In The Way of the Warrior the Federation/Klingon alliance splinters. Hippocratic Oath deals with an unusual casualty of war--the slaves forced to fight it. Bashir tries to cure the Jem'Hadar of their addiction to "the white" against the wishes of fellow prisoner O'Brien. The Visitor is one of the most touching and emotionally powerful episodes written. Michael Taylor's story uses a convention that Kurt Vonnegut did in Slaugterhouse Five; Sisko becomes "unstuck in time". The only constant in is his reappearences is Jake. It's a beautifully realized script with nuanced performances from Tony Todd (who had auditioned for the role of Sisko)and Avery Brooks.
Dukat is further softened up as we discover he has a half Bajoran daughter he intends to rescue in Indescretion. He enlists a reluctant Kira to help. Though Dukat's edgy character is blunted somewhat, it adds further depth to a villan that was characteristic of DS9. The marvelous Marc Alaimo continues to amaze in this well designed episode. He's one of the most underappreciated character actors. In many respects, Indiscretion was clearly inspired by John Ford's classic western The Seachers. Rejoined allows DS9 to dip its toe in the sexuality of Trills. Dax meets a former lover and has a hard time resisting her attraction to this person. Well directed by Avery Brooks, Rejoined does what classic Trek does best--deal with difficult issues and emotions in a 45 minute episode of television. There are a number of other delightful, well written, directed and acted episodes included here.
Little Green Men was a bit too cute for me at first, but I've grown to like it over time. We finally find out the truth about Roswell and it ain't what you expect. Quark makes an early appearence on Earth and the script by Ira Steven Behr and writing partner Robert Hewitt Wolfe delightfully skewers America in 1947. While I'm not a huge fan of the "holosuite" adventures of the crew (their a bit too common and done a bit too often for my taste), Our Man Bashir is still a standout. It's a marvelous confection that tips its hat to Our Man Flint, the Bond films and Matt Helm. Ron Moore's script is on target and we discover that Avery Brooks would make a wonderful Bond villan. Are you listening MGM? Finally, Homefront demonstrates what DS9 and writer Behr & Wolfe always did best--create an atmosphere of paranoia and darkness in Roddenberry's optimistic future world. The shapeshifters are on Earth and they're quite busy undermining security. Or are they? Robert Foxworth (another great character actor)does a terrific turn as an Admiral that will use any excuse to seize power whether or not it really is in the Federation's best interest or not.
I can't comment on the discs because the set hasn't been released yet as of this writing. The DS9 sets have been improving with each set and, while the extras are nice, there's nothing like having the original episodes. My only complaint is that, again, no one was contacted to do any episodic commentary. There's no booklet to give an overview of the series episodes. I personally like the way B5 has included the previews for each episode from the original promos. These allow you to get an idea as to what each episode is about. In the absence of a booklet, these would do quite nicely as well although I doubt that Paramount will change the sets at this late date.
While many B5 fans complain that DS9 ripped off B5 (and I'm a B5 fan), it's not the actual concept of the series that matters. What matters is the quality of the acting, writing and directing of each individual episode and season. DS9, like B5, was an outstanding series even when compared to other mainstream television programs.
Worf's welcome to the show in "The Way of the Warrior" introduced the static between the Klingons and Federation that would last for a little more than a season. Several other klingon characters, including General Martok, were introduced here who, although they didn't factor in much here, would eventually become prominent players later on. The episode is one of the show's most action-packed, and it also carries on the tradition of the show having strong first episodes to start out the season. After this episode comes the emotionally-packed "The Visitor," which is, without a doubt, the most poignant episode of the show, perhaps of any show ever. Jake Sisko spends his whole life trying to find a way to bring his father back to life after Benjamin is killed in an engine room accident. Brilliant and provocative acting from Tony Todd as old Jake. After this strong start the show kicked into high gear. "Hippocratic Oath" explores the nature of the Jem'Hadar, "Starship Down" is a tribute to submarine movies, "Little Green Men" is the show's most tongue-in-cheek episode, which is as funny as it is provocative. The episode has Quark, Rom and Nog being stranded in Roswell circa 1947 after a time-travel accident. It is the most funny Star Trek experience since the fourth feature film. "Our Man Bashir" is a combination good, whimsical spy story and people-working-against-time-to-save-people story with some precious lines from Garak, a real spy. After he sees the opulent life of spies in 20th-century Earth, he comments, "All these years I've been working for the wrong government." Good stuff. There is a magnificent two-part episode, "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost", which explores the intricacies of Federation Politics, the Starfleet/Federation situation, and civil liberties. The episode features some powerful dialogue, as well as some intense fight scenes. "Bar Association" has Rom standing up to his brother and creating a union, "Rules of Engagement" makes Worf face his deep-seeded resentment against his race. Yet another trip to the mirror universe in "Shattered Mirror", Michael Eddington's defection in "For the Cause", and more encounters with the Dominion in "To The Death" and "Broken Link" round out this season with a final development that shows just how sophisticated the plot structure became.
As can be plainly seen, the season is replete with highlights. In fact, substandard episodes are few and far between. "Rejoined" is one such episode. An interesting concept foiled by improbable characterization, predictable plotting, and wholly unsatisfying storytelling. The show must have been filmed during sweeps, because the inevitable lesbian kiss is performed without any passion. Come on, people, Dax just isn't the impulsive, driven by hormones type. With all that wisdom she should have an evolved view on romance. Alas. "The Muse" also is hardly stellar, with trite plotting and yet another visit from Lwaxana Troi, who had already overstayed her welcome.
Although not perfect, one can see that the sub-standard episodes were becoming fewer and farther between by this time, and there was a much greater proportion of hits than misses than before. This season is an incredible dramatic accomplishment and sets up the extremely prodigious later seasons. This is a must-buy for all fans of dramatic achievement or science fiction.
IN between, some of the best Star Trek episodes ever made are produced -- highlighted by "The Visitor", which ranks with "The Inner Light" and "City on the Edge of Forever" as Trek's most moving episodes ever made.
Most of DS9's all-time best episodes are in the 4th YEAR, including...
The Way of the Warrior, The Visitor, Rejoined, Little Green Men, Our Man Bashir, Homefront, Paradise Lost, Sons of Mogh, Rules of Engagement, Shattered Mirror, For the Cause, Broken Link.
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