Thursday, March 16, 2017

My Top Ten Favourite Deep Space Nine Episodes

Deep Space Nine was a Trek series like no other. Some of the differences were obvious. It was set on an alien space station and not on a starship. It had a combined Federation and Bajoran crew. Other differences became apparent over time. Not everyone got along all the time. The themes became darker and more complex. Good guys weren’t always good, and bad guys weren’t always bad. As the third live-action series in the franchise, it had big boots to fill from its two Enterprising predecessors, and despite the smaller fan base I would have to say that DS9 lived up to the Trek name. It created memorable and complex characters, delivered great moments, added depth to pre-existing characters, and told some great stories. Unlike the Original and the Next Generation, some of these stories were told in multi-episode arcs, beyond the “Part I/II” formula used in the past. There are so many great episodes in this series that it is hard for me to narrow it down to my ten all-time favourite episodes, but here is what I was able to come up with.

Oh, and while it should go without saying, but spoiler alerts for these episodes.

10. Crossover – I think DS9 interacted the most with the Original series, with TNG a close second. Whether it was those furry little tribbles or one final ride for a trio of famed Klingon warriors, DS9 knew how to pay tribute to its roots. For me one of the most important and significant nods was the episode “Crossover”. Kira and Bashir find themselves in the Mirror universe that we were first introduced to in the original series second season episode “Mirror, Mirror”. Taking place nearly a century after Kirk and his crew convinced a bearded Spock to begin the revolution against the tyrannical Terran Empire, Kira and Bashir find that things are quite different. Humans are largely enslaved, the Klingons and Cardassians have formed a brutal alliance, and familiar faces are not who they used to be. Seeing the different crew members in a different light is quite entertaining, with a sadistic Odo quoting the Rules of Obedience, a compassionate Quark trying to smuggle Terran slaves off of the station, a timid tinker in O’Brien, a brash and crude Benjamin Sisko, and a seductive Intendant Kira who is as malicious as our Kira is courageous. This episode establishes a starting point for several future episodes that further explores this alternate universe, but “Crossover” is a fun and delightful introduction.

Mirror, Mirror

9. Rocks and Shoals – The beginning of Season 6 was quite exciting as the Starfleet crew members (plus Garak) find themselves away from the station fighting the Dominion War, while Kira, Odo, Jake, and Quark adapt to life on the station under Dominion control. While each episode has great moments and stories being told, I feel that “Rocks and Shoals” does the best at storytelling in the early stages of the Dominion War. Sisko and his crew find themselves stranded on a distant planet where a Dominion warship has also crashed, pitting Sisko and his crew against the cunning Keevan. This Vorta has a particular problem as his supply of ketrecel white is almost depleted, which would lead his Jem’Hadar soldiers into becoming deranged uncontrollable killers who would then kill all they find. Sisko has to come to terms with doing what he must to protect is crew and trying to avoid slaughtering his adversaries in an unfair fight. Meanwhile, Kira starts to grapple with the realization that she has become complacent and comfortable in her new situations, and receives a severe wake-up call from a prominent vedek to restart a resistance movement. This episode does a fantastic job and building on characters and making some great points while giving us suspense, action, and even some humor (O’Brien ripping his pants).

Looking for shelter among the rocks and shoals

8. The Jem’Hadar – The second season finale gives us a major (but not final) reveal of the Dominion and its power by introducing us to its lethal infantry soldiers, the Jem’Hadar. What starts out as a fun camping trip with Jake, Nog, Commander Sisko, and Quark turns out to be far more than anyone bargained for. Amidst this backdrop we have some great moments, such as when Quark schools Sisko on his prejudices. Most of all, we see how brutal the Jem’Hadar can be when they are able to destroy a Galaxy-class starship with a suicide run. This is how you introduce an enemy to a series in spectacular fashion.

The fearsome Jem'Hadar

7. The Siege of AR-558 – More than any other episode in Star Trek history, this show shows us the brutality of war like never before. Sure, we have witnessed some great battles before this, but here we see a raw, almost unadulterated depiction of how vicious things can be in the trenches. Set on the planet AR-558, Sisko and some of his crew find themselves stranded with a severely diminished Starfleet garrison expecting to hold their ground against a superior force. We see the crew pushed to their limits, and even Quark gets his moment of heroism (though some would say it was just a survival instinct). There is also loss in this episode. Mostly of secondary one-time only characters, but our own Ensign Nog is horribly injured and loses one of his legs. I sometimes call this episode “Saving Ensign Nog” due to how intense the fighting is. The final battle is not meant to thrill or excite us. Instead, it is gritty, harrowing, and dark. This does not glorify war by any means. Instead, like the afore eluded to “Saving Private Ryan”, it shows us how bad war can be and makes us grateful that we are merely spectators and not participants.

