Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Fifth Season
Original air dates: October 1996 – June 1997
Executive Producer: Rick Berman
Executive Producer: Ira Steven Behr
Station log: At the start of season 5, the Cardassian Union is in a shambles, the Klingons are at war with both Cardassia and the Federation, Bajor is on the verge of joining the Federation, Odo is a solid, the Maquis are a growing threat, Dukat is waging a one-Cardassian war on the Klingon Empire with a stolen Bird-of-Prey, Worf and Dax are both single, Bashir is dating Leeta, the O’Briens have only one child, and Quark is still on the Ferengi Commerce Authority’s blacklist. Plus the characters of Enabran Tain, Enrique Muniz, Tekeny Ghemor, Michael Eddington, Furel, and Lupaza are all alive.
By the end of season 5, none of those things are true.
Probably more than any other single season of a Star Trek TV show,the fifth season of DS9 was the season in which stuff changed. Martok was exposed as a changeling, changing the tenor of the Federation-Klingon tension (though not eliminating it altogether). Dukat secretly negotiates with the Dominion to have Cardassia join them, thus changing the face of the Alpha Quadrant by giving the Dominion a foothold. As a result of that change in the status quo, Dukat is now back in a position of authority, the Klingons re-ally with the Federation, and the Jem’Hadar are assigned to wipe out the Maquis. In addition, the inevitable Federation-Dominion conflict leads the wormhole aliens to give Sisko a vision that shows that Bajor needs to stand alone to survive, so Bajor’s joining of the Federation is torpedoed.
On a more microcosmic level, Kirayoshi O’Brien is born, with Kira as his surrogate mother, Worf and Dax start dating, Bashir and Leeta break up, Leeta and Rom not only start dating, but become engaged and get married, Quark’s status as a Ferengi businessman is reinstated, Odo becomes a changeling again, and Tain, Muniz, Eddington, Ghemor, Furel, and Lupaza all die.
And then at the end of the season, the Federation and Klingons are at war with the Dominion, a war that will continue through the next two seasons.
While routinely upending the status quo of the Star Trek universe, DS9 never loses track of its characters. Everyone gets their moment in the sun, and it’s often a major deal.
Sisko finally embraces his role as the Emissary, in the same episode that he makes it clear that he still wants Kasidy Yates in his life even after her six-month prison sentence. Kira loses most of her fellow members of the Shakaar resistance cell and also loses one of her father figures while confronting the pain of when she lost her actual father. Dax and Worf stumble their way into a relationship, one that isn’t without its pitfalls. O’Brien gets to watch one of his engineers die slowly in front of him, and also finally be present for the birth of one of his children. Jake sees the horrors of war up close at the beginning of the season, and then volunteers to see it some more at the end of the season by staying on the Dominion-occupied station. Odo learns the pitfalls of being a solid, tries to raise a changeling baby, becomes a shapechanger again, has a romance, and finds out how deep his love for Kira is. The limits of Quark’s greed are tested, and he gets himself reinstated by the FCA. Rom thrives as an engineer and even manages to find true love. Nog returns to the station as a skilled cadet. We finally meet cousin Gaila. Garak gets his father to admit that he’s his father right before he dies. Ziyal finds a home on the station when her father abandons her. Dukat returns to power, though it’s nowhere near as much power as he himself thinks it is. We find out that we don’t get rid of Weyoun that easily. Martok gets his groove back after being humiliated in a Dominion prison for years. Eddington goes out in the blaze of glory he always wanted.
Oh, and we find out Bashir’s genetically enhanced. Did not see that coming…
Highest-rated episode: A tie between “Trials and Tribble-ations” and “Call to Arms,” both of which scored a 10. Honorable mention to an impressive set of 9’s: “The Ship,” “Rapture,” “In Purgatory’s Shadow,” “By Inferno’s Light,” and “In the Cards.”
Lowest-rated episode: “Let He Who is Without Sin…” the season’s only 1 (and which just barely managed to avoid a 0).
Most comments (as of this writing): “For the Uniform,” and it’s not even a contest, as this one has set a rewatch record (for TNG and DS9) with 114 comments so far.
Fewest comments (as of this writing): “Ties of Blood and Water,” with a DS9 Rewatch-record-low 10 comments.
Favorite Can’t we just reverse the polarity? From “The Assignment”: Apparently the wormhole aliens are vulnerable to chronitons. Since chronitons were established as being related to temporal disturbances, it sorta kinda makes something like sense that the wormhole aliens, whose relationship to time is strange, could be vulnerable to them. I guess.
