Wondering if the new entry to the CW's hero lexicon is worth your time? Leave it to "Hanks On TV" to give you the inside scoop!
by The Octopus Man
So now it's all down to this...We've tromped through 138 episodes of this series in the previous four installments (links below), and now we're staring down the disruptor barrel at the top 35 entries in the show's catalogue. It's been a long, long, long list, and we still have plenty more miles to cover, but thanks for sticking it out this far.
Again, the methodology - technically 176 episodes of the show were produced, but three of those were aired as two-hour presentations. Those three are counted as one episode each, and all other episodes are counted separately, even if they were part of a two-part story (or more). That leaves us with 173. BTW, two of those three two-hour episodes have already been ranked, but one's still floating out there.
Here are the past four entries...
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...
35. "Defiant" - Season 3, Episode 9 (11/21/94)
"No, you're trying to be a hero, and terrorists don't get to be heroes." - Maj. Kira Nerys
This is a tightly wound little episode. Of course, the big draw is the presence of Jonathan Frakes, who had just finished up a seven-year run as Cmdr. William Riker on TNG. With that show having recently ended, any Trek fan watching this episode would probably figure the Paramount bigwigs had planned a Riker appearance as a way of 1 - boosting ratings and 2 - passing the torch to the newer series. This is certainly what it appears is going on until Riker acts like a penis toward O'Brien, which seemed odd, then holy crap, he just stunned Kira (with a phaser, not his muy macho beard) and stole the Defiant. (I do love the detail of Riker removing his full beard disguise, which takes it down to a suitably evil goatee.) Pulling Thomas Riker, Will's transporter duplicate from TNG's generally solid "Second Chances", into the Maquis storyline is both a nice character turn and a risky decision from a production standpoint, since who knows how many people in the audience happened to catch "Second Chances". (Note - I saw this episode before that one.) Risk aside, Tom and Kira make for a pretty solid duo. The episode does a great job of establishing who this Riker is, with Kira playing amateur psychiatrist and pretty much hitting the nail on the head. Add to that more excellent scenes between Sisko and Dukat (trying to stop the renegade Defiant from doing any serious damage) and the Obsidian Order doing Obsidian Ordery things, and you've got a taut little political thriller reminiscent of The Hunt for Red October.
Trivial Note - Sisko's role in the story was based off the Cold War thriller Fail Safe, where the American President has to help the Soviets destroy an American bomber before it nukes Moscow. Of course, Stanley Kubrick's classic Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb pretty much features the same plot point, just presented very differently. The Tom Riker storyline had been percolating in the writing staff's mind-grapes for a while before this episode was filmed, but they seemed very uninterested in returning to the character. Jonathan Frakes was willing to return for a "Rescue Tom" episode, but the series largely forgets about Tom after this. Quantum torpedoes make their first appearance in Trek in this episode. The city where Dukat wanted to take his son for his birthday is Lakarian City, the same city that's destroyed by the Dominion in the show's final story arc, thus cementing Damar's Rebellion. And, humorously, Tom Riker's quote about the Defiant - "Tough little ship." - is the same thing Will Riker says about it in Star Trek: First Contact. Ronald Moore had a hand in writing both scripts.
34. "Our Man Bashir" - Season 4, Episode 10 (11/27/95)
"Well, who am I to question Julian Bashir, secret agent?" - Elim Garak
Of all the holodeck/holosuite-based episodes in Star Trek (and there are many), this one is the best. I stand by my assertion that the show needed some out-and-out fun to counter-balance the grimness that sets in with the Dominion storyline and only grows from there. 173 episodes over seven years allows for inessential, yet stylistically distinguished episodes like this, "Badda-Bing Badda-Bang", and "Take Me Out to the Holosuite". And this one has style to burn. The technobabble story that places Sisko, Kira, Dax, Worf, and O'Brien into Bashir's spy program is intentionally ludicrous, and I think the show does a fair job of lampshading the whole thing. While Bashir and, to a lesser extent, Garak play heroes in the program, Eddington, Odo, and Rom are the real heroes, as they do all the techno mumbo jumbo that saves the day just in the nick of time. (You'd think Eddington would bring this up to Sisko at some point after "For the Cause".) But in the program, Alexander Siddig does a pretty credible James Bond-impersonation (especially the cheekier Bond from the 60's and 70's), while Avery Brooks is hilariously over-the-top as the impressively named villain Hippocrates Noah and Nana Visitor somehow turns up the sex even more from her Intendant episodes. Great moments abound, but my favorites are O'Brien's first appearance as the Falcon and the super-brassy arrangement of the show's theme song that plays during the climax. That's one of the best music cues in Trek history.
Trivial Note - More of these were planned, but MGM (which owns the rights to the James Bond movies) sent an angry letter to the producers after this episode aired. The only other episode where we see this setting is season five's "A Simple Investigation", where it's used for a quick scene between Bashir and Odo that has little to do with the program. This is similar to TNG's issues with the Sherlock Holmes rights-holders, which cropped up after seasons two's "Elementary, Dear Data" and kept the show from returning to the Moriarty character until season six's "Ship in a Bottle". The second of those is the best of TNG's holodeck episodes, and is another valid choice for best holo-Trek episode overall. Obvious allusions to various Bond flicks can found all over, but the title is actually a play on the film Our Man Flint, which is also a Bond parody. Due to the sets, stunts, and extras, this was a very time-consuming and expensive episode to shoot, though everyone ended up loving it when they saw the finished product.
33. "Once More Unto the Breach" - Season 7, Episode 7 (11/11/98)
"To Kor, a Dahar Master, and noble warrior to the end!" - Lt. Cmdr. Worf
The introduction of Kang, Kor, and Koloth to the series back in season two's "Blood Oath" placed the Klingons at the fore of DS9's storytelling for the first time, but in a way altogether different than what we'd seen of Klingons before in the franchise. As major antagonists on TOS and in its related movies, then (mostly) as allies on TNG, the Klingons were mainly depicted as vibrant, boisterous fighters. TNG started a running plotline in "Sins of the Father" that picked at the underbelly of Klingon politics, showing a far less glamorous side of the Empire, one that persisted onto this series after Worf's arrival in season four. But the addition of the three Dahar masters to the show saw the writing staff dive headlong into a tale about aging Klingons, warriors who'd seen their best days and lamented what had become of their beloved Empire over the decades. Kang and Koloth are killed in that episode, but Kor, the first Klingon we ever met in the franchise, lives to fight another day. That other day first came in season four's "The Sword of Kahless", but a glorious death in the heat of battle finally awaits him in this episode. It can't be that simple, however, as first we're treated to a story that once again depicts an aging warrior grappling with his place in the universe more than he is grappling with any tangible foe. General Martok's role in all of this only adds more fuel to the fire, as he represents Kor's past coming back to haunt him. In the end, though, a glorious warrior earns a glorious death in a battle sequence that was wisely left off camera. Harkening back to the excellent discussion about Davy Crockett between Worf, Bashir, and O'Brien in the teaser, the episode doesn't need to give us the details on Kor's death (or of the rest of the crew on that Bird-of-Prey). We know what really matters. He died a warrior's death, protecting his shipmates from a bloodthirsty foe that had him severely outnumbered. It's a death befitting a legend. Anything less and he would just be a man, and it would not matter how he died.
Trivial Note - The Davy Crockett conversation at the beginning is a continuation of an old debate about the frontier legend. Historians believe it likely that he survived the Mexicans' assault on the Alamo, only to be executed the following day after surrendering. Most TV and film depictions of the event show him dying in battle, which has been a widely held belief among many Americans despite any academic claims to the contrary. No one really knows for sure, as all evidence that points in either direction seems at least somewhat untrustworthy. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a classic Western starring Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne, also served as an inspiration for this episode, as it had for season two's "The Homecoming". This was John Colicos' final role, as he passed away the following year. And, of course, the title comes from Shakespeare's Henry V.
32. "Second Skin" - Season 3, Episode 5 (10/24/94)
"Treason, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder." - Elim Garak
This is yet another excellent pre-Dominion War character piece. The twists and turns of Major Kira's relationship with Cardassia provide the series with deeply compelling material for the entirety of the series' run, but this episode may provide the biggest twists and turns of any. The relationship she forges with her "father" Legate Ghemor speaks to a warmth and compassion that was present in the character, but had been repressed for years due to the extreme circumstances she'd always found herself in. By this point in the series, we'd already seen her view of Cardassians soften in the excellent "Duet", and her view of other Bajorans harden in episodes like "In the Hands of the Prophets", "The Circle" trilogy, and "The Collaborator". What was formerly a black-and-white world was becoming very gray for Kira, and this episode blurs those lines as far as possible. That the story gives you all of this excellent shading with her and Ghemor, yet still also manages to pack a wallop both with the Cardassian political storyline and Garak's general awesomeness is a testament to how sharp Robert Hewitt Wolfe's script was. It covers a lot of ground without sacrificing any of the compelling character work or spy-game drama.
Trivial Note - O'Brien, a noted non-fan of Cardassians, was the original protagonist of the story, with the idea being that he would've been revealed as a Cardassian deep cover sleeper agent. This was dropped as it created too many inconsistencies, so Kira was subbed in. Originally, the character and audience would've been left unsure of Kira's actual identity (is she Bajoran or Cardassian?), but the producers removed that ending from Wolfe's story. On the Defiant, Garak refers to the cabins as "claustrophobic". He is revealed as being claustrophobic in season five's "By Inferno's Light". Coincidentally, actress Nana Visitor actually does suffer from claustrophobia, which caused great discomfort during the scenes where she wore the heavy Cardassian makeup.
31. "Hippocratic Oath" - Season 4, Episode 4 (10/16/95)
"He's their commander. They trusted him; he can't leave them." - Chief Miles O'Brien
This episode is the first of two in season four that further establish the Jem'Hadar as more than mindless killing machines. Now, they're still killing machines, mind you, but episodes like this manage the difficult task of filling in their blanks without sacrificing the aspects of the characters that make them so terrifying. Many a TV show or film over the years has unwittingly ruined a good villain by feeling the need to explain too much about him/her/it/them. Somehow, DS9 managed to actually improve on the Jem'Hadar even as they were revealed to not be the real power behind the Dominion and as dependent on a drug that basically made them slaves to the Founders. Scott MacDonald (who played Tosk in season one's "Captive Pursuit") returns to series as Goran'Agar, and again takes a minimalist role and knocks it straight out of the park. Throw in more great work from Colm Meaney and Alexander Siddig, pitting O'Brien and Bashir against each other for the first time as friends, and you've got one of the show's most underrated actors' showcases. The final resolution of the Dominion War partly hinges on the Founders mistakenly thinking the Cardassians to be as replaceable as the Jem'Hadar or Vorta. While that story plays out nicely, episodes like this (and a couple of others) make me wish this characterization of the Jem'Hadar had played more of a role in the series' endgame.
Trivial Note - The script was cobbled together from two different pitches, with one of them being heavily inspired by the classic film The Bridge on the River Kwai. This was produced before "The Visitor" but aired after it. The reason for this was Colm Meaney's filming schedule. Because of this shuffling, the directors of the two episodes were swapped. Rene Auberjonois had prepared to helm "The Visitor", but was assigned to this script instead, which caused him to feel nervous. As a relatively inexperienced director, he wasn't completely comfortable with the material given the short prep time, though his work ended up being excellent. This is also the episode in which ketracel-white, the drug the Jem'Hadar are dependent on, is first named.
30. "Bar Association" - Season 4, Episode 16 (2/19/96)
"Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!" - Rom
A crackling Ferengi farce, "Bar Association" stands as one of the finest moments for one of the show's most underrated characters, Rom. Max Grodenchik is excellent throughout the series, as his oddball take on a Ferengi masks the character's technical expertise in the early seasons, and episodes like this one show the promise that's buried underneath his doofiness. Rom's general likability and wasted potential play well in Nog's big speech to Sisko in season three's "Heart of Stone", and once the show began moving Nog in such an interesting direction, it was a welcome addition to take his father down that path, too. Grodenchik's timing and delivery were always impeccable, and from this point onward, the show isn't afraid to give him more to do as a character than just be Quark's stooge. Pairing him with characters he hadn't had much of a chance to interact with before (O'Brien, Bashir, especially Leeta) also helped broaden his horizons a bit, and having the fallout from Rom's strike draw some of the Starfleet characters into its wake just re-emphasizes how important Quark's bar and the people who work there are to the station as a whole.
Trivial Note - The chemistry between Grodenchik and Chase Masterson (Leeta) was an unexpected by-product of this episode. It was so apparent to the production staff that they made the decision to eventually romantically pair the two together, which had not been considered as a possibility prior to this point. Armin Shimerman (Quark) is a huge fan of this episode and its depiction of labor relations. He's a member of the Screen Actors Guild Board of Directors. The name of the Ferengi homeworld, Ferenginar, is finally established in this episode. And Rom's admission of performing oo-mox on himself is the only mention of masturbation in Trek history.
29. "Crossfire" - Season 4, Episode 13 (1/29/96)
"Funny, for a minute there, I thought you were talking to me as a friend." - Constable Odo
This such a sharp little character piece. The fluid nature of Odo's biology is countered by the rigidity of his personality. This is an odd contradiction that sits at the heart of all Changelings, as evidenced by their inherent love of order. Here, we spend a full 45 minutes deconstructing who Odo is, reducing the Constable to a disheveled mess before a pep talk from Quark snaps him out of it. While the plot here is fairly low-key (by DS9 standards at least, as the head of a planetary government is almost assassinated in this episode), visual touches from director Les Landau cement this as one of the most well-staged episodes of the entire series. While the stray hairs hanging over Odo's face at the end may seem like an incorrect character choice, I think the visual is powerful enough to overcome any logical problems it may cause (and I think the idea that Odo had to try to look that way, whereas a Solid in that situation would look that way on accident and not care, is an interesting character detail, not a flaw). But even before that, Odo is increasingly filmed in ways that make him seem like less of a man, only highlighting the personal turmoil he's trying to hide from the rest of the crew. Plus, his interactions with Worf in this episode are uniformly excellent, as their stern-off provides a fairly heavy episode with some solid levity.
Trivial Note - Odo destroys the plant that Kira gave him in "The Abandoned" during his tirade at the end. The plant had been kept in his former regeneration pail, which was also destroyed. Many of the producers were not happy with Odo's hair being mussed at the end, for the logical reasons that I alluded to above. This was an improvisation by Rene Auberjonois, who based the look off a piece of Japanese artwork. This wasn't the only time he emulated artwork in his performance. While the episode is generally considered one of the show's stronger outings, the presentation of Shakaar was disappointing to showrunner Ira Steven Behr and may have led to the character only appearing in one more episode after this.
28. "Rapture" - Season 5, Episode 10 (12/30/96)
"What I believe in is faith. Without it there can be no victory. If the Captain's faith is strong, he will prevail." - Lt. Cmdr. Worf
The so-called Emissary trilogy concludes with this episode, and it's the strongest of the bunch. Sisko is named Emissary of the Prophets way back in the pilot, but not until season three's "Destiny" does that role, and its related conflicts, really stand front-and-center in an A-plot. Season four's "Accession" dredged it back up for a stronger episode, and now season five's "Rapture" pushes Sisko even further down the path to acceptance. Along with some doomy foreshadowing of the coming war with the Dominion, this episode places Sisko's growing faith in the Prophets squarely against his role as Captain of Deep Space Nine, whereas "Destiny" and "Accession" had merely made his handling of both roles somewhat uncomfortable. His mission, as given to him by Capt. Picard in "Emissary", is to bring Bajor into the Federation. He's mere seconds away from completing that mission before he himself is the one that sabotages it in order to follow the will of the Prophets. The guy playing the Admiral isn't exactly Laurence Olivier, but his (and Starfleet's) displeasure with this development is clear. And none of this even mentions the conflict Jake faces in this episode, as his father's life is possibly placed in his hands, with sound medical advice on one hand and his addled father's potentially insane wishes in the other. Throw in Kai Winn's always obfuscating presence, and add in the conversation between Kira, Worf, Dax, and O'Brien that's partially quoted above (one of the show's all-time best scenes), and you have the best of the Bajoran religion episodes, one that promises major ramifications for several plotlines going forward.
