Oct 15 2013 5:30pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: Second Season Overview

Deep Space NineStar Trek: Deep Space Nine Second Season
Original air dates: September 1993 – June 1994
Executive Producers: Rick Berman & Michael Piller
Co-Executive Producer: Ira Steven Behr

Station log. The second season was the year that DS9 stepped out of TNG’s shadow and really became its own show. Where the first season had bunches of callbacks to TNG, and several TNG-related guest-stars, this year really only had one such guest—Natalija Nogulich in “The Maquis, Part II”—and had more callbacks to the original series in “Blood Oath” with Michael Ansara, William Campbell, and John Colicos reprising their roles as Kang, Koloth, and Kor, and in “Crossover,” which was a sequel to “Mirror, Mirror.”

Indeed, DS9 was more of an equal partner with TNG, as both shows were conscripted to set up a new status quo for the next spinoff, Voyager, by giving us the Maquis storyline, which DS9 did in “The Maquis, Part I” and “Part II,” as well as “Tribunal,” while TNG did their part in “Journey’s End” and “Preemptive Strike.”

However, mostly this season of DS9 set out to establish its own identity as a show of its own, and it did so primarily by following up the Bajoran politics on display in the first-season finale, “In the Hands of the Prophets,” with an epic three-part storyline that really dug into Bajoran politics, religion, history, and more. We get a legendary figure from the resistance in “The Homecoming,” and also get to see his feet of clay, we see the political changes Bajor undergoes as it tries to crawl out of the shadow of both Cardassia and the Federation in “The Circle,” and then a climactic faceoff between factions in “The Siege.” We return to the trials and tribulations of Bajor regularly, but most notably in “Cardassians,” “Necessary Evil,” “Sanctuary,” and “The Collaborator” (and, in an odd way, “Crossover”).

Effort was also made to broaden and deepen the characters of Dax and Bashir. The former was shown as more capable, and also dug a bit into the lives of the previous hosts, from learning the names of two others (Tobin and Lela) to details about the life of Curzon, notably in “Invasive Procedures,” “Playing God,” and “Blood Oath.” Bashir also showed a greater maturity, being less of a ponce and more of a talented assured doctor, particularly in “The Siege,” “Melora,” “Armageddon Game,” and especially “The Wire.” (Of course, hints of the old Bashir still surfaced, particularly in “Cardassians,” “Rivals,” and “Crossover.”) Garak advanced from a one-off character to a recurring one, who got a couple of spotlights in “Cardassians” and “The Wire” (and was also in several other episodes), Dukat’s character was similarly expanded and deepened, particularly in “Necessary Evil” and “The Maquistwo-parter, and even Rom got a little added depth in “Necessary Evil.” Plus, with “Armageddon Game” (almost dying), “Whispers” (captured and replaced), and “Tribunal” (captured, tortured, and put on trial), the O’Brien-gets-his-ass-kicked meme gets its start.

In addition, we got some of Odo’s background in “Necessary Evil” and “The Alternate,” and “The Maquistwo-parter gave us an old friend of Sisko’s. More of the history of the occupation came out in “The Homecoming,” “Cardassians,” “The Collaborator,” and especially “Necessary Evil.”

Plus, of course, the “big bad” of the series was established in this season. Hints were dropped about the Dominion being a major power in the Gamma Quadrant in “Rules of Acquisition,” “Sanctuary,” and “Shadowplay,” with the nation itself coming front and center via the Vorta and the Jem’Hadar in “The Jem’Hadar.”

Highest-rated episode:Necessary Evil,” the only 10 of the season.

Lowest-rated episode: A tie among “Melora,” “Second Sight,” and “The Alternate,” all of which earned a 3.

Most comments (as of this writing): Cardassians” with 60. Custody battles apparently bring out the best in our readers...

Fewest comments (as of this writing):Whispers” with 19, the only one not to reach the plateau of at least 20 comments.

Favorite Can’t we just reverse the polarity? From “Sanctuary”: Apparently the universal translators are ALL AROUND YOU and magically turn your speech into something everyone can understand. This is an instance where the explanation actually is more ridiculous than the usual lack of explanation....

Favorite The Sisko is of Bajor: From “The Maquis, Part I”: Sisko and Hudson are old friends, and the two of them, and their wives, did a great deal together, particularly when they were assigned to New Berlin. The Mazurka Festival was a favorite time; Hudson recalls how hilarious Sisko looked in lederhosen, and Sisko comments that he still has the hat.

Favorite Don’t Ask My Opinion Next Time: From “The Siege”: Kira takes to her mission like a duck to water—she gets a nostalgic thrill digging around a cobweb-filled moon and kicking an old sub-I raider to life. She also does a nice job of piloting, and crash lands well enough to walk away from it (sort of). It’s also fun watching her take the piss out of Dax, who isn’t used to technology being so unreliable.

Favorite Rule of Acquisition: From “Rules of Acquisition”: Fittingly, given the title, we get a whole mess of Rules: #21 (“Never place friendship above profit”), #22 (“A wise man can hear profit in the wind”), #33 (“It never hurts to suck up to the boss”), #48 (“The bigger the smile, the sharper the knife”), #59 (“Free advice is seldom cheap”), #62 (“The riskier the road, the greater the profit”), and the beginning of #103 (“Sleep can interfere with—”) but Pel was interrupted before she could finish quoting it.

Favorite Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: From “Necessary Evil”: When he first was introduced to the Cardassians by the Bajoran scientist who “raised” him, Odo would do a Cardassian neck trick. We have yet to see this trick in reality, which honestly is probably for the best. This episode chronicles in flashback Odo’s first time meeting Dukat, Kira, and Quark, as well as the first time he was called “Constable,” by Kira, a prefix that would stick.

Favorite The slug in your belly: From “Blood Oath”: We already knew that Curzon was a Federation negotiator, and we learn in this episode that he had quite a history with the Klingons. Kang credits him with being the first Federation diplomat who actually understood Klingons. (One wonders if he ever worked with Riva...)

