25 November 2012

Deep Space Nine Season 6

Deep Space Nine Season 6 is Almost All Glory!
By Kristin Battestella

After getting excited over some of Deep Space Nine’s greatness to only end up disappointed over its filler and meandering ways, loyal viewers of the Star Trek spin off are finally rewarded with all this goodness!

Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) is in the thick of the Dominion War along with Klingons, Cardassians, and even Romulans. Commander Worf (Michael Dorn), however, is planning to marry Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell). Doctor Julian Bashir (Alexander Sidding) uncovers the mysterious Section 31’s action during the war while Chief Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney) also takes on missions of a duplicitous nature. Security Constable Odo (Rene Auberjonois), Bajoran Major Kira (Nana Visitor), and Ferengi bartender Quark (Armin Shimerman) must make tough choices while under Dominion occupation, and the Prophets and Pah-Wraiths of Bajor contribute to the fatal decisions.

Every season, DS9 had gems where a viewer hoped it had hit its stride. Back and forth? Again? This is it! Nope. Back peddled here, but yes. Yes. This is good! Make no mistake; the glorious six-part opening of Year 6 is perhaps the best yet. A complete balance and ensemble of action and players each having their moments across the galaxy with fractured battle tales on the Defiant, the station, and on Klingon Birds of Prey.  All the cast and recurring dynamos rise to the occasion. If there had been half as many episodes of Deep Space Nine, but each season had been a mini series arc like this, I’d utterly adore this show!   Unfortunately, I do think the use of The Prophets in “Sacrifice of Angels” to conclude the arc is a bit of damper, literally a dues ex machina cop out.  The viewer should have expected a divine intervention- why wouldn’t The Prophets do something about the war after doing so much for Bajor? However, no one bothers to suggest their help or even acknowledges they should have a role in the Dominion War. Hey, let’s go talk to our alien gods and see what they can do to help! Tossing this out so late in the game is a bit of that DS9 back peddle again. It’s the bane of this series to never quite make up its mind. Amid this hitting of Deep Space’s Nine stride- almost when the series is over!- there are still some clunkers this season. “Resurrection” puts an unnecessary not-Vedik Bareil (Philip Anglim) hitch into the Mirror Universe, and though a lovely little bottle character vignette, “The Sound of her Voice” is too lightweight for a second to last episode of a wartime season.  The finale itself “Tears of the Prophets” also feels a little formulaic and anti-climatic. It’s a bit of a weak cliffhanger after all we’ve just been through. Thankfully, “Who Mourns for Morn?” is a much more delightful reaction episode with a touch of sentimentality.

With the glory that is Avery Brooks as Benjamin Sisko this season, one has to wonder why Deep Space Nine hasn’t been doing exceptional black family history dynamics and race relations science fiction parallels all along. “Far Beyond the Stars” is an exceptional episode, perhaps thee show of the series. To have today’s sci-fi looking back on the foundings of the genre itself in speculation of everything in such a wonderful mind bending way! I want to say more, but shan’t. Likewise, “In the Pale Moonlight” is Sisko showing up to play directly to the camera and facing the point of no return. Andrew Robinson’s Garak is equally up to the challenge as the would-be devil of the episode’s titular quote. Wow. “The Magnificent Ferengi,” by contrast, is a lovely little western stand-off send-up with Armin Shimerman as Quark along with all our favorite guest stars- Jeffrey Combs, Max Grodenchik, Aron Eisenberg, Chase Masterson, Cecily Adams, and even Iggy ^$#&* Pop!  This familiar relief should have followed the heavy opening arc, and the subsequent “Waltz” one-on-one madness with our favorite vile Cardassian, Marc Alaimo as Dukat, is just excellent. Dukat has justified his villainy to the point where it is perfectly reasonable to him.  After “Sons and Daughters,” “Favor the Bold,” and “Sacrifice of Angels,” I’m sorry to see Melanie Smith depart as Ziyal, but the exit of the character and its impact on others is perfect.  And it’s so nice to see Jake again in “Valiant.” It’s a fine chance for Cirroc Lofton to get in on the wartime action and ask critical questions about youth in battle. Perhaps it is a one-off show, but it ties into The Dominion plots and doesn’t provide any easy answers.