Trivial Note - Because of his actions here and the soon to erupt Dominion War, Sisko never truly completes his original mission. Bajor isn't part of the Federation by series' end, but it does join in the post-finale tie-in novels. This is the first episode to feature the gray-top Starfleet uniforms that debuted in Star Trek: First Contact. Again, considering that Bashir is found wearing a blue-top uniform in the Dominion prison in "In Purgatory's Shadow", this makes it likely that the highly complex surgery that was performed on Sisko here was done by a Changeling. Knowing that adds to the complexity of the story, as Bashir advocates for the surgery throughout the episode. Several of Sisko's ramblings foreshadow coming events, especially the lines about locusts stopping over Bajor and Bajor needing to stand alone to survive. The locusts are the Dominion, who come through the wormhole at the end of "In Purgatory's Shadow" but then move onto Cardassia Prime in "By Inferno's Light", as the Cardassians join their ranks in the latter episode. To avoid becoming the first world conquered by this new alliance, Bajor negotiates, then signs a non-aggression pact with the Dominion in "In the Cards" and "Call to Arms", something they wouldn't have been able to do if they were part of the Federation.
27. "Progress" - Season 1, Episode 15 (5/9/93)
"I told you; my life's here. If I leave here, I'll die, so I'd rather die here." - Mullibok
"Duet" is rightly considered a classic, but it wasn't the first great episode of the series. This episode aired just over a month before and stands as one of the show's early triumphs. There had been a few solid episodes prior to this - "Past Prologue", "Captive Pursuit", "Vortex" - but "Progress" really focuses the show on its earliest strength, Kira Nerys. "Past Prologue" had already laid out the central conflict of the character nicely, a former terrorist now having to work for the ruling class, but this episode put a face on that conflict. That face is the weathered old visage of character actor Brian Keith, who nails the role of Mullibok. Mullibok is a farmer, a storyteller, a consummate bulls#!t artist, and a former fighter. So many things about him remind Kira of herself, or of people she'd admired in the past, right down to the stubbornness. And when two people who're this stubborn square off against each other, you can expect it to end in tears. Peter Allan Fields is the credited writer of this episode, and between this, "Past Prologue", "Duet", and "Necessary Evil", he laid much of the groundwork for the show's running plotlines involving Bajor, Cardassia, Kira, and Odo. And the biggest key to his script for this one is that the ending doesn't pull any punches. No compromise, no having it both ways. Kira has to do her job, as distasteful as she might find it to be.
Trivial Note - The B-plot to the episode centers on Jake and Nog trying to make profit off a surplus of Cardassian yamok sauce. This was inspired by the character Milo Minderbinder from the classic novel Catch-22. Wheeling and dealing by Nog and/or Jake would come up again on the show in two of my favorite episodes, "In the Cards" and "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River". Despite the warm reception the episode received, Peter Allan Fields wasn't happy with the way Mullibok was depicted. He had envisioned the character as a much less likable, manipulative, stick-in-the-mud type of guy. I don't think the more overt conflict that type of character would've provided Kira would've improved the episode. Also, on another Breaking Bad note, the actor who played the Bajoran functionary in this episode is Michael Bofshever, who also played Jesse Pinkman's dad.
26. "Improbable Cause" - Season 3, Episode 20 (4/24/95)
"The truth is usually just an excuse for a lack of imagination." - Elim Garak
The best part about this foundation-rattling two-parter is how unassuming the whole thing seems to be at the beginning. Most of the "event" episodes of the series begin with a portentous log entry or some overt sign that a big battle or revelation or something is coming. Sure, this episode begins with an explosion, but given Garak's checkered past and the many, many ne'er-do-wells who populate Deep Space Nine's fringes, this type of thing couldn't have been expected to turn into the multi-government-spanning covert military operation revealed by the end of Part One (much less the even more extreme places Part Two goes). The pairing of Odo and Garak works like a charm in both episodes, and Odo, in particular, gets to be balls-out awesome in this episode. He has contacts everywhere, in every government, and his ability to get to the truth (even when dealing with deeply untruthful people) is second to none. And of course, bringing out more of the cold-blooded spy in Garak definitely pushes things in an interesting direction. This is one of Trek's all-time best two-parters, as both episodes are excellent and satisfying in their own ways.
Trivial Note - Funny enough, this episode wasn't intended to be a two-parter until very late in the game. The original concept had the Obsidian Order come after Garak as payback for his actions in "Second Skin". The first three acts wrote the story into a corner, though, and the writing staff couldn't think of a satisfactory resolution. Michael Piller suggested making the episode a two-parter, and the episode lost the "Second Skin" connection and instead tied in to "Defiant", which had left the mysterious loose thread of the Order's secret buildup in a remote part of Cardassian space. This is all largely why the episode starts out small, then suddenly becomes a major, status quo-shifting two-parter. It's also why this is the first explicit two-parter in franchise history to not use the same title for both episodes (plus part one or two to differentiate them). Oddly enough, the series would never use that titling format again, as all future multi-part stories feature distinct titles for each individual episode.
25. "In the Cards" - Season 5, Episode 25 (6/9/97)
"Even in the darkest moments, you can always find something that'll make you smile." - Capt. Ben Sisko
The friendship between Jake and Nog isn't something that I would consider a cornerstone of the series, at least not in the same way as the O'Brien/Bashir friendship or the father/son relationship between the Siskos, yet it still stands as a key strand in the show's fabric. The two characters go through a lot on their journey to adulthood, with Nog turning from a scheming Ferengi prankster to a battle-hardened Starfleet officer and Jake growing from a little boy to a young professional author. Through it all, there's a warmth to their friendship that keeps you rooting for the two characters through the dark hours they each face. Dark hours are pretty much what everyone's about to face throughout "In the Cards", as the increasingly doomy atmosphere around the station provides a critical backdrop for the wheeling-and-dealing shenanigans that propel the story. This is one of the show's most crackerjack scripts, briskly moving from deal to deal and character to character with the energy of one those classic M*A*S*H episodes where Radar or Klinger has to make logistical magic happen. We encounter an unusually sympathetic Kai Winn, the always welcome villainy of Weyoun, and one of the franchise's all-time loopiest characters in Dr. Giger, with the show's regular ensemble also getting several moments in the sun. What keeps all these comings-and-goings moving in the right direction at the right speed is the episode's editing, which may hit a series high-point here (and editing is and shall always be the unsung hero of TV comedy). It's a wonderful, perfectly timed episode, as things get pretty hardcore after this.
Trivial Note - The Willie Mays card that spurs the episode's plot is very valuable in real life, so if you come across one, take good care of it. The whole idea behind this episode was to invert the normal formula of A- and B-stories, with the A-story being comedic and the B-story being dramatic. This was the franchise directorial debut of Michael Dorn (Worf). His work here was excellent. The sole purpose for Giger's name was to make that lions, tigers, and bears joke, which isn't the episode's greatest moment. The painting that Morn leaves the auction with is the same one Quark inherits in the next season's "Who Mourns for Morn?". As with Quark's comic version of a serious Picard line from Star Trek: First Contact in "The Dogs of War", Jake similarly quotes another of the Captain's bits of dialogue from that movie during the exchange with Nog about the Federation eschewing money, "We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity." Both episodes and the movie were all at least co-written by Ronald Moore.
24. "Homefront" - Season 4, Episode 11 (1/1/96)
"You actually thought I was one of them, didn't you?!" - Joseph Sisko
The genius of this episode may not have been completely apparent until after September 11, 2001. While Part Two of this story doesn't quite keep the momentum going, this is one of the most socially relevant episodes in Trek history. Admiral Leyton aside, seeing two of the show's "heroes", Sisko and Odo, be the mouthpieces for martial law is one of this series' most powerful moments. They realize the error of their ways in the next episode, but everything this script allows the audience to see makes their paranoia and panic seem entirely justified. It's only really Joseph Sisko (a critical piece of this story's puzzle) who stands against what seems so obvious to the other main characters (aside from maybe Jake). The Changeling Cold War that bubbles through seasons four and five of the series allows for some of the show's strongest allegorical storytelling, as it pertains to fighting an untraceable enemy from whom there is no such thing as total security. While "Paradise Lost" provides the audience with a specific point-of-view on this matter, one of this episode's strengths relative to that one is that it doesn't answer the question for the viewer. It leaves us twisting out there along with the characters, just as we so often are in real life when faced with issues like these. And remember, this episode aired a full five years before 9/11, yet speaks to our world now much more than it spoke to that world then.
Trivial Note - As mentioned before, this was originally planned to be the season three finale, before the studio requested that the series avoid cliffhanger endings to seasons. It was then slated to be the premiere of season four, but the studio then requested a narrative shakeup take place, which ended up being the introduction of Worf and the Klingon conflict to the story. In its earlier form, the episode would've seen the Federation nearly pushed to the brink of civil war, with the Vulcans going so far as to leave the Federation entirely. After being pushed back to mid-season, the budget couldn't sustain such a story, so a political thriller plotline similar to that of Star Trek VI was introduced. That film coincidentally featured actors Brock Peters (Joseph Sisko) and Rene Auberjonois (Odo) as two of the conspirators. The presentation of Federation President Jaresh-Inyo didn't sit well with the production staff, so the character never appears again after this two-parter, with future dialogue establishing that he's out of office before the series ends. The character was originally based on former President Jimmy Carter.
23. "The House of Quark" - Season 3, Episode 3 (10/10/94)
"I am Quark, son of Keldar, and I have come to answer the challenge of D'Ghor, son of...whatever..." - Quark
On the broad spectrum of Star Trek alien cultures, the Ferengi and the Klingons are about as diametrically opposed as possible. One of the underrated aspects of DS9's storytelling is its willingness to examine Trek races beyond their basic concepts and throw them up against other Trek aliens just to see what happens. This early season three episode is arguably the strongest and clearest example of that, as something that happens far too infrequently happens here - the Ferengi and the Klingons have to play in the same sandbox. This is all played for some of the series' finest comedy, as Armin Shimerman really brings the comic heat as Quark and director Les Landau stages some of the show's finest visual gags. The best of those is probably the image of a room full of decorated Klingon warriors struggling with Quark's financial presentation in the Great Hall, but that's just one of several excellent bits found in the episode. Plus, the final scene between Quark and Rom shows how much the former's experience with the Klingons seems to have changed him. It's a rare sweet moment between the brothers.
Trivial Note - This, oddly enough, is the only time the Klingon homeworld of Qo'noS is seen on DS9. All of the future action involving Klingons takes place elsewhere, with only a couple of episodes featuring any Klingon-controlled territory at all. The scenes in the Great Hall are deliberately staged similarly to the scenes set there in TNG's "Sins of the Father", which introduced the setting to the franchise. Both episodes were co-written by Ronald Moore and directed by Les Landau. Also, Stephen Hawking (who cameoed in TNG's "Descent") visited the set during production and took a photo with Armin Shimerman and Carlos Carrasco while they were in costume as Quark and D'Ghor.
22. "The Siege of AR-558" - Season 7, Episode 8 (11/18/98)
"There's only one order, Lieutenant. We hold." - Capt. Ben Sisko
It's debatable which episode of DS9 is the furthest removed from the franchise's traditionally idealistic viewpoint. "In the Pale Moonlight", "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges", and a few others are all in contention, and this episode is right in the thick of that discussion. While the tactics used by both the Starfleet and Jem'Hadar troops in this episode seem very anachronistic for a 24th century war (Houdini mines aside, they basically fight it out like a World War II or Vietnam battle), that narrative "error" only serves to reinforce the point of the episode. Following on from the very de-glamorized view of combat presented in prior episodes like "The Ship", "...Nor the Battle to the Strong", and "Rocks and Shoals", "The Siege of AR-558" takes several of the show's greenest characters (most notably Ezri and poor, poor Nog) and tosses them into an old-school, "don't fire 'til you see the whites of their eyes"-type of ground battle. Sure, wide-beam phasers, orbital bombardment, and any other of a number of Trek technobabble innovations should've figured into the fight, but that misses the point. As much as the Federation and its allies are the good guys in this war, that only matters to a point. Ina fight like this, eventually there are no idealogical debates, no attempts at diplomacy, and no moral hangups over doing whatever is needed to survive. The enemies, weapons, and tactics may change, but war is still war, and war sucks.
Trivial Note - The 558 in AR-558 comes from the episode's production code. Not giving the planet a real name works in the episode's favor, as it only reinforces how otherwise worthless this rock was. Writers Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler developed this episode over the objections of several people who were involved with the franchise in some capacity. From their perspective, the battle was based on the WWII Battle of Guadalcanal, one of the most significant engagements to take place in that war. Director Winrich Kolbe, a Vietnam veteran, based the look of both the planet and the combat sequences on his own experiences, with the Battle of Khe Sanh serving as a loose template. Nog was originally supposed to lose both legs, but Rick Berman requested that he only lose one. The Vic Fontaine song that plays before the shooting starts is his rendition of "I'll Be Seeing You", which was a very popular song during World War II. Among the guest stars are Bill Mumy, who plays the engineer Kellin, and Raymond Cruz, who plays the unstable Marine Vargas. Mumy is best known as Will Robinson from the original Lost in Space series. He also played Lennier on Babylon 5, a 90's sci-fi show with similar themes to DS9, and he appeared in two notable Twilight Zone episodes, the more famous of which is the deeply unsettling "It's a Good Life". Cruz is probably best known for playing Tuco Salamanca on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, but he's been a reliable character actor for a couple of decades now.
21. "For the Cause" - Season 4, Episode 22 (5/6/96)
"You know in some ways you're even worse than the Borg. At least they tell you about their plans for assimilation. You're more insidious. You assimilate people, and they don't even know it." - Lt. Cmdr. Michael Eddington
This episode succeeds on several levels. First, the story smartly uses multiple bait-and-switch techniques on the audience, with the setting up of Kasidy and the ultimate reveal about Eddington. Second, the use of Kasidy as a red herring draws out some real emotion from her and Sisko. Their relationship to this point had been nice, but not an essential part of the show's storytelling. Maybe it never became completely essential, but this was the episode where you started to feel what kind of place they each occupied in the other's life, with Sisko in particular caught between love and duty. The scene where he tries to convince her to go with him to Risa is an underrated showcase for Avery Brooks. He really makes you feel Sisko's desperation in that moment. Third, after all the twists have twisted and the turns have turned, the audience is left with Eddington's parting shot. The speech partially quoted above is one of the first times we the Federation really taken to task by someone who's not mustache twirling-ly evil. Eddington, by design, was never a beloved character, but seeing someone in a Starfleet uniform compare the Federation to the Borg and and make at least some sense was an unprecedented move for the franchise. (Plus, using the Borg to make his analogy must've stung Sisko extra-deep, given what happened to his first wife.) The script for this episode is among the show's best, as it deftly manages to tell both a very large story (a new day for the Maquis) and a very small one (Sisko and Kasidy, plus the burgeoning personal rivalry between Sisko and Eddington).
Trivial Note - This is yet another example of Ira Steven Behr's desire to deconstruct the Federation. Note how many times the word "paradise" is used in these episodes to describe the Federation, with almost every use of it carrying a negative connotation. "The Maquis, Part II" featured Sisko's, "It's easy to be a saint in paradise," line, which started this tradition. "Paradise Lost" features it right there in the title, and Sisko again has the key line, "Paradise never seemed so well armed." Eddington gets this episode's mention, during his speech at the end, "Nodody leaves paradise." The Eddington reveal in this episode was the culmination of the writers' desire to use him as a red herring in the Changeling storyline, with many audience members only suspecting him of being a Changeling spy. They wanted to take him in a direction no one would expect. The original influence on the story was the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, but much of the subtext that alluded to that bombing was removed from the script.
