Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Fourth Season
Original air dates: October 1995 – June 1996
Executive Producer: Rick Berman
Executive Producer: Ira Steven Behr
Station log: The fourth season of DS9 was primarily characterized by change. It began with the very first episode, the two-hour “The Way of the Warrior” (its length alone making it unique in the annals of Trek-dom, as it was the only mid-series two-hour episode in the franchise’s history) with changes up the kazoo, from simple ones like new hairstyles for Sisko and Kira (in the former case, the lack of one) and promotions for Dax and Bashir, to farther-reaching ones like the Cardassian government going through upheaval, the Klingons invading Cardassia, and then the Klingons pulling out of the Federation-Klingon alliance. Plus, of course, the addition of a new opening-credits regular in Worf, son of Mogh, as Michael Dorn joins the cast.
And the changes don’t stop there. Sisko sees his relationship with Yates deepen over the course of the season, and then it gets a kick in the teeth when she’s revealed to be helping the Maquis in “For the Cause.” Keiko returns from her project on Bajor with the announcement that she’s pregnant in “Accession,” and then a shuttle accident forces Kira to carry the fetus to term in “Body Parts.” Worf is discommendated again and this time the consequences extend to his brother in “Sons of Mogh.” Dukat becomes a legate in the new Cardassian government (“Indiscretion”), only to have it taken away from him when he acknowledges his illegitimate daughter (“Return to Grace”). Eddington turns out to have been a Maquis member all along in “For the Cause.” Nog officially enrolls in Starfleet Academy in “Little Green Men,” Rom forms a union and then quits the bar to become an engineer in “Bar Association,” and Quark is cast out of mainstream Ferengi society when he’s manipulated into breaking a contract in “Body Parts.” And the season ends in “Broken Link” with Odo having his shapeshifting ability taken from him as punishment for killing a changeling.
Plus Sisko finally embraces his role as the Emissary (“Accession”), Kira starts a relationship with Shakaar (“Crossfire”), Dax risks being shuned by Trill society when she almost reunites with a previous host’s spouse (“Rejoined”), O’Brien is imprisoned for twenty subjective years (“Hard Time”), Jake gets to watch his mother die all over again (“Shattered Mirror”), and the Bashir-O’Brien friendship gets strained for a bit (“Hippocratic Oath”).
On the broader stage, the Cardassian’s governmental change and subsequent suffering of an invasion by the Klingons causes some serious upheaval, to the point that Bsahir needs to give Kira a round of inoculations when she visits Cardassian space in “Return to Grace.” We learn a lot more about the Dominion, both in how they treat worlds that piss them off (“The Quickening”) and in how they control the Jem’Hadar—as well as how that control isn’t always a hundred percent (“Hippocratic Oath,” “To the Death”). The Dominion sets off a single bomb at a conference, which serves as a catalyst to their manipulating Starfleet into declaring martial law on Earth in “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost.” And then in the end, we discover that the Klingon Empire may have a higher-up who’s really a changeling...
Highest-rated episode: A tie between the two episodes that opened the season, “The Way of the Warrior” and “The Visitor,” each with a well-earned 10. Honorable mention to “Little Green Men,” “Our Man Bashir,” “Homefront,” “Crossfire,” “Bar Association,” “Hard Time,” and “For the Cause,” all of which were rated at 9.
Most comments (as of this writing): “Sons of Mogh” at 79, which is not a surprise given how controversial the ending is.
Fewest comments (as of this writing): “Crossfire” at 17, the only episode to have fewer than 20 comments.
Favorite Can’t we just reverse the polarity? From “Little Green Men”: The quintessential technobabble conversation between Rom and Quark:
“The kemocite! If we vent plasma from the warp core into the cargo hold, we may be able to start a cascade reaction in the kemocite. Then we can modulate the reaction to create an inversion wave in the warp field and force the ship back into normal space! If I time it just right, I should be able to get us close enough to Earth to make an emergency landing!”
“Rom, you’re a genius!”
“You think so?”
“How should I know? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Favorite The Sisko is of Bajor: From “The Way of the Warrior”: The newly promoted captain has a newly shaven head, which meets with the approval of his new girlfriend. He brings Worf on board to find out the truth behind the Klingon task force, and is further proactive in rescuing the Detapa Council. He also has completely gone back to looking like Hawk from Spenser: For Hire, and as an added bonus, the first shot we get of him, he’s holding a big gun. Only thing missing is the shades...
Favorite Don’t as my opinion next time: From “Indiscretion”: Kira manages her usual balance of professionalism and passion, saying right off to Dukat that the mission is personal—to find Lorit—but she also leads the mission with consummate skill and brilliance. And she also sees through Dukat: she knows that if he really wanted to kill Ziyal, he would never have told Kira of that intention.
