by The Octopus Man
Welcome back, everyone. This is gonna be the best Part IV since Rocky IV. We've traipsed through 103 of the show's 173 episodes, so that means we have...hmmm...carry the one...um...70 episodes left...that's right...70. So, hows about we press on?
Once again, the methodology is every episode counts as a distinct entry on this list, even if the episode in question was part of a two (or more)-parter. The only exceptions are the pilot, the series finale, and the season four premiere, which all aired as two-hour presentations. Those are counted as one entry for the list (note that they count as two when I list their season and episode numbers). So, we're about three-fifths of the way there. Let's dig into Part IV.
70. "Family Business" - Season 3, Episode 23 (5/15/95)
"And when it comes to profit, this female is a better Ferengi than you'll ever be!" - Ishka
This late season three entry introduces two fairly important elements to the series. First, and the one that most explicitly gives the episode its title, is the story of Quark and Rom's mother, Ishka. We'd heard bits and pieces about how male-dominated Ferengi society was, and we'd definitely seen most Ferengi on this show and TNG be chauvinistic in an 80's Wall Street sort of way, but this is the first time we see the full extent of how poorly women are treated on Ferenginar. And who better to demonstrate this than the other new recurring Ferengi character introduced here, Brunt? Brunt's a perfect weasel, and Ishka's a perfect little firecracker. While this episode represents the high point of the Ferengi Equal Rights plotline, this story carries on to the series' next-to-last installment and is generally rewarding despite some of the dire episodes it gets trapped in. The other major element introduced here is one Kasidy Yates, who persists as Sisko's love interest for the remainder of the series. His early interactions with her were cute without being too cute, which got the relationship off to a good start.
Trivial Note - Jake mentioned setting his father up with a freighter captain in "Explorers", the previous episode. Ishka is played by Andrea Martin (best known for SCTV) in this outing. She wouldn't return to the show for reasons I'm not aware of, and Cecily Adams would take up the role in all subsequent appearances. Jeffrey Combs had played an alien sleazeball in "Meridian" earlier in season three. His performance went over so well that he returns as Brunt here. Brunt is a recurring antagonist in the Ferengi episodes for the rest of the series. Combs would also take on the role of Weyoun, another recurring antagonist, beginning in season four's "To the Death". He plays both roles in season seven's "The Dogs of War".
69. "What You Leave Behind" - Season 7, Episodes 25 and 26 (6/2/99)
"Ah, it's like I said - the more things change, the more they stay the same." - Quark
I'll try to keep this under 1,000 words. The series finale of DS9 is one the most jam-packed episodes of any show you'll ever see. We get weighty resolutions to the Dominion War, the Cardassian Rebellion, and the Pah-wraith storyline, while just about every significant relationship on the show is tied off in some way or other. What works - the Battle of Cardassia is an excellent set piece, both in the large-scale ship-to-ship combat scenes and the boots-on-the-ground Cardassian Rebellion scenes. The two play together well, with Damar getting a fittingly noble death, Weyoun getting his final death, and Odo making the move that really brings about the end of the fighting. The sequence where the Cardassian ships turn on the rest of the Dominion fleet is totally awesome and earned. Most of the character bits work here, as well, and the show makes you feel how terrible this ordeal was for the Cardassians in the end. Also, Vic's performance of "The Way You Look Tonight" is super cool. What doesn't work - after years of buildup, Sisko's grand purpose as Emissary was pretty anticlimactic. The timeline of the Dukat/Winn plot was wonky throughout the entire final arc, and that's only magnified here, as they enter the Fire Caves of Bajor and apparently stay there for several days without food or water, given how the episode is edited. The whole thing feels like too much of an afterthought considering how huge the show wanted the conflict between the Prophets and the Pah-wraiths to feel. Also, maybe ease back on the montages a bit, guys.
Trivial Note - There are too many to list. Terry Farrell and the producers couldn't agree on compensation for her image, so Jadzia awkwardly doesn't appear in any of the montages. Casey Biggs wanted Damar to have a final line, as the script just called for him to die in the fighting. He improvised "Keep..." as that's all he could come up with on the spot, but it seems oddly fitting. Most of the extras during the final scene at Vic's were recurring actors out of makeup or crew members, and the scene morphed into a wrap party after shooting finished. Avery Brooks actually hit Marc Alaimo in the sequence where Sisko ineffectually punches the possessed Dukat. Brooks jacked Alaimo's face up pretty bad, but Alaimo kept going until the scene was over. Shooting had to be delayed for a few days to allow Alaimo to heal. Quark's line quoted above is the final spoken line of the series. The scene between he and Vic was the final scene shot. And the shot of Kira and Jake looking out one of the Promenade windows is a reversal of a similar shot in "The Visitor", with both coming after Sisko has "died" (really he becomes displaced from the timeline in both instances). Final note, Sisko's stay with the Prophets after his battle with Dukat was originally intended to be permanent (a sort-of death, in that sense), with Kasidy's pregnancy meant to represent a continuation of Sisko (as we've seen in other shows and films over the years). Avery Brooks objected to the idea of an African-American man leaving his pregnant wife, even under these circumstances, so Sisko's fate was made more vague. I left several out, but my fingers are starting to bleed.
68. "Past Prologue" - Season 1, Episode 3 (1/10/93)
"It was so much easier when I knew who the enemy was." - Maj. Kira Nerys
And from the final episode we transition almost all the way back to the beginning. "Past Prologue" is an underrated offering from the series, both in terms of quality and importance. Shot after "A Man Alone" but aired before it, this episode settles into the type of low-key, character-driven storytelling that propelled the series in its early seasons. Until the Dominion War arc began on this show, Trek had always made a habit of showing the aftermath of things. Aftermaths are often a budget-conscious story choice, as it's cheaper to hear about a war than to see it, but they also provide some compelling characterizations for the people who're left to pick up the pieces. Here, it's Kira picking up the pieces of her life as a freedom fighter and re-shaping them into a career as a significant member of the ruling organization. It's a difficult transition for her to make, and for Bajor as a whole. And thus begins a storyline that provides the series with much of its structure going forward.
Trivial Note - Peter Allan Fields wrote the shooting script for this episode, and he introduced several key elements to the series in it. Kira's friendship with Odo is first noticeable here, which was Fields' idea. He'd add to that relationship a bunch more with season two's "Necessary Evil". Garak also appears here for the first time, and he has his first interactions with Bashir. They'd also become a key pairing on the show. Garak working as a tailor on the station was added to his story as a way to differentiate him from the Cardassians who had appeared in the pilot or on TNG, all of whom had been military men. Fields wrote for The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and the spy organization in that series used a tailor shop as a front, to which Garak's choice of profession serves as an oblique reference.
67. "The Begotten" - Season 5, Episode 12 (1/27/97)
"I was going to teach you how to be a Tarkalean hawk, remember..." - Constable Odo
There are two distinct, but related, storylines in this episode, but one of them far outweighs the other. Kira goes into labor with the O'Briens' baby, and things pretty much go as you'd expect, with a little pointless sparring between Shakaar and the Chief added in to pad the story out. The real focus of the episode instead goes to Odo, Dr. Mora, and the infant Changeling. Despite the two of them coming to some sort of terms with each other in "The Alternate", Odo and Mora's relationship is just as fractured as ever here, but again, the writing really nails the deep-seated bitterness present in their interactions. Take their father/son-like bickering from "The Alternate" and now add a son/grandson to the mix. And while it seems too easy for the dying infant to absorb into Odo's body and allow him to be a Changeling again, it makes for a beautiful climactic scene.
Trivial Note - Odo's first transformation after regaining his Changeling mojo is to become a Tarkalean hawk, which was the most mentioned form he wanted the infant to learn. It was also a nice continuity touch by the producers to make sure you see Odo's uniform fall off when he transforms. All the prior morphing scenes with him hadn't needed to keep track of his clothes, since they were part of his body. This was an actual uniform, which would've been easy to forget. Nana Visitor objected to the notion that Kira would happily give up the baby to the O'Briens after she'd carried him for five months, so the final conversation between her and Odo was changed. Also, the generally accepted theory on Bashir's time in the Dominion prison camp holds that any episodes that aired after "The Ascent" but before "In Purgatory's Shadow" feature the Changeling Bashir. This was due to the uniform change that occurred starting with "Rapture". If this is true, then it's Changeling Bashir who delivers Kirayoshi O'Brien and who attempts to save the infant Changeling in this episode. That's creepy.
