Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Seventh Season
Original air dates: September 1998 – June 1999
Executive Producer: Rick Berman
Executive Producer: Ira Steven Behr
Station log: Just as with TNG, DS9 went into its seventh season knowing it would be the last. Even more than the show it spun off of, though, DS9 went even further with it, knowing that they would have to end the war, and also with a much bigger cast of characters to deal with.
And one of those characters was new, as in addition to closing out the series, they had to introduce a new Dax, with Nicole de Boer joining the cast as Ezri, the newest host of the Dax symbiont, following Terry Farrell’s departure.
And so some characters and situations were brought back for a final hurrah: the Jack Pack in “Chrysalis,” Kor in “Once More Unto the Breach,” the Mirror Universe in “The Emperor’s New Cloak,” Ferengi politics in “The Dogs of War,” the spectre of Joran Dax in “Field of Fire,” Section 31 in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” and “Extreme Measures,” and so on. Plus, the Klingon political arc that started way back in TNG’s third season (“Sins of the Father”) finally comes to a spectacular finish in “Tacking Into the Wind” with Gowron killed by Worf and replaced by Martok, and the ongoing Bajor-Cardassia mishegoss is turned totally on its head during the closing arc when Kira is assigned to help the Cardassians fight the same guerrilla war against the Dominion that Bajor fought against Cardassia. Oh, and the Pah-wraith thing is dealt with too.
The biggest task the season had to face was, of course, the Dominion War, which remained an ongoing element, not just in terms of actual fighting (e.g., “The Siege of AR-558”) but the effects of the war on those fighting it (“Field of Fire,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon”). And then the final nine episodes were given over to closing out the Dominion War in spectacular fashion.
The war didn’t prevent lighthearted episodes from sneaking in, of course, with some welcome comic relief coming from the blissfully crisis-free holosuite episodes “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” and “Badda-Bing Badda-Bang.”
And then the show came to an end with a two-hour finale in which not everyone got out alive (Damar, Mila, Weyoun, Winn, Dukat), and not everyone stayed on the station (Sisko, Odo, Worf, O’Brien, Garak).
Highest-rated episode: “Tacking Into the Wind,” the season’s only 10, with honorable mention to “It’s Only a Paper Moon” and “Once More Unto the Breach,” the season’s only 9’s. All three of the season’s strongest episodes were scripted by Ronald D. Moore, which is not surprising.
Lowest-rated episode: A tie between the back-to-back episodes “Prodigal Daughter” and “The Emperor’s New Cloak,” one of Trek’s more painful exactas, both rating a 1.
Most comments (as of this writing): WE HAVE A WINNAH! I didn’t think anything would unseat “Darmok,” but for reasons I’m not exactly clear on, “The Dogs of War” has set a new DeCandido Rewatch record with 118 comments. Yes, really. Any other year, “Shadows and Symbols” probably would’ve taken the prize with 84.
Fewest comments (as of this writing): Bizarrely, “It’s Only a Paper Moon” with only 26, a very poor quality-to-comments ratio.
Favorite Can’t we just reverse the polarity? From “Extreme Measures”: Bashir instructs O’Brien how to construct a multitronic engrammatic interpreter, which enables him to ENTER SLOAN’S BRAIN!
Favorite The Sisko is of Bajor: From “’Til Death Do Us Part”: Sisko has to agonize over whether or not to follow the Prophets’ instructions or do what he wants in his heart more than anything. Considering the last time the Prophets asked something of him, his son almost died, I wouldn’t blame him for just telling the fuckers to go pound sand…
Favorite Don’t ask my opinion next time: From “Tacking Into the Wind”: Kira kicks eighteen kinds of ass in the episode, running half a dozen operations, critiquing all of them, coming up with the plan to take a Jem’Hadar ship equipped with a Breen weapon (which works very well, and she’s the one who improvises best when it goes to shit, thus salvaging it, including a good imitation of Luaran’s speaking pattern), and taking Rusot down about fifty pegs. Oh, and verbally kicking Damar in the ass when he was already down (he says, mixing his metaphors).
Favorite The slug in your belly: From “It’s Only a Paper Moon”: Dax continues to not impress as a counselor, though she starts out promising by letting Nog find his own way without overwhelming him with too much talking, when he’s already done too much. However, she blows it by actually believing that a hologram could do a better job than she can. And then, to make matters worse, the hologram actually does do a better job than she can. (Yes, it makes my head hurt, too.)