Strangely, Colm Meaney and his Chief O’Brien become a bit diminished in the slow undercover “Honor Among Thieves.” It’s a nice debate about subterfuge and sadness, but some of these quiet episodes just get lost amid the heavy glory. “Time’s Orphan” could have been a nice O’Brien family pain show, but it all ends up too easily resolved. Thankfully, “One Little Ship,” is a cute little show.  It’s dangerous and perilous, but a charming, vintage SF concept with a Trek spin. “My Way” is also a swinging good way to get Nana Visitor’s Major Kira and Rene Auberjonois as Odo together thanks to the lovely James Darren as the hip and wise Vic Fontaine hologram. Sure, some fans aren’t going to like the period style or the relationship, but it’s not as weird as the hokey Pah-Wraith effects and irritatingly perfect Louise Fletcher as that pesky Kai Winn in “The Reckoning.”  All our favorite Ferengi do more in “Profit and Lace” with a fun look at women’s rights and gender issues in Ferengi society. It isn’t too farcical or heavy-handed but makes a good little statement and science fiction amalgam. And who knew we’d finally see something of Julian Bashir in “Inquisition.”  Is this the first time we see his quarters? You can’t really know someone when we haven’t gone home with him. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely pleased about the advent of the shadowy Section 31. One may not prefer Vic Fontaine’s tunes or like Kira and Odo as a couple, but the creation of Section 31 is another deal breaker that will have viewers throw their arms in the air. One wouldn’t need to create the subterfuge and undermining of all the Starfleet that we know and love if you consistently create solid characters dealing with dilemmas within themselves as in “In the Pale Moonlight.” I’m surprised they continued to use the Section 31 angles over the much more refined Benny elements from “Far Beyond the Stars”- but there’s more of that in the seventh and final season.

Likewise, the ball is still dropped regarding Michael Dorn’s relocated Worf and his new wife, the departing Terry Farrell as Jadzia Dax.  “You Are Cordially Invited” is Klingon fun, but the treatment of Marc Worden as Alexander is iffy. I don’t know why the writers felt the need to essentially write out familial relationships for Worf and O’Brien- even Jake and Sisko are reduced along with Penny Johnson as Kasidy Yates family-wise.  Of course, Jadzia is also still a waste, complaining that she actually has some sort of cryptic deciphering Science Officer stuff to do right up to the end. Why create the Worf as parent possibility when you are writing out his son on top of Jadzia’s imminent departure? The baby bonding with Worf is laid on too bittersweet. You can’t appreciate the dearly departed sentiment on the first viewing. It has to grow on you; otherwise, the characters just feel so ho-hum. These developments make no sense, and the opportunity for Sisko and O’Brien to have fatherly bonding time is relegated to brief B storyline moments. Both a lot of big things and too many little things happen in the “Tears of the Prophets” finale-  the invasion of Cardassia, and spoilers to no one, the death of Jadzia.  It’s all depressing, with the rest of the episode feeling more like time filler. You shouldn’t conclude such an awesome season on many little points when you have big exclamation points in the balance.  Is it over? Is that all? Invasions and death- shouldn’t this be heavier? Deep Space Nine may have ended right here, and after all of Season 6’s glory, no one would have noticed. Once again, the series’ nagging built-in pitfalls hamper an otherwise fine year.

It’s ironic. Again, the full length of the season creates this very need for filler and a stretching of the goodness too thin. Having no money for meaty episodes requires individual and bottle shows that detract and take away from the heavy, dark, and battle driven ensemble.  Had there been less shows, the production could have ponied up for the action and stars the story needed to be its complete seamless tapestry. Goodness, six seasons of Deep Space Nine and I still feel like this leg of Trek is only half good thanks to such unevenness.  Were DS9 on television today and one randomly tuned in to a crappy episode, it would be very easy to pass on the entire show. As opposed to The Next Generation before it, where from late in Season 2 straight thru Season 6 almost every episode is a solid, memorable adventure that can be viewed time and again.  Audiences can’t judge all of Highlander: The Series by its weaker first season or woeful last season- Years 3, 4, and 5 are day in and day out dynamite. With Deep Space Nine, however, you have the First and Second Season stinkers, the developmental debut feeling in Year 3, then the same half greatness in Seasons 4 and 5 before this shared glory in Year 6.  Where are we to define this series’ overall flawed presentation? With one year remaining, it feels like DS9 never lives up to its potential. How can one claim this is the best Star Trek incarnation when its very persona feels based upon uneven fluff logistics and time wasters?   Cut the seasons in half, give us fully developed arching greatness, and we can talk about the exceptional merits of Deep Space Nine. Season 6 proves it can be done, so ignore the quibbles and go for the glory this year while it lasts.

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