Welcome to another installment of my reviews for all 715 episodes of Star Trek. Today I continue with Deep Space Nine, finishing season seven. I’m rating these episodes on a scale of 1 to 10 with the following meaning:
1. Abysmal, 2. Terrible, 3. Bad, 4. Poor, 5. Mediocre,
6. Fair, 7. Good, 8. Great, 9. Superb, 10. Perfect
In addition, I’ll be rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) the historical importance (HI) of the episodes – looking at how much they tie into other Star Trek episodes or lay down important precedents.
When it Rains..: 7.5
As DS9 prepares for war and sends emissaries to Damar, Bashir discovers that Odo has the Founders’ disease.
Air date: 5/3/1999
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria
Story by Rene Echevarria & Spike Steingasser
Directed by Michael Dorn
“You’re going to have to put your personal feelings aside. Now, whether you like Damar or not is irrelevant. We need him. The Dominion knows they have to stop his rebellion before it spreads, and it’s up to you to see that they don’t.” – Sisko to Kira
Starting up the second half of “The Final Chapter” (DS9’s final 9 episodes), “When it Rains…” introduces several new plot lines, moving from story to story until it ends so abruptly, the credits can come as a surprise.
Balancing the predictable and unpredictable, Echevarria and Dorn cut a quick pace from the get-go and throw everything but the kitchen sink at the viewers. Gowron returns to replace Martok. Bashir must deal with a bureaucratic run around, like someone in our time trying to get help from customer service. Kira and Garak, former friends of Ziyal, are forced to help Damar. And Dukat finally goes too far and gets a lecture from Kai Winn about humility, which is sort of like Kanye West giving a sermon on manners. They’re all such diverse ideas, and they’re all thrown out so quickly, there’s no time for the viewer to stop and process it all until the credits suddenly appear out of nowhere.
What to make of it all? Well, it’s like a DS9 sampler, with a taste of the next two DS9 episodes thrown together before the subsequent episodes share the proper servings. Yet as an episode itself, it works splendidly, perhaps even better than the episodes it sets up. Perhaps Michael Dorn and rain aren’t such a bad combination after all!
Tacking Into the Wind: 7
While Kira and the Cardassians plot to steal a Breen weapon, Gowron begins reckless attacks against the Dominion.
Air date: 5/10/1999
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Mike Vejar
“Who was the last leader of the High Council that you respected? Has there even been one? And how many times have you had to cover up the crimes of Klingon leaders because you were told it was for the good of the Empire? I know this sounds harsh, but the truth is, you have been willing to accept a government that you know is corrupt. Gowron’s just the latest example. Worf, you are the most honorable and decent man I’ve ever met, and if you’re willing to tolerate men like Gowron, then what hope is there for the Empire?” – Ezri
With the DS9/Cardassian alliance as the one story and some Klingon political intrigue as the other, “Tacking” is a fast moving, somewhat satisfying episode with some resolutions to “When it Rains…” while its C story teases what’s coming next.
The Kira/Damar story is really a character-based caper plot, with the two leading a risky undercover heist. It’s a fun story that tucks in some touching moments between Odo and Kira, but it winds its way to an end that’s as predictable as the conclusion to an episode of Gilligan’s Island. (Personally, I wish I could see Weyoun, with the Founder prodding him on, chasing Damar around the galaxy.) Damar himself proves one of the show’s surprise successes, thanks in large part to Casey Biggs; but after what the Cardassian does to Ziyal early in season six, it’s difficult to accept the character’s redemption, and looking back, the writers probably wish they hadn’t taken his character so far down that road.
Meanwhile, we have an episode where Ron Moore is once again writing Klingon stuff for Worf and Gowron five years after we figured the conclusion of TNG put an end to it. “Tacking” marks Robert O’Reilly’s last Star Trek appearance, allowing him to bring a conclusion to the Klingon Chancellor he introduced to us in TNG’s “Reunion” nine years prior. Gowron’s new ambition is sudden and feels contrived, and there’s really not much more to the story other than Worf’s internal struggle, but there’s something to be said for a Klingon plot that’s quick and to the point – especially at this stage. The Klingons would return in Enterprise, but from a chronological standpoint, this is their goodbye.
