13 September 2012

Deep Space Nine Season 4

Deep Space Nine Season 4 Adds More Changes and Improvements
By Kristin Battestella

The conclusion of Star Trek: The Next Generation seems to be its successor Deep Space Nine’s gain as Year 4 ups the ante with renewed attention, changes, and characters, creating almost a burden of riches.

Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) asks transferred Lieutenant Commander Worf (Michael Dorn) to remain on Deep Space Nine after the Klingons move towards war against the Federation and invade Cardassia. Major Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) struggles with her own personal Cardassian revelations and Bajoran politics- and she must carry Miles O’Brien’s (Colm Meaney) baby to term after a shuttle accident. Odo (Rene Aubernojois) deals with Changeling subterfuge, and Captain Sisko returns to Starfleet Security on Earth to uncover possible infiltration by The Founders.

The Powers behind Deep Space Nine make plenty of changes this year, some good, and some one step forward two steps back. Visually the credits look nicer, but the titles are still dang slow, and the stinky new music sounds like two compositions playing at once.  Everyone is also suddenly promoted, finally.  It’s as if Deep Space Nine is being taken seriously by its own team at last. Even if the writers don’t exactly know where the show should be going, it feels as though they now realize it has to go somewhere. These Klingon efforts, however, go on too long, detouring DS9 into a deeper hole. The series’ core wormhole exploration and Gamma Quadrant troubles are further pushed aside, and there are just too many threads on which to chew.  With all this extra new and improved, every episode should be packed with presence, but no. Shows continue to meander with too many one-off episodes and a lot of trial and error. Again, with the shoehorned Klingon angst, it’s as if the audience is asked to wait again while Deep Space Nine finds its footing.  Each piece of great we get is nice and good, sometimes even real greatness, but at this point, the seemingly by the seat of their pants production seems unfair to the viewer, or at the very least, dang frustrating.

But shave his head to go along with the goatee, and Benjamin Sisko gets even tougher and more badass! Brooks is excellent thru the Starfleet thick of “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost.”  The prophet twists in “Accession” and the personal dilemmas in the mirror crossover “Shattered Mirror” and the Maqui consequences in “For the Cause” add wonderful depth and tension as well. Of course, it seems like Cirroc Lofton’s Jake Sisko is even more barely there than usual- he’s almost completely gone after “The Muse.” Does he have some sort of seasonal quota, one teen SF and one Trek greatness as in “The Visitor”?  “The Visitor” feels like the first real Star Trek episode DS9 has done in awhile, if at all. It’s simply a superb and bittersweet family science fiction tale, and yet the order of episodes just tosses away this dynamite one-off Trek show for Klingon back peddling. If you must do isolated ‘filler’ tales, “The Visitor” is how to do it exceptionally.  Guest Tony Todd (Candyman) is delightful as the older Jake indeed, so I’m a little peeved his recurring Kurn character was not used for Worf’s introduction in the otherwise solid “The Way of the Warrior.” Adding insult to injury, Kurn is subsequently written out in the dumbest way possible. You are on a space station with a dozen recurring characters, you’ve just added more Klingon angst, and so the only logical thing to do is un-brother Worf in “Sons of Mogh”? Michael Dorn is still delightful as Worf, but forcing him into somewhat meaningless Klingon adventure with Dax in “Sword of Kahless” is a misuse. “Rules of Engagement” is also a finely filmed testimonial with courtroom flashbacks; however, Worf feels squeezed into similar storylines and doesn’t have much of a place on Deep Space Nine as yet.

Thankfully, Rene Aubernojois is once again dynamite as Odo in “Crossfire” and the season finale “Broken Link.” Consistency simply put! Likewise, Armin Shimerman’s Quark is a load of fun along with his fellow Ferengi Max Grodenchik as Rom and Aron Eisenberg as Nog in the utterly classic science fiction tale “Little Green Men” and the labor dispute humor of “Bar Association” with Chase Masterson as the equally goofy Leeta.  Romances, however, don’t seem to work on Deep Space Nine, especially for the new look Major Kira and the hampered development of Duncan Regehr’s Shakaar. Instead, Nana Visitor does her best in the awkward relationship with Kira’s Cardassian enemy Dukat in “Indiscretions” and “Return to Grace.” Outstanding guests like Andrew Robinson as Garak, Marc Alaimo as Dukat, and Cyia Batten and Tracy Middendorf as Ziyal shine in further Cardassian explorations and continue to lift DS9.  Jeffrey Combs is also a dream as both the slimey Founders’ Vorta middleman Weyoun and the shady Ferengi Commerce rep Brunt, and Penny Johnson provides great strength and division for Sisko as Kasidy Yates. Sadly, “The Muse” seems like a poor way for Luwaxana Troi to depart Deep Space Nine, and the secondary regulars don’t fair well in the crowd. Chief O’Brien must be traumatized yet again in “Hard Time,” and absentee wife Keiko (Rosalind Chao) must share her baby with Kira in “Body Parts.” It’s a smart way to incorporate Visitor’s real life pregnancy for Season 5, but the move does more for Kira than the O’Briens- whose main purpose again seems to be for buddying Julian Bashir.  His holosuite romp “Our Man Bashir” is an exceptionally well made Bond Spoof, but the episode is about those spy motifs themselves, not Bashir.  He has medical dilemmas in “Hippocratic Oath” and “The Quickening” but it is all sub par SF medicine and weak Dominion ties amid the Klingon domination this year. 

Unfortunately, Jadzia Dax has been retreated into further undercooked development. DS9’s only Science Officer does nothing scientific and has become a glorified receptionist. Dax reports when ships come into the station, and that sentence is usually followed by an ill-timed humorous comment or some sort of chick joke- oh, my dress uniform and the like.  The character wanders between the hot chick with which every man on the Deep Space Nine is in love or the funny old person who might say something wise, and ultimately, both incarnations never do anything significant.  It’s not necessarily Terry Farrell’s fault; the character troubles are not from the actors, but the confused writing, as proved in “Rejoined.” Farrell shows she can act when given material, but “Rejoined” comes off so wrong in its Trill for Trill’s sake sexual exploitations. I don’t think the writers intended the show to amount to the first Star Trek girl on girl kiss for the titillation, but that absolutely ends up being what the episode is about, once again using a character for nothing more than her species problems, and then making that a play on play of sexuality.  It’s the culmination of everything that’s wrong with the character. Jadzia is meant to be the hot dream girl and the fun, even geeky best friend of every young man’s fantasy. Honestly, would they have done a same sex Trill former love episode had our character been Curzon Dax? I think not. The show isn’t meant to be about lesbianism in the 24th century, but the shock and awe use of it in “Rejoined” is loud and clear. Maybe the lady action works for popularity and the ratings, but its misuse cheapens the hefty and dark side of Trek that Deep Space Nine has illuminated so well.   

After steady improvements over the flaws of its first two seasons and numerous strong changes in Year 3- some of them quite glorious introductions- Deep Space Nine manages to loose its way a touch in Season 4. Though the quality shines above the fluff and a lot of goodness happens, like a puzzle without a picture, DS9 still doesn’t have a consistent vision week to week. Fortunately, Next Generation lovers who dismissed Deep Space Nine’s early weak seasons can return fresh with Worf’s transfer, and previous Trek fans or longtime science fiction audiences can continue fresh here thanks to the step up in Klingon angst and Changeling intrigue.  

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