See Part 1 here. Let’s get directly into the capsule reviews of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine season 2:
2×09: Second Sight: “What we have is a dream.”
It is the 4th anniversary of battle of Wolf 359: the Siskos still miss their deceased wife and mother (hey, Jake does not appear so often this season, will he progressively disappear like Wesley Crusher?). Benjamin takes a nostalgic night walk on the Promenade. He meets a beautiful woman and starts falling in love with her — suddenly Sisko is of a happier mood all around! — but she keeps disappearing. It turns out she is a projection from a telepath who enters a coma while this happens. The telepath is the wife of an expert terraformer — who is white, and indeed very talented but also incredibly egoistic and full of himself. (Incidentally, his work seems to be based off the in-credible Genesis device of Star Trek II/III!) If this means anything about how Sisko is, by opposition, more soft-spoken and humble, the episode does not focus on it. I also find it funny that Sisko’s love interest has to be…a black woman! Aliens or no aliens, melanin-rich people of opposite sexes get along better always, right? A good enough episode, but there could have been even more of an exploration of Sisko’s state of mind about his lost wife Jennifer (she has not been mentioned since the pilot!).
The beautiful guest star is Salli Richardson, who also portrayed Drey’auc, Teal’c’s wife, in Stargate SG-1 (another case of a black actor chosen to be the wife of a black character, even though both are aliens!).
2×10: Sanctuary: “Fifty years of Cardassian rule have made you all frightened and suspicious.”
This is the “flood of immigrant refugees” episode: a whole civilization has been chased from its home in the Gamma Quadrant and is looking for a new home. They fill DS9 to the brim and people, like Quark, start complaining and developing racist reflexes against them (they are too many, are smelly, have weird skin). They believe they have found their prophecized home in Bajor, but the Bajorans refuse to take them. Ultimately they relocate elsewhere.
There are plenty of elements I greatly enjoyed in this episode. It starts with the Federation being completely unable to communicate with these Skrreeans — finally, the writers remembered that the universal translator is running in the background everywhere and that it cannot possibly function perfectly all the time especially with alien cultures from the Gamma Quadrant! I was waiting for a long time for a story like this. The Skrreeans are not only feminist, they are a completely matriarchal society who deem the males as inferior and violent and so unfit for decision-making, and so Kira is their go-to person, not Sisko. Finally, an alien culture that is quite different from ours and has something to say about social norms and alternatives; for a science fiction show, I’m eager to have more of such stories. The racist tensions on the station are very well developed, particularly through Jake and Nog playing with or being annoyed by the young Skrreeans, as well as with the Bajorans’ ambivalence as to helping a similarly oppressed people versus minding for their own now. Well done!
Also, we have another Dominion reference here: the Skrreeans were displaced by the Dominion!
The young Skrreean was Andrew Koenig, son of Walter Koenig (aka Pavel Chekov)!
2×11: Rivals: “Not impossible, just extremely improbable.”
Quark gets a competitor in the Promenade in the form of a man who uses his particularly strong skills of persuasion to con people into giving him money. His gambling establishment runs on…pure luck! A field generated by an alien device produce statistically unlikely neutrinos and…luck. A weird concept. Quark sets up a racquetball championship between O’Brien and Bashir to attract back his customers. The episode makes extensive use of the large Promenade sets, with the camera following characters on both top and bottom floors!
2×12: The Alternate: “You always had to learn your lessons the hard way, didn’t you?”
We meet Odo‘s father — well, we meet the Bajoran scientist who taught Odo after his awakening (what Dr. Soong was to Data?). He definitely describes Odo in terms a proud father would, so much so in fact that he still considers Odo as a child, not yet capable of behaving maturely or making adult decisions. Odo secretly dislikes that, as he is reminded of the he was a prisoner of sorts, though he would not actually say it out loud. This episode allows Odo to exteriorize this and literally manifest his id, in the monstrous form that he unconsciously takes during his “sleep” and that attacks his father. The search for the monster in the station conduits made me think of Alien a bit. After Odo becomes conscious of these urges, will he reconcile with his father? An interesting episode for Odo, despite a lack of “punch” and the quite old special effects!