Extreme Measures: 5
Bashir and O’Brien lure Sloan to the station in a desperate search for the cure to a disease.
Air date: 5/17/1999
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Steve Posey
“If you’re determined to go on this lunatic mission inside Sloan’s head, then somebody with an ounce of sanity has to be with you.” – O’Brien
William Sadler, last seen a few episodes before in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”, returns to reprise Sloan, with Bashir and O’Brien taking a journey inside the mysterious agent’s head (which conveniently takes on the appearance of the station, giving the series a cost saving bottle show). The concept has an early season feel to it and is particularly reminiscent of third season’s “Distant Voices” but feels out of place in “The Final Chapter”, the serialized nine episode finale for the show.
The premise itself, built on the idea that Section 31 is behind Odo’s disease and knows of a cure, is based on assumptions from Dr. Bashir. Yet unlike real life, instead of making an ass out of himself and mption, he turns out to be right. Unfortunately, the “Inside Sloan’s Head” gimmick never develops enough substance to make it a serious drama, with too much time spent on Brannon Braga-like mind games and not enough time developing a story. What the script really needs is more money, allowing Bashir and O’Brien (and/or Odo) to visit the headquarters of Section 31 and seek out information about the disease that could lead Bashir to develop a cure. (In fact, this was the original plan until the producers needed to find a way to save money for the final episode of the series.) Instead, the cure becomes a MacGuffin with a simplified “behind door number three” climax. It’s a disappointing waste of Sloan who deserves better in his final appearance.
The Dogs of War: 7
While Kira, Damar, and Garak are ambushed on Cardassia, Quark receives a message from Grand Nagus Zek asking him to be the next leader of the Ferengi Alliance.
Air date: 5/24/1999
Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore & Rene Echevarria
Story by Peter Allan Fields
Directed by Avery Brooks
“If you don’t mind hiding in a basement, I guess I don’t mind having you down here.” – Mila
Getting very near the end, Avery Brooks get a chance to direct the penultimate episode of his Star Trek series just like Patrick Stewart before him. This one is another smorgasbord of storylines that throws a lot at the viewer, though its various flavors don’t always go well together.
The meat of the episode takes place on Cardassia, with Kira, Damar, and Garak trapped on the world now occupied by the Orwellian-like Dominion. It’s an interesting juxtaposition for Kira, who formerly was in the same situation on Bajor when it was occupied by Cardassia; but the real story here is about Damar becoming a Cardassian folk hero. It’s the same story the show tries with Li Nalas to open the second season, but it works better in “Dogs” because it’s developed more organically and Casey Biggs is a better actor than Richard Beymer.
Meanwhile, the Ferengi have their story tied up with a Quark comedy runner that features the final appearances of Grand Nagus Zek, Quark’s mom, Brunt, Rom, and Leeta. (Happily, Brunt and Weyoun, played by the same actor, finally appear in the same episode, with the writers/editor even having fun cutting from one character to the other. Sadly, we never get a “Brunt meets Weyoun” gag, which would have been even better.) Not surprising for the Ferengi, we get a typical sitcom plot, weaving comedy out of confusion, but that’s probably a fitting conclusion to these characters. Quark, in particular, deserves an episode to bring his story to a close, and Shimerman has some great moments. (The best part is writer Ron Moore parodying his own work, having Quark summon his inner Picard by declaring, “The line has to be drawn here! This far, and no further!”)
There are also C, D, and E stories, with virtually every other character getting their own moment, but some are more effective than others. Sisko has a couple of standout scenes, with Brooks again proving that he knows how to direct himself; meanwhile, Ezri isn’t so good repeating her “awkward relationship” storyline from a few episodes ago, this time with Bashir in Worf’s place. The diverse stories all lead to a bit of a disjointed episode; but for one that’s set just before the finale, the whole thing is remarkably self contained… until the last scene. Serving as a cliffhanger, it feels like the first scene of the series finale.
“Dogs of War” received an Emmy nomination for “outstanding makeup”.
What You Leave Behind: 9 (Series Finale)
The Federation Alliance attempts to defeat the Dominion.