Quark makes a stand

6. Duet – I would argue that no character grew more than Kira Nerys during the seven seasons. While any show’s first season is bound to have a lot of bumps in the road, DS9’s gave us this gem called “Duet”. When confronted with a Cardassian war criminal, Kira is more than happy to have him arrested with the intent of prosecution. The performances by Nana Visitor and Harris Yulin drive this emotionally charged story with brilliance and passion. As Kira grows to doubt her own justifiable hatred against the Cardassians, we begin to realize that in true Trek fashion, things are not as black and white as they seem. We wonder if the Cardassian is the former file clerk, Marritza, or the infamous Butcher of Gallitep, Darhe’el. As Kira digs deeper questions if she is dealing with an unrepentant war criminal or a remorseful man who weeps over the crimes of his people. The biggest moment of the episode comes with its final one. While escorting the Cardassian to a ship to be returned to Cardassia, a Bajoran civilian stabs him from behind. As Kira holds the dying Cardassian in her arms, she demands of the Bajoran: “Why?” The Bajoran, full of hatred and animosity responds “He was Cardassian. That is reason enough.” Kira, with tears and self-realization, tells him “No, it’s not.” This was the episode from the first season that cemented to me how special Deep Space Nine was going to be.

Kira confronting a professed war criminal

5. Only a Paper Moon – While “The Siege of AR-558” deals with the brutality of war, “Only a Paper Moon” takes it to the next level by focusing on the after effects of war. Nog, prosthetic leg and all, returns to the station to complete his recuperation. He eventually finds solace in the holosuite at Vic Fontaine’s hotel and casino. In an unlikely pairing, Ferengi Ensign and holographic crooner begin to fill the voids in each other’s lives while exploring the issue of PTSD. So many times we would see our characters in Star Trek suffer devastating loses and traumatic events, only to be back in full form the following week for their next adventure. Not so here. Finally, we see the consequences of our experiences, and get a glimpse as to how long the road to recovery can be. To make it even more impressive, Nog and Vic, while at the center of the plot, are not the main cast members. This just showcased how strong DS9’s secondary characters could be.

Nog and Vic going over the numbers

4. Hard Time – Poor Chief O’Brien. It seems like every season there was one episode where our favourite non-commissioned officer gets treated to some form of abuse or torture. In this episode, Miles is forced to experience a lifetime of incarceration in mere minutes, and has to deal with the after effects of a life he only lived in his mind. While we watch Miles relive those days and see him fall deeper into depression, we cannot help but feel the utmost sympathy for him. It is a clever way of exploring trauma (hmmm, this seems to be a reoccurring theme for this list) that digs into the emotional psyche of the human mind. Colm Meaney has always been a terrific actor, and this episode is one that showcases his talents extremely well.

O'Brien doing some Hard Time

3.Far Beyond the Stars – This is Star Trek and science fiction at its finest. A compelling story, superb acting by the entire cast, and the chance to see the actors in completely different roles (and often out of makeup) all come together to create this masterpiece. As Ben Sisko finds himself in the life of writer Benny Russell, we explore racism in the early 19th century America and question reality. I think Sisko undergoes more personal growth in this episode than almost any other. Avery Brooks does a nearly flawless job of both acting and directing and the end result is one of the most special episodes we have ever seen.

The dreamer, or the dream?

2. Trials and Tribbleations – In 1996 Star Trek was celebrating its 30th anniversary. With two Trek series on the air (DS9 and Voyager), each show had a special episode dedicated to this momentous occasion. Deep Space Nine took a popular and classic episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles”, and turned it into one of the sweetest tributes. Using technology to place the Sisko and his crew within the actual TV episode, we were able to see our favourite characters from two generations interact in a way that was fun and exciting. By bringing in Charlie Brill to reprise his role of Arne Darvin they were able to add fun and continuity. In addition to that, we had several questions answered (some of them tongue-in-cheek) that had been debated for decades. We learn a bit as to why the Klingons in the Original Series were different (as Worf said, it is a private matter), the fate of the tribbles (I would love to hear the songs from the Great Tribble Hunt), and even why those tribbles kept falling out of the grain bin onto Kirk long after the bin was opened. Fans of both Kirk’s and Sisko’s respective shows can’t get enough from this show’s love letter to its roots.

The meeting of two legendary captain

Before I get to the #1 episode on my list, I have to give a shout out in the form of Honorable Mentions to the many great episodes that did not make the list. This was a very difficult list for me to compile as there are so many great episodes to choose from. As each of the following episodes fell to the cuts, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of regret. So, leading up to my favourite Deep Space Nine episode, have a quick look through these excellent episodes and enjoy the fond memories.

Little Green Men

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)
·         Emissary
·         Badda Bing Badda Bang
·         In the Pale Moonlight
·         Way of the Warrior
·         Take Me Out to the Holosuite
·         Facets
·         Who Mourns for Morn
·         Little Green Men
·         What You Leave Behind

Way of the Warrior

1. The Visitor – I have to admit that this is my favourite episode of television, not just of Star Trek. When I first watched it I was enthralled by the love story between father and son. So often we see parents make the ultimate sacrifices for their children, but here we see the roles reversed. After losing his father, Jake dedicates his entire life to saving him. In addition to seeing an alternate future (complete with the more elderly Dax and Bashir and Captain Nog), we see a beautiful story of the power of familial love. While Ben, who keeps jumping in and out of Jake’s life, wants Jake to live his life to the fullest, Jake just wants his dad back. Add to that powerful performances by Avery Brooks, Cirroc Lofton, and Tony Todd (who plays the older Jake Sisko), and you have the near perfect episode which is my all-time favourite.

Father and son

 If you are curious as to which episodes of the Next Generation I love the most, check out its list here.

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