Favorite For Cardassia! From “The Wire”: The Cardassian Obsidian Order is the most efficient intelligence organization in the quadrant. Odo says that they’re even more ruthless than the Tal Shiar. It will eventually be revealed that the Cardassian Union is jointly but independently run by the Central Command and the Order both. (Amusingly, the 1983 novel The Final Reflection by John M. Ford postulated a Klingon Empire that was very much like this. This was before The Next Generation firmly established the Klingons as Viking samurai, and Ford gave us an empire where service to the state was primary above all, and where the empire was jointly ruled by the military and by Imperial Intelligence, which was viewed with the same fear and loathing by the citizenry that the Obsidian Order is by Cardassians—and, for that matter, that the Romulan Tal Shiar was in TNG’s “ Face of the Enemy.”)

Favorite Plain, simple: From “Profit and Loss”: We learn that Garak lives on Deep Space 9 because he’s in exile from Cardassia, though the reasons for that exile remain murky, just like most things regarding Garak.

While verbally fencing with Bashir, Garak says at one point that maybe he’s an outcast spy, which, we will eventually learn, is the actual truth, though Bashir dismisses the notion as ridiculous when he says it.

Favorite What happens in the holosuite, stays in the holosuite: From “Blood Oath”: Quark got some holosuite programs of ancient Klingon battles from a Klingon captain who came through the wormhole, including the Battle of Klach D’Kel Bracht. There’s apparently also a generic cave program that’s perfect forbat’leth drills.

Favorite Victory is life. From “The Jem’Hadar”: We meet the Dominion’s soldiers, the Jem’Hadar, and their diplomats, the Vorta, though the latter species has yet to be identified by name. They make it clear that they view any journey through the wormhole as an invasion, and destroyed New Bajor to put an exclamation point on that.

Favorite No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: From “The Circle”: Sparks fly like whoa between Kira and Bareil, and that’s before the Prophets provide Kira with a wet dream about the two of them.

Similar sparks fly between Jaro and Winn—it’s pretty damned obvious that, if they’re not sleeping together now, they absolutely have in the past. (Jaro’s small smile followed by an almost-playful, “Don’t tease me,” pretty much confirms it.)

Favorite Welcome aboard: Many wonderful guest stars this year, starting with the epic guest-star casting of the season-opening three-parter, which gave us Richard Beymer as Li, Frank Langella as Jaro, and Stephen Macht as Krim, three of the finest guest stars you’re likely to see.

Several recurring characters added to the tapestry of the station, all carryovers from the first, and most with expanded roles: Marc Alaimo as Dukat, Philip Anglim as Bareil, Rosalind Chao as Keiko, Aron Eisenberg as Nog, Louise Fletcher as Winn, Hana Hatae as Molly, Max Grodénchik as Rom, Andrew J. Robinson as Garak, Camille Saviola as Opaka, Wallace Shawn as Zek, and Tiny Ron as Maihar’du.

We get three new recurring guests. Two are Richard Poe as Evek, whom we see in “Playing God,” “The Maquis, Part I,” and “Tribunal,” and Natalija Nogulich as Nechayev in “The Maquis, Part II.” Both actors appeared in Maquis-related episodes of both TNG and DS9 to aid in carrying that shared storyline forward. In addition, “The Wire” gives us Paul Dooley as Tain.

Some guests manage to make the best of a bad script, notably Daphne Ashbrook in “Melora,” Barbara Bosson and K Callan in “Rivals,” Richard Kiley and Salli Elise Richardson in “Second Sight,” and James Sloyan in “The Alternate.”

Other excellent one-off guests include Geoffrey Blake in “Playing God,” Bill Bolender and Christopher Collins in “Blood Oath,” John Cothran Jr. in “Crossover,” Emilia Crow in “Rules of Acquisition,” Michael Durrell in “Sanctuary,” Megan Gallagher and the great John Glover in “Invasive Procedures,” Molly Hagan in “The Jem’Hadar,” Caroline Lagerfelt in “Tribunal,” Robert Mandan in “Cardassians,” Kenneth Mars in “Shadowplay,” Deborah May in “Sanctuary,” Katharine Moffatt in “Necessary Evil,” Alan Oppenheimer in “The Jem’Hadar,” Bert Remsen in “The Collaborator,” a pre-Voyager Tim Russ in “Invasive Procedures,” the great John Schuck in “The Maquis, Part II,” Gail Strickland in “Paradise,” Kitty Swink in “Sanctuary,” Brian Thompson in “Rules of Acquisition,” Noley Thornton and Kenneth Tobey in “Shadowplay,” Hélène Udy in “Rules of Acquisition,” Steve Vinovich in “Paradise,” Fritz Weaver in “Tribunal,” and Cress Williams in “The Jem’Hadar.”

But the top guest casting of the season has to go to “Blood Oath,” which brought Michael Ansara, William Campbell, and John Colicos back to Star Trek in the roles they originated in the 1960s as Klingons.

Favorite Keep your ears open: From “The Siege”: “You Starfleet types are too dependent on gadgets and gizmos. You lose your natural instincts for survival.”

“My natural instincts for survival told me not to climb aboard this thing. I’d say they were functioning pretty well.”

Kira making fun of Dax, who responds in kind. Given that they crashed a few minutes later, Dax sorta had a point.

Favorite Trivial matter: The ones for “Blood Oath” and “Crossover,” since those episodes had so many original series hits and so many tie-in hits.

Walk with the Prophets. “I intend to be ready for them.” I feel weird, because I went into this season thinking that it should have been stronger. I certainly remember it as being stronger, but after watching two episodes a week for the last three months or so, I have a hard time dredging up as much enthusiasm.