66. "Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places" - Season 5, Episode 3 (10/14/96)
"I'm surrounded by corpses, my shoes are dripping in blood, and you want me to feel romantic?!" - Quark
Season five starts out pretty heavy with "Apocalypse Rising" and "The Ship". ("...Nor the Battle to the Strong" follows this episode, and it's pretty heavy, too.) So it's nice that the third episode is both romantic and funny to counter-balance the offerings that surround it. First off, the title is one of Trek's best, making an exceedingly rare reference to country music in the franchise (this, in fact, may be the only one). Then we call back to one of season three's best episodes (and one of the show's best comic pieces), "The House of Quark", with the return of Grilka. Mix in a little Worf and Dax, particularly Worf's general cluelessness regarding Dax's feelings for him, and a dash of Cyrano de Bergerac, and you have the perfect countermeasure to the increasingly doomy astropolitical climate around the station. The scene where Worf throws Morn out of his seat at the bar is magnificent, and the scene pictured and quoted above is wonderful, as well. Worf and Quark should've been thrown together in more stories, but this'll do.
Trivial Note - Andrew Robinson (Garak) directed this episode. He's the third of five cast members to join the directorial ranks, after Avery Brooks (Sisko) and Rene Auberjonois (Odo) and before Alexander Siddig (Bashir) and Michael Dorn (Worf). He was the only recurring player to ever direct, though, and this was his only time behind the camera during the series' run (though he would direct a couple of Voyager episodes). It was Michael Dorn's idea to base an script off of Cyrano de Bergerac. Armin Shimerman did most of his own stunts in this episode, having practiced with the bat'leth for over a week before filming. He was very proud of his work, particularly the pains he took to make his fighting seem like he was being controlled by Worf. The B-story with Kira and O'Brien's sudden infatuation with each other puts a lot of people off, but I think it's actually a fairly believable story considering the circumstances, especially since cooler heads prevail before they do anything they'd end up regretting.
65. "Accession" - Season 4, Episode 17 (2/26/96)
"That's the thing about faith. If you don't have it, you can't understand it. And if you do, no explanation is necessary." - Maj. Kira Nerys
In the entry for season three's "Destiny", I mentioned the rewarding, low-key character drama found in the Emissary storyline (at least up until the end of the show). This episode and another one next season are the two highlights of that storyline. The Prophets remain as mercurial as ever, shown here to be pulling yet another morally dubious maneuver (removing Akorem Laan from his time period and bringing him forward to the show's present, which indirectly leads to at least one death) in their continuing effort to keep Sisko on the path. As had occurred in "Destiny", Laan's arrival on the station and claims of being the Emissary raise some prickly questions about Sisko's place in Bajoran culture vis-a-vis his role as a Starfleet officer. You also get a fairly potent metaphor about imposing old-school religious ideals onto a society that has moved beyond them. If that seems harsh toward religion, know that the episode presents all of this in a very open-minded way, highlighted by Kira's quote above (which paraphrases St. Thomas Aquinas), taken from a conversation with Odo. It may just be a way of saying "agree to disagree", but it sums up the show's back-and-forth about faith nicely.
Trivial Note - The credited writer of this episode is Jane Espenson. She sold this pitch as a freelancer, before moving on to bigger and better things. She would soon become part of Joss Whedon's regular group of collaborators, and she was a particularly big part of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's writing team. She also wrote for Ellen, Angel, Firefly, The O.C., Gilmore Girls, Battlestar Galactica, Dollhouse, Game of Thrones, Torchwood, and Once Upon a Time, among many others. That is a damn eclectic group of shows. David Warner was the first choice for Akorem Laan, but the producers had to settle for Richard Libertini (and they've been very candid about their disappointment with this development). Akorem piloted the same type of ancient Bajoran ship that the Siskos did in "Explorers". This is also the episode where the important phrase, "You are of Bajor," is first heard in reference to Sisko. The producers always had to fight to get episodes about Bajoran religion made, and this was no exception. Paramount executives felt that "The Collaborator" and "Destiny" had underperformed ratings-wise due to audience skittishness about religion. I'm very glad the producers kept fighting to tell this story.
64. "Apocalypse Rising" - Season 5, Episode 1 (9/30/96)
"What's wrong, Dukat? Haven't you ever seen a Klingon before?!" - Capt. Ben Sisko
Season five of DS9 continues down the path laid out for the show late in season three and throughout season four. The Changeling Cold War that caused the total destruction of the Obsidian Order and the severe wounding of the Tal Shiar in "The Die Is Cast", the war between the Klingons and the Cardassians that started in "The Way of the Warrior", and the near coup on Earth in "Paradise Lost" ramps back up again, as those sneaky Shapeshifters intentionally led Odo to believe that Gowron was a Changeling infiltrator in "Broken Link" only for our intrepid heroes to discover that it was actually General Martok all along. This plan plays out well on screen, even if it's a little too much like your typical convoluted evil genius plan, requiring seemingly impossible knowledge of future events to actually succeed. The Founders must've thought highly of Sisko and the boys, since the show posits the mission to learn the truth about Gowron to be nearly suicidal at several points in the episode. Discovering the truth about Martok is actually easy compared to the crap the heroes had to go through just to get in the room with those guys. Still, the tension is thick throughout, and I love how successful Sisko is at playing Klingon, with O'Brien sorta getting by at it, and Odo barely able to give a s#!t until the very end.
Trivial Note - J.G. Hertzler's general Captain Hook-esque awesomeness as Martok led the producers to decide to bring the real Martok into the series in "In Purgatory's Shadow". It's established there that the Changeling had begun impersonating him before the events of "The Way of the Warrior", so the audience had never seen the actual Martok prior to his discovery as an impostor in this episode. Michael Dorn was eager to see some of his co-stars go through the Klingon makeup process, but Colm Meaney was so vocally displeased about it that everyone agreed never to put him in alien makeup ever again. Gowron says the Klingons can't just end the war with the Federation immediately, for concerns of honor, which basically allows for "...Nor the Battle to the Strong" to happen. Also, he chides Worf for not killing him when he had the chance, claiming that there won't be another. (Yeah, about that...) Kira's playful accusation that her pregnancy is Bashir's fault exists mainly as a meta-joke, since Nana Visitor was actually pregnant with Alexander Siddig's baby at this time. Also, while his turn in "By Inferno's Light" is one of the show's masterstrokes, I could've gone for more Space Pirate Dukat, who only really appeared in "Return to Grace" and this episode. Yet another tragic waste of a space pirate.
63. "Blood Oath" - Season 2, Episode 19 (3/27/94)
"Perhaps...it is a good day to live." - Kang
After nearly two full seasons, the show finally got around to letting Dax carry a quality episode. For reasons that aren't completely obvious, the Trill never quite establish themselves in the Trek pantheon of great aliens, but the series circumvents that by hitching Dax to the most established of all Trek cultures, the Klingons. Any discomfort Terry Farrell may have exhibited with her role in the early seasons melted away completely after this episode aired. For a Trill, she made a hell of a Klingon. Assisting her are three of Trek's most distinguished alumni, Michael Ansara, John Colicos, and William Campbell (as Kang, Kor, and Koloth, respectively). All three turned Original Series antagonists into proud, noble heroes in this story, and Farrell keeps up with them every step of the way. It's not the best Klingon episode the show ever did, but it was the first to place them front-and-center in an A-story, which was a welcome addition to series' storytelling. They would soon become an indispensable part of DS9's fabric.
Trivial Note - While they play the same characters, all three of the returning Klingons masters look and act differently than they did on TOS. The difference in behavior can easily be attributed to age, as aging Klingons soon become a significant part of the series in general. The difference in appearance is obviously due to the makeup overhaul the Klingons underwent between TOS and the film series. DS9 never fully addresses this (in any of the Kor episodes, nor in "Trials and Tribble-ations" when both types of Klingons are seen), which is for the best. Enterprise later cooked up an in-universe explanation, which only served to confuse matters further.
