode (one of Sisko's best tirades, by the way). There is a deeply poignant final scene that results from their actions, but still, yuck.

Trivial Note - The Worf/Dax relationship basically begins here, both on-screen and off. The writing staff deliberately put the two together in the A-plot, capitalizing on Dax's previously established Klingon expertise, to see if they had any chemistry together, which they certainly did. (They appeared together in "The Sword of Kahless" earlier in season four, but that was more a function of Kor's presence.) The strongly hinted at relationship between Dax and Bashir was done away with, and she and Worf became a couple the following season, though Dax and Bashir get their chance, in a roundabout way, in season seven.

86. "Chimera" - Season 7, Episode 14 (2/17/99)

"I know where I belong." - Constable Odo

This episode manages to accomplish a great deal without being too showy about it. The sudden arrival of Laas, a Changeling who isn't part of the Great Link, gives us one of several strong, melancholy Odo stories we see throughout the series, but the timing of it (coming when the Dominion War is going full-tilt) adds an extra layer of station intrigue to the proceedings. Laas's superiority complex doesn't help matters, nor does the presence of Klingons. All these elements were well-established either in the show's ongoing plot or in what we already knew about certain characters and races. Basically, everything feels earned, and there are multiple reasonable perspectives to every aspect of the script. None of this even mentions the arc for Kira in the episode, as she ends up winning what she thought was a losing battle for Odo's heart (though not permanently).

Trivial Note - That's J.G. Hertzler again as Laas. He's credited as Garman Hertzler for this role, which raises both his credited name and credited character totals to three. He's J.G. Hertzler (his standard name for acting credits) as General Martok, Garman Hertzler here, and John Noah Hertzler as the Vulcan captain of the Saratoga in "Emissary". He based his voice for Laas off of William Shatner's infamous pause-heavy style of delivering Capt. Kirk's lines. Both Laas and Odo are seen transforming into energy (Laas becomes fire in Odo's quarters, and Odo becomes an aurora-type thing when he, um, does it with Kira at the end), which are the only times any Changelings are shown doing this. I don't care for this, as even by Changeling standards, this shouldn't be possible.

85. "The Maquis, Part II" - Season 2, Episode 21 (5/1/94)

"It's easy to be a saint in paradise, but the Maquis do not live in paradise." - Cmdr. Ben Sisko

I'll say this for "The Maquis" two-parter - it's consistent. That may sound like faint praise, but it isn't. Many Trek two-parters don't maintain their momentum across episodes, which is a problem this one doesn't have. It's not going to go down as one of the all-time great Trek tales, but considering all the franchise heavy lifting that needed to be done, this is a fairly clean, efficient starting point for the Maquis storyline, such as it is. Bernie Casey returns to stink up the joint, but beyond that, we have a new status quo competently revealed to us. Plus, we get more of the Sisko/Dukat double act, which helps (most) any episode, and some solid Cardassian backstabbing goes on in the margins. All in all, this was a good day at the office for the Trek honchos.

Trivial Note - Ira Steven Behr had been carrying Sisko's speech about the Federation and the Maquis (partially quoted above) around for a while. One of the major concerns of the show going forward was Behr's desire to deconstruct the Federation's idealized society, which sets this series apart from the other Trek shows. The Dukat line about Cardassian justice that led to "Tribunal" being produced is found in this episode. Michael Piller wanted Bernie Casey to return as Hudson in future episodes but changed his mind after he saw Casey's work. This led to the Michael Eddington character being introduced in season three (a boon for the show). A thousand Kira/Dukat shippers were born after the scene where he lays the smackdown on that Xepolite captain. She definitely gives him a look, but, from her side, it never goes any further than that.

84. "The Changing Face of Evil" - Season 7, Episode 20 (4/28/99)

"I call upon Cardassians everywhere. Resist. Resist today. Resist tomorrow. Resist 'til the last Dominion soldier has been driven from our soil." - Legate Damar

Ah, Damar. The story of this Glinn turned Gul turned Legate is one of the strongest character arcs in all of Trek. He becomes one of the show's most interesting and important characters down the stretch, with his closing speech in this episode being a character highlight (and he has an ever better one a couple of episodes later). If only the entire episode was as good as you, Damar. Or the Breen, for that matter. More on them below. Unfortunately, the Dukat/Winn storyline is also present here and continues to crawl along at a leisurely pace. And Ezri and Worf's short-lived romance comes to a clunky conclusion, which sets up a similarly clunky romance between Ezri and Bashir.