Even the season’s high points are disappointing in some way or other. The season-opening three-parter is magnificent and epic—but also has a very weak ending. We learn more about Odo in “The Alternate” and Dax in “Invasive Procedures” and “Playing God,” and the Bashir/O’Brien bromance develops in “Rivals” and “Armageddon Game,” but those episodes are also horribly flawed. (Odo and Dax at least get better spotlights in the season’s two highest points of “Necessary Evil” and “Blood Oath,” respectively.)

Indeed, what’s most fascinating to me about the season is how few great episodes there are—but also how few stinkers. Generally there were either good concepts done in by bad acting (“Rivals,” “The Maquistwo-parter) or mediocre stories elevated somewhat by excellent acting (“Melora,” “Second Sight”).

Having said all that, the season is far greater than the sum of its parts. We get so much in this season, from the deepening backstory on the Cardassian occupation of Bajor in “The Homecoming,” “Cardassians,” “Necessary Evil,” and “The Wire”; to the gradual introduction of the Dominion, culminating in a superb climactic season finale in “The Jem’Hadar”; to the reintroduction of the Mirror Universe in “Crossover”; to the fleshing out of Dax, Bashir, Garak, Dukat, and Rom; to the establishment of the Maquis as a recurring threat. All these things are the foundation on which the next five seasons will be constructed.

Warp factor rating for the season: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido is giving a talk at the South Jersey Writers Group on Thursday the 17th at 7pm at the Howard Johnson in Bellmawr, New Jersey. All are welcome. He’ll also be attending the reading/signing by magnificent horror author Elizabeth Donald at Singularity & Co. in Brooklyn on Wednesday the 16th at 7pm.

Michael Burstein
1. mabfan
"All these things are the foundation on which the next five seasons will be constructed."

One wonders how much the producers had had planned by this point.

-- Michael A. Burstein
Christopher Bennett
2. ChristopherLBennett
@1: I think that Michael Piller was the showrunner through the late third season, with Ira Steven Behr taking over at that point. So the plans that Piller may have had for the series were likely different from the direction Behr ended up taking it.
Thomas B
3. Thomas B
Rewatched TOS and TNG, now two seasons into my first watch of DS9. The rewatch reviews here have been a boon, thank you.

The pressing question is whether to wrap DS9 on its own, or to interweave Voyager (and maybe the TNG movies too) according to original air date.

I hear Voyager is mostly self-contained, but there are a few callbacks between the shows and the films?

I'm sure a dozen people will advise me to skip Voyager altogether, but I'm planning to go straight through, there's no talking me out of it! Given that, should I mix in Voyager now, or put it off as its own project after DS9?

=== Second season reactions as a first timer ===

1. Wow, the big bad are basically an evil version of Asimov's Foundation? But then again, maybe just "evil" in a Roddenberry way, only acting in self defense against a perceived threat from "solids"... So much to work with here, really exciting.

2. Garak's a lot of fun.

3. All the characters are improving. Bashir's less annoying, Quark began as one of the most 2-dimensional characters on the show, but at this point probably has the most depth (he's been a romantic, showed courage, stood up against hew-man prejudice, ...).

I'm worried that Odo is still basically a fascist though. Every time he turns into something to spy on Quark I can't help but wonder why there's apparently no analog to the Fourth Amendment in space.

4. I was annoyed that the Defiant was presented as a way to even the score with the Dominion, then got immediately pummeled.

5. I was originally a big fan of the Bajoran religious/political plot, but Louise Fletcher is almost too good at playing slimy. I'm on the brink of just hating the whole subplot because she's too good at making my skin crawl.

6. Mirror universe episodes!? Wow. I know, it's a little cheesy, but I love it.
David Levinson
5. DemetriosX
I have to say, this season was a lot better than I remembered it. I always thought it was the third season that represented the turnaround.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
6. Lisamarie
Gaaaaah, why that picture of Bareil and Kira, WHYYYY?????

ThomasB, not sure if you saw my message earlier, but just in case you didn't, welcome and it's fun to see another first timer!

I agree that Odo does have some tendencies that we may giggle over at in the show but in real life would find much more worrisome. Actually, now that I think about it, that's a lot how I feel about Quark, the Ferengi and their treatment towards women (although the Ferengi are definitely much more interesting in this series than on TNG). Some people seem able to accept it and play it for laughs, or accept that it's a different culture/situation, but to me it's a line I have a hard time crossing. On the other hand, possibly fascist Odo, I can treat as funny and even cheer on, even as the back of my mind thinks, "Hmm...I'm really not sure if it's ethical".
Rob Rater
7. Quasarmodo
@3 I'm also thinking of watching Voyager once I get through DS9. I started and stopped watching both shows while they originally aired, then lately picked up DS9 from about the point I initially stopped (unfortunately I ended up rewatching a couple of crap episodes). I think I can find my leave-off point with Voyager a little more accurately.
Mahesh Banavar
8. maheshkb
@3,@7: I found Voyager to be far more enjoyable than DS9. My recommendation is for you to watch it, please. It was a more FUN series. More gaping plot holes sometimes, but almost always interesting to watch.
Fredrik Coulter
9. fcoulter
@6: While reading your comment, I had a thought about gender and species. Given our knowledge of the differences between gender in different species, I'm wondering why gender equality is something to look for in other species.

Yes, the differences between the two genders among humans is minor. However, that's not true for all species on Earth. For some species, the difference is huge. And that's limited to Earth.

So, given that an alien species has two genders (which is also an interesting assumption), one of which bears children while the other merely provides some genetic material, why should we assume that the two genders are roughly equivalent? I can't remember a television show in which the genders were different without if being a sign that the species was evil had issues. Generally, if the genders are different, it's considered a problem to be addresed by the white men from across the water Earthlings who are enlightened.
Mike Kelmachter
10. MikeKelm
Thinking about season 2, I compare it to season 2 of TNG and the big difference is how few truly bad episodes there are in season 2 of DS9. To be fair to TNG, season 2 was an improvement over season 1, but there still was "Shades of Gray" and "The Royale". While DS9 hasn't quite hit its peak, the fact that most of the episodes were in the 6-7 range speaks quite well for it.