62. "Paradise Lost" - Season 4, Episode 12 (1/8/96)
"Paradise has never seemed so well armed." - Capt. Ben Sisko
This episode, while quality, is a fair example of a Trek two-parter that doesn't quite maintain its momentum all the way through. While the subtext of the episode (and its predecessor) is powerful, most of the climax involves watching Sisko and Leyton sit around and have stilted conversations. Avery Brooks and Robert Foxworth don't quite bring the right tone to those conversations, as both actors seemed more comfortable with Part One's material. Still, this is a notable episode, which would become a stronger part of the series' legacy a couple of years after it went off the air (I'll get into this more in the entry for "Homefront", which is a stone-cold classic). Plus, the scene where Sisko drops a bucket of verbal acid on that snotty cadet is wonderful, and the Brock Peters Rule mentioned in the write-up for "Image in the Sand" still holds.
Trivial Note - This was due to be the season four premiere, with "Homefront" the season three finale. Two things got in the way. First, Paramount decided to stay away from cliffhanger season finales on DS9, so "The Adversary" was produced as a smaller-scale version of the same basic concept. Then, during the summer break, the studio requested that the writers shake up the series. This two-parter was to be the season premiere, a la "The Search" in season three, but was now pushed back to midseason. The shake up came in the form of the Klingons, with "The Way of the Warrior" now serving as the premiere. The midseason slot led to a smaller budget, which both Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe are still upset about to this day, as that led to the static nature of this episode.
61. "Captive Pursuit" - Season 1, Episode 6 (1/31/93)
"The hunt...goes on." - Tosk
This is a real gem from the show's early days. With most of the cast still feeling their way around their roles, it's no surprise that Chief O'Brien was one of the few characters to appear fully-formed in the first season. We'd seen enough of him during his numerous guest spots on TNG to have a good sense of who this man was, which helped anchor this episode tremendously. The script isn't all that different than one you might've seen on TNG, but the violent nature of Tosk's situation and the sense that the episode allows Tosk and the hunters to exist on their own terms (and not ours) both give this episode a distinctly DS9 feel. Scott MacDonald, one of Trek's great utility players, sells the hell out of the Tosk role, which wasn't easy, and he establishes a real connection with O'Brien in just 45 minutes. With such a minimalist character, that's quite a feat.
Trivial Note - Tosk and the Hunters were the first Gamma Quadrant species to be seen on DS9 (discounting Odo, whose origin was unknown at this point). This also marks the first time a Gamma Quadrant species undertakes hostile action on the station. The lead Hunter was played by Gerrit Graham, who was the second choice for Odo. MacDonald appears in multiple Trek roles over the years, effective each time, and returns to DS9 as a Jem'Hadar in season four's "Hippocratic Oath", where he again shares many scenes with Colm Meaney. Finally, Odo firmly establishes that he doesn't carry a weapon, on-duty or off. The only time he ever does (even when he's a Solid in season five) is in season three's "Heart of Stone", and that's in an unusually desperate situation.
60. "The Wire" - Season 2, Episode 22 (5/8/94)
"Never tell the truth when a lie will do. That man has a rare talent for obfuscation." - Enabran Tain
The quote above more-or-less tells you all you need to know about "The Wire", and really about the allure of the plain, simple tailor Elim Garak in general. Even though his mentor Tain gets this particular quote, Garak himself gets to deliver more than his share of similar pearls of wisdom both in this episode and over the course of the series. The show wisely never pulls the curtain back too far on Garak's past, leaving him just a little bit mysterious even by the series' conclusion. Even here, with Bashir moving heaven and earth to save his life, Garak remains delightfully opaque to the end, practically reveling in it during his final conversation with the good doctor. Speaking of Bashir, he quietly kicks a lot of ass in this episode. From the perspective of a doctor who'd never give up on a patient, this is Julian at his best (along with "The Quickening"). "Cardassians" wasn't quite the success it could've been, but this episode firmly established both Garak on his own and the Garak/Bashir pairing as major elements of the series going forward.
Trivial Note - It's sorta hard to believe, but this episode contains the first mention of the Obsidian Order and Cardassia Prime (we obviously knew there was a Cardassian homeworld, but this was the first time it was named or seen in any Trek series). Along with the Order, and Garak's obvious connection to it, the ever-mercurial Enabran Tain is introduced, played by the great character actor Paul Dooley. Like Andrew Robinson, Dooley was only supposed to appear in one episode, but was so well received, he was brought back.
59. "Blaze of Glory" - Season 5, Episode 23 (5/12/97)
"Does anyone know a good song? Something rousing?...Too bad!" - Michael Eddington
Michael Eddington only appeared in nine episodes of the series, but all of them were quality. This is the third of the three outings that chart his involvement with the Maquis and serves as a button for that arc. The Maquis were an interesting concept for Trek to take on, but their impact on TNG was minimal as they only appeared in the final weeks of that series. Voyager was to be their main home, and in a way it was, but the show never used that story element to its full potential. So, it was left to DS9 to carry the mail on this front, and Eddington shoulders most of that responsibility. Given the false starts to the plotline (the failure of the Cal Hudson character, the squandering of the Maquis characters on Voyager), "For the Cause", "For the Uniform", and this episode do more than admirable work to give the story some real oomph. Kenneth Marshall made Eddington a nice little antagonist, sympathetic in ways and irritating in others, but human and relatable all the way through. There's a sense of high-opera to the Sisko/Eddington encounters that Marshall and Avery Brooks handle well, and their bickering here carries a story that twists and turns it way to a reasonable conclusion. This is the weakest of the Eddington trilogy, but it's still a solid, well-acted offering that brings a real sense of closure to the storyline that works both on its own and as part of the growing Dominion War narrative.
Trivial Note - The quote above comes from Eddington's death scene, which was based off the movie The Sand Pebbles. The B-story features Nog trying to earn a modicum of respect from General Martok and some of the other Klingons. Apparently, this was only included to reassure the audience that Martok was still on the station after "Soldiers of the Empire". I'm not sure why we would've thought otherwise. The visual gag with Nog getting caught between Martok and Worf is gold, though.
58. "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" - Season 7, Episode 4 (10/21/98)
"Death to the opposition!" - Lt. Cmdr. Worf
Holosuite/holodeck episodes tend to draw eye-rolls from many in the Trek fan community. Personally, I'm pretty "live and let live" toward them, as they're really no different than any other general type of Trek story - some of them are good and some aren't. There's no surefire Trek success formula, so I don't have overwhelming confidence that ridding the franchise of holosuite diversion episodes would've led to an influx of hard-hitting masterpieces taking their place. Frankly, considering how grim this show gets during the Dominion War, an episode like this could be considered necessary. Plus, I like baseball, and it's nice to see sports and Trek mix at all. Particular highlights include the zeal with which Odo performs his job as umpire, both of Worf's big lines (one of which is quoted above), the goobery way Bashir says, "Now that is a Fancy Dan", Rom, and the willingness to show the Vulcans to be pricks. Spock's general awesomeness isn't necessarily the rule with Vulcans, as many had been shown to be officious and distant in the franchise before this (Sarek, for example), and Enterprise would steer heavily into that ditch for most of its run.
Trivial Note - The script for this episode was largely based off an episode of Fame that Ira Steven Behr had written. Avery Brooks, Cirroc Lofton, Armin Shimerman, Aron Eisenberg, and Max Grodenchik were all more skilled at baseball than they let on in their performances. Humorously, Grodenchik was easily the best player of the group, though Rom, his character, was easily the worst. That's why Rom is shown as left-handed, as Grodenchik would've appeared too natural at the game right-handed. Ernie Banks' son Joey organized the team that portrayed the Vulcans and coached the DS9 actors. (Ernie, of course, is a baseball legend.) The weird symbols on the back of the Vulcan uniforms are supposed to be the players' names written in Vulcan, which had never been depicted on screen before as far as I know. Also, this episode marks the only time the Federation's anthem is ever heard on screen. That you hear it at the only team sporting event depicted in the franchise and not any of the numerous official government functions we see is deeply amusing to me. (Where are you most likely to hear the anthem in the present day? A stadium.)
57. "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?" - Season 5, Episode 16 (2/24/97)
"You don't know what it's like to watch your son...to watch him fall a little further behind each day." - Amsha Bashir
The show's effort to take Dr. Julian Bashir apart piece-by-piece hits its clearest note during this mid-season five effort. The good doctor, who had just returned from spending a month in a Dominion prison camp, is selected to be the model for a new medical hologram, only to have the process dredge up his deepest secret. The episode is sharply funny in stretches, particularly the scene pictured above, what with its holograms of multiple people in the room, but that's just a feint so the writers could smuggle the Bashir family secret into the story without the audience seeing it coming. This is yet another example of showrunner Ira Steven Behr's desire to deconstruct utopia, and the performances by the actors who play Bashir's parents really sell what Behr and his team were going for. As a bonus, the revelation in this episode doesn't contradict anything we'd heard about Bashir before (and may actually explain a few things), nor does the series conveniently forget about it going forward. This is solid work by the writers and actors involved.