Favorite The slug in your belly: From “Body Parts”: When O’Brien complains about how active Keiko has been during pregnancy and declares, “It’s as if I have to remind her she’s pregnant!” Dax—who has been pregnant while in previous female hosts—has a magnificently sarcastic response: “Yeah, I guess the extra weight, the morning sickness, the mood swings, the medical examinations—they aren’t reminders enough.”
Favorite There is no honor in being pummeled: From “Crossfire”: Worf and Odo have a magnificent scene in which they discuss their love of order and their lack of desire to have people drop by unannounced. It’s a symphony in gruff, misanthropic snark. Odo and Worf have had tense moments, notably in “The Way of the Warrior” and “Hippocratic Oath,” but in this scene you can see them both realizing that they’ve found a kindred spirit in the other as they compare ways to keep people from annoying them.
Favorite Rule of Acquisition: From “The Way of the Warrior”: Quark gives Garak a bottle of kanar on the house. He regrets not going into weapons like his cousin Gaila, but he wanted to open a bar because he’s a people person. Selling weapons would be a waste of his charm and love of conversation. He makes Garak drink root beer, which is cloying and bubbly and happy—just like the Federation. But if you drink enough of it, you get to like it. It’s insidious—just like the Federation. They both hope that the Federation can save them, which ends one of the single best conversations in any Star Trek series ever.
Favorite Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: From “The Muse”: Odo gets to be all white-knight-ish for Lwaxana, and does so very well, keeping her company, listening to her ramble about her first daughter, being a blanket for her, playing hide-and-seek with her, and then, finally, marrying her.
Favorite For Cardassia! From “The Way of the Warrior”: The Detapa Council has overthrown the Central Command, since the Obsidian Order is no longer a factor in keeping the civilian council in check. Cardassia closed its borders at the time of the coup, so no one knows what’s happening at first.
Favorite Plain, simple: From “Our Man Bashir”: Garak pretty much forces his way into the program—starting by cockblocking Bashir with the blonde in the red dress—and is disdainful of the entire exercise, making copious snide commentary along the way about the lack of realism compared to the real life of a spy (something Bashir throws back in his face right before he shoots him), not to mention the sexism and the awful décor. (He’s particularly disdainful of the décor, mentioning it several times.)
Favorite What happens in the holosuite, stays in the holosuite: From “Our Man Bashir”: You gotta be grateful that Bashir wasn’t running, say, the program of Nog’s that Dax gave him before he left for the Academy. As it is, Bashir’s been doing the secret agent thing in pretty much all his off-time since he got the program.
Also, Quark’s holosuites have safeties that can be disengaged. This made no sense on the Enterprise, and it makes even less sense in a commercial holosuite, where the safeties being disengaged can lead to serious consequences for Quark if one of his customers gets hurt. The safeties should be hardwired.
Favorite Victory is life: From “To the Death”: Virak’kara reveals that Jem’Hadar don’t eat (the white provides nourishment), don’t rest, don’t have sex (they’re hatched in a lab and become mature in a few days, which matches what we saw in “The Abandoned”), and rarely live to be teenagers. Jem’Hadar over twenty are considered honored elders, and no Jem’Hadar has lived for thirty years.
Favorite Tough little ship. From “Starship Down”: Between this and “Rejoined,” it appears that Worf is in charge of the day-to-day of the Defiant, and second in command to Sisko. As time goes on, this will become clearer, but it appears to be set up that Worf is the SIC on the Defiant, while Kira is SIC on the station. This makes sense, as DS9 is a Bajoran station and the Defiant is a Starfleet ship, although that doesn’t explain why Kira’s on this mission...
Worf gets to be in charge, and get some advice from his senior noncom on how to deal with the enlisted folk. Proving he’s not an idiot, he listens to O’Brien’s advice.
Favorite No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: From “The Way of the Warrior”: Do not detain Sisko’s girlfriend. Sisko will own your ass. As Kaybok learned to his eternal regret.
Favorite Welcome aboard: DS9 proves itself to be the champeen of the recurring character, at least among Trek shows.
Establishing themselves as recurring after single appearances in previous seasons: John Colicos as Kor, Penny Johnson as Yates, Robert O’Reilly as Gowron, and Duncan Regehr as Shakaar.
Existing recurring characters back for more: Marc Alaimo as Dukat, Majel Barrett as Lwaxana, Felecia M. Bell as Jennifer, Leslie Bevis as Rionoj, Rosalind Chao as Keiko, Max Grodénchik as Rom, Hana Hatae as Molly, Aron Eisenberg as Nog, Salome Jens as the female changeling, Kenneth Marshall as Eddington, Chase Masterson as Leeta, Andrew J. Robinson as Garak, and Camille Saviola as Opaka.
