Monday, December 5, 2011

'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' Season Two (1993)

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

After the events of Season One, tensions on the planet Bajor are rising.  A group of extremists calling themselves the Circle have begun to spread their "Bajor for Bajorans" propaganda, driving a rift between the Bajorans serving on the station and the Starfleet crew.  Major Kira (Nana Visitor) receives intelligence that a Bajoran war hero named Li Nalas (Richard Beymer) is being held in a Cardassian prison camp, and sees his rescue as a way to repair relations. 

Instead, Nalas is turned into a figurehead by Minister Jaro (Frank Langella), who is soon revealed to be a leader of the Circle, and is plotting a coup to seize control of the Bajoran government.  As his troops march on the capital city, he sends and assault force to capture Deep Space Nine.  Starfleet orders a withdrawal, but Commander Sisko (Avery Brooks) and the rest of the DS9 crew won't give up without a fight.  Sisko, Chief O'Brien (Colm Meaney), and Doctor Bashir (Alexander Siddig), fight a guerilla war through the corridors of the station while Kira and Lt. Dax (Terry Farrell) head for Bajor with proof that the Circle's weapons have been supplied in secret by the Cardassians.

Over the course of the next year, the struggle to rebuild Bajor will continue.  The Cardassians will stop at nothing to gain control of the planet, the station, and the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant.  But on the other side of that wormhole, something dark is stirring. A dangerous power in the Gamma Quadrant is taking notice of Starfleet's missions, and the crew begins to hear whispers of something called the Dominion...

Season Two of 'Deep Space Nine' expands the scope and ambition of the series a great deal.  The opening three-part episode feels very much like it should be the season finale of the first season.  It builds directly on the themes presented in the Season One finale "In the Hands of the Prophets," as the schism between Bajor and Starfleet comes to a head.  It's here that the relationship between Sisko and his Bajoran allies is cemented. 

This second season is loaded with some great episodes, including "Cardassians," which explores Cardassian orphan children left behind on Bajor, "Necessary Evil" looks at Odo's first investigation aboard the station and meeting Quark (Armin Shimerman) and Kira for the first time, "Armageddon Game," the first time O'Brien and Bashir really become friends, and "The Wire," a look at the past of the mysterious tailor/spy Garak (Andrew Robinson).  "The Wire," in particular, features a fantastic performance from Robinson, who tells Bashir different versions of the same story of why he's in exile on Deep Space Nine as his mind degenerates.

Another important storyline begins in "The Maquis" two-parter.  Colonists on worlds given up by a peace treaty between the Federation and the Cardassian Empire acquire weapons and start up their own private war again.  This two-part episode figures in with episodes on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and were part of the producers laying the seeds across both shows for the premise of "Star Trek: Voyager."  This cross-pollination helps to create a more cohesive fictional universe, and is a lot of fun.  Of the three shows, "Deep Space Nine" is the one that dealt with the Maquis in the best and most mature manner (indeed, it could be said that "Deep Space Nine" does many things that way).

The biggest thing this second season presents, however, is the first appearances of the Dominion, and their vicious military force, the Jem'Hadar.  The season finale, "The Jem'Hadar," turns the 'Star Trek' universe on its ear, essentially.  In this episode, Sisko and Quark are taken prisoner by the Jem'Hadar, who deliver a warning to the space station crew that further incursions into the Gamma Quadrant will not be tolerated. 

The season finale is tense, action-packed, and full of gravitas.  Sisko realizes that the Dominion is like no other enemy the Federation has faced before.  The Jem'Hadar are without mercy, and worse, fanatical in their devotion to the Founders of the Dominion.  So much so that even when Starfleet forces are retreating, they're willing to lay down their own lives just to make a point. 

The second season of 'Deep Space Nine' is even better than the first, with a more ambitious scope and more consistent quality of the episodes.  It is fine viewing from start to finish, with only a few blemishes here or there.  It starts out strong and ends, quite literally, with a bang.