Trivial Note - Several things - this episode finally fully explains the mistake Bashir made at Starfleet Medical that kept him being valedictorian of his class (introduced in "Q-Less" and brought back up in "Distant Voices"). Bashir's mistake was intentional, as he didn't want anyone to grow suspicious of his abilities. Originally, the script called for O'Brien to help Bashir keep his secret, but Alexander Siddig requested that the truth come to light, as he didn't want to play Bashir with a secret in future episodes. Robert Picardo crosses over from Voyager to play Dr. Zimmerman and the Emergency Medical Hologram. The actress who plays Bashir's mother is named Fadwa El Guindi, and she's really an anthropologist and a noted spokeswoman for Arab-Americans. This is her only professional credit, but her speech at the end defines the episode. Finally, in the Rom-Leeta-Zimmerman B-plot, we both find out about Rom's ex-wife (and Nog's mother) Prinadora for the first time, and we see Rom and Leeta finally become a couple. There are several more, but I'll leave them for you to read about on your own.
56. "Indiscretion" - Season 4, Episode 5 (10/23/95)
"I just wanted to say, 'Thank you, Major, for a most interesting journey.'" - Legate Dukat
Even though the idea is gross in many ways, episodes like this one make it easier to understand why some fans wanted Dukat and Kira to get together (and why many liked Dukat so much in the first place). He's a very charismatic character in multiple ways, and this is the period in the series when he's at his most sympathetic. (It should be noted that he was thisclose to shooting his own daughter at the end.) His rapport with Kira is near its best here, and there's a real chemistry between the two throughout, especially in the scene where she pulls the needle out of his butt (not an expression). Add in a nice mystery and some solid action at the end, and you've got a strong episode (one of many here at the start of season four). As far as Dukat being sympathetic goes, this episode kicks off a character arc for him that's soon to make him far less warm and fuzzy.
Trivial Note - This is LeVar Burton's directorial debut on the series. He starred in TNG and had directed episodes of it and Voyager prior to this. He would become one of the show's regular directors going forward. The Breen make their first on-screen appearance in this episode, as the villains at the end. This comes after around five years of random references to the species on multiple Trek shows. Their voices were based on Lou Reed's amazingly horrible album Metal Machine Music. This is the second of four episodes to partially film at Soledad Canyon in Southern California. Conditions again were terrible. Fortunately for Nana Visitor (who'd already endured shooting "The Homecoming" there), she would not be involved in the canyon-set parts of "The Ship" and "Rocks and Shoals". Also, this episode's plot is basically a riff on the John Wayne classic The Searchers, which is one of the greatest movies of all time.
55. "Whispers" - Season 2, Episode 14 (2/6/94)
"All I could think of, as I looked at her, was that this was not my Keiko." - Replicant Chief Miles O'Brien
Season two doubled-down on O'Brien suffering, as the previous episode was "Armageddon Game", where the Chief was infected with a horrific biological weapon. This episode keeps the suffering going with O'Brien feeling like he's caught in a vast conspiracy involving all of his crewmates and even his family. This is another solid early outing for the show, one that doesn't have all the hallmarks of traditional DS9 episode, but is still well-made and tautly written and acted. The reveal that the Chief we've been following through the whole story is actually a replicant works as a solid surprise ending without feeling unearned or nonsensical (problems that plague many twist endings). Up until then, the piece is a sharply constructed slice of 70's-style paranoia, with Colm Meaney hitting all the right notes with his character. Special mention should be made of Rosalind Chao's work here as Keiko, who pulls off the difficult task of acting like she's acting. Also, Bashir's overlong physical of O'Brien at the beginning is a nice use of the duo's early bickering in service of a scene that also strongly hints at the episode's resolution.
Trivial Note - The original story called for O'Brien to basically run through the plot of that Liam Neeson movie Unknown (several other movies use this plot, as well), where no one remembers who he is (it should be noted that Unknown was made well after this). This angle was difficult to develop, so instead the story changed to a conspiracy theory (a la the film The Parallax View, among other examples). There is no B-plot, as the story's nature necessitated that it develop entirely from the Chief's POV. This caused the episode to run short, so the in media res aspect of the story was introduced. A scene where O'Brien sings "The Minstrel Boy", a big part of his backstory from TNG, was added to pad the episode out, but then had to be cut due to a too-late-to-be-fixed error involving the names of the runabouts used in the scene. The term "replicant" is used for the O'Brien double, as a reference to the classic film Blade Runner and because the term had never been used in Trek before.
54. "Badda-Bing Badda-Bang" - Season 7, Episode 15 (2/24/99)
"Robbing casinos isn't part of any Starfleet job description I've ever read." - Chief Miles O'Brien
Ocean's Nine takes place right at the end of the series. In fact, this was the last episode of the series produced before the final story arc kicks in with "Penumbra". (Because it looked so good, the studio aired it during sweeps and before "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges", which was the last episode to air before the final arc.) In many ways, this episode is like eating a fluffy dessert before the main course. All the episodes that follow are the show at its heaviest ("Inter Arma..." included), so this was a nice way to give everyone one final romp before s#%t gets real. And it is a pretty episode. Everyone's clothes look sharp as hell, the story is fun and propulsive, and the actors they hire to play the Vegas goons all give the heist story an air of legitimacy. I also enjoy Sisko's initial reluctance to get involved, as he makes a very salient point about the lily-whiteness of 60's Vegas. Everyone seems to stay in character in a story that's very out of character for the show, and the whole thing's a fun way to spend an hour.
Trivial Note - The original Ocean's Eleven obviously served as a major inspiration for the plot. I refer to this episode as Ocean's Nine as there are nine people involved in the heist (Vic, Sisko, Kira, Odo, Bashir, O'Brien, Ezri, Nog, and Kasidy), which is fitting. Frankie Eyes basically says to Kira the exact same thing Hyman Roth says to Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Part II (a towering film) about Vegas and Bugsy Siegel (Siegel's the real gangster who basically founded Las Vegas, while Roth credits it to Moe Greene, the Vegas gangster seen in the first Godfather, who was clearly based on Siegel.) Robert O'Reilly, who played Chancellor Gowron on this show and TNG, appears out-of-makeup as the countman who's poisoned by Ezri during the heist (the actual heist, not the run-through). He's credited as Bobby Reilly. Sisko and Vic sing "The Best Is Yet to Come" at the end, which refers to the coming final story arc.
53. "The Magnificent Ferengi" - Season 6, Episode 10 (1/1/98)
"I hate Ferengi..." - Keevan
One of the obvious high points of the Ferengi episodes, this season six outing builds a ridiculous premise on a ridiculous foundation and gleefully doesn't care. There's no good reason for the Dominion to take Ishka (or any Ferengi, except Nog and maybe Quark or Rom) prisoner, nor is there a good reason why Quark is so adamant that only Ferengi be used on the rescue mission. But whatever...This episode is great all the way though and sparkles with the best parts of the Ferengi stories. Quark's at his snarky best. Rom's at his doofy best. Brunt's as snide and loathsome as ever. Ishka never stops trying to earn profit, even when faced with near-certain death. Gaila and Leck make nice impressions for characters we don't know all that well, and Nog is the perfect little by-the-book Starfleet Academy greenhorn. Even the two Vorta here, Keevan and Yelgrun, are consistently funny. The quote and picture above both come from a darkly hilarious sequence, and I especially love the way Quark uses Nog's hero-worship of Worf to convince him to join the mission. There's a lot of good, dumb fun to be had in this one.
Trivial Note - As has been the case with the last three entries, this is also a riff on a famous movie. In this case, it's a comic take on the classic Western The Magnificent Seven (which is itself an uncredited remake of the Kurosawa masterwork The Seven Samurai). Counting Ishka (which doesn't really work, but still), there are seven Ferengi in the episode. The writers claimed that any similarity was unintentional, but actors Armin Shimerman and Max Grodenchik watched both films as prep material for their roles. Yes, that's noted Trek fan Iggy Pop as the Vorta Yelgrun. Zek is the only recurring Ferengi not seen in the episode. He was the original kidnap target, but Wallace Shawn was unavailable, so Ishka was subbed in his place. And in the most subtle of all bits of foreshadowing for the show's final arc, Yelgrun irritably compares negotiating with Ferengi to dealing with the Breen, which hints at their eventual alliance with the Dominion.