20. "Duet" - Season 1, Episode 19 (6/13/93)
"You have no idea what it's like to be a coward...to see these horrors...and do nothing..." - Aamin Marritza
Any questions about what sort of identity DS9 would cultivate in the shadow of its successful older brother The Next Generation melted away after "Duet" aired in June of '93. I stand by my assertion that "Progress" is the first really definitive episode of the show (it aired about a month before this one did), but "Duet" is rightly considered an early benchmark for the series. Diving headlong into the aftermath of the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor, the script features some of the show's most memorable bits of dialogue, with much of it coming from the mouth of guest star Harris Yulin. Yulin's been one of those actors you always see popping up here (Scarface) and there (Ghostbusters II), and his performance here is very sharp. He plays a meek, ordinary man who himself is playing a blustery supervillain. The dual layers of his performance are note-perfect (and the highly quotable dialogue might seem overwritten until you realize the character himself would've rehearsed this over-the-top persona). Also, once again Kira continues to be the standout of the show's early days, and, if it wasn't already the case, this episode firmly establishes the relations between Bajor and Cardassia as the show's best fastball in its pre-Dominion era.
Trivial Note - The Shakaar Resistance Cell (with whom Kira fought during the Resistance) is mentioned for the first time in this episode. It's unclear if the writers had decided that Shakaar was a person whom the cell was named after, which season three's "Shakaar" establishes is the case. The episode was conceived as a bottle show (an episode that uses few locations, special effects, or guest stars in order to save money). It came near the end of the season, and episodes like "Emissary" and "The Storyteller" had drained the series' budget with the season finale still looming.
19. "Heart of Stone" - Season 3, Episode 14 (2/6/95)
"Save her if it suits you, but it won't make any difference. She's never going to love you. How could she? You are a Changeling." - Female Changeling
The series deployed its Changeling-related tension effectively. Red herrings populate several Changeling scares, and very few actual impostors are revealed considering how ever-present that threat is throughout the final five seasons. Sure, we find out that characters like Martok and Bashir have been replaced by Changelings in a couple of season five episodes, but only two times does the series truly play the "Ha! It was a Changeling all along!" card. Considering the nearly limitless potential Changelings offer for cheap twist-based storytelling and plot hole-spackle, this restraint is admirable. It's even more admirable that one of the episodes where a Changeling randomly twists its way into the resolution isn't a big, super-important Dominion War story, but is instead a low-key, character piece fueled by desperation and survival. I'm cool with a twist from time-to-time, as long as it's earned, and I think this was earned. We'd learned in "The Search, Part II" how much the Founders valued Odo, and that value persists until the series finale. With that in mind, it makes narrative sense for the Female Changeling to use her shapeshifting not as a way to start a war or gather military intelligence, but as a way to really figure out what makes the Constable tick. Rene Auberjonois gives one of his strongest performances as an increasingly desperate Odo, and Nana Visitor does more than admirable work as the Changeling-as-Kira, especially considering how difficult her part proved to film. Odo would only allow himself to be fooled so completely if it was Kira in danger, not anyone else, and the script really takes a couple of different storylines to interesting places in these scenes. Couple that with one of the two finest true B-plots in any episode (Nog's desire to join Starfleet, thus kicking off one of the show's most impressive character arcs), and you have one of the show's strongest character pieces.
Trivial Note - Everything about this episode is a favorite among the many of the cast and crew, with the notable exception of the rock prop that was used to slowly encase Nana Visitor. Visitor, who is claustrophobic, especially hated it, but no one else, from director Alexander Singer to the show's producers, was particularly fond of it, either. We find out how Odo got his name in this episode, and we also see him brandish a weapon for the only time in the series. Unsurprisingly, Aron Eisenberg (Nog) lists this as his favorite episode of the series. Nog's character arc from here on is incredible. In that storyline, we get the first spoken confirmation of Rom's engineering skill, which had been hinted at in multiple prior episodes. We also see the process that Federation outsiders like Worf and Ro Laren must've gone through to be admitted to Starfleet Academy. Finally, special mention to Salome Jens (Female Changeling), who agreed to be credited in the closing credits in order to hide the twist ending. Too many times, the actor involved in a twist is credited up front, leaving audience members waiting for him or her to show up.
18. "Little Green Men" - Season 4, Episode 8 (11/13/95)
"You mean your people are going to invade...Cleveland?" - Capt. Wainwright
Of all the Ferengi farces found in Deep Space Nine, this one is the best. On the surface, an episode featuring Trek aliens time-traveling back to 1947 Area 51 is a very risky proposition. It could easily have been too cutesy, or too stupid, or too narratively inconsistent, or too anything, but instead we got an offering that was about as good as its jokey premise could ever allow it to be. Armin Shimerman, Max Grodenchik, and Aron Eisenberg continued their generally strong Ferengi work in the episode, but the casting of the guest stars was both highly important to the episode and highly successful. The good guy 1947 humans played by Conor O'Farrell and Megan Gallagher are as likable as the script needs them to be, but the less warm-and-fuzzy military officers played by Charles Napier and James G. MacDonald really push the episode to another level. Napier (who was stuck playing a space hippie in his only other Trek role, in the s#!t-awful TOS episode "The Way to Eden") gets to play the intimidating-just-by-walking-in-the-room kind of guy he made a nice, long career out of playing, but MacDonald (a character actor who popped up on a lot of TV shows around this time) steals most of his scenes as the no-nonsense Captain Wainwright. His scene with the three Ferengi that's quoted above is one of my all-time favorite Trek scenes (as is the one featuring Rom's pure, uncut Colombian technobabble when he keeps Quark's ship from crashing, along with Quark's response to it). I've said repeatedly that season four is DS9's finest, and episodes like this show how in control of all of its storytelling modes the series was during that year.
Trivial Note - I have a fondness for old sci-fi and horror B-movies, as the producers of this episode obviously also seem to have. Three of the 1947 humans were named after B-movie actors of the 50's and 60's (General Denning, Nurse Garland, and Professor Carlson). James L. Conway's direction also deliberately attempted to evoke the science fiction movies of that era. Ira Steven Behr (who co-wrote) fought with Paramount for the right to depict the 1947 characters smoking cigarettes, which was a reference to both the real world and the movies of that time, where it seemed like everyone was smoking all the time. Generally speaking in the mid-90's, cigarette smoking on TV was a big no-no. Aside from B-movies, the other major influence on the episode was probably the Original Series episode "Tomorrow Is Yesterday", which also featured time travel and featured the phrase "little green men" in its dialogue.
17. "For the Uniform" - Season 5, Episode 13 (2/3/97)
"I think it's time for me to become the villain." - Capt. Ben Sisko
Sisko's journey in this episode is one of my favorite character beats in the series, as I find it to be strangely applicable to everyday life. Everybody (well most everybody) walks around thinking they're the main character in the story of their life and probably the hero in that story, to boot. Eddington takes that to a certain extreme in this episode, as his romantic-for-a-lost-cause nature surely casts him as the grand Robin Hood or Jean Valjean-like hero fighting against the monolithic government and its Sheriff of Nottingham or Inspector Javert-like stooge, Sisko. Honestly, he acts like Malcolm Reynolds would act several years later on the beloved sci-fi series Firefly. For Sisko, the only way out is through, as he has to embrace his role as villain and be willing to bring the full power of Starfleet to bear on the Maquis in order to put a stop to them. Anything less would let them squirm away, ready to fight another day. The ride there is suitably melodramatic (in a good way), with Sisko's over-the-top supervillainy really selling his actions to a shocked Eddington. Avery Brooks is pretty out there in general in the episode, but this is a case where that sort of broadness is what's required by the story. There is an old-school grandiosity to this episode, which continues the surprising development of the once-bland Eddington into one of the series' most compelling antagonists.
Trivial Note - This episode and "In the Pale Moonlight" represent the peaks of Sisko's morally compromised decision-making. While this type of ethically gray storytelling was a favorite of many members of the regular writing and production staffs, both episodes feature writing credits for Peter Allan Fields, who was working as a semi-retired freelancer at this point (he had been part of the writing and production team during the first two seasons). Aspects of the classic films The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and Run Silent, Run Deep made their way into the episode, with the first two informing Eddington's character and the latter inspiring the submarine-style sequence where Nog is used to relay communications between the Defiant bridge and its engineering staff. It was also during filming of this episode, in which his only scene was cut for time, that Alexander Siddig found out that Bashir had been replaced by a Changeling at some point prior in the story. This would be revealed to the audience in the next episode, "In Purgatory's Shadow". Siddig had played the role without knowing of the Changeling switcheroo in "Rapture", "The Darkness and the Light", and "The Begotten", which are the three episodes prior to this where general logic holds that Bashir had been replaced. (The show never fully address how many episodes feature the Changeling Bashir, though the amount of time he was held captive by the Dominion was established in "By Inferno's Light" and "Inquisition".)
16. "Tacking into the Wind" - Season 7, Episode 22 (5/12/99)
"The Klingon Empire is dying, and I think it deserves to die." - Lt. Ezri Dax
Easily the strongest of the episodes found in the series' final arc, "Tacking into the Wind" concentrates most of its energy on two of the most fascinating storylines present in the closing hours of the show - the long-running Klingon political drama that started way back in season three of TNG and the ever excellent Kira-trains-the-Cardassians plotline that had just begun in the previous episode. Focusing so much of this entry on Worf, Martok, and Gowron on one hand and Kira, Damar, and Garak on the other was bound to make for a strong episode, but the real winner of this episode may just be the much-maligned Ezri Dax. Her come-to-Kahless speech to Worf about the Klingon Empire (partially quoted above) was just the breath of fresh air the big lug needed to do what needed to be done. Worf had played a long, very high stakes game of give-and-take with the Klingon High Council over the years and had suffered immeasurably as a result, yet still continued to put his idealized vision of the Empire first. Ezri, a character uniquely constructed to put a fresh, less romanticized spin on Curzon and Jadzia's vast knowledge of Klingon culture, throws a bucket of cold bloodwine in his face by forcing him to face a truth he didn't want to consider. Couple these developments (and the generally awesome ascension of the totally kickass Martok to role of Chancellor) with a similar bucket of kanar being thrown in Damar's face by Kira, and you have an episode that forces characters we generally sympathize with to face some cold, hard realities about the societies they love. The show earned these moments by putting in so much time on both the Klingon political machinations and the Bajor-Cardassia backstory (which both began on a different show).
Trivial Note - Originally, Worf would've merely convinced Gowron that he was wrong, after which Gowron would return to Qo'noS and put Martok back in charge of the war effort. This didn't go far enough in writer Ronald Moore's opinion, so the Klingon quotient was upped with Worf killing Gowron in single combat. It also bookended Gowron's reign as Chancellor with Worf killing someone, as Worf's defeat of Duras in TNG's "Reunion" is what put Gowron in charge in the first place. Also, it was around this time that the writers decided Odo would actually become sick from Section 31's virus, as the original plan was for him to only be a carrier for the disease. The woman who plays the female Vorta Luaran is Kitty Swink, Armin Shimerman's wife. She also appeared as a Bajoran government official way back in season two's "Sanctuary".
15. "The Die Is Cast" - Season 3, Episode 21 (5/1/95)
"Do you know what the sad part is, Odo? I'm a very good tailor." - Elim Garak
The phrase "the show would never be the same after this" can be applied to multiple DS9 episodes, and this is definitely one of them, but this outing has a different feel to it than most of the rest. Yes, there's a big firefight between the Cardassians, Romulans, Jem'Hadar, and the Defiant at the end, and the events of this episode bring about tremendous political upheaval going forward, but this episode is more personal than the others. If you read the trivial note for part one of this story, "Improbable Cause", you know that these episodes were only turned into a two-parter late in the game, and the decision to pay off the Obsidian Order's mysterious actions in "Defiant" came even later in the game. All the quadrant-rattling events that take place here spring from those two decisions, so in some ways, those are the afterthought portions of the episode. The meat is the interactions between Garak and Odo, which were also the highest of lights in Part One. The interrogation scene between the two is one of DS9's most powerful sequences, featuring tremendous acting from Andrew Robinson and Rene Auberjonois, strong script work from Ronald Moore, and impressively upsetting prosthetics from the makeup team. Use that as the foundation for a story that also massively raises the stakes in multiple running plots (Changeling Cold War, Cardassian politics), and you have a satisfyingly unique game-changer.
Trivial Note - This was the first episode to feature Ira Steven Behr as executive producer, and one of his first requests was for the series to show more on-screen space battles. Budget and effects limitations had forced the previous Trek series to talk about battles that happened without ever showing them, but DS9 had the money and the technology on-hand to bring the battles to the screen. The Battle of the Omarion Nebula was the largest space battle sequence seen in the franchise to this point, and the series would top it several times over the course of its run. Garak and Bashir discussed Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in the cold open of "Improbable Cause". Garak, despite professing his disappointment with the play, paraphrases one its key lines to Tain during the battle with the Dominion, "I'm afraid the fault, dear Tain, is not in our stars, but in ourselves." The title of this episode is also drawn from a famous quote attributed to Caesar. Eddington's secret orders from Admiral Toddman only served to detach him further from the main cast in the audience's eyes. This perception of him as a "company man" and Sisko's mention of trusting someone in "that uniform" set the stage for his Maquis turn in seasons four and five. While the Tal Shiar seem to at least somewhat recover from this debacle, the Obsidian Order is completely wiped out, which causes a sea change in Cardassian politics, leading first to a civilian government, then to them joining the Dominion, then to Damar's Rebellion, and eventually to their near annihilation in the series finale.
14. "To the Death" - Season 4, Episode 23 (5/13/96)
"I am First Omet'iklan, and I am dead. As of this moment, we are all dead. We go into battle to reclaim our lives. This we do gladly, for we are Jem'Hadar. Remember, victory is life!" - First Omet'iklan
This may not be the greatest of all DS9 episodes (though it is extremely good), but it's certainly the most badass one. We'd seen the Jem'Hadar a few times before this aired late in season four, with two of those episodes, "The Abandoned" and "Hippocratic Oath", revealing much about their culture and biology. This episode and season six's "Rocks and Shoals" function alongside those to form a loose quadrilogy of stories that provide the audience with an intriguing sketch of Trek's most militant species. Particularly notable are the ways in which they're shown to differ from the Klingons, Trek's next most militant species, as any grand concepts like honor and glory are missing from the Jem'Hadar culture. Instead, they function as a lean, mean, professional killing machine, with victory standing as their only goal (not honor, not glory, not even survival). Contrast that further with the other notable introduction in the episode, the first of the many Weyouns we see over the course of the series, and you begin to see the manner in which the Dominion both has succeeded and will eventually fail. From a Starfleet perspective, this episode stands opposite from the later battle story "The Siege of AR-558", which intentionally featured several of the show's least experienced fighters, by bringing the heat in the form of Sisko, Worf, O'Brien, Odo, and Jadzia, all of whom are seasoned combatants (with Eddington having just defected, Kira is the only experienced soldier missing). This amount of testosterone may not normally be Star Trek's bag, but given how balanced it is by sharp writing, it makes this episode truly stand out, from both action and character standpoints.
Trivial Note - As mentioned above, Jeffrey Combs makes his first appearance as Weyoun in this episode. Obviously, he was planned to be a one-off character, seeing as how's he disintegrated and all, but his performance was such a hit the writers cooked up the idea that the Vorta are clones so he could return to play more Weyouns. It is later established that he is Weyoun-4, and Weyouns-5, 6, 7, and 8 all eventually appear on the show. The script clarifies that, under orders from the Founders, Weyoun infects Odo with the virus that manifests itself in "Broken Link". He does so by clapping his hand on Odo's shoulder, but the scene in question is unclear in the finished episode. The big fight sequence at the end was edited for content, which was likely the first time in Trek history that had occurred. Opinions are split on the edit, as most of the production staff were irritated, feeling that the battle was built up and then given short-shrift as a result. Jadzia was to be a particularly spectacular fighter during the battle, killing at least 10 Jem'Hadar on her own. Terry Farrell herself felt that maybe this was overkill, and thus supported the edits. I should also note that Brian Thompson, a great sci-fi and horror show character actor, played the Jem'Hadar Second who kept getting into it with Worf. Thompson played a Dosi in season two's "Rules of Acquisition" and appeared on TNG and Enterprise. Outside of Trek, he played two different Buffy the Vampire Slayer villains, the recurring alien bounty hunter on The X-Files, and, perhaps most importantly, one of the German dudes in Three Amigos!.