Trivial Note - The Breen were a running joke in the various Trek writers rooms. They were continually a possible answer to a question or another example of something relevant, yet they were never the actual answer to the question nor were they the most relevant example (i.e. they had the type of disruptors the characters had encountered, but it turned out to be a Romulan disruptor. Or they were immune to telepathy, but the Ferengi were the race whose immunity to telepathy really mattered). They first appear on screen in season four's "Indiscretion" and pop up a couple more times after that. Of course, we knew they were joining up with the Dominion from the prior two episodes, but they hadn't done anything, yet. After all that buildup, they come in like a wrecking ball here, attacking Earth before the opening credits roll and destroying the mighty Defiant at the end. While controversial, I think the Breen are used perfectly in the final arc, as they were an established Alpha Quadrant power and should've gotten involved at some point (and the Cardassians needed that final push away from the Dominion). Plus, they always remained really, truly alien, in ways no other Trek race did.

83. "Broken Link" - Season 4, Episode 26 (6/17/96)

"Ah, poor Odo. Perhaps we should have killed you. It would have been far less cruel." - Female Changeling

First off, it's silly that arguably the major principal antagonist of the entire series can only really be identified as "Female Changeling" or "Female Shapeshifter" or "Female Founder". They could've given her some kind of name, but whatever. This is the finale to the show's strongest season, but the finale itself doesn't rank among the show's best. Odo's suffering from some mysterious condition, and with Bashir vexed, the best solution anyone can think of is to take him to the current Changeling homeworld and see if they can help him. As intense as flying the Defiant directly into the heart of enemy territory is, the episode still comes off a little thin. We get a couple of intriguing teases for the next season, but they're both dealt with fairly quickly.

Trivial Note - We have diseases moving in both directions here. In earlier drafts of the scripts for this episode and "To the Death", an earlier season four episode, it's clearly established that Weyoun infected Odo with a virus concocted by the Dominion in the earlier story, so Odo would have to return to the Link and be judged in this episode. This was all fallout from "The Adversary", when he became the first Changeling to ever harm another. As we come to find out in season seven (the writers had yet to come up with this idea at this point), Odo also infects the rest of the Link with Section 31's virus in this episode. He was infected in "Homefront" and passed it on here, then was reinfected by the Female Changeling (unknowingly) in season six's "Behind the Lines". Odo as a Solid is a storyline that runs for about half a season, ending in "The Begotten". He also becomes the fourth regular or recurring character to be exiled by his people, following Garak, Worf, and Quark. Worf, Quark, and Odo all suffered that fate during season four. All four would eventually be allowed to return to their societies.

82. "The Homecoming" - Season 2, Episode 1 (9/26/93)

"No, it's based on a legend, and legends are as powerful as any truth." - Cmdr. Ben Sisko

While it wasn't necessarily the plan at the time, the series began its tradition of building the story for its season premieres from the prior season's finale with this episode. They stayed away from direct two-part episodes with season-ending cliffhangers, leaving that to be TNG's calling card, which was a smart move. This season premiere kicks off a three-part story, and for most of its runtime, doesn't seem at all related to what occurred in "In the Hands of the Prophets", the season one finale. Instead you're presented with a nice little jailbreak story, as the uber-competent pairing of Kira and O'Brien rescue a bunch of Bajoran POW's from Cardassian territory. It's only at the end, when a completely unexpected Frank Langella shows up, that the story seems to grow in scale.

Trivial Note - This was the first of several episodes to be partially shot on location in Soledad Canyon, north of Los Angeles. The canyon was chosen to stand in for Cardassia IV, as it was known to be very hot and inhospitable. Filming there was very difficult for the cast and crew, but the final results so impressed the producers that three more very strong episodes would be have scenes shot there - "Indiscretion", "The Ship", and "Rocks and Shoals". Despite Michael Piller's desire to concentrate on stories that only fit the world of Deep Space Nine for season two, this episode was still based off a pitch for a Next Generation episode, though the pitch (a Bajoran woman tries to free a famous Bajoran POW, who doesn't want to be a leader anymore) definitely seemed to fit DS9 more.