52. "Return to Grace" - Season 4, Episode 14 (2/5/96)
"I am the only Cardassian left, and if no one else will stand against the Klingons, I will." - Gul Dukat
Another wonderful character piece for Kira and Dukat, "Return to Grace" serves as a more-or-less direct sequel to "Indiscretion". After sparing his illegitimate daughter's life in that episode, Dukat appears in this one as an object of scorn, demoted by his government, left by his wife and legitimate children, and disowned by his mother. As "Indiscretion" was the unofficial kickoff of Dukat's season five heel turn, this is the first episode where you can begin to see it developing. (To be clear, his season five heel turn is a great bit of writing and acting. His seasons six and seven heel turn isn't. Also, I feel like I should write it in all caps, it's so loud and obnoxious.) Dukat is a broken man at the beginning of this episode, and his journey from there to renegade space pirate by the end is legitimately stirring in places. That he gets to verbally joust with Kira (his true nemesis, not Sisko) is an added joy, as their banter is again excellent. (His response to her comment, "Why is it whenever you smile I want to leave the room?" pretty much puts their dynamic on a platter.) You almost want her to join his crusade by the end. It's only later that you realize that this is still former war criminal Dukat, so him regaining his mojo may not be a particularly good thing.
Trivial Note - Dukat's spiel about Cardassia being made whole again is first brought up here. That becomes his rallying cry when they join the Dominion in season five. Dukat and Kira's maneuver of using a transporter to switch the crews of two battling ships is similar to Capt. Kirk's gambit in Star Trek III. The enemy vessel in both cases was a Klingon Bird-of-Prey. Dukat's line about being the only Cardassian left (quoted above) is a play on Sitting Bull's famous quote about other Indians. Coincidentally, Dukat asks Kira to do the very thing she does in the show's final arc (teach Cardassians to fight a guerrilla war). And finally, this is the episode where Damar is introduced. Arguably the show's most pivotal character in season seven, Damar is presented here an anonymous crewman. Casey Biggs was initially unhappy to be cast as a glorified extra but was assured that the writers had significant plans for his character going forward.
51. "The Abandoned" - Season 3, Episode 6 (10/31/94)
"Major...about the boy...you were right." - Constable Odo
The Jem'Hadar remain an unqualified success for most of the show's run. The early appearances of the species only work to reinforce their uber-badassery and why our heroes should be afraid of them. This episode, along with season four's excellent "Hippocratic Oath" and "To the Death" and season six's also excellent "Rocks and Shoals", helps establish them as something more than terrifying killing machines, without sacrificing their brand of steely-eyed horror. Charting the rapid development of a Jem'Hadar child serves to remind the audience of several things. 1 - The Founders are unbelievably ruthless, given what we find out about Jem'Hadar physiology in this episode. 2 - Fear is the natural and appropriate reaction to a Jem'Hadar's presence. That's their mission. And 3 - The Jem'Hadar are single-minded to a degree only previously seen in the Borg. The first and last of those are keys to understanding the dilemma the Federation will soon find itself in when fighting the Dominion. This type of ruthlessness and implacability hinder the Federation's most powerful weapon - diplomacy. This is something Odo comes to realize at the end, as even a character as practical as he gets a storyline where his good intentions are thrown right back in his face.
Trivial Note - Ketracel-white, the drug the Founders use to control the Jem'Hadar, is introduced here (but not named). Avery Brooks directed this episode and based his work around racial tensions. Odo places the flowers he receives from Kira in his former regeneration pail, which comes back up in season four's underrated "Crossfire". And in the B-plot, Sisko pays off his promise to Jake from "Playing God" that he'd have dinner with Mardah. Mardah was originally to be played by Chase Masterson, but the age difference led the role to be recast. Masterson was later brought onto the show as Leeta, who became a much more significant character. Also, this is the first time Jake's writing abilities are mentioned on the show. This becomes a major part of his character arc going forward.
50. "Rejoined" - Season 4, Episode 6 (10/30/95)
"I mean, I'm looking at a different face, hearing a different voice, but somehow it's still you." - Dr. Lenara Kahn
The best of the Trill episodes was also a major envelope-pusher for Star Trek. For a franchise that always prided itself on representation, the general lack of any homosexual characters (or any member of the LGBTQ+ community) has always been a sore spot in the eyes of many. We could be here forever talking about some of the reasons why this has been the case (David Gerrold's vetoed script for "Blood and Fire" on TNG, Rick Berman's discomfort with depicting homosexuality on TV, the awful ending to TNG's "The Host"), but it's sadly been the case. TNG's "The Outcast", the episode where Riker begins a relationship with an androgynous alien, stood as the only real attempt by the franchise to even go near this topic, and it was a bit of a noble failure. "Rejoined" is far better, serving as both the best use of the established rules of Trill society and giving us what feels like a real relationship between two people. Terry Farrell and guest player Susanna Thompson both do strong work to make Dax and Kahn come across as former lovers with a real history. The couple is, in many ways, not truly homosexual since their marriage occurred when their symbionts were in a male and a female, respectively, but even seeing two women kiss on Trek is a landmark for a franchise that has always shied away from representations of gay characters. (Both the next film and TV series in the franchise will address this.)
Trivial Note - Everyone involved with the production downplayed the lesbian nature of Dax and Kahn's relationship, insisting that it was about love in the face of a societal taboo (in this case, the Trill taboo about interacting with people from the lives of a past host). This is one of four instances where a regular character gets a chance to somehow rekindle an old romance that was cut short by a death. Sisko reconnects with Jennifer, his dead wife's Mirror Universe doppelgänger, in "Through the Looking Glass" and "Shattered Mirror". Dax and Kahn nearly fall back in love here. Kira and Mirror Bareil have a short romance in "Resurrection", and Worf and Ezri make love in "Penumbra". As you'd expect, none of these work out very well.
49. "Hard Time" - Season 4, Episode 19 (4/15/96)
"But when it came down to it, when I had a chance to show that no matter what anybody did to me, that I was still an evolved Human being...I failed." - Chief Miles O'Brien
This is a difficult watch. O'Brien Must Suffer goes to its furthest extreme in this episode, where a heretofore unmentioned race named the Argrathi implant false memories of twenty years imprisonment into the Chief's head. His re-adjustment back into society is prohibitively difficult, as everyone else can only pretend that any time has passed (as opposed to if twenty years had actually gone by). Couple that with his guilt over murdering an imaginary cellmate, and the stalwart Chief of Operations comes thisclose to ending it all. The only major failings here are that Keiko doesn't get more to do in the story (some of Bashir's lines were originally Keiko's, particularly the final confrontation, but the producers wanted a series regular to have that prominent a role) and that the series doesn't really follow up on this afterward. I think it's to the story's credit that O'Brien isn't magically cured by the end, as getting past this development would take a very long time, but we could've seen or heard about it more going forward. It's a quibble, though, and something Trek had done in previous otherwise strong episodes (TNG's "The Mind's Eye", for example).
Trivial Note - This story was pitched to the producers by freelancers way back in season one. Then showrunner Michael Piller wasn't interested, but staff writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe liked the idea and kept bringing it back up. Eventually, he convinced Ira Steven Behr (who replaced Piller as showrunner) to develop it into an episode. By this point, Voyager had done a similar story, with the writers of the original "Hard Time" pitch claiming plagiarism. They received proper credit for this episode, with Wolfe re-writing their pitch and combining with a different story idea he had worked on. This involved Ensign Jaxa, who was presumed dead after the events of TNG's "Lower Decks", re-integrating into society after time in a Cardassian prison camp, during which she murdered her cellmate. That last aspect was added to O'Brien's story, and the Jaxa character was dropped. This is for the best, as leaving her dead makes the already excellent "Lower Decks" more powerful.
