Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 25th Anniversary Retrospective: Season 7

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.

Season Overview

It was on this day, 25 years ago that “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” finally debuted on UK TV screens, so it’s only fitting that today we look back at its seventh and final season, a season which saw the series make some significant changes both on and off screen and finally deliver the end game to seven years of storytelling.

With Sisko having abandoned Deep Space Nine after Dukat managed to collapse the wormhole and sever his connection to the Prophets, it’s down to newly promoted Colonel Kira to keep the diplomatic peace on the Alpha Quadrant’s most strategically important space station. The high galactic politics of Kira’s brinkmanship with Admiral Ross and the Klingon and Romulan representatives provides some fun moments and illustrates just how much Kira has grown since we first met her as a hot-headed, fiery-tempered Bajoran Liaison officer. It’s more successful than the slightly soap opera-esque revelations surrounding Sisko’s mother but in the end, a lost Orb of the Prophets provides a way back and having reopened the wormhole, Sisko returns to Deep Space Nine one last time. He brings with him one of the seasons biggest changes: there’s a new Dax in town, and she couldn’t be more different to Jadzia if she tried.

Nicole de Boer took on a tricky task, having to create a new interpretation of an existing character with only a season to do it in, thanks to Terry Farrell’s decision not to return for the final season. In some ways, the introduction of Ezri Dax distorts the seventh and final season, with more episodes than you’d normally expect devoted to fleshing out Ezri and her past and dealing with the fallout of Dax’s ‘regeneration’, especially in respect of Worf (it’s such a priority that we don’t even wait until the traditional ‘episode 4’ slot to deal with it). The character ends up being a pretty good fit even if it is tempting to wonder what other stories we might have had if Jadzia hadn’t had that fateful encounter with Dukat at the end of Season 6.

While there are important character developments with Odo, Dukat, Kira and Sisko especially, there’s also a very definite sense in the first half of the season of the series treading water slightly. The breakneck pace of Season 6 has slowed way down and it’s pretty clear the showrunners and writers are biding their time, lulling the network into a false sense of security before delivering their long-planned-for magnum opus: an epic ten-episode story to close out the season and the series overall.

While those final ten episodes certainly resolve everything the series has been leading up to, it’s not quite the graceful landing you might be expecting. The feature-length/ two episode ‘finale’ “What You Leave Behind” especially is somewhat awkwardly structured, offering as it does the opportunity for those fans who’ve never been that keen on the whole Bajoran spirituality/ Emissary of the Prophets idea the chance to check out at the end of the Dominion War armistice. That false ending leaves basically a twenty-minute coda in which to resolve the centuries-old conflict between the Pah-Wraiths and the Prophets. The haste to tie up the big things mean some smaller things get trampled in the rush. The romance between Ezri Dax and Dr Bashir feels like it would have happened eventually but the speed with which its brought to fruition lacks authenticity, Odo’s heartbreaking decision to leave Kira to return to his people isn’t given quite enough time and, worst of all, there’s no chance for Sisko to say goodbye to Jake, a glaring omission given how strong and important their relationship has been to the series. Instead, Sisko’s farewell scene is with his new wife Kassidy, which isn’t wrong, just I feel really bad for Jake.

All that being said, the indulgently sentimental montages at the very end as each character reminisces about their time aboard the station are genuinely affecting. Perhaps its because we’ve been with these people in this place for seven years, and as the series closes out I realise (even on this, my umpteenth rewatch) that I’m going to miss the crew of “Deep Space Nine”, more than any other series. Maybe its because unlike the other series, nobody from DS9 ever got to appear in a movie and it’s the one corner of the Star Trek universe that’s never really been revisited. By testing the basic principles and values of Rodenberry’s universe, it explored it in a way no other iteration has ever managed yet it remained fundamentally true to the optimistic view of the future. Paradise is possible, but it’ll take hard work and sacrifice.

Season Seven earns an overall score of 8/10, as does the series as a whole.

Top Three Episodes

S7E16 – “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”

A thematic follow-up to “In The Pale Moonlight” and a direct follow-up to “Inquisition”, this is another descent into the shadowy world of the Federation’s Black Ops division, Section 31. Once again, the Federation is using statecraft to interfere in Romulan politics and this time, Doctor Bashir finds himself manipulated into doing Section 31’s dirty work. It’s an important set-up for events later in the season and it’s a little bit of geeky fun to see our characters getting to play on the sets of “Star Trek: Voyager”.

S7E20 – “The Changing Face Of Evil”

A huge game-changing episode that sees Kai Winn step past the point of no return as she commits a murder in service of the Pah-Wraiths meanwhile a stunning strike by the Breen on Earth itself abruptly changes the momentum of the Dominion War, putting the Federation and allies on the back foot as they suffer a devastating counter-offensive that pushes the allied forces out of Dominion territory and sees the Defiant destroyed.  But just when an ultimate Dominion victory seems to be inevitable, a declaration from Cardassia Prime shifts the balance of power once again.

S7E25/E26 – “What You Leave Behind”

Nothing becomes the series so much as the leaving of it. An action-packed, emotional finale which sees the end of the galactic war, a resolution to the Emissary’s destiny and some wonderful moments for each of the characters. It’s got the scope and spectacle a series finale needs and while its structure is a little bit disjointed, it hits pretty much every note you want it to.

One(s) to Skip

S7E04 – “Take Me Out To The Holosuite”

As Season Seven doesn’t have a traditional Dax episode in the number four slot, it’s given over to this pleasant but ultimately filler episode. It may appeal more if you’re as in to baseball as Sisko is but if not, it’s still fun just, you know, not when there’s a war on. There are some nice meta touches, such as the Niners uniform using the Star Trek font and, judging by this episode, the Federation anthem is really dull. It’s kind of weird to see Sisko basically being a petulant dick but he eventually learns his lesson about teamwork. In true DS9 style, it doesn’t quite go for the romantic Hollywood ending of an unlikely victory but it does take the unusual step of having the crew celebrate their loss with some gently racist teasing of their Vulcan opponents.

S7E13 – “Field Of Fire”

I’m not sure what the Vulcans did that annoyed the production team of DS9 so much but once again, this “CSI: Star Trek” episode sees them taking on the role of ‘bad guy’. Again it’s a weird little episode that steps almost entirely out of the ongoing plot to offer up a locked room mystery, which is spearheaded by…Ezri Dax. It feels like an Odo episode that was hastily retooled to give the newest character some more time in the spotlight. The eventual resolution and unmasking of the killer is pretty unsatisfying too.

S7E15 – “Badda-Bing Badda-Bang”

Another holosuite episode which, in an earlier season might have seemed more at home, but here its an unwelcome distraction from the important events in play. Sisko’s impatience with his crew’s obsession of what amounts to a computer game’s new expansion pack is understandable, although his reasons for not wanting to participate seem somewhat anachronistic. Sisko churlishness was also an acknowledgement to the fans who weren’t happy with Vic Fontaine’s prominence in the series, but in the end, this “Sisko’s 9” caper just feels too frivolous for the final season of the show.

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