81. "When It Rains..." - Season 7, Episode 21 (5/5/99)

"Now that the formalities are over with, let's try to remember that our enemy is the Dominion, and not each other." - Elim Garak

Yet another of the final-arc episodes that checks in on several subplots, this one more-or-less kicks off the second half of the arc. Damar has started his resistance on Cardassia, and, in the final arc's most elegant story-turn, Sisko orders Kira to help train the Cardassians in insurgency tactics. Gowron arrives on Deep Space Nine, and immediately begins harming the war effort to further his political career. Winn discovers who Dukat is and a rift develops between the Pah-wraith buddies. And, in the big one for this episode, Bashir discovers that Odo is infected with the same virus that's ravaging the Founders. All of these events, save the Winn/Dukat one, create a great tapestry for the next episode to draw from, but this one feels mostly like it's just the beginning of something.

Trivial Note - With this episode, Damar's rebellion gets going in full force, so I guess now is a good time to discuss his characterization down the stretch. As I've said before, Damar's storyline is the best one in the final arc, as every aspect of it works. It's amazing that such an important character was introduced in such a random way (as Damar was in season four), but the show found something in Casey Biggs' performance. He's a good soldier in seasons four and five, then a bit of a douchebag early in season six, before becoming a conflicted, haunted leader in the latter stages of season six through to season seven. He has two rousing speeches during the final arc, and his interactions with Kira are all brilliant. The sudden appearance of the Breen in the war helped push Cardassia into this position, and the Damar/Rebellion storyline becomes a fight for Cardassia's soul. The other subplots in the final arc range all over in quality, but this one is magic. It successfully marries to two most strongest long-term components of the series' storytelling, the Dominion War and the relationship between Bajor and Cardassia.

80. "Shadows and Symbols" - Season 7, Episode 2 (10/7/98)

"But I...I haven't finished my story, yet." - Benny Russell

There's a lot to unpack here in the second half of the two-parter that begins season seven. First off, Ezri. She showed up at the very end of "Image in the Sand", but this is our first chance to get any real sense of her as a character, and she's a complete mess. Again, given the nature of her joining with the Dax symbiont, it makes perfect sense for her to be a mess, but that doesn't stop her from being irritating. Beyond that, we get resolutions to the Bajoran/Romulan subplot from the prior episode (which only serves to remind us how awesome Kira is) and the Worf/Bashir/O'Brien/Quark get Jadzia's soul to Sto-vo-kor subplot (which is just kinda there). The big mover and shaker here, though, is Sisko, who re-embraces his role as Emissary after a quick reappearance of Benny Russell, his analogue from "Far Beyond the Stars". I'm a total sucker for all the Benny Russell stuff, so that alone is enough for me to push this episode up the rankings a bit, plus I do like the way Sisko's storyline affects Kira's.

Trivial Note - Casey Biggs gets to take his turn playing a 50's character, as he was one of the only major recurring players not to appear in "Far Beyond the Stars". He was planned to have a role in that episode, but his schedule wouldn't allow for it, so he appeared as Dr. Wykoff here. There was a thought in the writers room to have the series end with a dramatic pullback (which it does) to a scene where it would be somehow confirmed that the whole show really was just part of Russell's imagination (which it doesn't). The writing on the wall in Russell's cell is actually episode summaries for every episode of the series to that point, all written out by the art department under the supervision of Michael Okuda, a major behind-the-scenes figure in Trek history.

79. "The Siege" - Season 2, Episode 3 (10/10/93)

"Question is, are you willing to live for your people, live the role they want you to play? That's what they need from you right now." - Cmdr. Ben Sisko

We close out The Circle trilogy with the final episode of the arc. Given what all occurs on the show, it's hard to recall the time the Bajorans tried to take Deep Space Nine from Starfleet by force, but that's what happens here. Each member of the cast gets time to shine, as Kira and Dax head off on a mission to get proof of Minister Jaro's misdeeds into the right hands while everyone else stays behind and tries to defend the station. It's nice to see the show stretch itself a little bit in terms of storytelling, and Richard Beymer, Louise Fletcher, Frank Langella, and Stephen Macht all help give the episodes a sense of weight with some solid performances. Beymer in particular really sells Li Nalas' speech to the Bajorans as they try to flee the station early in the episode. For his part, Macht becomes one of the episode's key characters, and he plays his role of seasoned military man well.

Trivial Note - Yes, that's Steven Weber, best known for Wings, as the arrogant Bajoran Colonel Day. His performance was not as effective as the ones listed above. There was debate amongst the writers over whether or not to kill off Li Nalas at the end. Practical concerns over Beymer's salary for any future episodes played a big role in the decision to have him die here, though writer/producer Peter Allan Fields especially did not care for that decision. The show basically got to have its cake and eat it too, however, since the Shakaar character more-or-less directly replaces the Li Nalas character late in season three.