13. "In Purgatory's Shadow" - Season 5, Episode 14 (2/10/97)
"Stay here if that's what you want! Stay here and be damned!" - Gul Dukat
As pure two-parters go, "In Purgatory's Shadow" and "By Inferno's Light" may stand as the finest duo in Trek's history. (Yes, they may even eclipse the mighty "The Best of Both Worlds" from TNG.) As I wrote about season six's "Favor the Bold", this episode serves as the appetizer for the thunder that's following in Part Two, but it's still a damn good appetizer. Similar to how "Improbable Cause" succeeded both as the first half of a larger story and as an episode on its own, the (actually, truly) shocking reveal of Bashir in the prison camp at the end puts a nice bow on this outing and makes you salivate for the next one. Along the way, we get some excellent banter between the under-utilized Worf/Garak pairing, some nice character drama between Garak and Tain, some wonderfully testy (and portentous) scenes featuring Dukat, and the revelation that both Tain and General Martok are still alive (the former if only for a while). The show had been teasing the Dominion War for ages by this point, but the teasing was about to stop.
Trivial Note - The prison storyline in this two-parter initially involved the recently captured Michael Eddington ("For the Uniform" directly preceded this episode). The writers were unable to crack that storyline, so his next appearance was shuffled down to "Blaze of Glory" while the prison break aspects were fobbed off onto Garak, Worf, Bashir, and Martok in "By Inferno's Light". Also, the revolving door of Ziyals finally stops with this episode. Cyia Batten played the character in season four's "Indiscretion" and "Return to Grace", with Tracy Middendorf taking over later that season in "For the Cause". Melanie Smith debuts in the role in this episode, and portrays the character in all subsequent appearances. Different reasons were given for the recasting, but the most likely (and practical) was the sense that the prior actresses didn't come off as believable love interests for Garak due to their age.
12. "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River" - Season 7, Episode 6 (11/4/98)
"Tell me I haven't failed...that I've served you well." - Weyoun-6
The most evocatively titled DS9 episode, "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River" continues the series' generally impressive dialogue on matters of faith from a non-Human perspective. Jeffrey Combs was a treasure on this show (and in the franchise in general), and the series gives him a real showcase episode in its final season. A "defective" clone, Weyoun-6, attempts to defect to the Federation, but is pursued by the agents of his successor, the more typically loathsome Weyoun-7. Along the way, we get what passes for the Vorta creation myth, several nice sequences between Weyoun-6 and Odo, and a major revelation about the Founders. All of this is run through the standard Vorta-worship-of-Changelings filter, complete with Odo's deep reluctance to take on the role of someone's god. Juxtapose that with the much lighter B-story, yet another of Nog's wheeling-and-dealing schemes, this time in search of a missing part for the Defiant. While it may come off as fluff to counterbalance the heavy stuff going on in the A-plot, this storyline features the first truly serious examination of why the Ferengi are the way they are. We'd heard about some of their religious concepts before - the Divine Treasury, the Blessed Exchequer, the Vault of Eternal Destitution - but these were always presented in a comic way, as money-based stand-ins for Heaven, Hell, and so on. The Great Material Continuum (or the Great River) isn't an entirely original idea, but it does give the Ferengi a much less despicable background for their mercantile nature while not seeming like a jokey riff on something that commonly exists in many religions. Beyond these socio-theological concerns, the episode is well-acted by it's four main leads - Combs pulling double duty as two very different Weyouns, Rene Auberjonois as an even more uncomfortable than usual Odo, Colm Meaney as an exasperated O'Brien, and Aron Eisenberg as a philosophically scheming Nog - and it stands as yet another fine example of the series attempting to understand its aliens on their own terms.
Trivial Note - Odo and Weyoun-6's runabout is the Rio Grande, which means Big River or Great River in Spanish. The Cardassian contact Odo thinks he's meeting in the beginning is likely to be the same unseen informant he met with in season three's "Improbable Cause", though the episode never confirms it. Jeffrey Combs compared the different Weyouns to different slices of the same pepperoni pizza. Coincidentally, Weyoun-6 attempts to eat a slice of pepperoni pizza (with chopsticks) in the episode. The morphogenic virus (which we later find out was manufactured by Section 31) makes its debut in this episode. At this point, there weren't any plans for Odo to suffer from it, but those plans changed. The writers also felt that Odo's reluctant acceptance of his godly status in Weyoun-6's eyes sowed the seeds for his return to the Great Link in the series finale. This is also the first time we see an overt display of irritation from Damar over the losses the Cardassians had incurred in the war. It definitely wouldn't be the last.
11. "Sacrifice of Angels" - Season 6, Episode 6 (11/3/97)
"I forgive you, too..." - Gul Dukat
Series finale aside, this is probably the grandest episode of the series (and arguably of any Trek show). The picture above is from the instant the giant space battle in the episode begins, and it's probably still the finest space battle in Trek history. If that's all there was to the episode, it might be enough, but the story is packed with subplots that had been simmering for five episodes. Quark's growing dissatisfaction with Dominion rule, Rom's new-found heroic nature, Kira's resistance, Odo's temptation to rejoin the Great Link, Damar's growing suspicion of Ziyal, Dukat's overconfidence, the intervention of the Klingons, and a surprising and satisfying appearance from the Prophets all come to a head in this episode, and the results are a near-symphony. As far as the deus ex machina ending goes (where the Prophets banish the Dominion reinforcements to the land of wind and ghosts), I think it's completely earned. It literally is a deus ex machina, by definition, but it isn't one in the sense of the negative connotation that phrase usually carries. Sisko's points during his rant at them in the wormhole are completely logical and valid, and it would make little narrative sense for them to just not care about the war at all, seeing as how they went to all this trouble to keep Sisko on the path of the Emissary. I see it as a series using all of its narrative abilities to create a compelling, large-scale tapestry of a story, one that complements both what came before and what would come after.
Trivial Note - Several things here - Bashir and O'Brien quote "The Charge of the Light Brigade" before the fighting commences. The penance the Prophets exact on Sisko in exchange for their help in the battle comes to pass in the series finale, as does the Female Changeling's prediction that Odo would rejoin the Great Link in time. The Prophets refer to "the game" when talking with Sisko, which continues the baseball metaphor he used in the pilot episode. Their demand for a penance was based off the Biblical story of Moses, fated to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land but punished by not being allowed entry. The writers also once again riffed on The Searchers with this plot turn, basing it off John Wayne's character's fate in that film. Dukat's strategy of intentionally opening a hole in the battle line, only to envelop any ships that tried to take advantage was based off a tactic the great Carthaginian general Hannibal used against the Romans. And of course, Sisko gets the baseball back that he left on the station in "Call to Arms". That baseball is really what won the war.
10. "Necessary Evil" - Season 2, Episode 8 (11/14/93)
"Will you ever be able to trust me in the same way again?" - Maj. Kira Nerys
My favorite episode of the show's early years (basically its first three seasons), "Necessary Evil" quietly establishes several key elements of the series. This is our first chance to see what Terok Nor was like during the Occupation, and it paints a suitably bleak portrait of the time period. We'd heard about the casual Cardassian brutality of the era from multiple characters, but seeing it is important for the viewer. This is also our first chance to see just how Odo came to be the station's security chief without becoming an object of scorn to the Bajorans. This backstory is key to understanding the character, and it's nice to see his first meetings with both Kira and Quark. For her part, Kira's arc in the episode is an absolutely pivotal one for the character. The show doesn't shy away from the rough edges her past life as a freedom fighting terrorist required, and this episode is the tip of that iceberg. Without the morally murky ending, this episode fails. Again, the show does a great job at understanding its characters on their own terms, not our terms. Kira shouldn't and wouldn't have to apologize for her past, as she felt what she did was an absolute necessity. Lying to Odo muddied the waters for her, but it doesn't change her feelings about her actions. We have all that to chew on, but just as important is the episode's presentation of Dukat. We'd seen him a few times before, but his full presence wasn't felt until the flashback portions of this outing, as we finally see every ounce of his strutting, oily charisma. It's another crucial development for a major character in an episode chock full of them.
Trivial Note - The episode deliberately attempts to cultivate a film noir feel, as it apes the style of the Mike Hammer novels Odo had begun reading on O'Brien's recommendation. Odo continues to read them off and on throughout the series. We also see him pull the classic Columbo "Just one more thing..." trick. This episode's writer Peter Allan Fields also wrote for that series. We find out that it's Kira who first applied the term "Constable" to Odo, even though prior episodes seemed to indicate it somehow came from Starfleet. This episode also features the first hint that Rom is smarter than he lets on, at least in mechanical and engineering matters.
9. "The Way of the Warrior" - Season 4, Episodes 1 and 2 (10/2/95)
"A Starfleet officer. That's what I am, and that's what I'll always be." - Capt. Ben Sisko
This is such a kickass episode. The producers of the show were instructed to shake things up by the Paramount brass between seasons three and four, and that shakeup came in the form of a sudden influx of Klingons. Considering how out of left field this plot turn is, especially since three of the third season's later episodes really worked hard to establish the Dominion as the show's major antagonists, the cast and crew pull it off especially well. While the other two hour presentations (the pilot and the series finale) don't maintain their momentum from front-to-back, this one roars all the way through its runtime. We get the introduction of Worf to the series, which wasn't necessary but definitely added to the show's deep bench of awesome characters, as well as a whole new status quo going forward. This may ultimately be a stall to where the series was originally headed (for about a year and a half, the Cardassians are good guys and the Klingons are bad guys before dramatically switching places halfway through season five), but the arrival of the Klingons on the scene injects the series with a certain verve that maybe we didn't know it was lacking. Plus, through all of this, Garak and Quark find the time to have one of Trek's all-time greatest conversations, which is generally referred to as the "root beer" scene. It's a wonderful piece of writing and acting that shines as one of the clearest examples of how this series took the time to explore different viewpoints, with two morally questionable, yet fascinating outsider characters casting some of the franchise's major powers, especially the Federation, in a different light.
Trivial Note - The root beer scene was added to the episode to fill out its running time, but was then almost cut for time anyway. Writer/producer Ronald Moore (not a credited writer for this outing) fought for the scene, as he felt it was the best sequence in the episode. The Klingon attack on the station was the largest battle sequence in Trek history to that point, topping the battle in "The Die Is Cast". It would be re-topped in "Sacrifice of Angels". Sisko's new look, shaved head and goatee, is how he looks for the remainder of the series, and with it seems to come a new assertiveness that becomes essential to the character going forward. And, of course, we find out that the Martok we're introduced to in this episode was a Changeling impostor in season five's "In Purgatory's Shadow".
8. "It's Only a Paper Moon" - Season 7, Episode 10 (12/30/98)
"Look kid, I don't know what's going to happen to you out there. All I can tell you is that you've got to play the cards life deals you. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but at least you're in the game." - Vic Fontaine
Hated by some and loved by others, Vic Fontaine is one of the show's most polarizing elements, but this episode should remove any doubt about his place in the show's fabric. Vic and his nightclub are such a disarming way to address Nog's trauma that the show's heaviness is able to sneak up on you a little bit. Sure, you can tell as soon as Nog walks back onto the station that this episode is going to be serious, but the Vic scenes seem to counterbalance it, for a while at least. This makes the big conversation between the two at the end just hit harder, as a character the audience has no real investment in suddenly becomes a powerful influence on a character the audience has every investment in. Aron Eisenberg's performance as Nog is spectacular and is a culmination of the great work he had done with the character from the outset. I don't know if I can confidently say who the show's best character is, but Nog is definitely in that discussion. His story arc covers as much ground as anybody's, as he goes from snotty kid to grizzled war veteran over the course of seven years. This episode is the most pivotal stop on that journey, as the show somehow combines a space war, a traditionally greedy alien race, and a holographic lounge singer into a story that's one the most potent post-traumatic stress disorder tales you'll ever see on television.
Trivial Note - This episode was originally a multi-plot piece that featured several story threads running through Quark's bar. Over time, the setting was changed to Vic's club, and the Nog PTSD plot became one of the storylines that would take place there. The others were to be more humorous in tone, but Nog's tale became so heavy and dramatic that the others had to be cut out of the story entirely, lest the show have another episode like season three's tonally jarring "Life Support". After the episode aired, Aron Eisenberg reported being contacted by multiple war veterans who complimented him on the accuracy of his performance. The episode also makes an overt mention of The Searchers, the classic Western that had influenced a couple of the show's plotlines.
7. "By Inferno's Light" - Season 5, Episode 15 (2/17/97)
"Cardassia will be made whole. All that we have lost will be ours again, and anyone who stands in our way will be destroyed." - Gul Dukat
After a tremendous set-up from "In Purgatory's Shadow", this episode drives all the hanging plot threads home with a flourish. You can quibble, perhaps, with a few things (Why did the Dominion leave the runabout operational? Why didn't they just kill their prisoners in the first place?), but the plot turns and character beats in this episode are strong across the board. Worf's gladiator-style combat with the Jem'Hadar, Garak's struggle with claustrophobia, Dukat's betrayal, the Bashir Changeling's plot, and the whole battle fake out at the end all flow briskly into one another, leaving us with one of the show's most impactful episodes from a plot standpoint and a nice character piece. As I've mentioned before, I don't care that much for the evil path Dukat takes in the middle of season six, but his shenanigans here stand as one of the series' strongest character turns. If you were paying close attention, you could see this brewing in his head (not the Dominion alliance per se, but a desperation to return Cardassia to its prior heights). Throw in the return of the Federation-Klingon alliance, and the story creates a ton of forward momentum for the show. I also really enjoy the prison break storyline, with the actual prison break itself being a tidy, well composed action sequence. Remember, never turn your back on a Breen (something the main characters all seem to forget in season seven). All told, this (along with "Call to Arms" and "Sacrifice of Angels") is DS9 at its most symphonic, as it takes most of the pieces on its chessboard and moves them forward in satisfying ways.
Trivial Note - The riff on The Great Escape that was originally developed to be a Michael Eddington story was mostly applied to this episode, with Garak taking on the Charles Bronson role. Andrew Robinson is actually claustrophobic, so filming those scenes was very difficult for him. Writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe based much of his depiction of Cardassia on Germany, with parallels to the World War I-era Kaiser-led Germany (Cardassia prior to the events of "The Die Is Cast"), the Weimar Republic that poorly managed the country after WWI and before Hitler's rise to power (the Detapa Council, a civilian government which ran Cardassia between the destruction of the Obsidian Order and Dukat's power play in this episode), and the Third Reich (Dukat's move of allying with the Dominion). Also note Dukat's use of the term "alliance" with the Dominion, which is a view of the arrangement the Dominion won't share going forward. One of Sisko's predictions from "Rapture" metaphorically comes true in this episode, with the locusts (Jem'Hadar fleet) pausing over Bajor, then moving on to Cardassia (as allies). Luther Sloan questions Bashir about the convenience of the Dominion leaving Worf and Garak's runabout in orbit, but this colossally stupid decision is never explained (and let's face it, it can't be).
6. "Trials and Tribble-ations" - Season 5, Episode 6 (11/4/96)
"Before I leave I just want to say, it's been an honor serving with you, sir." - Capt. Ben Sisko
For a show that was so often accused of straying too far from Gene Roddenberry's vision for the franchise, DS9 sure did manage to craft the finest love letter to Roddenberry's original creation of them all (and there have been multiple attempts from both inside and outside the franchise). It was certainly risky to take an episode as beloved as "The Trouble with Tribbles" and use it in such a fashion, especially with the limitations of a TV budget and 90's technology, but the production team really knocked this episode out of the park. Every element works, from Dax's fanboy squee-ing, to Bashir and O'Brien getting caught up in the original episode's bar fight, to Worf and Odo's banter, to the humorless Temporal Investigations guys, to the exquisite production design. That last part may be the real MVP of the whole thing, as the crew packs as many easter eggs as possible into the episode without completely overwhelming it. The mixture of DS9's more muted vision of the future and TOS's colorful, atomic age aesthetic alone makes the episode worth watching. The script works a buttload of winking references in, too, while still managing to tell a coherent story in between all the nerding out it does. From a certain viewpoint, this is all of Trek's finest achievement, and something only it and maybe Doctor Who could ever hope to pull off.