48. "The Ship" - Season 5, Episode 2 (10/7/96)
"They chose a life in Starfleet. They knew the risks, and they died fighting for what they believed in." - Lt. Cmdr. Jadzia Dax
Expendable, unnamed extras seemingly get killed all the time on TV. Star Trek is one of the worst offenders, as the The Original Series gave this concept its name - redshirts. Those are the rando Ensigns and Lieutenants and Crewmen who accompany Kirk and Spock down to the planet, then are immediately killed by whatever the episode's threat is going to be. Both of the prior Trek series, as well as this one, had been somewhat inconsistent with the treatment of redshirts. TNG had a great episode like "The Bonding" where a random crewwoman's death is the catalyst for the entire story or "Q Who" where Picard lays into Q for effectively sacrificing 18 people to the Borg just to make a point. But you always had random security personnel getting vaporized by Romulans or assimilated by the Borg or being killed by some ridiculous phenomenon. DS9 did this, too. This episode is the most direct attempt by the franchise to make the audience feel those deaths, and to make us feel that Starfleet doesn't have an endless supply of nameless personnel ready to be disintegrated at a moment's notice. It becomes powerful stuff, especially when tacked onto an already tense standoff with the Dominion. The audience gets to see some of our regular heroes have a bit of a come apart, and the story doesn't soft-pedal anything when it comes to the reality of the situation. That the Vorta and Jem'Hadar outside have just as much (or more) skin in the game at the end just makes the episode even more effective. The war wasn't even on yet, but it was already hell.
Trivial Note - This was the third episode to be partially filmed in Soledad Canyon, north of L.A. Again, it was unbearably hot, especially for the actors, who were all in either a full Starfleet jumpsuit or under heavy Vorta or Jem'Hadar makeup. The series returns here for the final time for season six's "Rocks and Shoals", which is an even better episode than this one, while using similar themes. Coincidentally, the Jem'Hadar ship recovered by Sisko and company here crash lands again to kick off the plot of that episode. For whatever reason, the writing staff was unsatisfied with the episode, which may have been what inspired them to try again with "Rocks and Shoals". The Muniz character, in particular, seems to have disappointed them, but I don't have any problem with him. He had appeared previously in "Starship Down" and "Hard Time".
47. "...Nor the Battle to the Strong" - Season 5, Episode 4 (10/21/96)
"But when it comes down to it, there's only one explanation. I'm a coward." - Jake Sisko
DS9 continues on its "war is hell" jag with this episode, one of the most important Jake episodes of the entire show. He accompanies Bashir to a medical conference, but the duo ends up responding to a distress call from a Starfleet outpost that's under heavy fire from the Klingons. At this point, a mixture of multiple literary classics breaks out (more on them below). Jake was an effective character on the show, even though he appeared in less than half of its episodes. The series managed to give him something rewarding to do in almost every season (for whatever reason, season seven is a major exception to this). Here, we get a pretty affecting "innocence lost" story, as an eager-to-see-some-action reporter gets to see some action and doesn't like what he finds out about himself as a result. I also like that the story throws Jake and Bashir together, as they really hadn't had that many scenes together before this. There's a real sense of truth to this episode, and I appreciate that the show was willing to take Jake to such a place.
Trivial Note - The story is a melange of three classic war novels - Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, and Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. The title comes from the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes. With "Trials and Tribble-ations" looming, two significant alterations were made to the original concept for budgetary reasons. First, the hospital was supposed to be Cardassian, run by a group of Cardassian women who considered males to be inferior in the fields of science and medicine (as is the case in Cardassian society according to season three's "Destiny"). Second, Jake's sequence in the foxhole was originally supposed to pair him with a blinded Klingon warrior, who would bond with Jake during their time together but eventually reject him when he discovered Jake had abandoned Bashir on the battlefield. These characters were all changed to Human Starfleet personnel to save time and money on makeup. I really would've liked to see that sequence with the Klingon in the foxhole, even though the use of the Starfleet Marine was still effective.
46. "Past Tense, Part II" - Season 3, Episode 12 (1/9/95)
"How could we have let this happen?" - Vin
Part One of this story successfully established the crappy early-21st century world Sisko, Bashir, and Dax find themselves in, even if it spent a little too much time establishing it. Part Two is where the story really gets to sing, as Sisko, in particular, gets to kick butt throughout. Again, tonally, this is more in keeping with TOS or TNG, but the social commentary remains powerful. We'd all like to think that this sort of thing is just the stuff of dystopian science fiction, but there's more than a little reality depicted on screen in these episodes. You can call it on-the-nose if you want, but there are real parallels to the current socio-political landscape on display here, and again, this episode's only set eight years from now. I think the 21st century characters are far more interesting and nuanced in this episode than in Part One, and as hectoring as it may be, the last conversation between Sisko and Bashir still carries a lot of weight. Also, I don't know where Clint Howard's character came from, but the "Whoosh, I'm invisible!" part is still pretty great.
Trivial Note - Trek-world notes here - One of the years Kira and O'Brien visit is 1930, and you can see a poster for a boxing match on the wall. That year was the setting for "The City on the Edge of Forever", a TOS time-travel classic. That episode has ads for a boxing match between the same two fighters. Also, Sisko and Vin discuss baseball, contrasting the 1999 New York Yankees and the 2015 London Kings. The '99 Yankees did win the World Series, but the '98 Yankees were better. The Kings were first established in a TNG episode that also featured Dick Miller, who played Vin in this two-parter. The one bit of timeline weirdness is that these episodes take place in 2024, but Star Trek: First Contact establishes that World War III happens after this, decimating the world's population. I'm not sure how the good vibes that come from the Bell Riots would've survived that war and still led to the founding of the Federation.
45. "A Time to Stand" - Season 6, Episode 1 (9/29/97)
"We can't afford to take these kinds of losses, sir, not if we expect to win this." - Dr. Julian Bashir
The six-part "Re-Taking Deep Space Nine" arc that begins season six features some of the show's finest work. This episode, which begins both the arc and the season, checks in on the many developments that occurred in the final two episodes of season five (both also great) before launching the crew out on a desperation mission behind enemy lines. Despite the way "Call to Arms" painted its events as a success for the good guys, this episode opens up with things in a pretty grim place for our heroes, with dialogue like the above-quoted outburst from Bashir making no bones about the situation. The Starfleet crew's subsequent mission into Cardassian space is chock full of tension and action, but in many ways, the most intriguing material in the episode (and all six episodes of this arc) takes place back on Deep Space Nine a.k.a. Terok Nor. Seeing Kira, Odo, Jake, Quark, and Rom adjust to life under Dominion rule is fascinating from front-to-back, and this episode lays the groundwork for what's to come in that storyline nicely.
Trivial Note - The Jem'Hadar ship that Sisko and the gang take into Dominion territory is the one the crew recovered (at great cost) in season five's "The Ship". There was dialogue in the original script that further clarified how this ship could approach Dominion space unchallenged (they should've known it had been captured), but it was cut. Dukat is super-oily toward Kira in this episode, too. This and "Sons and Daughters" may see him at all-time oiliest. More trivially, Dukat records the only log entry ever heard in the franchise from an antagonist's POV. In the log, he refers to himself as Dukat, S.G. The tie-in fiction sometimes takes this to mean his first and middle initials are S.G., while in other instances it's accepted as referring to his status as Station Gul. Dukat's first name is never mentioned on the series (the series is fairly inconsistent with Cardassian naming traditions), but some novels give it as Skrain.
44. "The Search, Part II" - Season 3, Episode 2 (10/3/94)
"We will miss you, Odo, but you will miss us even more." - Female Changeling
In the grand scheme of the series, "The Search" two-parter is often forgotten. After the terrifying appearance of the Dominion in the season two finale, the face of the series is altered forever. It gets altered again at the end of this episode, as we come to find out Odo's newly discovered people are actually the Founders and therefore the principal villains of the series going forward. This is some pretty cruel stuff, but the series never ducks it. In fact, the push-and-pull between Odo's loyalty to the station crew and his desire to be with his people provides the show with thorny, complex character drama for the its duration. The main knock on the episode is the sort of oddball station-set plot. While Odo and Kira chill in the Omarion Nebula, Sisko and company conveniently wake up after Part One's events back on the station with a Dominion-Federation alliance already brokered. It's all a Dominion setup, sure, but the reveal that everything we just saw was a simulation plays sorta weird on screen.