And we get new recurring characters appearing for the first time: Cyia Batten and Tracy Middendorf as Ziyal, Casey Biggs as Damar, J.G. Hertzler as Martok, Brock Peters as Joseph, and F.J. Rio as Muniz.
Plus, the usual round of excellent guests: Michael Ansara (“The Muse”), Jay Baker (“Starship Down”), Roy Brocksmith (“Indiscretion”), Ron Canada (“Rules of Engagement”), James Cromwell (“Starship Down”), Meg Foster (“The Muse”), Robert Foxworth (“Homefront,” “Paradise Lost”), Megan Gallagher (“Little Green Men”), Susan Gibney (“Homefront,” “Paradise Lost”), Galyn Görg (“The Visitor”), Scott Haven (“To the Death”), William Dennis Hurt (“The Way of the Warrior”), Richard Libertini (“Accession”), James G. MacDonald (“Little Green Men”), Scott MacDonald (“Hippocratic Oath”), Charles Napier (“Little Green Men”), Obi Ndefo (“The Way of the Warrior”), Conor O’Farrell (“Little Green Men”), Rachel Robinson (“The Visitor”), Robert Symonds (“Accession”), Brian Thompson (“To the Death”), Susanna Thompson (“Rejoined”), Craig Wasson (“Hard Time”), and the great Clarence Williams III (“To the Death”).
But the big guests are Tony Todd and Jeffrey Combs, who both pull off a magnificent double shot. In Todd’s case, he not only brings Kurn over from TNG in “Sons of Mogh,” but also kills it as the older Jake in “The Visitor.” As for Combs, he establishes Brunt as recurring in “Bar Association” and “Body Parts,” and also gives us Weyoun, a Vorta who will continue to recur despite being vaporized in “To the Death.”
Favorite Keep your ears open: From “The Visitor”:
“Did you start the grill?”
“What are we having?”
“Blackened redfish fresh from the bayou.”
“Fish? When these woods are crawling with perfectly good slugs?”
“I suppose you’re going to ask me to chew your food for you?”
“I have to admit I’ve been more popular with women since I stopped asking them to do that.”
“I tried to tell you that twenty years ago.”
“I’m a slow learner.”
Korena and Nog discussing the finer points of cooking, with Jake jumping in when they modulate to the finer points of dating.
Favorite Trivial matter: Oh, for “The Way of the Warrior,” definitely, because there’s so much, up to and including a thirty-second conversation in the episode being the inspiration for what your humble rewatcher considers to be the best of his novels, The Art of the Impossible.
Walk with the Prophets: “You look good in red.” Quite possibly the best single season of any Star Trek series, we begin with two of the finest episodes in the history of the franchise in the high-octane “The Way of the Warrior,” and then get a heartbreaking tragedy of a son’s love for his father in “The Visitor.”
After that, we get a truly superb run of episodes, with no real missteps until the weak conclusion of “Paradise Lost,” which only fails insofar as the first part, “Homefront,” was so promising. And while the second half of the season isn’t as strong as the first, it still has some brilliant episodes, from the love triangle of “Crossfire” to the excellent union story of “Bar Association” to the tragedy of “Hard Time” to the action of “To the Death.”
Hell, it’s a season with no fewer than three Ferengi episodes, and they’re all magnificent. Indeed, for a show that has so much serious stuff happening, the series has embraced humor to a delightful degree. In this season we get two of the best comedy episodes in Trek history, the 50s B-movie parody of “Little Green Men” and the 60s spy-movie parody of “Our Man Bashir,” plus the banter among the crew has become a delightful hallmark, from O’Brien and Bashir’s sand-pea flipping in “The Way of the Warrior” to Sisko, Dax, and Worf taking bets on how many times Kira will sneeze in “Broken Link.” And there are so many hilarious bits, from Odo and Worf’s rhapsody in misanthropy in “Crossfire” to Dukat getting a spindle stuck up his ass in “Indiscretion” to Kor’s storytelling to a skeptical-yet-enthralled Quark’s Bar in “The Sword of Kahless” to the Regent Worf-Gul Garak interactions in “Shattered Mirror” to O’Brien’s inversion of the Jem’Hadar battle oath in “To the Death.”
Plus the show embraces change, yet never loses sight of what it’s about. The basic premise hasn’t changed, yet the characters and go through so much on both a microcosmic and macrocosmic level that it’s an absolute thrill. But beyond that, the episodes themselves are excellent on an individual basis. With a range of plots from action-adventure to love story to tragedy to old movie parody to thriller to political intrigue and back again, this is a superb collection of episodes.
Warp factor rating for the season: 9
Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that The Klingon Art of War, his latest Trek book, goes on sale on the 6th of May. You can preorder the book in hardcover or eBook form at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, or directly from the publisher. He recently discussed the book on the TrekRadio and G & T Show podcasts.