Air date: 5/31/1999
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Allan Kroeker
“The Emissary’s task is nearing completion.” – Sarah Sisko
Taking a more leisurely pace than “All Good Things”, DS9’s two hour series finale brings the Dominion war to a close and sends the characters off into the sunset in a way that TOS doesn’t and TNG, with its move to feature films, can’t. It’s a character-based emotional roller-coaster filled with action, suspense, comeuppance, laughter, tears, and goodbyes.
Closing the book on the series, the episode has to hit a number of plot points (and a record setting number of guest stars), but in the sure hands of director Allan Kroeker (who would on to direct the finales of Voyager, and Enterprise), each beat hits at the right time, giving the war’s endgame a satisfying layout and turning the aftermath into an engaging coda. With previous episodes carefully positioning the characters into different facets of the war, the finale is able to bring us its conclusion from a wide variety of viewpoints, giving us a less of a comic book close and more of a realistic representation of victory and defeat than television is known for. (How ironic for this to happen in a sci fi series!) There aren’t one or two actions that will ultimately decide the lives of billions; there are many events happening simultaneously that form the conclusion, cutting off options and hemming in the losing side before the leader is finally cornered and forced to accept the checkmate.
And yet it all leaves room for the aftermath to breath. with the characters embarking on separate paths in a way that leaves no question that this is the end.
Is the episode perfect? Not quite. The pilot indicates that Sisko’s mission is to prepare Bajor to join the Federation, but the finale fails to address the issue. Instead, Sisko feels a disturbance in the force and journeys to the cave set to give us a good versus evil fight that seems more Star Wars than Star Trek. (Although, come to think of it, it does have the same climax as “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the second pilot for the Original Series.) The events bring closure to the characters of Dukat and Winn, a must for the series, but the sequence is cartoonish compared to the rest of the episode and gives the series an anticlimactic finish.
To be fair, however, that’s a small piece of the puzzle, and what the finale does well, it does very well. There are some thrilling space battles with impressive visual effects (garnering an Emmy Nomination, even though the sequences are filled out with stock footage). We get death scenes that are all the more dramatic for not being overly so. And there are emotional montages dedicated to the main characters, comprised of footage spanning the seven seasons of the show. There’s even the first fully CGI shot of the station, used for a breathtaking final shot.
In the end, the series remains true to what it’s always been: the Star Trek that isn’t afraid to get some dirt under its finger nails but finds a way to remain classy.
Seventh Season Thoughts:
With few standout episodes and eroding ratings due to increased competition and franchise fatigue, Deep Space Nine’s seventh season is largely forgettable except for one homerun shot: “The Final Chapter”, a nine part finale tying up most of the loose ends of the series. Ratings-wise, the serialized format did nothing for the show. (In fact, the final episode only did a 5.4 Nielsen rating, a number the series routinely beat its first four seasons.) But today, with fans easily able to watch them all in order without missing an episode, it’s become one of the show’s most popular bits.
The final episode itself was nominated for an Emmy (for visual effects), joining “The Dogs of War” (makeup), “Badda-bing, Badda-bang” (hairstyling), and “Prodigal Daughter” (art direction) for the honor, bringing the series’ total to thirty nominations in all with four wins.
Behind the scenes, Hans Beimler moved from supervising producer to co-executive producer and Bradley Thompson and David Weddle moved from story editors to executive story editors, with all three helping to supervise the staff. Meanwhile, with cinematographer Jonathan West frequently absent (including for most of the final arc) to help buddy LeVar Burton with a Disney Channel movie, camera operator Kris Krosskove was given an opportunity to serve as director of photography.
Avery Brooks, Michael Dorn, Rene Auberjonois were able to direct their final episodes, though it’s Steve Posey who proved the most prolific , crossing over from Xena and Hercules to direct his first four (and last four) Star Trek episodes.
Of course, it was Executive Producer Ira Steven Behr who had the most to do. In addition to overseeing the show, he worked with Beimler to pen seven of the twenty five episodes for the season. Interestingly, Behr was given only one directive from the studio : don’t make the finale about the war! Running two hours, it is, but it’s also about much more.
And so what does the series, giving us 176 hours of television, leave behind? A high quality product that challenges and rewards its audience while remaining true to itself.