Trivial Note - Borath, the Vorta who runs the simulation on Sisko and the others, was originally scripted to be Eris, the first Vorta we met back in "The Jem'Hadar". Actress Molly Hagan was unavailable, so the role was altered. This would happen again in season five's "The Ship". Considering that all the station scenes weren't real, this is only one of two episodes of the series that are entirely set in the Gamma Quadrant. The other is season five's "Children of Time". And on the Changeling's homeworld, you see a monolith that looks like the monolith that Odo, Dr. Mora, and Dax encountered on a different Gamma Quadrant world in "The Alternate". Given what we find out about the Changelings in "The Die Is Cast", it's likely they had to abandon that world for reasons similar to why they eventually abandon this one. Also, not trivial, but Garak's joke about being a spy and his line, "I read about it in a book once," are two of my favorite Garak moments on the show (and this Garak isn't even real).
43. "Explorers" - Season 3, Episode 22 (5/8/95)
"It's almost like being on the deck of an old sailing ship, except the stars are not just up in the sky, they're all around us." - Cmdr. Ben Sisko
This is a sweet episode. The relationship between Ben and Jake Sisko is one of the cornerstones of the series, and it's something unique to this series in the world of Trek. For much of the series' run, Sisko's previous posting at the Utopia Planitia shipyard doesn't come up that often, but I always enjoyed the stories that depicted Sisko the Engineer. This one may bring that aspect of the character to the fore the most. Plus, there's real care that goes into the depiction of his relationship with his son. Jake's remarkable as a character because most kids in TV or film are depicted as either unrealistically good (Wesley Crusher) or so angsty and irritating that the audience wishes ill upon them (also Wesley Crusher). Jake never really falls into either of those categories, yet still feels like a real person with a believable personality. On the whole, the relationship between Jake and Ben (and Ben and his father, Joseph) is a warm one, and that warmth spreads out to the rest of the show. This episode also features another bromance subplot between Bashir and O'Brien, which is always fun.
Trivial Note - The solar ship was based off of the Kon-Tiki, the primitive sailing ship Thor Heyerdahl used to sail from Peru to Tahiti in 1947. The episode's old-school "man going out to sea" vibe really works in its favor. Sisko rocks his kickass goatee for the first time in this episode. This is probably the most purely sympathetic Dukat ever gets in the series, as he seems to be legitimately concerned for the Siskos' safety, and his little fireworks show at the end is actually a little touching, in a game-recognize-game sorta way. Two major relationships are made possible in this episode. First, Jake mentions a freighter captain that he'd like his dad to meet, which ends up being Sisko's future wife Kasidy Yates, first seen in the next episode "Family Business". Second, Leeta appears for the first time in the cold open. Her role, a makeup casting as she was removed from the role of Mardah earlier in the season, was to be limited to just this one scene, but the producers liked her so much she became a recurring character. She first dates Bashir for a brief period, but eventually marries Rom in "Call to Arms".
42. "Children of Time" - Season 5, Episode 22 (5/5/97)
"He did it for you, Nerys. He loved you." - Constable Odo
Star Trek has made a regular habit of tossing complex questions of ethics at its audience for half a century now. Of all the many examples of this throughout the franchise, "Children of Time" may feature the thorniest ethical dilemma of them all. The real strength of this episode lies in the resolution, where the writers resist the temptation to find a way to have their cake and eat it, too. Far too often in situations like this, a TV show or film will establish a tortuous conundrum like this, then find some crazy way where everybody wins in the end. There is no win-win scenario here (even though they tease us with one), and while there's no way anyone should've ever expected the crew to actually stay marooned on that planet, the fact that Future Odo basically wipes a small civilization out of the timeline entirely just to save Kira still hits you like a ton of bricks. There's a lot to chew on throughout the episode, with several nice discussion sequences. The group debate about what to do on the Defiant is well-written, as are the little character bits like Kira's willingness to accept death, both Dax's feelings of guilt, and Worf's eventual bonding with the Sons of Mogh. In many ways this plays like a TNG-style story run through a DS9 filter, and the episode plays to both storytelling styles' strengths.
Trivial Note - The story for this episode was originally pitched for season three, but the producers didn't feel it was the right time for it. After giving some space between time travel episodes like the "Past Tense" two-parter and "The Visitor", they felt the time was right for the Odo/Kira angle near the end of season five. Originally, Yedrin Dax was responsible for changing the Defiant's flight plan (and the episode feints in that direction, with Yedrin's guilt over Jadzia's mistake), but Ira Steven Behr requested that Future Odo be made the culprit as a way to create some character conflict going forward. This is one of two episodes to be entirely set in the Gamma Quadrant ("The Search, Part II" is the other, though it features simulated scenes on DS9). Coincidentally, this is the last episode to even be partially set in the Gamma Quadrant until the series finale, as the entirety of the Dominion War is fought in the Alpha Quadrant. Also, the notion that Odo was cured of Section 31's virus when he was changed into a Solid in "Broken Link" is reinforced by this episode, as Future Odo lived for 200 years without the virus affecting him at all. He will be reinfected in season six's "Behind the Lines".
41. "The Dogs of War" - Season 7, Episode 24 (5/26/99)
"If we stand together nothing can oppose us! Freedom is ours for the taking!" - Legate Damar
While the final arc is up-and-down, two episodes really, truly stand out. This is the first of those to appear on the list (the second to air). Three of the series' best writers receive credit for the script - Peter Allan Fields (who was a major factor in the show's early seasons, and wrote a few stories as a freelancer in the later ones), Ronald Moore, and Rene Echevarria (who both appeared on the scene in season three and became indispensable parts of the writing and production staffs). This episode touches on several of the show's final storylines, and even adds one that doesn't appear in the other episodes (the Ferengi Grand Nagus drama), yet still manages to flow briskly from scene to scene, without all the bagginess that marred some of the other episodes in the final arc. The quote and picture above are taken from Damar's awesome rallying speech in the streets, which is one of the show's best moments, and the Ferengi storyline presented here is excellent. Grand Nagus Rom has a really nice ring to it. Even the Bashir/Ezri drama moves nicely in this episode. It does a fine job of moving the pieces into place for the finale, yet still feeling satisfying on its own terms.
Trivial Note - The decision to make Rom Grand Nagus was made late in the game. Initially, Quark was to ascend to the post, a development that would be reminiscent of "The Nagus", the season one episode where Zek first appears. Ira Steven Behr felt that Quark's presence meant too much to the station, so Rom was tabbed as Nagus instead. The script went through a few rewrites to come up with a satisfactory way for that to happen. Part of Quark's rant about the death of Ferengi culture includes the line, "The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!" This is a comic take on Capt. Picard's line about the Borg in Star Trek: First Contact. Both this episode and that film were co-written by Ronald Moore. And finally, Jeffrey Combs appears as both of his recurring characters, Brunt and Weyoun, in this episode. This is the only time an actor plays two different aliens in the same episode in Trek history.
40. "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" - Season 7, Episode 16 (3/3/99)
"Someone has to protect men like you from a universe that doesn't share your sense of right and wrong." - Luther Sloan
Of all the episodes on the list, this is probably the one most people will disagree with. It's rightly considered a classic, and I have no beef with that. I feel like every episode from about number 75 up could be argued as a classic, and every episode above 60 is inarguably great. The show features a deep well of great episodes, and this is one of them. My main issue with it is that Alexander Siddig falls into the same trap that often plagued Avery Brooks. When they had to get really preachy and morally superior, their performances sometimes came off as over-the-top. Siddig is much more natural in his early scenes with Garak and most of his back-and-forth with Sloan, but his big confrontation with Admiral Ross at the end just doesn't quite get there. Still, it's a strong episode that continues to take a bat to Gene Roddenberry's vision for Star Trek, plus it features my favorite conniving bastards, the Romulans. May they forever be a gray, drab beacon of cold, stern ruthlessness.
Trivial Note - Bashir's translation of the title is not literal but carries the same meaning. The words in the title can apparently be said in any order and still retain their meaning (I admittedly know little about Latin grammar), so writer Ronald Moore placed them in the order he thought sounded best. The plot itself is a riff on The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, a John le Carre novel that was adapted into a 1965 Richard Burton film. The standing sets for Voyager were used for Ross's ship, as it was of the same class. B-movie star Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog, Escape from New York) plays Senator Cretak, replacing a frankly less interesting performer who played the character in "Image in the Sand" and "Shadows and Symbols". While his conversation with Bashir at the beginning is wonderful, I can't help but be sad that Garak wasn't more directly involved. He never interacted with Section 31 once, which was a missed opportunity, and an episode with Sloan, Garak, and the Romulans would've been an orgy of obfuscation.