Trivial Note - Of all the episodes, this one easily has the most trivial factoids surrounding it. This was done to mark Trek's 30th anniversary, as The Original Series began airing in 1966. Multiple other concepts were considered by the producers, but Rene Eehevarria's idea to revisit "The Trouble with Tribbles" won out over the others. In an extraordinary coincidence, members of the writing staff were at a pizza joint discussing casting options for the episode, when Charlie Brill, who played the Klingon spy Darvin in the original episode, happened to walk in to pick up an order. Ira Steven Behr approached him and was pleased by Brill's enthusiastic response to the episode's concept. Tremendous effort went into the set design and image compositing that was required for all this to work. I won't even start listing off any of the easter eggs in the episode, as there are too many to count, but Worf's response when questioned about the other Klingons' appearance is my favorite bit of Trek nerdiness in the story. Enterprise would actually combine O'Brien and Bashir's suggestions for the change in Klingon appearance for the official explanation given in that show's fourth season. Also, the scene with Sisko and Kirk at the end was taken from "Mirror, Mirror" instead of "The Trouble with Tribbles". Lastly, the names of the two Temporal Investigations agents (Dulmur and Lucsly) are near anagrams of Mulder and Scully, of X-Files fame.
5. "Rocks and Shoals" - Season 6, Episode 2 (10/6/97)
"It is not my life to give up, Captain, and it never was." - Third Remata'Klan
Episodes like this one run throughout the series, with "Hippocratic Oath", "To the Death", and "The Ship" all serving as excellent examples of stories with similar themes. This is the best of the bunch, though, for both subtle and obvious reasons. The casting of the guest actors here is perfect, especially the jarring dissonance between Phil Morris' noble Jem'Hadar Remata'Klan and Christopher Shea's especially wormy Vorta Keevan. Avery Brooks is also excellent, and his interactions with Morris are uniformly tremendous. From this point on, we don't really get anymore of the Jem'Hadar as real characters (with the possible exception of "One Little Ship", which isn't good), and that's a shame. Every episode that had presented them as such was excellent, with no exceptions. The other element that separates this one from the pack is the B-story that takes place on the station. It's just as strong as the A-story, and in concert, they may serve as the finest pair of storylines in any one episode of the series. Kira could easily be argued as the character closest to the series' heart, and both the subtle and overt ways she's basically been assimilated into the Cardassian-Dominion routine are wonderfully presented, as is the jarring moment that snaps her out of it. Every one of the top six episodes on this list could be argued as the series' finest without any gripes from me, and this one may be the most quietly powerful of them all.
Trivial Note - This episode was difficult to write because the location filming required it to be shot after "Sons and Daughters", but air before it. Getting the story straight for the Terok Nor scenes in both episodes was very difficult. More difficult was the location shoot, which saw the production return to Soledad Canyon for the final time. This was the hottest and least hospitable of all their trips there, with time literally running out on the crew before a scripted scene with Worf rescuing the survivors could be filmed. The ending closeup shot of Sisko was forced to be the final shot, but after seeing it, everyone involved with the episode ended up loving it. Writer Ronald Moore didn't know exactly what the phrase "rocks and shoals" referred to when he chose the title, but he knew of the phrase and thought it sounded appropriate. The phrase was the informal name for the U.S. Navy's former code of justice, which involved the use of very harsh, old-school methods of punishment often traditionally associated with navies. This code of justice is no longer in use.
4. "Call to Arms" - Season 5, Episode 26 (6/16/97)
"He's letting me know...he'll be back." - Gul Dukat
Similar to "By Inferno's Light", "Call to Arms" is a symphony from the series. Several seemingly disparate elements are all marshaled together into one epic, sweeping season finale, which like any great episode, feels like both a complete tale of its own and a teaser for what's to come. What's to come in this case would be the six-part "Re-Taking Deep Space Nine" story arc that kicked off season six, but all the greatness that's too be found there could only happen as a result of the greatness found here. We get a stirring battle sequence (which the good guys technically lose), some wonderful character moments, some legitimate comedy (much of which comes from Rom), and some romance. This was an episode where the show used every club in its bag effectively (which wouldn't always happen with such episodes), and the ending lets the audience know that it's about to see something on a scale that Star Trek had never operated on before. After literally years of teases, the Dominion War was finally here.
Trivial Note - Sisko's baseball plays its most prominent role here, as the Captain makes sure to leave it behind for Dukat to find. Dukat's no fool, so he knows exactly what Sisko meant with this maneuver (and he keeps the ball with him for the entirety of the following story arc). After everything we see in this outing, a baseball may be the important thing in it, narratively speaking. (That's amazing to me.) Rom's spazzy moment where he alternately frets over his impending wedding and comes up with the technical innovation that keeps the Federation from losing the war is perhaps Max Grodenchik's finest moment. Also, never forget how important Rom proved to be to the war effort. Without him, the entire Alpha Quadrant is conquered, literally. The second of Sisko's predictions from "Rapture" comes to pass, as Bajor's non-aligned status keeps it from being attacked in this episode. This is also the first time we see Weyoun directly overrule Dukat, a clear indicator of how the Founders and the Vorta feel about Cardassia. This, like Rom's efforts in this episode, proves to be extremely critical. The famous final shot of the fleet was mirrored by the opening shot of "A Time to Stand", the season six premiere, except that in that episode, the fleet has just had its ass kicked.
3. "Far Beyond the Stars" - Season 6, Episode 13 (11/11/98)
"For all we know, at this very moment, somewhere far beyond those distant stars, Benny Russell is dreaming of us." - Capt. Ben Sisko
Words really can't fully explain the importance of this episode, but I guess I'll try. Star Trek has always prided itself on representation. No, the franchise's record in this area isn't at all perfect, but the successes still outweigh the failures. Casting an African-American to play Sisko was a big move for DS9. We'd seen different cultures represented on the previous two shows, but to put a person of color front-and-center was a whole 'nother thing entirely. Slowly, as the show went on, Sisko's racial identity began to inform the character more (Jake's, too). That culminates in this mid-season six episode, which was directed by Avery Brooks. In a different context, the show once again calls back to the pulpy post-WWII era of science fiction that so heavily informed season four's "Little Green Men". The difference here is that the episode tells a story about the creators of those imaginary worlds, not the worlds themselves. Each of the writers in Benny's office, including Benny himself, are variations on real science fiction authors of the 50's and 60's (sometimes more than one). And the world depicted in the 50's-set sequences is very much in keeping the real world of that time, a period of tremendous strife for certain segments of society but also a period of boundless imagination as to what the future might bring. So much of science fiction even today is still informed by this particular era of history. Against this backdrop, we see a remarkably imaginative story that simultaneously functions as a paean to old-school science fiction, a harsh and realistic depiction of the intolerance of the era, and a stirring epic about one man's indomitable spirit. For those who believe Brooks goes too far over-the-top during his big meltdown at the end, I say, "Shut up." This is a story that doesn't require subtlety. It's a story that's supposed to hit you like a freight train exactly because it doesn't shy away from what society was at this time (and for many people, still is). This is a beautiful episode, and one that is really, truly unique, not just for Star Trek, but for television as a whole.
Trivial Note - Again, there are far too many factoids to list. I strongly recommend looking into this episode (and "Trials and Tribble-ations") further. Anyway, the Benny Russell character is based on African-American sci-fi author Samuel Delany, whose career really took off in the 60's. Kira's analogue Kay Eaton is a composite of Catherine Moore and D.C. Fontana, both of whom were women who published stories under their initials to hide their gender from their readers. O'Brien's Albert Macklin is a spin on the legendary Isaac Asimov. Quark's Herbert Rossoff is based on the notoriously prickly Harlan Ellison. Bashir's Julius Eaton is a riff on Henry Kuttner, and Odo's Douglas Pabst is a take on the famed writer/editor John W. Campbell. Campbell really did tell Delany that the audience wasn't ready for a Black protagonist in the late 60's, and Asimov's first novel was picked up by a publisher in almost exactly the same way Macklin's is in this episode. The magazine they write for in the story is fictional, but the magazine Russell buys in the intro was real, Galaxy Magazine, at which several prominent authors got their start. In addition, Worf's Willie Hawkins character is based on Willie Mays (who may be the greatest ballplayer of all time), and many of the things said about the Giants were true of the 1953 version of the team. The building they work in is the Trill building, a dual reference to both Dax's species and the Brill Building in New York, which was better known for housing famous songwriters. There are also tons of in-references to Trek throughout.
2. "In the Pale Moonlight" - Season 6, Episode 19 (4/15/98)
"Garak was right about one thing - a guilty conscience is a small price to pay for the safety of the Alpha Quadrant." - Capt. Ben Sisko
This episode stands as both one of Trek's finest moments and the perhaps the exact instant Gene Roddenberry's ideal vision of the future died. The story utilizes the normally hacky flashback narration structure to watch a man slowly compromise himself and everything he stands for and then try to make sense of it all after the fact. It's that last part that really makes the episode sing, and it's also why the flashback structure suits the episode so well. Sisko's plan to get the Romulans to enter the war slowly pulls him down deeper into the muck in such a way that he doesn't even realize it until it's too late. When Garak chides him at the end about the true nature of their plot, Sisko is forced to realize that while he managed to maintain some air of plausible deniability about the whole thing, deep down inside he knew what he was getting into and the kinds of people he was getting involved with. It's a stunning performance from Avery Brooks, and in many ways, this was the episode "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" didn't quite manage to be. Here we see Garak used to his fullest potential, while we also see one of our heroes (and really THE hero of the story) actually get this hands dirty in a way most series avoid. There's intrigue and suspense to burn, but the real drama is inside Sisko's head as he records that log entry, trying to come to grips with what he had just done. He's telling us he can live with it, but who's he trying to convince?
Trivial Note - The title comes from the famous line in Tim Burton's Batman, which both The Joker and Batman say to one another. Jake was to be the main character in multiple earlier versions of the story, but uncredited teleplay writer Ronald Moore decided to drop his role in the story as he didn't want to try and break the Siskos' bond. The use of Betazed as the planet that falls to the Dominion, finally pushing Sisko past the point of no return, is crucial. Vulcan was originally to be the planet in question, but the producers felt it would be too weighty to have Vulcan fall, so Betazed was chosen instead, due to its familiarity to viewers of The Next Generation. Sisko's line about being able to "live with it" at the end was inspired by The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. It also gives this list its title.
1. "The Visitor" - Season 4, Episode 3 (10/9/95)
"To my father, who's coming home..." - Jake Sisko
This is probably my favorite episode of any TV show (even if I probably wouldn't consider DS9 to be my favorite series full-stop). It doesn't have the epic sweep of "Call to Arms" or "Sacrifice of Angels", it doesn't feature the trenchant social commentary of "Far Beyond the Stars", nor does it feature the great ethical questions of "In the Pale Moonlight" or "For the Uniform". What it does feature is a deceptively simple story of the bond between a father and a son. Cirroc Lofton, Tony Todd, and Avery Brooks are all magnificent here, as the series builds upon the three-plus years it had put in establishing the warmth of the Siskos' relationship. The subtle alterations in the dynamics of their encounters throughout the episode are an excellent feat of writing, acting, and directing, as it's the ease with which Jake slips from productive and successful author to obsessed loner that propels the story without ever allowing it to slide into melodrama. There are just little touches here and there that reinforce what we're seeing (Sisko's face when he appears for the final time, his super cute desire for grandkids, the way Tony Todd plays the revelatory scene at the end, Avery Brooks hitting the right amount of desperation in the "Promise me!" scene). It's a universal story, but it's told in a way only Star Trek could tell it, using just the right amount of Trek's particular brand of technobabbly futurism to make it feel both uniquely like a Trek show and like a story that just about anyone anywhere should be able to appreciate. As far as DS9 is concerned, stories like this are what set it apart from the rest of the franchise. Allowing Sisko to be a family man (no other Captain is in the other Treks) provided the series with the kind of emotional stakes the other shows just don't quite have, which is just one of the ways in which this one is the best.
Trivial Note - The main inspiration for the framing story was an incident where the ever-reclusive J.D. Salinger gave an interview to a high school student who simply showed up at his house. Melanie, Jake's fan, was played Andrew Robinson's daughter, Rachel. Robinson played Garak in the series, but didn't appear in this outing. Sisko's "death" in this episode, where he's essentially pulled out of linear time, is similar to his "death" in the series finale. In both instances, the series features a shot of Jake looking longingly out a Promenade window with Kira at his side, but the perspectives of the two shots are reversed. The one in the series finale is the final shot of the series. This episode also predicts a future where several terrible things do not happen. The Dominion War doesn't occur in this timeline, at least not within the next fifty or so years after the series' primary time period ends, which means Jadzia doesn't die fighting in it. The Klingons do however take control of the station and hold onto it for several decades, which indicates that the alliance between the Federation and the Empire does not heal after the events of "The Way of the Warrior". It also means that Bajor doesn't have any chance of joining the Federation anytime soon. The presentation of the bad things in this future was obviously intentional, but the dodging of the Dominion War and Jadzia's death was unintentional, particularly the Dax thing, since there were no plans for her to be killed off at this point.
Well, that's it. I didn't plan for it to happen, but coincidentally the new Star Trek film, Star Trek Beyond, opens tomorrow, so go see it. I didn't like the last two movies either, but this one looks like it'll be better. Obviously, rest in peace Anton Yelchin, who passed away while I was writing this mammoth. That was a real tragedy.
I want to thank everyone who read this thing, or even part of it. I hope you'll take the time to comment on the list. I'd love to read your thoughts on the show, the list, or both. I also want to acknowledge several invaluable resources. Memory Alpha contains almost everything you'd ever want to know about Trek, so visit it if you're at all interested in the franchise. Many of those factoids I didn't have time to include in the list can be found there. Keith R.A. DeCandido's rewatch reviews of the series for Tor are also wonderful, so I suggest hitting those up. I think they have them for all of the series; I know they do for the first three shows, which are the three best, anyway. Otherwise, I'm glad to have had a chance to write this, so thanks to Jeff at Atlanta Classic Comics for giving me the platform. As always, the Great River pushes you to Atlanta Classic Comics on eBay, where any kind of cool, geeky science fiction, fantasy, or comic book material you want, the River will provide. I'll be writing something else for the site soon, though probably not as intense as this. Anyway, thanks for indulging me...
Computer, erase that entire personal log...
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...
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 DS9, Voyager, 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.
by The Octopus Man
...And we're back. I hope you enjoyed Part I, because Part II's gonna be more of the same, just extra awesome. The episodes get better and better, and I don't know about of some of our international customers/readers, but we Americans have a hard time resisting lists. I'm not sure why - maybe we're just obsessed with being number one/finding out who is number one/various number one related things. Now that the underlying sociological purpose of this list has been examined, let's get to it.
Again, we're counting up a total of 173 episodes. 176 episodes of the show were produced, with three (or six, depending on how you want to look at it) aired as a two-hour presentation. Basically, if you stream the show on Netflix or wherever, it'll come in 173 episodes. I split the true two-parters (two episodes that air on different nights) into two because I feel like each one should be able to stand as its own episode, but the two-hour episodes weren't intended to be split, so I won't split them. There, got all that? No? Doesn't matter, we're rolling...
138. "Q-Less" - Season 1, Episode 7 (2/7/93)
"You hit me?! Picard never hit me!" - Q
First things first, Q should've kept that mustache (or moustache, as one that old-timey deserves the original spelling). Now that that's out in the open, this is otherwise a largely dopey episode. The plot's resolution is pretty much the exact same as the resolution to The Next Generation's pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint". Also, while I enjoy Q, he didn't fit here as well as he did on TNG (more on this below). Strangely, the TNG holdover who fares better here is Vash, Capt. Picard's former love interest from two episodes of that show who went off with Q at the end of her second appearance. She returns to the Alpha Quadrant in this episode, and her easy amorality seemed to fit better with this cast of characters. And, of course, the main draw to the episode is the encounter between Sisko and Q that both the picture and quote above are taken from. It's a classic Sisko moment.