78. "Crossover" - Season 2, Episode 23 (5/15/94)

"Because whatever it's like where he's from, it's got to be better than this." - Miles "Smiley" O'Brien

Looking back, it was probably a bit daunting for the producers of the show to take on the Mirror Universe. Goofy as it was, "Mirror, Mirror" became one of the more culturally relevant episodes of The Original Series (think of how often goatees were used as visual shorthand for evil doppelgängers after it aired), and The Next Generation avoided it entirely, even after it had developed enough cache with fans to probably be able to take a stab at it. This episode was evocatively filmed by David Livingston, who used several Dutch angles to create a different vibe in the MU, but the whole thing is dominated by the supervillain sex machine Intendant. Nana Visitor pours on the sex in the role, and it's no surprise she became the linchpin of all subsequent MU tales. Honestly, I'm still bummed that space pirate Mirror Sisko didn't return after this, but you can't win 'em all.

Trivial Note - Rene Auberjonois liked the look of Mirror Odo so much that he asked for Regular Odo's costume to be adapted to that style. I do think Mirror Odo having "Rules of Obedience" was a nice touch. Also, the way he completely explodes after Bashir shoots him is still pretty jarring. The writers, particularly Robert Hewitt Wolfe, used historical comparisons to develop the MU for this episode. Wolfe figured that since the brutal Terran Empire seen in "Mirror, Mirror" had softened, it would be taken over by an even more brutal enemy, just as the Roman Empire and the Chinese Dynasties fell to the Barbarians and the Mongols, respectively.

77. "Soldiers of the Empire" - Season 5, Episode 21 (4/28/97)

"This ship is made for tears, not laughter." - Kornan

For a Klingon episode, "Soldiers of the Empire" plays like more of a low-key character piece. Of course, "low-key character piece" in this context means only three fights break out. Still, this episode's greatest success is the way it adds depth and shading to the Klingon crew. Sure, some of the characters may seem like dour poop-faces for most of the episode, but that's kinda the point. Not all Klingons are honorable warriors (something we've seen from the political elite), and these Klingons show us a different side of the culture - a jaded, cynical side. Plus, with Martok, we see the Klingon equivalent of PTSD, which only makes sense given what Martok went through in the Dominion prison camp and what he knows about the Jem'Hadar. Worf and Dax navigate these characters skillfully, using techniques that are unique to Klingons. Plus, the final rendition of "The Warrior's Anthem" is pretty awesome, as is the scene where Worf joins Martok's house.

Trivial Note - This episode was originally planned to take the Rotarran crew on a more mystical journey to the Klingon afterlife. This idea was recycled by writer Ronald Moore for Voyager's "Barge of the Dead". I wish we could've seen that episode with Klingons. "The Warrior's Anthem" first appeared in a video game, and this episode was its first use on TV. Worf's acceptance into the House of Martok plays heavily in multiple future episodes, most notably "You Are Cordially Invited...", "When It Rains...", and "Tacking into the Wind". And the actor playing Leskit, the most jaded Klingon crewman, is David Graf, best known for playing Tackleberry in the Police Academy movies.

76. "In the Hands of the Prophets" - Season 1, Episode 20 (6/20/93)

"It may not be what you believe, but that doesn't make it wrong." - Cmdr. Ben Sisko

Preach, Sisko. That quote up there is a personal favorite from the series and was a great indicator of how the show would handle issues of faith and culture going forward. "In the Hands of the Prophets" and its predecessor "Duet" both stand in contrast to most of the rest of season one in the sense that they're stories that could really only be told by this particular iteration of Trek. Starship crews would always be flying off to some new location on some new adventure, but the crew of a space station would have to understand every little nuance of the social, political, and religious situations of the area the station calls home. This episode highlights that, while bringing a different spin on Bajoran religion to the fore, one best exemplified by the new power player in our midst, Vedek Winn. The back-and-forth between her and Vedek Bareil is a going concern in season two, but the back-and-forth between her and Sisko and Kira is a going concern for the rest of the show's run.