2×13: Armageddon Game: “Women! That’s all you ever think about.” “No it isn’t. Though I do think about them a lot.”
It’s a buddy movie episode with O’Brien “Chief” and Bashir “Julian”! They are initially reluctant to be in the presence of each other, because one is too talkative and one is not relaxed enough! They get stranded in a planet after some aliens take some radical measures to attain peace: kill anyone who has the knowledge to create their advanced weapons. As you could expect from a “bonding together” episode, there are some funny moments and some sad moments and they end up with greater appreciation for each other although they won’t say so.
One thing that not quite bothered me but I do find problematic with this episode and with how DS9 deals with its characters as a whole is a soft underlying sexism or rather stereotypical gender roles. Bashir has been the womanizer from the start, fine. Then Bashir and O’Brien get into a discussion of women, because that’s what men do; then discuss the fact that O’Brien is not “free” any more because of his marriage to Keiko, or that marriage gives life purpose. Meanwhile, back on the station, Kira and Dax are alone and they discuss men, because that’s what women do. The show has brought these two together and made them best friends in a sort of awkward and forced manner, because I guess that is what is expected out of the women characters, to become friends? And I have to insist: these are aliens, there’s more in common between Keiko and her plants than between humans and aliens! Yes, I’ve see TNG: The Hunt (reveals a shared origin for humanoids in the Star Trek universe), but even so there’s a lack of imagination here, it is very trope-y, and a missed opportunity to be great. Well, those were the 1990s in a mainstream show, and once you accept that this episode was quite good.
What I did love was the resolution: Keiko finds something odd in the aliens’ cover story about what happened to O’Brien, in that he would never drink coffee in the afternoon, which gets Sisko to dig deeper and eventually rescue them; but O’Brien does like to drink coffee in the afternoon! Married but still don’t know everything about each other.
One of the two ambassadors, Peter White, was the strict gate community manager in The X-Files‘ Arcadia and Sam Waters’ father in Profiler.
2×14: Whispers: “It’s not doctors I have a problem with. It’s you, Julian.”
O’Brien starts suspecting that something is wrong, and that everyone is behaving oddly as if they are hiding a secret, even Keiko is very awkward when they kiss. He believes there has been an Invasion of the Body Snatchers (c) and that everyone has turned alien. And in a classic Twilight Zone (c) twist, it’s not the others but it’s him! He is the replicant, unbeknownst to himself, of the original O’Brien, à la Blade Runner (c), sent by invading aliens, and the others are monitoring him to see his reactions. Tragically, he believes he is the original until the very end. A nice self-contained episode, if not too memorable.
2×15: Paradise: “For the sake of the community. I did it all for the community.”
Sisko and O’Brien are stranded in a planet, unable to communicate with the outside world. They find a colony that has accepted their fates and lives a peaceful life of farming unaided by technology and everything that comes with it. It looks as if Sisko and O’Brien will have to live through TNG: The Inner Light and spend the rest of their days in low-tech heaven dreaming of their high-tech past. It turns out that the colony’s lifestyle is self-imposed by its strong leader, a luddite philosopher who rejects the Federation and what she perceives as a loss of moral and physical strength, and maintains a very strong discipline in the colony despite appearances of uncoerced democracy. It is a battle of wills between her and Sisko, who is punished for his insubordination to the colony’s rules but keeps being determined.
Ultimately, the truth is uncovered and the colonists are left to choose their destiny freely. Most have invested too much in their lives there that they choose to stay — but several children seem to wonder what else is out there in the galaxy; I found that last shot of the episode very well done. This was a strong episode debating important issues, however there was room for improvement. I just wish things were not as clear-cut between what is presented as the negative ideal, the completely anti-technology religious cult leader, and what we are to take as the positive ideal, Sisko’s world. Perhaps because it all has to go fast within one episode and we did not have enough time to see the positive aspects of this “paradise”, but the ideas are there.