Favorite The Sisko is of Bajor: From “Apocalypse Rising”: At one point, Sisko overhears a warrior standing in front of the bloodwine barrel, bragging about a Starfleet captain he killed—who was an Academy-mate of Sisko’s. The captain beats the crap out of him, and then covers it with, “Brag all you want! But don’t stand between me and the bloodwine!” He also mentions that he was the captain of the Academy wrestling team—and then adds, while clutching his right arm, “twenty-two years ago. Ow!”
Favorite Don’t ask my opinion next time: From “By Inferno’s Light”: Fittingly, it’s Kira to whom Dukat reveals his sooper-seekrit plan to have Cardassia join the Dominion. He ends the communiqué by saying that him and Kira on the same side never was really right, which is one of those rare instances where Dukat is absolutely right. Kira later tells Ziyal that if her father said that rain was wet, she wouldn’t believe him.
Favorite The slug in your belly: From “Soldiers of the Empire”: Dax actually fits in better on the Klingon ship than Worf does, at least initially, knowing that the quickest way to get Klingons on your side is to bring them booze. She also has to warn Worf twice about how dangerous things are getting on board.
Favorite There is no honor in being pummeled: From “By Inferno’s Light”: Worf makes up for ten years of getting his ass kicked by winning fight after fight after fight, to the point where even the Jem’Hadar First thinks he’s a badass. What I especially like is that he does feel the effects—when Martok waxes rhapsodic about how even the heroes of legend couldn’t have endured what he did, Worf painfully adds that heroes of legend probably didn’t ache so much—but gets past them. He isn’t being a steel-jawed stoic, but he’s being true to his nature. He’s a warrior, and he’s not going to let anyone get the better of him, no matter how much it hurts.
Favorite Rule of Acquisition: From “The Darkness and the Light”: Rule #111 is quoted by Worf, of all people: “Treat people in your debt like family—exploit them.”
Meanwhile Nog gets to show off the power of his ears by discerning details about the recordings sent to Kira, prompting Dax to declare, “I’ve made it a policy never to argue with someone’s lobes.”
Favorite Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: From “Trials and Tribble-ations”: Odo gets his very own tribble, and then gets to snark off Worf when the latter explains about how the cute little fuzzy creatures are blood enemies of the Klingon Empire, concluding with a delightfully sardonic query, “Tell me, do they still sing songs of the Great Tribble Hunt?”
Favorite For Cardassia! From “By Inferno’s Light”: In his propaganda speech, Dukat refers to Cardassia and the Dominion being “equal partners,” a statement that sounds—and, over the next two-and-a-half years will prove to actually be—optimistic, naïve, and totally wrong. (At some point, somebody probably should have showed him the dictionary definition of the word “dominion.”)
Favorite Plain, simple: From “Empok Nor”: Garak is taken aback when O’Brien says he’s glad Garak is on the mission, as generally everyone on the station has been very trusting of him, and it’s freaking him the hell out. To help combat this, he spends the trip over making fun of Nog’s Kotra-playing skills and tries to get O’Brien’s goat regarding the Setlik III massacre.
Favorite What happens in the holosuite, stays in the holosuite: From “Dr. Bashir, I Presume?”: Quark suggests Rom drown his sorrows in a holosuite program called Vulcan Love Slave, Part 2: The Revenge. I don’t even…
Favorite Victory is life: From “The Begotten”: This is the second of the one hundred changelings sent out as infants by the Founders that we’ve seen, Odo being the first (we’ll meet a third in “Chimera”). Sisko asks Odo why the Founders would do such a thing to innocent children, and Odo says that it’s a great way to gather information, especially in seeing how solids treat the helpless.
Favorite Tough little ship: From “Apocalypse Rising”: Worf wants to take the Defiant out to search for Sisko and Dax when they’re running late, but Kira won’t let him. He comes within a hairsbreadth of defying her and taking the Defiant anyhow—since he is in command of the ship in Sisko’s absence, while Kira’s in charge of the station—but Kira reminds him that Sisko’s actual orders were for the Defiant to protect the station. When Sisko and Dax arrive, Worf apologizes by doing Kira the courtesy of asking her permission to welcome the pair aboard.
Favorite No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: From “Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places”: Where to even start? Let’s put it this way, between Worf and Grilka, Quark and Grilka, Dax and Worf, and O’Brien and Kira, this episode was the sole item cited in Steve Lyons & Chris Howarth’s Completely Useless Unauthorized Star Trek Encyclopedia’s entry for “Sex.”
Favorite Welcome aboard: The recurring character list just keeps getting bigger. Prior guests Casey Biggs (Damar), Jeffrey Combs (Weyoun—plus he continues to play Brunt), J.G. Hertzler (Martok), and William Lucking (Furel) all officially become recurring. Past regulars Marc Alaimo (Dukat), Rosalind Chao (Keiko), Aron Eisenberg (Nog), Louise Fletcher (Winn), Max Grodénchik (Rom), Hana Hatae (Molly), Penny Johnson (Yates), Chase Masterson (Leeta), Robert O’Reilly (Gowron), Andrew J. Robinson (Garak), Wallace Shawn (Zek), and Tiny Ron (Maihar’du) all show up.