Trivial Note - Louise Fletcher and Philip Anglim both make their first appearances here as Vedeks Winn and Bareil, respectively. Obviously, those are very important introductions to the series. As he had based some of the backstory for "Crossover" on the fall of Rome and the Mongol invasion of China, writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe reached back into history to craft the Vedek Assembly political climate presented for the first time in this episode. Specifically, he pulled from the historical power of the Pope and the Catholic Church in the 1400's and 1500's. The Church was a more politically cutthroat entity in those days than we think of it being now, and it wielded tremendous amounts of geopolitical influence in Europe.

75. "Civil Defense" - Season 3, Episode 7 (11/7/94)

"You know, I never knew how much this man's voice annoyed me." - Cmdr. Ben Sisko

This is a fun little episode. Sure, it's built on a certain amount of stupidity (why would Starfleet not remove the neurocine gas tanks from the station when they took over? Surely someone noticed they were there), but when you have an ensemble piece as strong as this, you don't quibble too much with it. Just about everyone gets a shining moment at some point in the episode, but Gul Dukat probably walks away the winner, from a character standpoint. First, the recordings of him that play when the defense program commences are off-puttingly patronizing, even by his standards. Then, when he actually shows up during the latter half of the episode, he struts around like an especially haughty peacock, even as people are being vaporized around him. But when the rug is pulled out from under him by his own former commander, his turn from overconfident to terrified is wonderfully sharp. There's some forced drama in the script, but the character stuff overcomes that easily.

Trivial Note - Several plot elements are either introduced or developed through dialogue in this episode. The antipathy between Dukat and Garak is brought back up, after having been vaguely established in "Cardassians". Dukat makes his first attempt to impress Kira, something he continues to do for the next several seasons. And Quark's cousin Gaila is mentioned for the first time. He's mentioned a few more times before he's actually seen on the show in "Business as Usual".

74. "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night" - Season 6, Episode 17 (4/1/98)

"But the fact is no matter what she did, she was still my mother." - Maj. Kira Nerys

This is another episode that's very hard to rate. As part of an ongoing storyline, it largely fails. It introduces a major timeline discrepancy from what had been established in multiple prior episodes regarding the amount of time Dukat spent as commander of Terok Nor. It features a reckless use of time travel that simply wouldn't be allowed, seeing as how the very same method Kira uses to travel back into the past had been abused in "Trials and Tribble-ations" with nearly disastrous results. And it causes the series to fall victim to Small World Syndrome, where everyone is related or connected in ways that strain credulity. All of this is true. Yet, as a standalone story, it's very powerful. Kira's mother has to make extremely difficult choices in a situation where she has no power whatsoever, both as a member of a subjugated race and as the object of affection to a group of despicable, untouchably powerful men. Seeing Kira have to process all of this, with so much of what she believed about her family thrown back in her face, gives us two lenses to view these events through. I'm not sure Kira herself fully knows what to make of it by the end, which speaks to the ethical quagmire her mother faced.

Trivial Note - The title, one of the most ponderous of the show's episode titles, is a quote from Percy Shelley's Prometheus Unbound. Nana Visitor was resistant to the idea that Kira would completely forgive her mother, which was the episode's original ending. Visitor felt that Kira wouldn't be able to completely overcome this revelation given her distaste for Dukat and collaborators, so a more ambiguous ending was introduced. Also, Bashir and O'Brien mention the Alamo for the first time. They would become nearly obsessed with it in season seven.

73. "Inquisition" - Season 6, Episode 18 (4/8/98)

"When push comes to shove, are we willing to sacrifice our principles in order to survive?" - Dr. Julian Bashir

This episode aired directly before "In the Pale Moonlight", and together they may have driven a stake right through the heart of the idealized future Gene Roddenberry envisioned back in the 60's. Section 31 arrives on the scene in this one, positing the idea that the Federation may be no better than the Romulans or the Cardassians when it comes to, as the British used to call it, "ungentlemanly warfare". As mentioned earlier in the list, William Sadler was always great as Sloan, and here he plays two different versions of the character. The first is a hardass Internal Affairs investigator (more-or-less), with the second version (the "real" version) only appearing at the end. Michael Dorn (Worf) directed this episode, and he does a nice job establishing Sloan in the early scenes. Sadler modulates from relaxed and friendly to accusatory and intimidating nicely, and Dorn does a good job of augmenting that transformation with some subtle visual tricks. Plus, as Odo points out at the end, it really shouldn't be surprising that the Federation has its own version of the Obsidian Order or the Tal Shiar. In fact, it would be strange if they didn't, though Gene Roddenberry certainly wouldn't approve.

