23 November 2012

Deep Space Nine Season 5

Deep Space Nine Further Ups the Ante for Season 5
By Kristin Battestella

I feel like I’m always saying finally with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Finally characters have been developed for better or worse. Finally it has gotten itself on track in this fifth season. Finally, at last DS9 is mostly all goodness!

Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) and his Security Chief Odo (Rene Auberjonois) must uncover the Changelings’ plans to infiltrate the Klingon High Council in order to broker a new peace with the Empire. Worf (Michael Dorn), meanwhile, begins a relationship with Trill Science Officer Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell), and Major Kira (Nana Visitor) must carry the O’Briens’ (Colm Meaney and Rosalind Chao) baby to term while facing her own past. Jake Sisko (Cirroc Lofton) becomes a war correspondent as the Federation fights the Klingons, Maquis, Cardassians, and The Dominion, and the battle intrigue provides major revelations for Doctor Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig).

Some of the personal and family station-side on Deep Space Nine is substituted for wrapping up the Klingon leftovers from Year 4, and those heavies do take until mid-year here to completely resolve amid the forthcoming Dominion angst in “Call to Arms.” In the premiere “Apocalypse Rising” and battle episodes like “Soldiers of the Empire,” these criss-crossing plots are effective. Unfortunately, we spend so much time with the build up of Changeling infiltration and blood testing suspense- particularly in the two-part “In Purgatory’s Shadow” and “By Inferno’s Light”- before these twists are subjectively utilized or simply dropped all together by the end of the season and The Dominion War. I feel as though we’ve spent three years waiting for the dang Dominion already! Thankfully, “For the Uniform” and “Blaze of Glory” resolve the Maquis drama in fine form, and “Empok Nor” is an interesting little horror-esque askew look at how DS9 might have been. “Children of Time” also adds Deep Space Nine’s touch of sacrificing darkness to its sweet Trek form, and of course, “Trials and Tribble-ations” is also exceptional just for the novelty alone. When you see how simply glorious The Original Series can look intercut with the 24th century, one wonders why we ever left Kirk’s era. Even if you are a non Deep Space Nine Star Trek fan and might miss a few internal references, this episode is simply a must see.

Strangely, it seems as though we don’t have much Sisko-centric material beyond the Emissary touch in “Rapture.” Remove his individual episodes and you’re left with just more room for Battle Sisko Badassery from “Apocalypse Rising” thru the “Call to Arms” finale. Although it is weird how both Cirroc Lofton and Melanie Smith as Ziyal have no goodbye scenes with their parents during the premiere or before any of the year’s critical scenarios.  Jake has some good cowardice questions in “Nor the Battle to the Strong” and there is family friendly teen fun with Aron Eisenberg as Nog for “In the Cards.”  After such lovely father/son relationship pieces in prior seasons, however, the Sisko family moments are too minuscule to enjoy here. Thankfully, Rene Auberjonois keeps the intimate and personal going with Odo’s history and prior Terok Nor dilemmas in “Things Past” and “The Begotten.”  Some of the shapeshifter now a solid romance in “A Simple Investigation” is iffy, but the Odo and Armin Shimerman as Quark buddy material is once again great in “The Ascent.” “Ferengi Love Songs” and “Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places” create some solid lightheartedness with a fun, unexpected Klingon and Ferengi mix. Though not everyone may like the Ferengi humor, Quark’s moral twists in “Business as Usual” are definitely a delight.

Sad spoilers ahead! Perhaps the weirdest changes Deep Space Nine presents for Season 5 are the revelations regarding Julian Bashir in “In Purgatory’s Shadow” and “Doctor Bashir, I Presume.” So, over the last four and a half years your regular show doctor has been made so nondescript that you can make him an alien and no one notices? Yes, this fundamental change was written after the fact and thus Alexander Siddig wasn’t even told to play the character differently. However, it is a little ridiculous that there was a bland enough regular- one that we’ve supposedly known and cared about all along- to which the writers can even do this.  Alien switcharoos notwithstanding, it turns out Bashir is also genetically enhanced ala Kahn infamy! Now, instead of letting the character languish in O’Brien’s coattails all this time, why wasn’t this secret Bashir’s bane there all along, creating a pleasing, dark development much more in DS9’s vein? We can look back now and presume Bashir’s deliberate mess ups and bad choices had meaning, but knowing this was all a change on the fly isn’t nearly as fulfilling as having had the audience in on the character’s difficulty from the beginning.  It’s a bit of a defining moment for Deep Space Nine. Either one sees this as the shedding of the child’s play from early seasons or this is the fed up and led astray viewer quitting over one too many cop out and sharked jumped ploys.  

Though the romance between Nana Visitor’s Major Kira and guest Duncan Rhegar as Minister Shakaar is also just too awkward, there is chemistry in the pregnant Visitor’s storyline with Colm Meaney as Chief O’Brien. After all, Kira is carrying his onscreen baby! The action risks for Kira in “The Darkness and the Light” might seem questionable due to the pregnancy plot, but the Bajoran debates are great. Likewise, Marc Alaimo is again perfection regarding the Kira/Dukat angst in “Ties of Blood and Water.”  Unfortunately, Rosalind Chao’s weird Pah–wraith takeover in “The Assignment” doesn’t help Keiko’s development any. The entire birth and her role in the family seems amiss, and the one-sidedness also creates a missing O’Brien feeling as well. He has some spooky fun in “Empok Nor” and pieces of B storylines dealing with babysitting, and ironically, it’s Jadzia Dax who gets the much needed dimension. Dax does more in “Soldiers of the Empire” than in 4 years of reporting the dockings at DS9! The episode itself is styled as what should be an inferior marauders or bandits type cliché; however it is so Klingon battle detailed awesome that all the players benefit from its success. Even Worf has some exceptional moments here, now that he finally has something major to do on Deep Space Nine. Of course, it doesn’t really last thanks to some serious WTF Risa politics in “Let He Who is Without Sin.” Once again, guest regulars like Andrew Robinson as Garak, Robert O’Reilly as Gowron, Kenneth Marshall as Eddington, and Jeffrey Combs as Weyoun are superior.  

Ironically, now that the larger Dominion plots and cast statements have seemingly what-took-you-so-damn-long put Deep Space Nine on the right track, it is too late for newcomers or casual fans to tune in for the complex, internal, multi-part glory.  In order to appreciate the gung ho moving forward of Season 5, viewers must be familiar with at least the two previous seasons.  Yes, it is a frustrating way to go- one must take the questionable shows and filler episodes of multiple meandering seasons to understand and enjoy when DS9 is good.  Even die-hard fans can’t dive in or pick and choose what hours to watch at will. However, it isn’t the arc storytelling itself that hurt- and perhaps still hurts- the show’s popularity.  It’s that it was apparently done so haphazardly in order to lock viewers into watching crappy stuff along with the gems. At this point in the series, if you’re in for an ounce, you must take the entire pound. Deep Space Nine has taken its sweet ass time in getting itself together, but finally, Star Trek fans who enjoy the heavy can at last praise the acceleration in Year 5.

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