The other thing I take away is how large of a cast had been assembled and how much that benefitted DS9 not only in this season but onwards. In addition to our core cast of Sisko/Kira/Dax/O'Brien/Bashir we have tons of interesting players to combine with them- Quark, Garak, Winn, Bareil, Jake, Nog, Rom, Zek and Dukat are all fleshed out enough that they can carry large portions of episodes without it seeming constructed. TNG never was able to do this, as a character would be a large portion of an episode and then disappear never to be heard from again (Lt. Commander Nella Daren for example), which is what made DS9 the stronger show. The larger, deeper cast let the producers keep things fresh as the show progressed, whereas TNG started to get stale and recycled in later seasons.
Nathan Martin
11. lerris
@10 I agree with your evaluation of Season 2 as stronger than the corresponding season of TNG ( or of any other Star Trek series for that matter ). I suspect that the existence of Babylon 5 kept everyone on their toes, and that competition between the two strengthened both series.

@3 Looks like you're a little ways into Season 3 by now, from your use of the term "solids" and a reference to the Defiant, so not really a Season 2 impression, but a good insight nevertheless. The backstory on the Defiant was that it was developed to fight the Borg ( I always got the impression, just from the name "quantum torpedo," that the weapons were specifically designed to defeat Borg adaptability by having an uncollapsed waveform a la Schrodinger's Cat)
Thomas B
12. Lsana

If you're determined to watch Voyager no matter what I say, I'd recommend waiting it and watching it after you finish DS9. There's not really any crossover between the shows; I believe the only time they reference each other is briefly in the Voyager pilot (there's a scene on DS9) and with the resolution of the Maquis arc (it resolves on DS9 and the events are discussed on Voyager). With those momentary exceptions, each series presents a completely different set of characters, settings, and stories. If I were you, I'd enjoy DS9's story first, then do Voyager if you want.
George Jong
13. IndependentGeorge
@3 - Watch Voyager in its whole after DS9. Then go to SF Debris and watch Chuck's Voyager recaps. Then the rest of his Trek recaps, and see if you can watch DS9 without thinking of the Defiant as the USS Ben Sisko's Muthaf*in' Pimp Hand.
Thomas B
14. Ginomo

That's just blashpemy
Thomas B
15. Ginomo
@10: I just watched Lessons and thought to myself "If this were DS9, she would have stuck around."
Thomas B
16. McKay B
@3: You should watch Voyager. I don't like it as well as DS9, but I can see why some people like it better. Some things about Voyager drive me nuts, but it's got a unique charm of its own (although I'm not sure how much of that is nostalgia, as it's the only Trek series I followed faithfully while new episodes were coming out).

But you should watch all of DS9 and then switch to Voyager, rather than interspercing them by air date. Their ongoing plots are completely independent, and switching back and forth will just dilute both stories.
Christopher Bennett
17. ChristopherLBennett
@11: No, quantum torpedoes are called that because they derive their destructive force from quantum vacuum energy. However, your "Schroedinger's Cat" idea is pretty close to the explanation David Mack and I came up with in the novels for the "transphasic torpedoes" introduced as anti-Borg weapons in VGR: "Endgame."
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
18. Lisamarie
@6 - well, I don't actually believe in sameness between the genders in humans either. I feel that as a female, there are some fundamental differences between me and my husband that are beyond just the individual differences between us as people. And, I think even some of the biological differences are not minor.

This does not mean, though, that I think men and women need to be relegated to strict roles, expected to have certain personality types or interests, or that certain abilities/talents/qualities are beyond one gender's grasp, or that generalities can be applied to an individual (for example, in general, men do tend to be stronger than women, but it doesn't mean that every man is stronger than every woman), or that, if there are some neurological differences, that as we grow and learn we don't then 'overwrite' some of them as we grow as people and learn new ways of thinking and looking at the world.

It's hard for me to put into words, in this comment box, but I do spend a lot of time pondering the nature of femininity/masculinity and how it relates to me - especially as in some ways I do not fit what used to be the traditional role of feminity. I am the mother to two wonderful sons, and believe firmly in the importance of that role and of mothers who stay at home and are 'just' mothers. I do not believe in any way that a SAHM is an insignificant person, wasting their talents, or (as has been suggested to me), betraying 'the cause' of feminism.

That said, I have not chosen that route - I work full time at a software company, and am also pursuing more formal career advancement/education in that field. Even my interests and mannerisms have been described as stereotypically 'masculine' - I'm not very gentle, or good at 'just listening', etc. Yet, in my core, I feel feminine and am so secure in my femininity that I know this is how my 'feminine genius' expresses itself, and I still believe in some nebulous way I am a different person and bring something different to the table in the environment I am in by the fact of being female. It was not always this way, I used to be quite mistrustful of other women and anything that might be deemed 'feminine' to the point where kind of went out of my way to avoid things that were stereotypically feminine (such as any kind of emotion) since those were obviously 'weak' and 'inferior'. But that's something that has changed over the years.

I'm not even that opposed to gender roles, as long as both of them are equally respected and valued, and there is some measure of fluidity/flexibility for people who may not fit the expected role.

But I AM a big believer in innate equality/dignity/right to respect and agency in your own life, and that's where I'm going to draw a line. Even if a species has more obvious differences in more superficial things than us humans, I still don't think there is an excuse for denying that. For example, just because one of the genders (and you are right that it would be really interesting to explore multi-gender species, or species with some other gender/reproduction role division) is really, observably, quantifiably different in some way (significantly weaker, lacks some ability the other gender has) - I still don't think that means it's okay to forbid them from having clothes or jobs or a voice, any more than you would a disabled human because they lack some physical ability. Heck, if you want to turn it around, that would almost be like deciding that since men can't breastfeed, they must be the inferior gender, as they lack the ability to perform this very important function. I'm teasing ;) Certainly, they may not be entitled to or able to perform single job/position out there, but that's true of me as well and I don't think says anything about equality - I'll never be a project manager or a doctor or a mechanic or a truck driver (I can't drive).