Trivial Note - Ira Steven Behr felt that Section 31 was the culmination of his desire to poke at the Federation's dark underbelly. Sisko's speech about it being easy to be a saint in paradise from "The Maquis, Part II" was the beginning of this, and Behr peppered these concepts in throughout the series, ultimately leading to Section 31. For its part, Section 31 was also used in Enterprise and Star Trek Into Darkness, which probably hasn't helped the concept endear itself to any Trek fans who were skeptical of its use in this show. Sloan refers to the events of "Hippocratic Oath", "In Purgatory's Shadow", "By Inferno's Light", "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?", and "Statistical Probabilities" at various points in the episode, but leaves out "The Passenger" (my pick for worst episode of the series) even though it directly mirrors Sloan's accusation that Bashir is unwittingly a Dominion sleeper agent (maybe because it's the worst episode of the series).

72. "The Sword of Kahless" - Season 4, Episode 9 (11/20/95)

"When it is destined to be found, it will be." - Lt. Cmdr. Worf

The first episode of the series to be specifically written for Worf has the feel of a hybrid between the storytelling styles of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Given that Worf was still identified more strongly with the former series at this point, that may have been for the best. John Colicos returns to the franchise once again to play Kor, his second of three appearances on the series. The episode serves as both a continuation of the House of Mogh/House of Duras rivalry that ran through several episodes of TNG, and as a further examination of Klingon culture and values, something both shows made a habit of doing. Worf and Kor's dark turns after finding the sword confused some people, but I think it's clear that the sword isn't doing anything to them specifically, just their own grandiose ambitions start to emerge when visions of sugarplums start dancing in their heads. It's a solid episode, if a little dour, but Dax's presence helps buoy the tone a bit, and she ends up being the real hero of the whole thing, anyway.

Trivial Note - The most overt influences on Hans Beimler's script were the Indiana Jones movies and the 1948 classic The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. While the latter influence is still strongly felt when Worf and Kor turn on each other after finding the sword, the former's influence was partially lost due to budget and schedule concerns. The caves where the sword is found were intended to be laden with booby traps, which would've come up during the action sequence with Toral's men.

71. "The Adversary" - Season 3, Episode 26 (6/19/95)

"He said, 'You're too late. We're everywhere.'" - Constable Odo

I've mentioned that DS9 tended to avoid big cliffhanger season finales, which is what TNG had become known for. This episode was the first season finale after TNG went off the air, and the producers originally planned for it to be a cliffhanger before changing their minds. I think it works better for the series that every season finale acts as more of a tonal forecast for the next season than an explicit lead-in. This episode has some flaws to be sure, but I think the final exchange quoted above serves as a chilling preamble to the Changeling Cold War that breaks out in seasons four and five. There was a greater opportunity for tension, as the whole thing reeks of John Carpenter's The Thing, but the episode doesn't take full advantage. Also, the introduction of the Tzenkethi to the franchise is weird, as DS9 tended to avoid inventing new races when it could just as effectively explore an existing one further. Still, the paranoia on display here is indicative of what the next two seasons bring.

Trivial Note - Sisko is finally promoted to Captain in the intro. This was overdue. Eddington was deliberately used as a red herring in the episode, as he had been portrayed as a bit of an outsider to the rest of the crew in his prior appearances. To further play with this idea, he's revealed as a different kind of threat in "For the Cause". (This is the lowest-ranked of the nine episodes in which he appears, so obviously I like the character.) The episodes that would become season four's "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost" were to be used as the finale of this season and the premiere of the next, but Paramount didn't like the idea of a cliffhanger, so the writers cooked up the idea of the Defiant as a runaway train, and it became this script. A war between the Tzenkethi and the Federation apparently happened at some point recently, even though we'd never heard about it before, and Sisko and Admiral Leyton (who we meet in "Homefront") served in it together. Finally, that's Lawrence Pressman as Ambassador Krajensky/The Changeling. He also played the Cardassian Legate Ghemor in "Second Skin" and "Ties of Blood and Water".

Okeley dokeley, that's another group of 35 episodes down. We'll continue this list in a couple of days with Part IV, so keep your eyes peeled. While you wait, don't forget to check out Atlanta Classic Comics on eBay, where you can find plenty of Trek related comics, books, and merchandise. Do it now. Obedience leads to victory, and victory is life.

Part IV | Part V