Favorite There is no honor in being pummeled: From “Tacking Into the Wind”: Having already been responsible for Gowron’s ascension to the chancellorship—first by killing his only competitor for the job and then by aiding him in his civil war against that competitor’s family—Worf is now responsible for the end of his reign and installing his successor. Oh, and he also was the one who orchestrated the placement of the emperor. Busy guy…
Favorite Rule of Acquisition: From “Penumbra”: Quark tries to cheer Dax up by saying that Worf had to have survived because he hadn’t yet paid Quark for the three barrels of bloodwine he bought for the Koraga crew before they went out to battle. There’s no way Worf would go to Sto-Vo-Kor owing Quark money, it’d ruin the afterlife for him, knowing Quark had something over on him.
Favorite Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: From “Chimera”: Odo is thrilled to meet another of the one hundred infants who were sent out like he was. He’s less thrilled when it turns out that he’s kind of a dick.
Favorite For Cardassia! From “Strange Bedfellows”: Damar semi-officially begins the Cardassian resistance by freeing Worf and Dax and giving them the means to return to DS9 and a) report the Breen alliance and b) let the Federation know that Damar is rebelling. (I was going to say, “Damar is revolting,” but some jokes are just too obvious…)
Favorite Plain, simple: From “What You Leave Behind”: Before they can attack Dominion HQ, Garak laments to Kira that he dreamt of returning to Cardassia, possibly even coming back to live with Mila. But instead, Cardassia is destroyed, the house levelled, Mila killed. Kira urges him to fight for a new Cardassia, but Garak says he’d rather just fight for revenge. “That works, too,” Kira mutters.
Favorite What happens in the holosuite, stays in the holosuite: From “Field of Fire”: Bashir and O’Brien tell Ilario that if there’s anything he wants or needs, he has but to ask. He asks to join them on the holosuite, and they give an empahtic “no,” saying that it’s too personal to share. This despite the fact that Odo, Garak, and others have joined them on the holosuite in the past. Either way, this scene was fodder for O’Brien/Bashir slash fiction for years. (After Ilario’s killed, they feel incredibly guilty about not letting him join them.)
Favorite Victory is life: From “Once More Unto the Breach”: Ten Jem’Hadar ships are taken out by a single Bird-of-Prey commanded by a senile Klingon. Sucks to be them.
Favorite Tough little ship: From “The Changing Face of Evil”: Rest in peace, Defiant.
Favorite No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: From “What You Leave Behind”: Dax and Bashir are now officially a couple, continuing the tradition of the couple-that-doesn’t-become-a-couple-officially-until-the-finale that we got with Worf and Troi (who at least had been moving in that direction for most of the season) in “All Good Things…” and would get again with Chakotay and Seven of Nine (totally out of left field) in Voyager’s “Endgame.” (Sadly, Enterprise did not continue this tradition, thus depriving us of the totally unexpected Sato-Reed romance…)
Favorite Welcome aboard: As is the show’s wont, it added more recurring characters in the seventh season: Deborah Lacey recurred as the image of Sarah, Sisko’s biological mother; John Vickery, Vaughn Armstrong, Mel Johnson Jr., Stephen Yoakam, and James Otis all appear in several episodes of the closing arc as Rusot, Seskal, Broca, Velal, and Solbor, respectively; and then there’s the role of Senator Cretak, played twice by Megan Cole and once by Adrienne Barbeau.
This in addition to the usual recurring regulars: Marc Alaimo (Dukat), Casey Biggs (Damar), Rosalind Chao (Keiko), James Darren (Fontaine), Aron Eisenberg (Nog), Louise Fletcher (Winn), Max Grodenchik (Rom), Hana Hatae (Molly), Barry Jenner (Ross), Salome Jens (the female changeling), Penny Johnson (Yates), Chase Masterson (Leeta), Robert O’Reilly (Gowron and a holographic accountant), Brock Peters (Joseph), and Andrew J. Robinson (Garak). Plus David B. Levinson (Broik) and Cathy DeBuono (M’Pella) get actual dialogue in “The Dogs of War” after being silent background extras for years (no such love for Mark Allan Sheppard as Morn, who remains silent….).