Anyway, this is quickly being a muddled mess, and I also am aware there are a lot of other perspectives out there regarding the way gender/biological sex/orientation and how those all play into the way we identify, but at least for me, being female means something and I do find it also tied into both biological sex and 'femininity'...yet I struggle to articulate it.

And...now I've taken us completely off base, but your comment really did make me think and warrant a response. And now I'm also thinking - are there examples of cultures (or species of plants/animals), real life or fictional, where biological sex and/or gender is NOT divided on the same lines as reproductive roles? Gender is probably the obvious one, but now I'm wondering if sex is always divided in the same way as reproduction. I think in high school biology we learned about some plants that have three 'sexes' so to speak, but I can't remember if all three of them are required for the creation of a new plant.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
19. Lisamarie
I also am intending to watch Voyager after this is all done. Hoping for a re-watch, but even so, I think my husband and I will do it anyway.

Then I might even go back to TOS. I'm starting to feel more and more ashamed that I haven't really seen it :)

Not sure if I'll do Enterprise though...my husband recently went through and watched it on Hulu.
Thomas Thatcher
20. StrongDreams
@9, I think you can find some interesting examples of extreme sexual dimorphism in literature, it just will never fly on TV for reasons having everything to do with the show being filmed and acted and watched by humans.

For example, I can imagine a book that shows that Ferengi females really are less sentient than males, not capable of making business decisions, and basically exist as incubators/caregivers for Ferengi children. They might even be physically dimorphic -- much bigger or much smaller than males, or even not bipedal or humanoid at all. Ferengi mate pairings would then be based not on intellectual and emotional compatibility and comittment (since the females lack both) but on something else -- maybe some mating ritual indicating procreative fitness. Occasionally a male would be born with too many female characteristics to fit comfortably in society, or vice versa -- imagine the story potentials if they genders really were significantly physically different (beyond external vs internal gonads).

There's a lot of good stories that could be told with a species like that. But never on television.
Dante Hopkins
21. DanteHopkins
Well, I loved this season. I'm grateful I'm not writing the rewatch synopses so I don't have to be as nit-picky as KRAD. It still as great and exciting to watch today as it was watching as a teenager. Of course as a grown-up I can much better appreciate the intricate political stories, and they are very well done.

The end of this season also marks me completing my own TNG rewatch, and again watching both TNG and DS9 together really highlights the differences between them. Both are great, but in their own ways. (I have been interspercing the two by airdates, and will begin watching Voyager and the TNG movies at the appropriate time. However, that's where my own nit-pickiness comes in, and I don't recommend this for eveyone.)

Looking forward to season 3, which is a new chapter not only for DS9, but for Star Trek as a whole.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
22. Lisamarie
Well, this may be my own personal bias and opinions regarding childrearing, but in my mind, if you're sentient/intelligent enough to make decisions to be caregivers for children, you can do anything! Maybe that's just my human perspective regarding how flexible our own brains are ;)

If, perhaps, this species had a gender in which the it was ONLY an 'incubator' and genetic material contributor and that really was all it could do (and it's very hard for me, personally, to accept that kind objectification/reduction to parts and function of a being, due to my humanity and general belief system regarding personhood) - then I could see where you are going with that.
Thomas Thatcher
23. StrongDreams
@22, the specifics obviously would need to be worked on, and no surprise that I couldn't build a completely credible fictional world in a 5 minute blog comment.

My overall point though, is that one could create a truly bizarre alien species with dramatic gender differences--including a society in which genders are legitimately incapable of substituting for each other--and you could even use it to tell great, challenging stories. But, in America in the late '90s-oughties, you couldn't put it on TV.
Thomas B
24. Thomas B
11: Ah, true, we're a few episodes into season 3, sorry if some of that slipped in above. I guess after all the two-part finales on TNG, I just mistakenly filed "The Search" under season 2 in my head. (And maybe House of Quark too, which I thought was a lot of fun.)

6: You're definitely right, it's better to take Odo's antics with a grain of salt.

(Various): We have a lot of votes for DS9 in a block, then Voyager. Sounds like a plan!

19: There are lots of fun things I learned about TOS going straight through it. There are some strange episodes I never really saw on syndication, like the season two finale that doubled as a pilot for something kind of like a goofy American Doctor Who... it's a little cringe-tastic. But there are some lost gems in there too. If I had it to do again, I'd keep a running list of all the crazy powerful things the crew invents over the course of the series (like drugs to make people move at superhuman speeds, or well, time travel).
Thomas B
25. tribblesandbits
@23 - Here on Earth we have the Anglerfish. The males and females are drastically different to the point that the male is essentially a parasite. It would not be the biggest suspension of disbelief that Trek has asked of us to think that such as species could evolve to sentience on another world.

@Lisamarie - From a storytelling standpoint I totally get where you are coming from.

The gender discussion here compels me to plug Christpher L Bennett's novel, Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures. It is not central to the plot, but Mr Bennett fills does some exploration of these possibilities. It is probably one of the top 5 books I have read this year.
Thomas B
26. Idran
@18: Oh, there definitely are. There are a number of cultures where there's an instantiated third gender; the Hijra of South Asia, the Kathoeys of Thailand, the Winkte of the Lakota, the Muxe of the Zapotec in southern Mexico, and these are just a few examples. Even across western society, gender studies and sociological studies are increasingly rejecting the idea of gender as a purely binary concept, but more akin to a spectrum much as sexuality itself.

Wikipedia has a good summary of the varied cultures that include a third gender in addition to the purely reproductively-defined ones, you can find it here.
Christopher Bennett
27. ChristopherLBennett
@25: At least one species with that kind of radical gender disparity has appeared in Trek, though it didn't originate there. The Kzinti from Larry Niven's Known Space universe have subsentient females, which was a plot point in Niven's novella "The Soft Weapon," which he adapted into the animated Trek episode "The Slaver Weapon." Niven also used the Kzinti in "The Wristwatch Plantation," a storyline he cowrote for the syndicated Star Trek comic strip in 1982 (now available in a recently released collection of the comic strips).