Trivial Note - As alluded to above, Q and Vash were originally planned to be recurring characters on this series. After this episode, the producers agreed that Q wasn't the best fit with this cast, so he continued his appearances on TNG and then moved over to Voyager for a few guest spots there. Vash, however, was expected to return in season two, but, for whatever reason, those plans never came to fruition.
137. "Cardassians" - Season 2, Episode 5 (10/24/93)
"On Cardassia, family is everything. We care for our parents and children with equal devotion. In some households, four generations eat at the same table. Family...is everything." - Kotan Pa'Dar
This episode always felt like a bit of missed opportunity to me. It featured two solid storylines that flow organically, unlike some other entries here towards the bottom of the list. I guess the main issue I have is perhaps the two stories don't leave enough room for one another. I love the Garak/Bashir pairing as much as anyone, but this is an episode (maybe the only one) where I wish the other story was given more room to breathe. The show found its early voice when it picked at the relations between Bajor and Cardassia post-Occupation, and the story of the Cardassian children left behind on Bajor after the Occupation ended had all the makings of a classic Star Trek ethical test. Instead, the Garak/Bashir road show pushes the story too far to the side, and its resolution is yadda yadda'd over in the outro, with little real weight given to it.
Trivial Note - Garak only appeared in one episode in season one, "Past Prologue". The character was well-received by the audience and the producers, but no one thought to bring actor Andrew Robinson back before the season ended. This episode intended to rectify that oversight, as the character is beefed up, with his animosity towards Gul Dukat established and more of his mysterious backstory alluded to. Robinson appears as Garak in multiple episodes of every other season of the show.
136. "Body Parts" - Season 4, Episode 25 (6/10/96)
"It took me my whole life, but I'm gonna die a winner." - Quark
In a similar vein to "Ferengi Love Songs", this is a Ferengi episode with strong elements that don't quite cohere into a whole (which is oddly coincidental since this episode features a plot turn that that episode resolves). I say this largely ignoring the Kira/O'Brien baby plot, which is entirely unrelated to the Ferengi shenanigans here (more on that below). There are solid set pieces in Quark's A-story, like his odd glee at the idea of dying and being sold for such a huge profit at the beginning, his fussiness with Garak over how he should be killed, and the whole sequence that features Rom actor Max Grodenchik as the original Grand Nagus. But, I just don't think the story quite gets there.
Trivial Note - Nana Visitor (Kira) had become pregnant a few weeks before this episode (she and Alexander Siddig, who plays Bashir, were in a relationship at this time). She had largely been sidelined in the prior two episodes for plot reasons (not sure if this was related to her condition or a coincidence), but here the producers decide to come up with a way to write her pregnancy into the story. Considering its unexpected nature, the show does a pretty solid job of working this development into the series. It's resolved in season five's "The Begotten".
135. "Field of Fire" - Season 7, Episode 13 (2/10/99)
"If you want to know the answer, pull the trigger." - Joran Dax
Remember in Part I when I said Joran Dax returned in "Field of Fire" and was basically just a butthole? Yeah, that. This episode has a nice sense of style, and features some shots and set pieces (especially the big confrontation at the end) that seem almost Hitchcock-ian. So, those are the good things. That the episode relies heavily on the interplay between Ezri and Joran is the main failing. I mentioned in the "Equilibrium" entry that Joran is different every time you see him, and this version is the worst. The Hannibal Lecter-role the script wants Joran to slide into is undercut by him being written and played as an irritating jerkwad, as opposed to an intriguing monster. This major issue aside, the episode succeeds at tension, and the use of a old-school projectile weapon in Star Trek is an oddly welcome addition.
Trivial Note - The scripting boondoggle that was "Prodigal Daughter" tied up three of the show's writers, with two others working on "The Emperor's New Cloak". Those were the two episodes immediately prior to this one, with "Chimera", the next episode, also being prepared for filming. This strain on the writing staff led the show to reach out to Robert Hewitt Wolfe, who wrote this as a freelancer. Wolfe had been a major part of the writers room in the first five seasons, but left to work on Andromeda before season six. He had a sizable role in the development of several of the show's major plotlines.
134. "Dramatis Personae" - Season 1, Episode 18 (5/30/93)
"Just remember who your friends are." - Maj. Kira Nerys
This is another sort-of odd season one entry. This is the one where the crew ends up playing out a mutiny that occurred on a ship from the Gamma Quadrant long ago. The self-contained plot and the weird, science fiction-y explanation for said plot are both hallmarks of the prior two Trek series, but this episode feels a little more rooted in DS9's identity than other, similar season one outings. The alliance between Sisko and Kira really was uneasy early in season one, and the alliance between the Federation and Bajor becomes very uneasy at the start of season two. Plus, the medical emergency with Odo functions as both part of the plot and a bit of misdirection. I don't know if this episode would've have more impact if it had come earlier or later in the show's run, or if perhaps this was the perfect time for it.
Trivial Note - Kira's demeanor as the mutinous first officer is very similar to the ruthless, scheming, sexual predator vibe Nana Visitor cultivates as the Intendant, the Mirror Universe version of Kira we meet in season two's "Crossover" (and who appears in every MU episode thereafter). Perhaps this episode could be viewed as a dry run for that character.
133. "The Sound of Her Voice" - Season 6, Episode 25 (6/10/98)
"To Lisa, and the sweet sound of her voice..." - Chief Miles O'Brien
There are really only two major demerits for this episode. 1 - Why didn't the Defiant crew look up any biographical data on Capt. Cusak or her ship? They would've been able to figure the episode's twist ending without flying six days out of their way to find an unpleasant surprise. And 2 - O'Brien's toast at the end seems pretty out-of-the-blue. Yeah, the characters (particularly Sisko, Bashir, and O'Brien) are all a little grumpy in this episode, but this didn't seem like a huge issue throughout the season. In fact, you could argue that everyone should've been grumpier, considering the war and all. Basically, it just seems like it's there to let everyone know that someone's about to die (which happens the following week). A point in favor of the episode is Debra Wilson's work as the voice of Capt. Cusak. She made a character we never see (alive, anyway) feel like a real person. That's more than we get from several recurring characters (and some main characters) in Trek history. Wilson, by the way, is best known for appearing on MADtv for several years.
Trivial Note - Capt. Cusak's ship was returning from the Beta Quadrant before it crashed. This is one of relatively few mentions of this quadrant in Trek (as opposed to the Alpha, Gamma, and Delta Quadrants, which are all heavily featured in the franchise). This series operates under the assumption that all the major alien powers in the franchise (except the Dominion, Borg, and most of Voyager's nemeses) are located in the Alpha Quadrant. Other Trek series and books indicate that this isn't true, and that the Beta Quadrant is home to approximately half the species encountered in the franchise (and that the Federation, Romulans, and Klingons all have territory in both quadrants). I think simplifying the Dominion War as a war between single quadrants was probably a smart move, as all that Beta Quadrant stuff is a bit confusing.
132. "The Nagus" - Season 1, Episode 11 (3/21/93)
"You don't grab power; you accumulate it...quietly, without anyone noticing." - Grand Nagus Zek
And here we have our very first Ferengi episode. Personally, I enjoy that the show kept up with the Ferengi episodes, though that most definitely is not the consensus view. The main thing this outing accomplishes is it demonstrates the show's desire to start filling in the blanks on some of the alien races that populate this fictional universe. I love world-building in fiction, and this series does more of it than any other Trek show, at least when it comes to rounding out races like the Ferengi, Klingons, Cardassians, Jem'Hadar, Vorta, Bajorans, and so on. Too often on other Trek shows, alien civilizations are entirely defined by one trait (usually a negative human trait) and never developed any further. That was almost never the case on DS9, and the development of the Ferengi from shrill, greedy Wall Street villains into something resembling a real society begins here, though it's done far better in later episodes.
Trivial Note - If the voice doesn't give it away (and it totally should), that's Wallace Shawn (best known as the Sicilian Vizzini in The Princess Bride) as Zek, a role he returns to six more times. Both Armin Shimerman (Quark) and Max Grodenchik (Rom) had appeared as different Ferengi on TNG, but Shawn was new to the franchise, though still a perfect casting choice. His very non-tiny bodyguard/manservant Maihar'du is played by Tiny Ron, a role he also returns to six more times. Also, this is the first time Rom acts like Rom, as he had been portrayed as a more typical Ferengi in his previous appearances.
131. "The Darkness and the Light" - Season 5, Episode 11 (1/6/97)
"Talk and lies won't help you. You're in the light, and the light reveals the truth." - Silaran
Occasional horror episodes populate most of the Trek shows, and while I'm a huge fan of horror stories, I don't know if there's really ever been a true standout Trek horror story. This one gets somewhat close, but just doesn't quite work for me. Maybe the whole thing's just a bit too neat. Maybe the plot ends up being a little too familiar for horror fans. I'm not sure. The presentation of the episode's villain, Silaran, is largely successful, though. His scarred face, his coldly crazy dialogue, and the harsh lighting in his big scene at the end are all well-worn horror tropes, but they work. Basically, and this is the case for several episodes where a Trek show tries a different genre, the story ends up being a little too pat to be truly memorable.
Trivial Note - The story for this episode was written by Bryan Fuller, who had worn down Trek's producers with a never-ending series of script submissions and pitches. This is his first career writing credit. He'd get story credit for another DS9 horror episode, "Empok Nor", then move over to Voyager and take on a bigger role there. After that, he was the creator and showrunner of Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, and Hannibal (where his horror leanings worked out better). He's now working on both American Gods (the Neil Gaiman adaptation) and the new Star Trek show, which is due to air early next year.
130. "Battle Lines" - Season 1, Episode 13 (4/25/93)
"They don't know how to do anything else but die. They've forgotten how to live." - Kai Opaka
Narratively speaking, this is a very important episode. Kai Opaka was a major part of Bajoran society both during and after the Occupation, and her departure from the Alpha Quadrant cleared the way for the Winn/Bareil rivalry in season two and Winn's general presence on the series (which is significant). Opaka was also notable in her few direct appearances, as her meeting with Sisko was a big part of the pilot and she appears again later to push Sisko further down his destined path. That she leaves her role as Kai in this episode is odd, as nothing about this planet or its people is ever mentioned again. That she's still on the planet is also never mentioned again (I hope someone remembered to bring them food or a book or something). Still, the scene with her and Kira that features in the shot above is excellent and continues the development of Kira into the show's strongest character in the early seasons.
Trivial Note - Yep, that's Jonathan Banks as the leader of the Ennis. Banks' craggy face and craggier voice are best known from Breaking Bad, where he played the infinitely badass Mike Ehrmentraut. My recent rewatch of DS9 coincided with a binge of Breaking Bad, so those two shows will always be linked in my mind. They have more in common than you might think.
129. "Empok Nor" - Season 5, Episode 24 (5/19/97)
"Lately, I've noticed everyone seems to trust me. It's quite unnerving; I'm still trying to get used to it. Next thing I know, people are going to be inviting me to their homes for dinner." - Elim Garak
And here's the other Bryan Fuller episode. As with "The Darkness and the Light", this is a horror story, and again, it doesn't entirely work. What does work, though, is the directorial style. "The Darkness and the Light" had its moments, but director Mike Vejar really does well with this one. The Deep Space Nine station model is basically just tilted to create the Empok Nor establishing shots (the two stations are supposed to be identical in design), and that super cheap and practical effect works extremely well in this episode and the two others that feature this setting. Also, Vejar gives the story a real haunted house vibe, which is helped along by the gray, gloomy Cardassian architecture. The main issue I have is the sense that you knew all the randos were going to eat it, but that O'Brien, Garak, and Nog were never in danger. That greatly lessons the episode's suspense.
Trivial Note - The existence of Empok Nor (or any sister station of Deep Space Nine) was never even indirectly alluded to prior to this episode, though it isn't at all ridiculous that the Cardassians would build multiple stations from the same design (in fact, it would be ridiculous if they didn't). As mentioned above, the station appears twice more on the show, in season six's wonderful "The Magnificent Ferengi" and season seven's less wonderful "Covenant". Nog being taken hostage by Garak at the end is brought up in a bit of throwaway dialogue in season six's also wonderful "Rocks and Shoals".
128. "Shattered Mirror" - Season 4, Episode 20 (4/22/96)
"I look at Jake...and all I see...is the son that I'll never have." - Jennifer Sisko
The best part of this trip to the Mirror Universe is the banter between our newly introduced evil Regent Worf and his also-evil prisoner Garak. Frankly, there's not enough banter between regular Worf and Garak in the show, so it's nice that their gleefully villainous Mirror personas get to share so much screen time in this episode. Honestly, I could've watched a whole episode of Regent Worf's bloviating and Gul Garak's sycophantic attempts to curry his favor. The actual main story of the episode is far less interesting and involves Mirror Jennifer Sisko using Jake as a way to lure Capt. Sisko back to Mirrorland. It's not a terrible plot, but neither version of Jennifer that we see in the series is particularly memorable. Also, the Intendant spares Jake's life at the end, claiming that she'll collect on that debt from his father, which never happens.
Trivial Note - As mentioned above, Mirror Worf is introduced here. The plan for "Crossover" in season two was to have Mirror Worf be the Intendant's second-in-command, but Michael Dorn couldn't get away from filming TNG's final season. His character was replaced by Garak, which is coincidental since Worf's original character and his actual character are paired together here. Also, as is the case with most Mirror episodes, jokey references abound. The best is probably Worf's quoting of TNG's Capt. Picard, "Make it so!"
127. "The Reckoning" - Season 6, Episode 21 (4/29/98)
"The time of Reckoning is at hand. The Prophets will weep. Their sorrow will consume...the Gateway to the Temple." - Capt. Ben Sisko
Ah, the Pah-wraiths. I said we'd get into their story more, and here's our first opportunity. I probably feel a little better about their role in the show than I know many others do. DS9 embraces the concept of faith far, far more than any other iteration of Trek, and the series features multiple enlightening discussions on the topic involving both believers (Kira, Worf, eventually Sisko) and non-believers (O'Brien, Dax, Odo). The Prophets as gods, the Pah-wraiths as a holy evil, the Founders as gods, the Ferengi Great River, and the Klingon concept of honor all have a stake in the series, and much of this storytelling is rich and beautiful. Of those examples, the Pah-wraiths catch the most flak for being too one-dimensional (and uncomfortably taking up a lot of space in the series' jam-packed final arc), and maybe that's true, but they do echo many great evils that exist in religious storytelling, even if that type of tale lacks nuance. We'll continue to pick at this throughout the list. As far as this episode goes specifically, credit to director Jesus Salvador Trevino for his work with the final showdown. It looked suitably epic and gave me an odd Ghostbusters vibe, with the possessions of Kira and Jake and Kira's general look and demeanor at the end.
Trivial Note - Speaking of religious storytelling, Jake being chosen as the host for the Pah-wraith and Sisko deciding to let it play out echo similar instances of a deity asking a faithful servant to potentially sacrifice his or her own child (the Binding of Isaac in the Holy Bible/Torah probably being the most famous). When viewed with the rest of the series, Sisko putting Jake in this kind of danger seems out of character, but when viewed through the religious lens, it fits with what often happens in those tales. (Also, how you feel about this story often depends on how much stock you put in those tales, as, on a basic level, this is a horrible thing for any god to ask.) It should be noted that Jake was put in a similar position in season five's excellent "Rapture" and chose to protect his father's safety over following the will of the Prophets.