Returning for a final engagement, as it were, are Tim Ransom as Jack, Hilary Shepard Turner as Lauren, Michael Keenen as Patrick, and Faith C. Salie as Sarina in “Chrysalis”; John Colicos as Kor in “Once More Unto the Breach”; William Sadler as Sloan in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” and “Extreme Measures”; Julianna McCarthy as Mila in “The Dogs of War” and “What You Leave Behind”; and Wallace Shawn as Zek with Tiny Ron as Maihar’du in “The Emperor’s New Cloak” and “The Dogs of War,” with Cecily Adams back as Ishka in the latter episode.
Standouts among the (very few) one-time guests include Gregory Wagrowski, magnificently snotty as Solok in “Take Me Out to the Holosuite”; Neil Vipond, superbly world-weary as Darok in “Once More Unto the Breach”; Raymond Cruz, scarily PTSD as Vargas in “The Siege of AR-558”; Art Chudabala, incredibly charming as the doomed Ilario in “Field of Fire”; Marc Lawrence, Mike Starr, and Robert Miano, picture-perfect as 1960s Vegas gangsters in “Badda-Bing Badda-Bang”; John Fleck, delightfully slimy as Koval in “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”; and Kitty Swink, sufficiently haughty as Luaran in “Tacking Into the Wind.”
But the champeens of the season are Jeffrey Combs, who plays two different versions Brunt and several different iterations of Weyoun, including playing both in one episode (“The Dogs of War”), and J.G. Hertzler, who not only plays Martok but also is magnificent in the completely different role of Laas in “Chimera.”
Favorite Keep your ears open: From “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”: “Let’s make a deal, Doctor: I’ll spare you the ‘ends justify the means’ speech and you spare me the ‘we must do what’s right’ speech.”
Sloan cutting off the inevitable argument between him and Bashir (also one of my favorite lines in the history of Trek).
Favorite Trivial matter: A tough call, but probably “What You Leave Behind,” just because there was so much there to talk about.
Walk with the Prophets: “The more things change, the more things stay the same.” This is a remarkably schizophrenic season. On the one hand, you have far less of the fatigue that you saw in TNG’s final season. In fact, it was more the opposite: DS9 went balls-to-the-wall, trying to do as many cool things as they could, ending with a truly ambitious nine-episode arc to end the Dominion War (and the series).
The problem with being ambitious, of course, is that sometimes you fall short. There are a lot of things thrown at the wall this season, and they don’t all stick. Way too much time is spent on things like the Pah-wraiths (only used to good effect once, in “Covenant”), Section 31 (killing the closing arc’s momentum in “Extreme Measures”), and shoehorning the new Dax into the ensemble (giving us crap like “Afterimage” and “Prodigal Daughter”). The character of Vic Fontaine is way overused, sometimes to good effect (“It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “What You Leave Behind”), sometimes not (“Image in the Sand,” “The Siege of AR-558’s” teaser, “The Emperor’s New Cloak”).
But there’s an argument to be made that a noble failure is still noble and worth watching. For all the failures of the closing arc (mistaking the end of the war for the end of the show, the idiotic stuff involving the Prophets and Pah-wraiths, Worf and Dax’s endless bickering, ENTERING SLOAN’S BRAIN!) it’s overall a tremendous thrill ride that gives us some of the finest moments in Trek history, including Damar’s path to redemption, Kira coming full circle, Worf once again influencing Klingon politics, Sisko and Yates getting married, the Breen attack on Earth, and tons more, culminating in an end to the war that’s about compassion rather than military force (Odo curing the Founders in exchange for surrender) and a lovely final drink in Vic’s Place with a superb toast by Sisko followed by James Darren providing a lovely rendition of “The Way You Look Tonight.”
In the end, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did an amazing job of building on the foundation laid down by its two predecessors, giving us complex characters, interesting stories, shades of gray, non-facile solutions to problems, some truly superb acting, and actions having long-term consequences. One need only look at the progress made by so many characters: Nog, going from a sneak-thief in “Emissary” to a junior-grade Starfleet lieutenant in “What You Leave Behind.” Damar going from Cardassian thug to hero of the revolution. O’Brien going from hating Bashir to becoming his best friend. Bashir’s maturation, Worf loosening up (and then tightening back up after Jadzia’s death), Jake growing up, and Garak and Odo becoming part of a family despite their inclination and best instincts.
It’s been a true thrill ride, and there’s no shame in occasionally missing the mark because you simply aimed really really high. Bravo to them for that.
Warp factor rating for the season: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido thanks all of you for this wonderful ride through Star Trek’s second spinoff, and hopes you’ll all join him for his Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch starting Tuesday the 3rd of March with “The Cage.”