For the Titan novel series, I created the Pak'shree, a race whose members start out asexual, then become male for a comparatively brief period in which they're exclusively focused on reproduction, then mature into females for the remainder of their lives. As such, they tend not to take males very seriously, seeing us as immature, irresponsible creatures who are totally obsessed with sex and... hm. You know, that's not too far off. ;)
Kit Case
28. wiredog
"The Soft Weapon" also introduced the Puppeteers, who have 3 sexes. Niven used to be an interesting writer.
Thomas B
29. Nix
wiredog@27, of course, the puppeteers only have three sexes *culturally*: in fact they have two sexes (both referred to as 'male', duh?) and a host animal (considered the 'female') which is used as an incubator and food source by the developing young.

I don't know of any organisms that actually have three reproductive sexes: it seems unlikely that any such system would be evolutionarily stable (just as it takes considerable effort and weird genetics to have species where the sex ratio of reproductively active individuals is significantly skewed from 1:1). All metazoans I know of that engage in sexual reproduction have two reproductively active sexes (thus, ignoring the large sterile castes in things like social insects), and in most of those organisms one gender produces large numbers of small gametes and one produces a small number of relatively large gametes which contribute mitochondria to the next generation.

Some fungi avoid sexes and instead have larger numbers of, well, you can't really consider them sexes because there are hundreds of them and the numbers can vary wildly across species and even between geographic regions. Call them 'incompatibility genes' which prevent specific subsets of the population from reproducing sexually with other members of the same subsets. I don't know of any SFnal species with similar restrictions: it's interesting to consider what effects this sort of hardwired infertility with particular groups might have on social systems...
Christopher Bennett
30. ChristopherLBennett
@29: I remember recent articles about a kind of microbe that essentially has seven sexes, any one of which can procreate with any of the other six (but not its own):

Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
31. Lisamarie
Oh, CLB, you know the way to my heart - through microbes! (Although not literally, microbes in the heart would be a bad thing). Very interesting, although I wonder where the daughter cell comes from, and also where the germline nucleus comes from in the new cell.

@Nix, interesting points about the possible implications for gentic stability (and also interesting to realize that mitochondria are always contributed from one of the sexes. I'm not sure I'd really thought about if other species do that). I was also thinking about sterile insect castes too, and wondering how that might play into it.

One thing kind of interesting to me about the various cultural genders in the wiki article was that most of them (and I only skimmed it and am certainly not an expert on this topic) seemed to be biological males who identified with more feminine roles/traits/identities. But it's still using 'feminine' as a baseline (and there are probably all sorts of interesting discussions to be had on what 'feminine'/'masculine' means and how closely it should be tied to biological gender, or if there is anything that can be described as a core part of feminine/masculine, as opposed to cultural variants regarding traits, roles, etc. Full disclosure, I really like Edith Stein's writings on this type of thing, although there is also a spiritual component to me regarding it).

But maybe that's just me and my limited mind trying to wrap my mind around things? Then again, trying to describe/imagine a gender that isn't in reference to masculine/feminine is (for me) like trying to imagine a color that doesn't exist, or like being a flatlander trying to imagine 3D objects. I can't do it. I tried, but I'm not able to. It's also a little difficult for me (although I think I managed it) to imagine a gender that is NOT tied to some role in reproduction because for me they are very much linked, spiritually, physically, emotionally, etc. Obviously others are coming at it from a much different perspective.

(I hope none of this is coming off as belittling or condescending, because that is certainly not my intent).
Christopher Bennett
32. ChristopherLBennett
@31: It occurs to me that we shouldn't assume alien life would have mitochondria, at least not like ours. Mitochondria were originally separate microorganisms that evolved a symbiotic relationship with eukaryotes and became part of their cellular machinery while still retaining their own independent DNA. Which, if you think about it, is kind of a fluke event. There's no guarantee that cellular evolution on an alien world would have the exact same thing happen independently.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
33. Lisamarie

Although, being the microbe geek I am, I love the midichlorians in the Star Wars universe. Plus, I like the combo of mystical+science. I never agreed with the criticism that including them somehow decreased the mysticism of the Force.

Also, kind of related to sex and genetics I read some article recently about how genetic chimaeras are more common that we thought, especially in women who've had children, and they have even found Y chromosomes in various cells (brain cells, even!) of women who have borne sons. I may have geeked out a bit about that, having sons myself :)

Now THAT could be kind of a neat story, a species where that type of blending is much more obvious and would actually cause observable changes...although it would have to be handled a little delicately so as not to make it look like one is advocating some kind of philosophy that promotes the idea that mothers' identities should be subsumed (especially given that they'd basically becoming more similar to the other genetic partner). And it would be kind of interesting to explore the effect of having a stable partner over time with which you bear multiple children vs. multiple partners....

(I tried to post the article but I think the spam filter ate it).
Christopher Bennett
35. ChristopherLBennett
@33: I agree -- I always thought that midi-chlorians were a clever analogy to mitochondria. Just as mitochondria are symbiotic microorganisms that provide energy to our bodies, without which we could not exist, so midi-chlorians are symbiotic microorganisms that connect us to the Force, the spiritual energy field at the base of existence. A lot of people have misunderstood it to be saying that midi-chlorians created the Force, but they were really just the interface, the bridge between the physical and mystical. The more you had, the more strongly you could connect with the Force. It was a clever and unusual merger of spirituality and cellular biology. And it really wasn't so different from some of Lucas's original ideas from the seventies about how certain crystals could provide a physical link to the Force.
Joseph Newton
36. crzydroid
I think part of the reason why the idea of gender and biological sex seems hard to separate in Western culture is because it seems to me that up until recently, they were considered synonymous terms. The way I had taken it was that gender was just another word for biological sex, and that people avoided saying sex because that had come to mean primarily sexual intercourse in people's minds (kind of like how the word intercourse seems to be understood as sexual intercourse by most people now). In other cultures though, where there are more than two genders, it just sort of gets me wondering if they are just using the word gender a different way, and is just something more akin to "personality type." From Lisamarie's comment on the wiki article, it seems like it is still related to biological sex in that there's an idea that some of these genders are exhibiting traits of the "other" sex (so not just that males or females could be this gender type, but it is specifically a biological male who exhibits certain traits, etc). But that just highlights the problems I have with over-reliance on "masculine" and "feminine" to characterize certain traits.