126. "Change of Heart" - Season 6, Episode 16 (3/4/98)
"I had to go back, and it did not matter what Starfleet thought or what the consequences were. She was my wife, and I could not leave her." - Lt. Cmdr. Worf
Much like "Empok Nor" or "The Sound of Her Voice", this is a pretty well-made, entertaining hour of TV that's undercut by a foundational flaw in the story. Married personnel aren't sent out on missions like the one Worf and Jadzia go on in this episode nowadays, and I don't know why that wouldn't be the case at any point in the future, even as far off as the 24th century. The possibility for a conflict of interest (which is exactly what happens here) is too great, so modern militaries don't (and haven't) allowed this to be an issue, if at all possible. It's just common sense, really. So, that's a hard fact to ignore, since we're talking about the entire central conflict of this story. Beyond that, there's good stuff. Michael Dorn and Terry Farrell were always wonderful together, and the heartbeat sequence that leads up to Worf making his final decision is nicely done. Also, it's hard not to feel a little squishy inside when Worf gives the speech that's partially quoted above to Sisko at the end. Those Klingons are nothing if not hopeless romantics. (A man died, probably horribly, because of Worf's decision, but still...romantic.)
Trivial Note - Terry Farrell, who had already decided to leave the series after season six, pushed for Worf to make the opposite decision in this episode, sacrificing Jadzia to complete the mission. Whether she felt that was the better story choice or she just wanted to go ahead and be done with the show is left for you to decide (she has explained her logic behind it as a story choice in interviews). While it's good they didn't go that route, as it would've been a difficult thing for Worf to get past as a character, it would've been a better death than the one Jadzia ends up getting. Also, the Bashir/Quark tongo B-story introduces the lousy subplot where it's revealed that they're both in love with Jadzia. This continues into season seven and just doesn't really work. They kinda both seem like creeps at times because of it.
125. "The Quickening" - Season 4, Episode 24 (5/20/96)
"But it's even more arrogant to think there isn't a cure just because you couldn't find it." - Lt. Cmdr. Jadzia Dax
Pursuant to my notion that the two horror-themed episodes just came off like OK attempts at that genre, this medical drama episode comes off like an OK attempt at this genre. The story here is fairly reminiscent of something you'd see on House or ER, and it never really breaks away from the predictability those shows often suffered from. You do get some nice drama with Bashir and the people on the planet, and this is first of a handful of incidents that begin to sour Bashir's sunny disposition, but this episode is just kind of there. If anything, it's another important, fairly early reminder of how ruthless the Dominion is.
Trivial Note - The blight is brought back up in season seven's also Bashir-focused "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges". The story resonated with much of the cast and crew as it had originally began as a more obvious AIDS-allegory, which was a major concern for society at the time the episode was produced.
124. "The Forsaken" - Season 1, Episode 17 (5/23/93)
"It looks ordinary. I've never cared to be ordinary." - Ambassador Lwaxana Troi
In contrast to some of the other episodes around here, this episode is largely ranked this high due to one sequence. That's the centerpiece scenes with Odo and Lwaxana trapped in the turbolift. The rest of the episode is pretty forgettable, but that sequence kicks off an interesting relationship between the mismatched pair. It's easy to forget how much gruffer Odo was in the show's early days, but Lwaxana's friendship with him is one of the things that helped soften the Constable a bit. As for Lwaxana herself, this episode follows up on her later appearances on The Next Generation, where instead of being merely used as broad comic relief (pun intended), she becomes an avatar for all sorts of insecurities about aging, physical appearance, and parental relations. This began in the excellent "Half a Life" on that show, and persisted in every appearance she made afterwards. The quote above is a fairly succint encapsulation of a character that started out as a tremendous irritant but became far more dignified as time went on.
Trivial Note - This episode reuses a TNG gag where Capt. Picard nervously steps off a turbolift and searches the area for Lwaxana before completely exiting the lift. That happens in the aforementioned "Half a Life", and happens again here, with Odo in the Picard role. Also, Odo establishes that his hair and general humanoid appearance are modeled after Dr. Mora, who we haven't met yet, but will in season two's "The Alternate". And, while not really a trivial note, the way Majel Barrett delivers the line where she calls the Odo "the thin beige line" cracks me up.
123. "Facets" - Season 3, Episode 25 (6/12/95)
"If you don't mind, I'd like to borrow your bodies for a few hours." - Lt. Jadzia Dax
Here's another sort-of oddball episode, at least structurally. This is the one where Jadzia undergoes a Trill ceremony where she can directly interact with all the prior Dax hosts. The B-plot is basically the first half of the episode, where all her previous hosts save Curzon inhabit Kira, O'Brien, Leeta, Quark, Bashir, and Sisko. We don't get to spend much time with any of them, although Avery Brooks definitely makes a searing impression as the host of the serial killer Joran (the most terrifying appearance of the three Jorans seen on the show). After that, the A-plot kicks in, where Curzon inhabits Odo, but really melds with him, since Odo's Changeling-nature apparently allows for such a thing. There are interesting subplots to this, one featuring the ethics of Curzon permanently melding with Odo and the other allowing for Jadzia to work through some of her bitterness toward Curzon that was established in "Playing God". This is all interesting development for Dax (singly and collectively), but the weird structure definitely makes this episode an odd watch.
Trivial Note - There is a C-plot here, which the creators probably intended to be a B-plot, but all that Dax stuff is too disjointed to really feel like one coherent story. The C-plot involves Quark rigging part of Nog's Starfleet entrance exam, so the younger Ferengi would fail. This mainly allows for a cool scene where Rom confronts Quark and continues to be awesome. The real trivial note is that Chase Masterson's Leeta is established as a recurring player here. Masterson was set to play Jake's dabo girl love interest Mardah earlier in season three, but the age difference between Masterson and Cirroc Lofton was too great. She was then given a role later in season three where she basically had one quick scene with Bashir, not really a role you would expect to recur. Circumstances here allowed for that, though, as the producers needed another woman to serve as one of Dax's female past selves, and Masterson was brought back. This is all an odd way for a character who eventually becomes First Lady of the Ferengi Alliance to get her start.
122. "Sanctuary" - Season 2, Episode 10 (11/28/93)
"You were right. Bajor is not Kentanna." - Haneek
Another early example of the importance Bajoran politics played in the early seasons, "Sanctuary" is a mid-season two episode that inverts the formula with the Bajoran storyline that we'd seen to that point. The Skrreea come through the wormhole and claim that Bajor is their sacred, original homeworld Kentanna. The success of this episode largely rests on the series steering into the idea that the Bajor that existed before the Cardassians came was gone, with a fundamentally different society left behind in the Cardassians' wake. By this point, we'd already seen plenty of Bajoran infighting, but seeing them turn away a society so similar to their own puts a different face on it. (It's notable that the Skrreea aren't the most reasonable culture, either, since Starfleet offers them a perfectly acceptable alternate solution. But what works is that it's the Skrreea's faith that pulls them to Bajor, something the Bajorans should uniquely understand, yet still reject. Everyone ends up acting logically and reasonably, not faithfully.)
Trivial Note - The Skrreea become the second Gamma Quadrant race to mention the Dominion, and the first to mention them directly to Starfleet personnel (the Dosi mentioned them to Ferengi characters a few episodes prior). We'd be hearing about those Dominion fellows a fair amount over the rest of the series.
121. "Destiny" - Season 3, Episode 15 (2/13/95)
"It's hard to work for someone who's a religious icon." - Major Kira Nerys
While Bajoran politics were the major concern on DS9 before the Dominion showed up, Sisko's role as Emissary of the Prophets, established in the pilot, doesn't really come up that often during those years. This mid-season three episode is the first time since the pilot that his role as Emissary is directly addressed, and it was overdue. The most illuminating sequence in the episode is the one where Sisko and Kira finally have a conversation about her view of him. Is he simply her commanding officer, or does she, a faithful Bajoran, really see him as the Emissary? It's sort-of amazing that the show managed to go this long without that specific question arising, but it did. While the final resolution of Sisko's Emissary storyline may not be the greatest, the show mines some wonderful, low-key drama out of it in the long-term. Seeing him slowly grow more comfortable in the role and how his crewmates and colleagues react to it makes the storyline worthwhile in and of itself. And all that work basically starts here.
Trivial Note - Almost everything significant that happens in the show's final arc is foreshadowed somewhere (some events more subtly than others). Sisko's final confrontation with Dukat in the Fire Caves is alluded to in this episode's final bit of dialogue, as Vedek Yarka tells the Commander about Trakor's Fourth Prophecy, wherein the Emissary will face a fiery challenge...
120. "Image in the Sand" - Season 7, Episode 1 (9/30/98)
"Well, from here on out, I hope the Prophets keep their noses out of my business." - Joseph Sisko
I hashed this list out before I started writing this, editing it a couple of times and researching information like writers/directors for each episode and notable quotes. So, it comes as a surprise to me that I'm just now realizing that this is the lowest-rated season premiere on the list and the lowest-rated half of a multi-parter. I say that because I don't feel any ill will toward this episode, and really it does a fairly decent job of picking up the pieces from an impactful, but unsatisfying (for multiple reasons) season six finale and kicking off a fresh arc for the show. Any episode with Brock Peters as Sisko's father is improved by his presence, and the premiere wisely waits to the very end to bring Ezri into the mix. I guess it's 1 - That the episode doesn't stand on its own as well as other pieces of a two-parter and 2 - The Pah-wraith story just doesn't feel complete at any point, and this episode heavily features that plotline. There are also two subplots, one involving a Romulan incursion into Bajoran territory and the other setting up Worf, Bashir, O'Brien, and Quark's attempt to get Jadzia's soul in Sto-vo-kor. The Bashir/Quark pining over Jadzia thing isn't good, and the Romulan move on Bajor ends up not making any bit of difference in the end, so those stories just don't take off.
Trivial Note - This is our first entry featuring Sisko's baseball since I went on and on about it in the note for "If Wishes Were Horses". The baseball falling off the piano at the beginning is what triggers Sisko's vision. It'll be a major part of the follow-up episode, "Shadows and Symbols", as well. Sisko's baseball is one of the cleanest and most effective bits of symbolism ever deployed on a TV show, as it hearkens back to the Prophets using baseball to try to understand Sisko (and vice versa) in the pilot. It still blows my mind that such a major piece of the show's mythology was introduced in an episode as goofy as "If Wishes Were Horses". The show pulled similar tricks by introducing important characters like Leeta and, especially, Damar in inauspicious ways.
119. "The Alternate" - Season 2, Episode 12 (1/9/94)
"I've done it to you again, haven't I, Odo? Made you a prisoner. Dear God, what have I done?" - Dr. Mora Pol
Star Trek has always made a habit of reusing certain actors. Character actors like James Cromwell, Tony Todd, Susanna Thompson, and Jeffrey Combs have been moving in-and-out of different roles in the different Trek productions since the days of the Original Series (which Cromwell appeared in). Another of those always welcome recurring players is James Sloyan, who made two notable appearances on The Next Generation (in "The Defector" and "Firstborn") and who appears here for the first time as Dr. Mora (he also appeared later on Voyager). He has a really cool voice and his worldly gravitas makes him uniquely able to really sell some of Trek's often crazy dialogue. This episode features two elements I really like. One is Dr. Mora's confrontational relationship with his "son", Odo. Their dialogue has all the feeling of a bitter, resentful child speaking to a distant, emotionally manipulative parent. The second is the mild horror homage that breaks out in the episode's latter half. I actually find all the Alien and The Thing parallels here far more effective than the more overt horror stylings of "The Darkness and the Light" and "Empok Nor".
Trivial Note - Rene Auberjonois was originally slated to play both Odo and Mora, with the idea being that Odo would've taken on a form similar to Mora's when they were together in the lab (he had already mentioned to Lwaxana Troi that his hair was modeled after Mora's). This would've echoed Brent Spiner's role as Dr. Soong, creator of Data and Lore, on TNG and Robert Picardo's role as Dr. Zimmerman, creator of the Emergency Medical Hologram, on both DS9 and Voyager (the latter example would happen after this). The makeup changes would've taken too long for the episode to film on schedule, so the idea was scrapped. A secondary note is that the monolith seen on the planet where the lifeform was found is also seen on the planet in the Omarion Nebula where Odo and Kira meet the Changelings in "The Search" two-parter.
118. "Emissary" - Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2 (1/3/93)
"Good luck, Mr. Sisko." - Capt. Jean-Luc Picard
The pilot for Deep Space Nine is a tough episode to rate, as it's, of course, tremendously important to the series, yet also deeply, deeply flawed. For much of the first season, the writers and actors on the show slowly gained a better handle on the characters, but the pilot, more than any other episode, shows how far off everybody was in the beginning. Avery Brooks is asked to do a lot here, and his performance is very up-and-down. Major Kira comes off a bit overcooked in several early episodes, and, as already mentioned, Bashir is irritating for most of the first season. The exposition in the episode is similarly all-over-the-place, highlighted by Odo's out-of-nowhere revelation that he's the only one of his kind (we didn't know that, but he was talking to Kira, who did, so why would he say it out loud?). There are plenty of moments that work, from the introductions of Dukat and Opaka to most of Picard's scenes (Patrick Stewart is always great), but, like most pilots, this one is extremely uneven (and overlong).
Trivial Note - Several things - this is the only episode that doesn't show the wormhole in the opening credits, to maintain the surprise when Sisko and Dax find it in the second hour. That's J.G. Hertzler playing the Vulcan captain of the Saratoga during the fight with the Borg. He later played General Martok in several episodes, and the Changeling Laas in "Chimera" (credited under a different name for each role). Of course, the Battle of Wolf 359 occurred offscreen in the TNG classic "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II", and is only ever seen onscreen here, in flashback. This is also the only time the Borg ever appear on this series, though they do receive a few mentions. Finally, some other guy was cast as Gul Dukat originally, but he was replaced with Marc Alaimo after the other actor had already filmed Dukat's intro scene. Alaimo had played Gul Macet in TNG's "The Wounded", where the Cardassians were introduced to the franchise, and the general look of the Cardassian makeup was largely modeled off of him.
17. "Life Support" - Season 3, Episode 13 (1/31/95)
"If he dies, then peace with Cardassia dies with him." - Kai Winn Adami
This is a very intriguing episode, but also an oddly focused one. The death of Vedek Bareil is the first major death on the series (even if the character was never a fan favorite), but instead of focusing the story on Kira, the episode puts Bashir in the spotlight. This is a holdover from an earlier concept for the story that makes a more overt connection to Frankenstein, but most of that was toned way down in the final script, which makes the prominence of Bashir in the episode seem out of place. Still, this is an impactful episode, mostly for what it gives us with Kai Winn. Until very late in the show, she was a nearly perfect villain, in the sense that she was deeply loathsome yet also someone with clear, not necessarily villainous motivations. She had an ego, sure, but she was convinced what she was doing was the will of the Prophets (many religious fanatics in real life could be described the same way, just sub out whichever deity for the Prophets). Here, she almost gets too much venom directed at her from Bashir, as the peace made with Cardassia is a major accomplishment for Bajor, but she's just so hateable that it's hard to know what to make of her in this episode. Also, when Kira finally gets to have her moment with Bareil at the end, it's really sad, and it reminds us how important Kira is to the series.
Trivial Note - There's a subplot about Jake and Nog going on a double date, and Nog making an ass out of himself with his reductive Ferengi views on women. The story is fine, but writer Ronald D. Moore (one of the major creative forces behind this series from season three on) hated the way the A and B-plots played against each other. Also, that's Saved by the Bell's Lark Voorhies as Jake's date. Separately, while it doesn't directly lead to the events that transpire later in the season, the peace treaty between Bajor and Cardassia plays heavily in the Cardassian political upheaval that unfolds over the next several seasons.
116. "Behind the Lines" - Season 6, Episode 4 (10/20/97)
"Do you realize what you just did?! You just handed the Alpha Quadrant to the Dominion!" - Major Kira Nerys
The first of the six episodes that cover the "re-taking Deep Space Nine" arc that begins season six to appear on the list, "Behind the Lines" basically commits one major error. The storyline where Sisko pines for command of the Defiant after being bumped up in Starfleet's hierarchy just takes up too much time in an episode where so much else is going on. While the title could be read as being about both this storyline and the events on the station itself, it more directly refers to Sisko's longing, which is in keeping with Trek's romantic views on captains and their ships, but not in keeping with what's really important in the moment. The parts of the episode that focus on Terok Nor are strong, however, as they were in all six episodes of this arc. The way the Female Changeling mind-f@#$s Odo is masterful, and you can feel her manipulation in every scene she's in. Perhaps I ding this episode too much because of the bad taste it leaves in your mouth, because that bad taste is intentional and sets up the following two-parter.
