Monday, December 19, 2011

'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' Season Three (1994)

Starring Avery Brooks, Nana Visitor and Colm Meaney
Created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller
Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry

At the end of Season Two, the crew of Deep Space Nine had come face to face with a dangerous new enemy, the Jem'Hadar, vicious soldiers of the Dominion.  As Season Three opens, Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) has brought a new weapon back to the station: the starship Defiant, a ship he helped build years earlier to defeat the Borg.  Now, with first officer Major Kira (Nana Visitor), Lieutenant Dax (Terry Farrell), Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig), Chief O'Brien (Colm Meaney) and Constable Odo (Rene Auberjonois) set off into the Gamma Quadrant to locate the Founders.

Sisko's hope is to convince the Dominion that the Federation is peaceful, and that they have no desire for war.  Unfortunately, he soon discovers the Dominion does not feel the same.  The crew discovers that the Founders are changelings, and that Odo is one of their lost children.  They beg Odo to return to them and help them lead the Dominion, but he rejects them and their ways. 

As the year progresses, the shadow of the Dominion looms large over the Alpha Quadrant.  Governments become fearful of changeling infiltrators, and new alliances are formed to fight them.  By year's end, two galactic superpowers will be ruined, Odo will have committed the worst crime in the history of his people, and the Founders will have made their first moves to conquer the Federation.

Season Three opens with the two-part episode "The Search," which introduces the Defiant, and sends the crew on a mission to find the Founders.  This episode is unusual in that it reverses the typical 'Star Trek' two-parter structure, with most of the action in the first half.  The second half is much more low-key, but has its own tense climax.  The revelation of Odo's origins is a huge moment for the series, and making him one of the Founders is a stroke of genius, even if it may come off as a bit... convenient. 

Spread throughout the seasons are a number of good and even great episodes.  The highlights of the season are a pair of two-part episodes, "Past Tense" and "Improbable Cause"/"The Die is Cast."  First up, "Paste Tense" sees Sisko, Bashir and Dax transported back in time to the early 21st century Earth, a time when economic hardship had led to a number of harsh policies.  Those without jobs live in ghettos, kept out of sight and out of mind by a government that doesn't care to placate an upper class that can't be bothered.

It's a fascinating episode not just because it's well-written and produced, but also because it seems so prescient now in 2011 as we are struggling through our own tough economic times, a widening gap between rich and poor, a time marked by Occupy Wall Street movements.  It's not hard to see our own world headed in this direction, block after block of people sleeping on the streets while those in power sip their fine liquor in high-rise homes.

If there's a problem with these two episodes, it's that it can actually come off as a little too preachy.  Much of the dialogue seems expository in nature, with Sisko explaining how and why things came to be so bad to Bashir, who knows less about the history than Sisko.  But otherwise, this is a fantastic pair of episodes, maybe even more so now than when they were first made.

The other two-parter begins with an explosion that destroys the shop of Cardassian tailor Garak (Andrew Robinson).  The investigation takes Garak and Odo into the world of the feared Cardassian intelligence agency, the Obsidian Order, and we learn more about Garak's past.  But it turns out that the Obsidian Order has formed an alliance with the Romulan intelligence faction, the Tal'Shiar, in a bid to launch a first strike to decimate the Dominion. 

These two episodes feature some fantastic interactions between Garak and Odo.  One is a man who lies professionally, and the other dedicates himself to truth and justice.  The two characters work extremely well together, all of it coming to a head in a fantastic scene where Garak is ordered to torture Odo, but ultimately it's Garak who begs Odo to tell him "something, anything!"  And to cap it off, the second part presents some of DS9's biggest action yet as the Jem'Hadar shatter the joint Cardassian/Romulan fleet.

Little hints toward this episode are sprinkled through earlier ones.  In "Defiant," transporter duplicate Thomas Riker (Jonathan Frakes) steals the Defiant and takes it into Cardassian space, exposing the buildup of ships belonging to the Obsidian Order.  Later, in "Visionary," O'Brien uncovers a Romulan plot to destroy the station.  All this helps give a sense of momentum and cohesion to the season, far more so than any previous season of 'Star Trek.' 

There are plenty of other great episodes throughout the season, including "Life Support," in which Bashir struggles with the ethical implications of keeping a person alive through various implants, even as their personality degrades through the procedures.  In "Heart of Stone," Odo is forced to reveal his feelings for Major Kira as one of the reasons why he won't return to his people.  "Through the Looking Glass" finds Sisko kidnapped and taken into the Mirror Universe to help the Terran Resistance.  In "Explorers," Sisko and his son Jake (Cirroc Lofton) build an ancient Bajoran sail ship and prove that it was capable of reaching Cardassia hundreds of years ago.  And in "Shakaar," Kira nearly starts a Bajoran civil war when Kai Winn (Louise Fletcher) tries to usurp control of the government.   

"Deep Space Nine" is a fantastic show.  Season Three helps set the stage further for the epic conflicts to come in later seasons.  There are revelations that will change the lives of every character on the show, bigger action sequences and ever-improving special effects. 

See Also
Season One
Season Two