In previous decades, I think there was quite a bit of research into "masculine," "feminine," and "androgynous" to describe certain traits, and there were all sorts of charts to explain it. But the problem I have is that even if you say that certain characteristics are typically, feminine--that is, occurring more frequently in biological women--there's really nothing to say that a biological male can't exhibit those traits. Likewise, it doesn't necessarily follow that all biological women have to exhibit those traits. I think people have a hard time understanding variability, and I'm going to make a presumption that in the distant past variability may have been overlooked even more (but I'm ready to concede on that point; certainly there were many ancient philosophers thinking about these things). There may indeed be behaviors and traits that are more common to either a female or a male--after all, males have higher levels of androgens, and females have higher levels of estrogens. I will leave you more biologically-inclined types to tell me whether or not males or females are incapable of producing some of the hormones of the other sex--I think females have testosterone, for example, but do I have progesterone? Anyway, what I'm saying is, even with these typically different levels of hormones and differences even in brain structure, there is still variability among individuals. As Lisamarie earlier pointed out, while males are on average stronger than females, I'm sure there are a fair number of females who could beat me up, and not necessarily owing it all to training on their part.

And I think there may even be room for some of these traits to be culturally determined. Certainly we are pretty complex organisms. I think there were some early childhood studies showing that adults were more likely to engage little girls in communication than little boys (and were more likely to wrestle with little boys) and that can play a huge part in development. Maybe even some of the physical differences, like females having a more developed corpus collossum, are developmental, and arise from our interactions as children.

But my point remains that there's variability. Does a male exhibiting some traits at typically female levels make him any less a male? How many traits must one display and over what threshold before that person should be considered a separate gender? And why should they be considered another gender--something still more tied to biological sex than mere personality type, yet now separated from biological sex?

Anyway, I'm not really trying to put forth an argument here, these are just some of my thoughts, and I don't really mind that many of you probably disagree. Also, this discussion is primarily regarding the reproductive sexes in humans, and isn't meant to blanket issues like persons of XXY type or anything like that.

But I kind of feel like this is a little off-topic with regards to the Ferengi from the original discussion. The Ferengi don't reproduce with non-sentient pods. Ferengi women are sentient, and regardless of whether they actually biologically do have the "lobes for business" or not, that shouldn't matter in terms of treating them with respect. Why should they be forbidden to wear clothes or leave the home? I feel like this is not a justifiable "their culture/species is different" issue, but is really an example of the Ferengi marginalizing and mistreating a segment of their population. Even in the case of species where they reproduce with a non-sentient pod...how are those pods treated? Are they piled on a heap to be burned when no one finds them useful at a particular time? Or are they still considered enough part of the species that that would/should be disrespectful, but certain societies do it anyway? Do the pods just come from other pods...like the pod that birthed you? If a pod comes from the same pod that birthed you, and was fertilized by your own father, is it considered your sibling still? If so, is it ok by you for this pod to be mistreated and discarded like it was an old toilet paper roll? I mean, are the reproductive pods like a plant that some people have sex with, or are they really, truly a part of your species? Specifically, people with disabilities come to mind here. What of the ethics regarding someone born with very little capacity for motor skills, and for all we know, mental function? People in near-vegetative states? Yes, these are issues that are debated on Earth here and now...but why should Ferengi ethics be any less debated, because their conception and construction of gender might possibly be different from ours?

Anyway, as for the reproduction in other species thing: Tomato plants have both male and female parts, so a single tomato plant can be fertilized from itself with no other tomato plants around.
Christopher Bennett
37. ChristopherLBennett
@36: Every type of sex hormone is present in both males and females. Only their proportions and levels differ. Male and female are simply variations on a theme.

As for that study about the difference in how adults interact with children of different sexes, that's the kind of thing that's most likely the result of cultural conditioning and gender-role beliefs rather than anything innate or biological.
Joseph Newton
38. crzydroid
@37: That's what I was trying to say though...the culture feeds into itself. So some of the differences we perceive between males an females in a certain culture may not be innate at all.
Thomas B
39. Nix
LisaMarie@31, mitochondria are normally almost always contributed by only one party in sexual reproduction -- in those species (almost all fungi and protists) which don't work that way, the mitochondria literally start fighting it out for supremacy in the offspring, secreting DNA-degrading and membrane-disrupting enzymes to attack the "other lot". This is because, if two sets of mitochrondria with distinct ancestry exist in one organism, it is in the genetic interest of each genetic line of mitochondria to 'free ride' on the other lot, avoiding DNA-damaging respiration in the interest of reproduction. And then you end up with an organism packed with mitochondria which don't respire well (or at all), which is not good. If only one line of mitochondria is left, this free-rider problem does not arise.

Of course, as usual in evolutionary arguments, this is a statistical thing -- if mitochondria are only *occasionally* inherited from both parents, nothing bad happens. There is some evidence that this happens across the animal kingdom (including in humans).

There are also some species of flowering plant in which the mitochondria try to turn each flower female (so that they'll be passed on) and the nuclear genes try to turn the flower male again (because you have to have *some* male flowers), with an evolutionary arms-race going on as each side gets the advantage over the other, tilting the male/female flower ratio back and forth over evolutionary time.