Trivial Note - As I said before, almost every major event that occurs in the show's final arc is foreshadowed somewhere. This episode establishes Damar's love of kanar (he's also promoted from Glinn to Gul, which isn't unimportant). His drinking is generally representative of his discomfort with Cardassia's alliance with the Dominion, and the things he does in service of that alliance.
115. "Rules of Acquisition" - Season 2, Episode 7 (11/7/93)
"This is not about profit anymore, it's about love!" - Pel
I've mentioned before that the show had a habit of introducing important characters/plot elements in very random ways, and this episode takes the cake when it comes to that, but I'll leave that for the trivial note. This is the first of the Ferengi episodes to directly address the rampant chauvinism in Ferengi society, something that continues to be a concern for the rest of the series. Pel is a nice little character, the kind whose instantly likability immediately makes the audience root for her. That she's likable makes this episode work, and it's a nice job by the writers and the actress since Ferengi aren't usually ever likable, and definitely not instantly. Plus, you get more Rules of Acquisition, which are always welcome, and you get the Dosi, who may have the best/worst makeup of any Trek race (and there is some fierce competition in that category). It's truly astounding, in a colorfully hideous way.
Trivial Note - So yeah, that big reveal. The Dominion receive their first mention in this episode, when one of the Dosi talks about putting Quark and Pel in touch with the Karemma, a member race. The Karemma reappear in both "The Search, Part I", where they help the Defiant track down the Jem'Hadar, and in "Starship Down". Quark is used in both episodes as an intermediary, as the Ferengi and Karemma continue their business dealings even after early hostilities break out between the Dominion and the Alpha Quadrant powers. While the writers hadn't yet decided on much about the Dominion when they were scripting this episode, they knew they were going to make them some kind of significant threat, and specifically made first mention of them here to throw the audience off a little bit. I don't know why I really love this, but I do.
114. "Statistical Probabilities" - Season 6, Episode 9 (11/24/97)
"But sometimes, when the odds are so stacked against you, you've just got to take a chance." - Dr. Julian Bashir
Another entry, another episode that could be fairly described as "odd". The oddness here is definitely by design, at least in part, as this is the episode that introduces the Jack Pack, a group of strange, genetically engineered super-geniuses, who are too difficult for anyone but Bashir, himself also genetically engineered, to work with. The episode begins as a bit of lighthearted farce, as Bashir attempts to interact with a bunch of near-cartoon characters, but things turn serious after the Pack comes to the mathematical conclusion that the Federation and its allies have no real chance to defeat the Dominion. Do these two segments fit together at all? Sorta, kinda. And things get even more disjointed when the Pack attempts to leak classified intel to the Dominion and force the Federation to surrender. This all makes a bit more sense on the screen, but the episode is supposed to be off-kilter. While the individual Jack Pack members may be annoying, I do like that the series shows some of the downsides of the utopia that Gene Roddenberry dreamed up. Not everyone's gonna get to live happy, normal lives, and these oddballs are one of the few examples of a wart in paradise.
Trivial Note - The middle section of the episode, where Bashir and the others predict the fall of the Federation and the later rise of a similar, stronger organization, is a riff on Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels. Another bit of foreshadowing (although this is less foreshadowing, and more of an outright declaration from Jack and Lauren), Damar is going through internal turmoil after he killed Ziyal in "Sacrifice of Angels". This feeds heavily into his final character arc. Finally, this is the first of two episodes of the series to be directed by Anson Williams, best known as Potsie on Happy Days. He also helmed the season seven classic "It's Only a Paper Moon".
113. "Sons and Daughters" - Season 6, Episode 3 (10/13/97)
"I cannot change the mistakes I have made, but from this day forward, I promise I will stand with you." - Lt. Cmdr. Worf
While I rate this episode higher than "Behind the Lines", this is probably the least essential to the opening arc of season six. That this episode mostly focuses on the Klingons, particularly Worf and his estranged son Alexander, keeps it from feeling completely in step with the five episodes around it. With that said, it's still a fairly strong episode. The biggest black mark is Marc Worden's performance as Alexander, who doesn't really have the fire needed to hold his own in a story filled with so many Klingons. The familial drama between he and Worf is reasonably solid (especially compared to some of their weaker encounters on TNG), and any episode that features J.G. Hertzler's General Martok is better for it. The Kira-centered story on Terok Nor is also less necessary than the station-set scenes in the other five episodes of this arc, as she ends the episode in largely the same place she began it, but the reintroduction of Ziyal will be hugely important very soon (and we get to see Dukat be as oily as he ever is on this show, and that's saying a whole lot).
Trivial Note - Many, many notable actors and actresses got a boost early in their careers playing a random Star Trek role. Adam Scott, Ashley Judd, Tom Hardy, Kirsten Dunst, Sarah Silverman, Teri Hatcher, Famke Janssen, Dwayne Johnson, and on and on and on. I don't know if any example is more random, though, than Gabrielle Union appearing as a Klingon crew member in this episode.
112. "'Til Death Do Us Part" - Season 7, Episode 18 (4/14/99)
"They say that marrying Kasidy is a mistake - and maybe it is - but it's my mistake to make." - Capt. Ben Sisko
And now we come to the series' final arc. "Extreme Measures" is technically part of the closing storyline, but it's easily the most disconnected of the nine segments, so rating it low wasn't a difficult call. As for the other eight, they're a different animal altogether. Separating each one and judging it on its own merits is rather difficult, considering how interconnected the storytelling is. This one gets bumped down to the lowest spot of the group mainly due to the repetitive nature of the Worf/Ezri encounters. Their storyline in these early episodes is fine, and they have a knockout scene together later in the arc, but it's too static in these early episodes, as the writers had to stretch out their imprisonment to line up with the other stories, particularly Damar's. Damar's, by the way, is probably the best story in the closing arc, and it hasn't really gotten going at this point, which also dings the episode just a bit. All that said, this is an essential episode for series viewing, as all the final nine episodes are.
Trivial Note - Hardly a trivial matter at all, but the storyline that gives this episode its title is the Sisko/Yates marriage plot. This sort of ties in to the Pah-wraith plot, which also begins in this episode with the arrival of Winn and a disguised Dukat to the station. I'll save these breakdowns for later. As for the actual wedding itself, note that Admiral Ross officiates, as the show quickly forgets about the revelations about him from "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges". Also, Sisko and Yates hang on for four seasons before getting hitched, which includes some time she spent in the slammer. Yates isn't the show's strongest character, but she complements Sisko well (and vice versa), and I like how the show plays out their relationship.
111. "Vortex" - Season 1, Episode 12 (4/18/93)
"Home? Where is it? Someday we'll know...cousin." - Constable Odo
OK, so while that quote above is best representative of this episode, it's painfully on-the-nose. Such is the nature of season one of this series. Beyond that, though, you can start to see the series' identity take more shape in this episode. By this point, "Past Prologue" had helped give us a good sense of Kira, and it and "Captive Pursuit" had given us an idea of the more complicated ethical questions the show would raise. This is another of the first season's stronger outings, as it starts to push Odo in the direction that would eventually lead him back to the Great Link at the series' end. I ragged on the lousy dialogue in the pilot that established Odo's mysterious backstory and just ragged on the quote above for both lacking any sense of nuance (or need to be said aloud), but this episode starts to give some shading to the character, who was mainly a gruff policeman up to this point. Also, Cliff DeYoung brings an easy, slacker charisma to the role of Croden.
Trivial Note - Morn's name is first mentioned here, and the first mention of his talkative nature is made. Even though he's never credited, Mark Allen Shepherd appears in more episodes as Morn than Cirroc Lofton does as Jake Sisko (and he's in the opening credits). The name Morn is an anagram of Norm, an oblique reference to the barfly from Cheers. As for Odo's plot, this is the first time his species is referred to as Changelings (which is the most accepted name for them going forward, more so than Shapeshifters). Also, Croden speaks of Changelings who live in the Gamma Quadrant on a planet hidden inside a nebula. Albeit on a different planet in a different nebula, this turns out to be true in "The Search, Part I".
110. "Strange Bedfellows" - Season 7, Episode 19 (4/21/99)
"Go! Crawl back to your Prophets! Beg their forgiveness! Live the rest of your life in Sisko's shadow!" - Dukat
The Winn character arc in this episode is a particularly thorny one. I've written before about how effective Winn was as a kind-of villain in the first six seasons. Her major role in the final arc is a questionable heel turn that I still don't know how to feel about. Disguised Dukat plays her like a fiddle in the tirade that's quoted above, especially with that last part. Kira spat some venom at her at the end of "The Reckoning" that picked at the same wound, and the two have another excellent conversation here that serves as the highlight of the entire episode. Watch Louise Fletcher's face change from somber to defensive after Kira suggests Winn step down as Kai. In one swoop, any sympathy she had gained earlier in the story was gone, and hateable Winn was back. Unfortunately, hateable Winn goes full-on Bond villain with Dukat in the final scene, which is pretty laughable. Such is the nebulous nature of the final Pah-wraith arc. More on the other stories in the note...
Trivial Note - Worf and Ezri continue to bicker, as they did for most of the prior two episodes. Worf does get to hand Weyoun his most hilarious death, though, with a quick neck snap during an interrogation. Damar's reaction, and his reaction to meeting the next Weyoun are both priceless. Of course, Damar makes his ultimate decision to rebel against the Dominion is this episode, but we'll discuss that more in the entries for later episodes. Also, after the previous episode ended with a teaser about it, the Breen officially align themselves with the Dominion at the start of this episode, which turns the war on its head. I have much to say about the Breen, one of my favorite Trek creations, which I will unleash on you at some point.
109. "Armageddon Game" - Season 2, Episode 13 (1/30/94)
"It was hell. You can see for yourself; the man never stops talking." - Chief Miles O'Brien
I mentioned in the entry for season one's awful "The Storyteller" that the Bashir/O'Brien friendship storyline began there, and that's true. However, the Bashir/O'Brien friendship storyline that's, ya know, good begins here. This is a fairly self-contained episode otherwise, but it's nice to go back and see when the two characters really start to develop their banter, as this bromance becomes one of the cornerstones of the series going forward. Keiko also gets something to do, which doesn't happen as often as it should, as her persistence is what finally convinces Sisko and the others to not give up hope on the dynamic duo, though that all gets undercut with the episode's humorous final exchange. That exchange is admittedly funny, but poor Keiko can't do right even when she does right.
Trivial Note - This episode was nominated for an Emmy for Best Hairstyling. The aliens' hairpieces are alarmingly ridiculous, even by Star Trek standards, so who's to say where that nomination came from. Apparently, the strain in the relationship between Bashir and O'Brien in the early seasons was somewhat mirrored by actors Alexander Siddig and Colm Meaney, who argued over their political views and national heritages (Siddig was raised in England and Meaney is Irish), though these seem to be as much friendly disputes as anything.
108. "Waltz" - Season 6, Episode 11 (1/8/98)
"They thought I was their enemy?! They don't know what it is to be my enemy! But they will!" - Gul Dukat
This is an extremely difficult episode to rate, one of the hardest of the series. On one hand, it has a bit of a forced climax, and leads Dukat down a character path that's basically insane. On the other hand, it's tense and well-directed, with nice character insights into Dukat before his over-the-top meltdown at the end and an interesting, successful take on three characters presented completely from Dukat's perspective. I do enjoy the interplay between Avery Brooks and Marc Alaimo, as Alaimo, in particular, modulates easily from a broken, defeated Dukat to a restless, tortured Dukat to a psychopathic supervillain Dukat. The episodes where Avery Brooks was asked to get loud and preachy didn't normally feature him at his best, but here he pulls off a truth-telling Sisko who's also wounded and desperate. And I do enjoy Dukat's projections of Weyoun, Damar, and Kira, each believably the version of those characters that Dukat would imagine in his head. It's too bad the climax goes so far with the character, and leads him in a less enjoyable direction for the remainder of the series.
Trivial Note - Somewhat famously, this episode and Dukat's general heel turn in the final season and a half were responses to a growing number of Trek fans online who were trying to argue that Dukat was really a hero. The writing staff was dumbfounded by this, as Dukat had always been presented as a war criminal, so they wanted to force him to confront his past actions, which would finally push him over the edge into full-on villainy. This doesn't entirely work, as it robs the character of his one true defining trait. He was always the hero in his own mind. He laid out his philosophy on true conquest to Weyoun in "Sacrifice of Angels", and his desire for others to accept him and recognize his true greatness is largely, though not entirely, missing from this point on.
107. "Shakaar" - Season 3, Episode 24 (5/22/95)
"I didn't fight the Cardassians for 25 years just so I can start shooting other Bajorans." - Shakaar Edon
This episode features some interesting character work, as the series loved picking at the Occupation, the Resistance, and those who took part in them. Shakaar, former leader of Kira's Resistance cell, is introduced here and quickly becomes a major player in the series (even though most of what he accomplishes actually occurs off-screen). The episode's resolution is perhaps a bit too neat (Shakaar's election as First Minister sorta comes out of nowhere), but the real meat on this bone comes from the character interactions, mostly those involving the former Resistance fighters, but also Kai Winn. She's at her most megalomaniacal here (at least until the final arc), and her big speech to Sisko is shot very effectively. As for Kira and her merry men (and women), all their relationships feel real and lived-in, which is impressive considering Kira was the only one we'd seen before this episode. The Dominion storyline defined the show, but the Bajor-Cardassia fallout contained multitudes.
Trivial Note - That's John Noble from The Wire and Gotham struggling to not look ridiculous in a Bajoran uniform at the end. He plays Lenaris Holem, the officer pursuing Shakaar's rebels. Also, Duncan Regehr makes the first of several appearances as the title character. I mention this merely because his prior appearance on Trek came in TNG's laughably insane "Sub Rosa". Playing Shakaar was a major step up from playing a seductive Scottish ghost.
106. "Business as Usual" - Season 5, Episode 18 (4/7/97)
"28 million dead? Can't we just wound some of them?" - Quark
This episode's more-or-less a straight morality play, which would fit in more on one of the previous Trek incarnations. DS9 was usually never quite so black-and-white when it came to ethics, particularly with non-human characters. Quark, in particular, holds on to chauvinistic Ferengi views toward women and venal capitalistic notions all the way to the end of the series, though his exposure to Federation (and occasionally Klingon) principles affects him at several points in the show. You could argue whether his balking at the notion of staying in the weapons dealing business is just some Federation morality rubbing off on him, or if it's simply too ghastly a racket for even a true Ferengi like him to stay in. Either way, the episode attacks something that was more an overt concern in the 90's than it perhaps is now (even though international arms dealing has continued unabated in the interim, we just care more about domestic gun ownership now), and does it effectively, while keeping from straying into Trek's often off-putting preachiness.
Trivial Note - The cast here is great. Josh Pais plays Quark's cousin Gaila, who had been mentioned multiple times on the show before this and who returns in "The Magnificent Ferengi". He slurs his way through his sleazy lines perfectly. The always terrifying Steven Berkoff is typically intimidating at Hagath, and the great gangster heavy Lawrence Tierney plays the Regent. Alexander Sidding (credited again as Siddig El Fadil) directed this outing, the first of two directorial efforts for him on the show. His uncle, Malcolm McDowell (a Trek veteran), was originally eyed for the Hagath role, but was sadly unavailable, though Berkoff was extremely effective.
Okey doke, that's two segments of the list down. We'll have three more segments of 35 coming soon, so keep your eyes peeled. Again, check out Atlanta Classic Comics selection of Trek comics and memorabilia. You never know what you may find. Also, please comment if you're digging this list (or not). A little discussion is always welcome. Until then, qapla'. (Look it up.)