Saturday, April 14, 2012

Thoughts on Season Three


Season Two took the most promising elements of the series' first season and built on them.

The Bajoran political situation became more tangled. Things became really messy with The Collaborator, as the fanatical Vedek Winn (Louise Fletcher) was anointed as the spiritual leader - effectively ceding control of the planet to the worst possible person. We got more insight into the past of the space station itself, and into the pasts of the various characters (notably Kira and Odo). Two strong recurring characters, the charming but untrustworthy Garak (Andrew Robinson) and the militaristic Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo), were given added depth, making both far more interesting than they previously had been. Meanwhile, the show's regulars were allowed to steadily come into their own as characters. By the end of the season, Deep Space 9 had become a rare ensemble show that had no real weak link.

In the background, we also started to hear about a new threat from the Gamma Quadrant: The Dominion. And in the second season finale, the Dominion showed itself to fully merit that buildup, allowing the year to end on an ominous note.


The events of The Jem'Hadar demanded followup... something the show's producers recognized. The opening two-parter follows directly on. In a brilliant stroke, the writers make the leaders of the Dominion changelings, tying this entire strand of the series directly to Odo. The Dominion aren't just a physical threat to our heroes - They are an emotional threat to Odo, one that will doubtless reverberate throughout the remainder of the series.

The Search doesn't tie everything up neatly. Though there is a return to "business as usual" as the season progresses, with regular expeditions to the Gamma Quadrant, the Dominion remains a threat. They are mentioned throughout the season, even in episodes that don't involve them. They are left mainly as a background menace in Season Three, a looming conflict which Starfleet is trying to prepare for. But we see just enough of them in action, particularly in The Die is Cast and The Adversary, to recognize that Starfleet is almost certainly outmatched.

The Dominion storyline is wonderfully handled, progressing enough to pave the way for future developments without overshadowing the individual episodes. But it does represent a shift in focus. Previously, the series seemed to turn on Sisko's mission to prepare Bajor for admission to the Federation. Most of the best episodes of Seasons One and Two revolved around Bajor, its messy political situation, and the wounds left over from the (still very recent) Cardassian Occupation.

In Season Three, Bajor often feels like an afterthought. Only three episodes significantly deal with the Bajoran/Cardassian situation: Second Skin, Life Support, and Shakaar. The second of these mainly serves to tie off the Bajoran/Cardassian conflict, probably to avoid splitting focus between that and the Dominion. The peace agreement offers dramatic opportunities of its own, but so far those haven't been seriously addressed. Shakaar ends up being the only Bajoran-centered episode of the season that promises future developments.

Don't get me wrong: I am genuinely enjoying the Dominion arc and look forward to seeing where it goes.  But I would hate to see its development come at the expense of the Bajoran story.


As a series, Deep Space 9 has been pretty good so far about making use of the opportunities its individual episodes provide. Intriguing guest characters become recurring characters who become fixtures, such as Gul Dukat and Garak. Events that should have implications have a tendency to get followed up on - a rarity in other Trek shows, and a delight to see happening in this one.

But this season introduces one missed opportunity, and that is Commander Eddington.

Eddington is introduced at the season's start, in The Search. His addition represents a shake-up for station security, with Starfleet security matters being taken away from Odo - a shift that creates a lot of potential for tension. But after The Search, Eddington is neither seen nor mentioned again until The Die Is Cast, fairly late in the season. To be perfectly honest, I forgot all about the character by the time he reappeared!

We really needed to see more of him, particularly in the first half of the season. In The Search, Odo resents his coming so much that he almost leaves the station. By The Adversary, the two have forged a reasonable working relationship - and done so entirely offscreen. At least one more appearance in the first part of the season, something to show Odo coming to accept and even respect him, would have been welcome - as would have been mentions of him in episodes where things should have concerned Starfleet security, particularly when Odo "adopted" a Jem'Hadar.

Thankfully, the last part of the season indicates that the writers have not only remembered Eddington's existence, but actually might do something with him. The Die Is Cast and, particularly, The Adversary show that both the character and actor Kenneth Marshall have the potential to work well within the fabric of this show. His conversation with Sisko in the season finale hints at frustrated career ambitions, and his prominence in that episode gives me hope for some interesting developments for the character next season.


It's becoming difficult to come up with much of a "wish list" for Deep Space 9. The series has done such a good job of building on its own successes. Season One was a promising start. Season Two was a huge improvement, cementing this as a quality series. I'd rate Season Three as even stronger, with the best hit rate yet and the strongest sense of events that are building to something more. When a series is so successful at keeping its universe interesting and its overall story moving, it seems almost churlish to impose some list of preferences on it.

Still, I hope (and expect) to see the Dominion start to emerge in the foreground, instead of simply being whispered about in the background. Odo's final line from The Adversary demands follow-up, as do his actions in breaking the changelings' single greatest law. I look forward to seeing how those events will unfold.

I also hope that Bajor is allowed some episodes, maybe even another multi-parter, to keep its story alive. Bajor became an afterthought in Season Three. I really hope better use is made of the Bajoran situation in Season Four. Kai Winn has most recently attempted to take control of the civilian government. She's been rebuffed, but it seems certain that she should attempt to extend her influence in more underhanded ways. With Shakaar, an adversrary of Winn's, becoming the head of the civilian government, there is plenty of potential for good storytelling. I would like to see that explored, and not just through a token episode here or there that amounts to the show saying, "Oh, here's a Bajor episode!"

Maybe the Bajoran story could even be tied in with the Dominion one in some way, so that it all becomes one great narrative?


Aside from my reservations about the treatment of the Bajoran thread this year, Season Three was yet another fine season of Deep Space 9. At this point, the show is not only my favorite Trek spinoff, it has the potential to topple TOS as my absolute favorite Trek. So above any wish list, I'm currently content just to go wherever the show takes me. Based on the first three seasons, it's bound to be interesting.

Review Index

No comments:

Post a Comment