Melanie Smith permanently takes over the role of Ziyal from Ciya Batten and Tracy Middendorf, while Cecily Adams takes over Ishka from Andrea Martin.
Making their final appearances are Paul Dooley (Tain), Kenneth Marshall (Eddington), Duncan Regehr (Shakaar), and F.J. Rio (Muniz).
Past guests who show up for a second time include Mary Kay Adams (“Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places”), Lawrence Pressman (“Ties of Blood and Water”), Joseph Ruskin (“Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places”), Diane Salinger (“The Darkness and the Light”), and James Sloyan (“The Begotten”).
Other cool guests include Karen Austin (“Nor the Battle to the Strong”), Steven Berkhoff (“Business as Usual”), Jack Blessing (“Trials and Tribble-ations”), Ray Buktenica (“By Inferno’s Light”), John Durbin (“A Simple Investigation”), the impressive Fadwa El Guindi (“Dr. Bashir, I Presume?”), Gary Frank (“Children of Time”), Brian George (“Dr. Bashir, I Presume?”), the superlative David Graf (“Soldiers of the Empire”), Kaitlin Hopkins (“The Ship”), James Horan (“In Purgatory’s Shadow,” “By Inferno’s Light”), Deirdre Imershein (“Trials and Tribble-ations”), James W. Jansen (“Trials and Tribble-ations”), Thomas Kopache (“Ties of Blood and Water”), the brilliant Brain Markinson (“In the Cards”), Phil Morris (“Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places”), Sandra Nelson (“Soldiers of the Empire”), Randy Oglesby (“The Darkness and the Light”), Josh Pais (“Business as Usual”), Jennifer S. Parsons (“Children of Time”), Eric Pierpoint (“For the Uniform”), the great Kurtwood Smith (“Things Past”), the magnificent Lawrence Tierney (“Business as Usual”), and Nicholas Worth (“A Simple Investigation”).
Robert Picardo crosses the lot to play Dr. Lewis Zimmerman and the Emergency Medical Hologram in “Dr. Bashir, I Presume?” Plus, of course, you’ve got Mssrs. Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, Doohan, Koenig, Adams, Bissell, Schallert, Pataki, Baxley, Raymond, and Ross and Ms. Nichols all appearing in integrated footage in “Trials and Tribble-ations.”
But the big guest is Charlie Brill, who pulls off the exacta of appearing as “Arne Darvin” in both the past and present in “Trials and Tribble-ations.”
Favorite Keep your ears open: From “Trials and Tribble-ations”: “Wait a minute, aren’t you two wearing the wrong color?”
“Don’t you know anything about this period in time?”
“I’m a doctor, not an historian.”
“In the old days, operations officers wore red, command officers wore gold—”
“—and women wore less.”
Bashir confused as to why Sisko and O’Brien are wearing gold and red, respectively, instead of the other way ’round, O’Brien being snarky, Bashir channeling McCoy, Sisko explaining, and Dax showing up in her miniskirt.
Walk with the Prophets: “He’s letting me know he’ll be back.” It’s interesting, the general impression of this season is that it’s one of the greatest. It’s hard to argue with that impression, given the sheer number of great hours there are in this season, from the power of “The Ship” and “Nor the Battle to the Strong” to the sheer fannish glee of “Trials and Tribble-ations” to the intensity of “Rapture” to the superb one-two punch of “In Purgatory’s Shadow” and “By Inferno’s Light” to an amazing close to the season with the quiet but charming “In the Cards” followed by the phenomenal “Call to Arms.”
But that makes it easy to forget that there’s a lot of mediocrity in this season. For starters, we have what is the nadir of DS9 as a franchise so far, “Let He Who is Without Sin…” (I say “so far” because “Profit and Lace” is still looming on the horizon like a big giant looming thing.) Plus we’ve got some serious disappointment here, from “The Assignment” and “The Ascent,” neither of which can get past their hoary premise, to “Things Past,” which wilts in the shadow of the episode that inspired it (“Necessary Evil”), to “The Begotten” and “The Darkness and the Light,” which do very poorly with their bog-standard premises, to “A Simple Investigation” and “Empok Nor,” which both fail on pretty much every level.
Still and all, the great episodes are so great, it’s hard to complain too much, especially since those episodes go places that Trek has rarely gone. Some of the most intense hours of television you’re likely to find are in here. And, let’s not forget, we also get two episodes that are, on the surface harmless fluff—“Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places” and “In the Cards”—both of which rise above their origins to become touching, charming, wonderful, excellent stories.
Warp factor rating for the season: 8