25 years ago, on 3rd January 1993, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” made its TV debut in America. It wouldn’t reach UK TV screens until 22nd August later that year. To celebrate the 25th Anniversary, What The Craggus Saw is taking the time between those two premiere dates to revisit and review each season of what is arguably “Star Trek”‘s finest series.
In the 1990s, it wasn’t unusual for TV shows to take two, even three seasons to really find their feet. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” had struggled with this, especially through a second season devastated by a writer’s strike but “Deep Space Nine” managed to largely avoid this pitfall by playing to its premise’s strengths. Instead of a series of standalone episodes, the second season leaned hard into serialised storytelling, picking up the plot points seeded in the first season.
Following the politically-infused season one finale, it opens with a then-unprecedented three-part story of a political coup on Bajor. Guest star Frank Langella provides gravel-voiced menace as conniving minister Jaro, an opportunistic populist who seizes power by assembling a coalition of hard-line religious fanatics and a xenophobic, reactionary organisation called The Circle who seek to keep Bajor for the Bajorans. The only trouble is, Minister Jaro is being clandestinely supported by a hostile foreign power seeking to install a puppet regime for their own ends. A story so topical is beggars belief, its further evidence that “Deep Space Nine” was ahead of its time in storytelling approach and borderline prophetic in its subject matter.
Thanks to its fixed roots in the “Star Trek” universe, the series becomes richer and more satisfyingly complex with each episode as the mythology builds and consequences of decisions and actions old and new return to haunt the crew and inhabitants of the station. The series ploughs head-on into stories dealing with war orphans, interracial adoption, conflict zone politics, child abuse, disability rights and equality just in the first few episodes. There are pseudo-Shakespearian gender politics playing out in the exploration of Ferengi society while there are glimpses into the dark past of the Cardassian occupation and glimpses of the future as we get the first tentative mentions of The Dominion.
“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” never wavers from a commitment to the utopian ideals of “Star Trek” but doesn’t shy away from testing the strength of those principles and exploring the potential costs and challenges of adhering to them. It constantly challenges both individual characters and institutions like Starfleet with complex issues such as refugee crises, mass immigration, ideological zealotry and homegrown terrorism.
In amongst all the heavy themes – which never seem to weigh down the drama – the series start to build out the enduring character relationships which will become such a feature of the series as it develops, especially the friendship between O’Brien and Doctor Bashir. Perhaps because of its own strong sense of continuity, it’s much more comfortable with diving back into the history of Trek and revisiting old adventures, as evidenced by Kang, Kor and Koloth turning up on the station to ask Dax to join them in honouring a blood oath.
The lowest ebb of the season is due to an early example of what’s become known as ‘Iron Man 2 Syndrome’ as the series gives over two episodes to setting up the forthcoming “Star Trek: Voyager”. Episodes The Maquis Parts I & II formed the middle two of a quartet of shared universe building episodes (the others were provided by season seven of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” to prepare the way for the next Trek series. While “Voyager” would ultimately fritter away the rich dramatic potential, the themes are in full force here: domestic terrorism prompted by disenfranchised and embittered citizens who have been left abandoned or ignored by a high-handed government treaty which overrode or ignored their concerns. Once again, the series is so on point for today, it’s not even funny.
The season ends on a deceptively unassuming note with an episode that starts off fluffy and reassuringly light for an episode which would alter the series’ course forever. What starts off as a comedically mismatched road trip for Quark and Sisko abruptly transforms into what will turn out to be an existential crisis for the Federation.
Season 2 earns an overall score of 7.5/10.
Top 3 Episodes:
Although it’s not part of the many ongoing storylines, this episode is a fascinating exploration of ideological zealotry, pitting Sisko and O’Brien against a human colony who have forsaken technology in favour of a more agrarian existence. But there’s a dark secret at the heart of this supposed utopia and Sisko’s unwillingness to submit to the unquestioned cult-like leadership of the colony’s ruler threatens to unravel everything.
“The Wire” (S2E22)
An exploration of both one of the series’ best characters – Garak – as well as a dive into the shady world of the Cardassian secret police, “The Wire” strengthens the burgeoning friendship between Bashir and Garak and adds more depth and detail to Cardassian society. There’s such a chemistry between the two actors and Andrew Robinson’s performance is always a devious delight.
“The Collaborator” (S2E24)
Any episode featuring the fantastic Louise Fletcher as Kai Winn is well worth watching but this one is especially good as the election of the new Kai draws to a close and more secrets from the Cardassian occupation threaten to destabilise Bajoran society once again. The face-offs between Kira and Winn are formidable and the final revelation jaw-dropping.
One(s) to skip:
“Invasive Procedures” (S2E04)
It’s a perfectly good episode, featuring a disgruntled Trill attempting to take Jadzia’s symbiote by force but it suffers from coming straight after the high-octane season opener and doesn’t really offer any real insights into Trill society.
“Second Sight” (S2E09)
Probably the season’s most incongruous episode, it feels like either a retooled “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode or a holdover from Season One. There’s nothing wrong with it really, but it’s just not as good as the episodes surrounding it.