39. "The Search, Part I" - Season 3, Episode 1 (9/26/94)
"Welcome home..." - Female Changeling
Yay, we finally get to meet Odo's people! It's all gonna be sunshine and lollipops from here! "The Search" two-parter alters the face of the show in ways large and small. First off, we see brand spanking new combadges for all the Starfleet personnel. That...would be a small change. Perhaps more importantly, the Defiant shows up for the first time. There's a new aloof Security Chief in the from of Michael Eddington. And everyone's raring to go hunt down the Jem'Hadar, seeing as how the last interaction with them went so well. Odo, already grouchier than usual, gets even more chapped when Eddington's arrival is announced (and he dumps pure acid on Quark in a scene that may stand as Odo's all-time crankiest moment). This episode goes for the gut more than Part Two does, sending the Defiant directly into another pummeling courtesy of the Jem'Hadar before hitting us with the Changeling reveal (the first of two reveals about them in quick succession). In a world where twist-based storytelling is common, there is an admirable elegance to the decision to reveal the Changelings here, then reveal their true place in the Dominion in the next episode. It's a clean revelation, not overly foreshadowed but not dramatically unearned either. More shows could stand to learn from this example.
Trivial Note - Rene Auberjonois was initially displeased with the idea of Odo finding his people. After finding out about the revelation coming in Part Two, he changed his mind. The deal mentioned with the Romulans involving the use of a cloaking device on a Starfleet ship was pretty much the deal the writing staff had to make with Rick Berman to get approval for the concept. He didn't like the idea of a Federation vessel "sneaking around" but ultimately approved the idea. (It should be noted that Sisko violates this deal on multiple occasions with no consequences.) For his first episode on staff, writer Ronald Moore got to name the Defiant. After his suggestion of Valiant was vetoed, he chose Defiant, naming it after a ship that appears in the TOS classic "The Tholian Web". The Eddington character was initially only introduced to fill in for a missing Chief O'Brien (Colm Meaney was shooting a film at this time), but he would become significantly more important over the next three seasons. This episode also marks the first time Sisko expresses a real passion for Bajor and its security. This would be almost as important to the series as the Changeling reveal would be.
38. "Paradise" - Season 2, Episode 15 (2/13/94)
"We have found something here that none of us is willing to give up." - Joseph
This is an important early episode for Sisko. The Commander (later Captain) of Deep Space Nine develops somewhat slowly. Avery Brooks even considered leaving the series during the first season, as little of the show's eventual identity had manifested at that point. Casting an African-American as the lead was a big deal for DS9, as very few science fiction or fantasy shows have featured an African-American lead before or since. The Sisko of the first season-plus wasn't really written as a black man, though. I understand the impulse here, as you absolutely wouldn't want to define the character simply by his race. Developing him as an officer and a father were smart instincts, but episodes like this allowed for his racial identity to inform the character in subtle ways that only served to strengthen him. O'Brien (who was there) or any of the other characters could've endured what Sisko endured here (and most of them endure something similarly terrible at one point or another), but having these acts of committed civil disobedience be carried out a person of color adds another layer to what the audience is seeing. I appreciate the way characters like Sisko and Bashir are never defined by any racial stereotypes, yet still feel like characters who significantly draw from their racial and cultural heritages. This episode is a major part of that undercurrent of the series for me.
Trivial Note - Michael Piller was drawn to the idea of a cult-based story, as a relative of his had joined a cult at one point. On the whole, I think this is a much stronger outing than DS9's other cult episode, "Covenant". Hans Beimler was one of five credited writers for the episode, and he was asked to join the show's permanent staff during production. He declined this first offer but did join the writing and production staffs starting in season four.
37. "Favor the Bold" - Season 6, Episode 5 (10/27/97)
"There's an old saying, 'Fortune favors the bold.' Well, I guess we're about to find out." - Capt. Ben Sisko
This is a classic Part One-type episode, as nothing is really resolved here. Everything that needs to be in play for "Sacrifice of Angels" is put into play, and the episode ends with a massive tease for what's about to happen. While it may all seem like a glorified intro, "Favor the Bold" is pretty damn entertaining on its own. The Terok Nor drama continues to impress, with Odo realizing the error of his ways, and Kira and her merry men preparing to swing into action while a suspicious Damar has plans of his own. The simmering conflict between Dukat and Ziyal (with Kira and Damar on the periphery) starts to come to a boil, as does Quark's growing desire to bring the Federation back to the station (while his brother awaits execution). There's some mild clunkiness in the Starfleet portions of the episode, as it's here where you can sense the only real filler material in the story, but Sisko's plan is prepared, Martok and Worf head off to plead with Gowron to send reinforcements, and generally everything starts to come to a head. If you don't watch "Sacrifice of Angels" right away afterward (which people in 1997 did not have the option to do), then this episode may leave you cursing at the screen, but it's all worth it.
Trivial Note - This was originally planned as the final episode of the "Re-Taking Deep Space Nine" arc, but writers Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler realized during the scripting process that they weren't going to be able to squeeze everything into 45 minutes, so another episode was added to the arc. The Admiral Coburn character (the guy who's afraid to leave Earth vulnerable) is named after actor James Coburn, who plays a similar character in Midway. If Sisko's speech about planning to live on Bajor after the war seems a little tossed off, it's because it was added at the last minute to fill out the episode. The speech does represent an even stronger affection for the planet on Sisko's part, and he puts his plans to build a home on Bajor into action in season seven's "Penumbra".
36. "The Jem'Hadar" - Season 2, Episode 26 (6/12/94)
"You have no idea what's begun here..." - Eris
Neither the audience nor (to some extent) the production staff of DS9 knew what had begun in this episode. Probably the biggest knock on "The Jem'Hadar" is that we see both the title aliens and the Vorta (who aren't named in this episode) do things we never see any Dominion flunkies do again. There's no more stepping through forcefields, no more Vorta telepathy or X-Men-like projectile energy blasts, and no more transporting out of the quadrant (though we do see a device that allows for long-range transportation in "Covenant"). So, for those reasons, this episode is sort-of an outlier. Many aspects of the Dominion storyline hadn't been cooked up yet by the writers (like the whole Changeling/Founder reveal that would follow in "The Search" two-parter, thus explaining why Eris DGAF about Odo in this episode). The length of time this storyline would be allowed to run hadn't even been determined, and I'm sure some on the staff expected the whole thing to be taken care of soon after the show returned for season three. Fortunately for us, that would not be the case, and the more lasting parts of the episode resonated all the way though the coming conflict - Jem'Hadar badassery, Vorta treachery, and a sense that something super-duper formidable had been stirred up by our heroes (see the Odyssey going boom in the final act). In the middle of all that, we manage to see a few nice character moments for Sisko, Quark, Jake, and Nog (especially Quarks rant about humanity's past), which help keep the episode grounded.
Trivial Note - While Dax snidely made sure Capt. Keogh had evacuated all non-essential personnel before heading into the Gamma Quadrant, a lot of people get blowed up in the final battle. You'd think we'd hear more about this in the future, but we really don't. (Trek had made this mistake before, like when over 1,000 people are killed in the teaser for TNG's "Contagion" and everyone promptly forgets about it.) The destruction of a ship of the same class as the Enterprise-D was an intentional move by the producers. This 1 - established how big and bad the Dominion was and 2 - scared TNG fans when they saw the explosion in the teaser ads for this episode. The Jem'Hadar personal cloaking device uses the same visual effect as the cloak that Tosk used in "Captive Pursuit". Writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe came up with an unused backstory that claimed the Dominion genetically engineered the Tosk for the Hunters, just as we later find that the Jem'Hadar and Vorta are genetically engineered. While sticking to the Changelings, Vorta, and Jem'Hadar helped focus things, it would've been nice if we'd seen any other Dominion races in the series (as far as I know, aside from the big three, we only ever see the Karemma).
Deep breath...and that's all for Part IV. Hopefully I didn't break you, 'cause Part V's a-coming to finish off this whole dog-and-pony show. Prepare thyselves.
A good way to prepare is to check out Atlanta Classic Comics on eBay. We've got plenty o' Trek stuff, like comics (some from as far back as the 70's), merchandise, and more. And with a new movie on the way, we should have more stuff coming in, so keep your ears open and your eyes on the mark.