The cult leader’s son was Michael B. Silver, who was an Area 51 Man In Black in The X-Files‘ two-part Dreamland! And one sexy colonist was Julia Nickson-Soul, who was recurring in Babylon 5 (Sinclair’s relationship).
2×16: Shadowplay: “Who’s to say that our definition of life is the only valid one.”
There’s not just one or two but three stories taking place in this episode! This means that not one story had material enough for one full episode, but it often happens with DS9 that character and story development slowly happen over time in little touches like these, like an on-going space soap opera.
One story is exploring a new Gamma Quadrant planet and discovering that most people there are holograms created by a nostalgic old man whose culture was destroyed by the Dominion (another subtle reference-in-passing!); this is with Odo and Dax, who get out of the station for once, and Odo finds clues as to his race’s whereabouts. The other is Jake training in engineering with O’Brien and having to confess to his father that he is not actually envisaging a career in Starfleet. And the third is Vedek Bareil paying a visit to the station and…getting into a romantic relationship with Kira! Although there were hints of that in the three-parter at the beginning of the season (The Circle), it was still surprising to see.
2×17: Playing God: “You are the only one who can give yourself another chance.”
This was an odd episode with plenty of changes of tone, but I liked it. Jadzia Dax welcomes a Trill initiate, Arjin, in order to judge him on whether he will make a good host, and we have seen how demanding that selection process is (Invasive Procedures earlier in the season). This is a first for Jadzia, not Dax, and things are new and different from expectations both for Arjin and Jadzia — after all, Jadzia herself was an initiate not too long ago. Jadzia makes Arjin realize that being a host is not about scoring tops in everything as if you were entering Starfleet, but it’s about being interested to share and receive, and offering something to share that can be interesting to the symbiont. Jadzia and Dax are tough on Arjin, but there are a lot of light moments too, with Arjin being surprised at Jadzia gambling with the Ferengi, or with O’Brien chasing Cardassian voles in the ducts of the station.
Then a subspace sample they bring back proves to be a whole new universe being born and threatening the station as it expands. Sisko becomes very dark and philosophical on whether they have the right to destroy it and all the potential life it holds within it (he mentions the Borg too). Dax and Arjin manage to return it to the Gamma Quadrant (with some cheesy piloting scenes full of early 1990s digital effects). Now forgive me if I look to hard in this but the science is a bit odd here: if the transporter scans something to recreate it atom by atom elsewhere, can it scan an entire pocket universe? Is there not a problem of capacity and of particles being in a parallel universe? And if it is a universe expanding in ours, will it not start eating out the Gamma Quadrant and eventually everything anyway? I don’t see how the problem was solved at the end.
Still, I liked the episode for Jadzia Dax: for once an episode truly gives her things to do and develops her character and background instead of learning about her by proxy (episodes Dax, Invasive Procedures).
2×18: Profit and Loss: “So all I have to do to get you back is wait until Cardassia becomes a free and democratic society?”
Quark in love! Who would have thought? I would have expected at any point Quark to betray his love interest, Natima, and prove that he was conning her for profit but no, surprisingly the writers truly gave Quark a dramatic role and developed him more than the caricatural capitalist he was from the beginning! Natima is a Cardassian who had a thing for Quark and since leaving DS9 has become involved in a Cardassian resistance, which is a new concept here: Cardassians hoping to overthrow the all-military power structure, and so defined as terrorists. Of course Garak gets involved, still the ambiguous Cardassian spy, as we learn it is in the hopes to get in Central Command’s good graces. The scene where Quark visits Garak’s shop and they discuss the situation entirely in metaphors of dresses and businesses was truly great writing and acting! Eventually Natima accepts Quark’s advances — weird kiss between two ugly aliens, a grey lizard and an orange demon! But she has to leave to escape the wrath of the Central Command, and thanks to Quark and Garak (what an alliance!) she does. There’s some Casablanca in the way the episode ends. I hope Natima comes back in the future. The episode drags a bit in the middle (Quark begs Odo to free Natima) but it sets up very interesting developments for the future.
That’s…quite a few episodes, and still more to go! I’ll be right back with some synthale for everyone.