ChristopherLBennett@32, yeah, I used to think the same way you did. But it would be hard to think of something else to do mitochondria's job: the only examples of bacteria that have managed it managed it by duplicating their entire DNA hundreds of times over throughout a huge cell.

There are strong arguments to suggest that if you want large cells, complex cells, or differentiated multicellular organisms that can do anything interesting (to other differentiated multicellular organisms like us) you need a very large amount of membrane surface area for respiration (which means lots of organelles, or a *very* frilly cell surface) and lots of copies of the DNA for various respiratory proteins distributed very close to that surface so that it can respond rapidly to local changes in respiratory rate (but you don't need any *other* DNA, so those lots of copies are going to lose their other genes to the cell nucleus: oh look, we got mitochondria back again: mitochondria don't have much independent DNA of their own any more, they encode a few crucial proteins and their own -- bacterial -- tRNA and that's it: they've lost anywhere between hundreds and thousands of genes).

The only halfway plausible non-mitochondrial differentiated multicellular organism I have ever seen in SF is the scramblers in Peter Watts's _Blindsight_, which rely on the spacecraft in which they live to do their respiration, and/or do their respiration anaerobically, over very long time periods between the stars. But even they are, I'm afraid, only plausible until you work out the numbers. If the scramblers had a metabolic rate like ours -- rather than many times higher, as stated -- they could function for perhaps, oh, an hour or two before needing to go off to "sleep" to respire again. They could not function for weeks to months as stated. (Humans cycle about 60kg of ATP to ADP and back every day: the scramblers weigh much less than that, and some of their weight must be scrambler rather than just a pure bag of ATP). Which is a shame, because they're otherwise so very nifty.

(Nick Lane's fascinating, dense book _Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life_ covers all this -- except the scramblers -- in great detail. I got so fascinated by it I went off and read a bunch of primary literature afterwards, and was very nearly tempted back into a career in molecular biology :) his coverage of the field is obviously skewed towards his personal interpretations, but is very interesting nonetheless.)
Christopher Bennett
40. ChristopherLBennett
@39: Sure, you need something to do the same job that mitochondria do, but that doesn't mean it has to have the same origin. It could've been something that evolved as part of the cell rather than an originally distinct organism that became a symbiotic partner. And thus it wouldn't have its own separate DNA.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
41. Lisamarie
I was pursuing a PhD in microbiology (yaaaay bacteria) before I found myself where I am now, so I know the feeling :) Thanks for the neat info!
Thomas B
42. Nix
ChristopherLBennett@40, at this point I should probably just point you at Nick Lane's book and say 'read it! it's great!' but in essence the problem with that is that without DNA in every respiratory organelle the whole thing stops working: the DNA is not there by chance, and indeed if it wasn't needed *our* mitochondria would have none left: it would all have migrated to the nucleus, rather than just 99% of it (by and large the same 99% in every organism with mitochodria). You need a very tight feedback loop between 'oops! this bit of the respiratory chain here has broken down, we need a new cell surface protein X' and 'here it is!'. Doing that for a large number of mitochondria from a single central source (like the nucleus) appears not to work: the best guess so far is that anything that tries gets mitochondria that die a lot, so never reproduces.

So, yeah, you can do without DNA, but if life on earth is any evidence you can't do without whatever it is that makes proteins sitting right there next to the respiring surface. (Bacteria have had a long, long time to come up with better solutions. They haven't managed it.)

(This sort of stuff strikes me as rich territory to use as SF world backgrounds. What if things *were* somehow different? Unfortunately you probably need to be a molecular biologist to come up with a 'different' way that isn't broken.)
Christopher Bennett
43. ChristopherLBennett
@42: But that's just it -- a single example doesn't prove a pattern. Just because life on Earth does things a certain way, that doesn't mean it's the only way it can happen.

Look at planetary sciences. For decades, we assumed that our Solar System was a typical planetary system, and formulated theories of planet formation that were based on our own system and that assumed any other planetary system would be configured much the same way, with a few rocky planets moderately close to the star and a few Jovians farther out. But since we've begun actually detecting extrasolar planets, we've found many systems that blew our old theories out of the water. Systems with Jovians close to their stars. Systems with a half-dozen planets within the radius of Mercury's orbit. It's increasingly looking as though our system might even be an exception rather than a template.

So I'm not willing to assume that life everywhere has to operate according to the same mechanics that life on Earth uses. I mean, sure, maybe there need to be nucleic acids in both the nucleus and the energy-producing organelles, but maybe life on another planet wouldn't have "nucleic" acids limited to its nuclei the way our life does. Or maybe it wouldn't even use DNA but would be based on a different form of information-encoding molecules. Or maybe it wouldn't even use cells. We've already begun to build nanotechnological structures and mechanisms out of pure DNA; who's to say evolution couldn't do something similar? There are a ton of unquestioned assumptions in your explanation, and they're all based on the way life and biochemistry are organized on Earth -- the assumption that DNA is used, that cells are the building blocks, that they have nuclei, etc. Just like all those assumptions about planetary science that we used to assume were inviolable. One example isn't enough.
Thomas B
44. Thomas B
We're on the last five episodes of Season 7.

We watched DS9 only, saving VOY and ENT for later, but put the next gen movies in their airdate order.

That's how I'd recommend this for anyone else. You get to see lots of tiny references to the movies, like uniform changes. And the movies don't interrupt the DS9 story too much, so you keep making progress.

Also, read this series of reviews as you go, and Larp Trek. :)
Thomas B
45. Thomas B
Of course, Dante's method of watching EVERYTHING by airdate order seems far more hard core. :)

Here's a list of every ep + film in order for the curious:
Thomas B
46. Fishead
So these dumb clichés mistaking Germany for Bavaria even made it into Favourite The Sisko is of Bajor...
Christopher Bennett
47. ChristopherLBennett
@46: Well, it is the 24th century. Cultures blend, borders fade.
Thomas B
48. Fishead
@47: Which is why they shouldn't be using 20th century stereotypes without further reflection, in my opinion at least.

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