Visionary finds many adversarial visitors on DS9. Some Klingons arrive to repair their ship, while a group of Romulans comes aboard for a briefing on the Dominion. After a minor accident that leaves Chief O’Brien with some radiation poisoning, he starts to experience funky temporal displacements and sees future versions of himself. Eventually he views his own death and other calamites, which obviously cause some consternation. Eventually the crew needs to manipulate these events to try to prevent disaster.
A moderately clever take on the time-shifting theme, its intricacies occasionally weigh down “Visionary”. However, the show usually works pretty well and it seems consistently inventive and provocative. One of the season’s more interesting episodes, “Visionary” seems like a solid program.
At the start of Distant Voices a Lethean named Altovar (Victor Rivers) tries to bribe Bashir to sell him some bio-mimetic gel. When the doctor declines, Altovar attacks him. After Bashir awakes from the assault, he finds a severely damaged DS9 with no working computer and few apparent inhabitants. As he tries to solve the mystery, Bashir ages rapidly. When he finds much of the crew, they bicker uncharacteristically. Bashir needs to piece together the mystery.
Right after “Visionary”, it seems a little soon to have another funky and complicated tale like “Voices”. This one tries to develop psychological insight, but it doesn’t really go much of anywhere. Too much of it seems obvious and the story lacks much real depth. The program doesn’t flop but it feels like a pretty average episode at best.
O’Brien takes Sisko prisoner at the beginning of Through the Looking Glass. However, this doesn’t last long, as the Commander wrests control from the Chief after they transport to a parallel universe experienced in Season Two’s “Crossover”. Their Sisko’s dead, so they need a replacement to finish a mission. This plays on his emotions, as in this universe, his deceased wife Jennifer (Felicia Bell) is still alive. He agrees to the assignment to make sure she doesn’t die again.
”Crossover” seemed clever and lively, but “Glass” lacks the same spirit. Part of that stems occurs because “Glass” goes to the well too soon; only one season later is too quickly to return to the same alternate universe. The moments between Sisko and Jennifer also lack the emotional heft they require. While I usually prefer action to sentiment, this should have been an exception, but the show instead opts for brawn over heart.
An explosion destroys the shop of Garak (Andrew Robinson) the Cardassian tailor in Improbable Cause. Odo takes the lead in the investigation, a study that becomes more complex when the ship flown by the main suspect explodes. Odo continues his quest and gets involved in the shady details of Garak’s past as well as other complications.
Of all DS9’s main characters, Garak remains the slipperiest, as we literally never know how he’ll react to any situation. That adds spice to this mystery and makes it more entertaining than it might have been if someone had tried to kill, say, Dax. It gets into a little too much psychobabble at times, but overall “Cause” offers a provocative and intriguing tale that nicely helps flesh out Garak’s character.
Though not billed as such, “Cause” actually provided the first part of a two-part episode, and The Die Is Cast completes it. Because of that, anything I say about the plot might include spoilers for “Cause”, so I’ll omit a synopsis. “Die” finishes the tale well, though “finishes” might be too strong a word. It develops the Dominion narrative and sets up elements that will likely become important in the future. It’s exciting and dramatic and when joined with “Cause”, it offers one of the most cinematic pieces yet seen in the world of Trek TV. “Cause”/”Die” are terrific shows.
After all that drama, things mellow for Explorers. When Sisko returns from a ceremony to reopen a Bajoran library, he comes back with blueprints for an 800-year-old spacecraft that no one is sure will work. Sisko gleefully decides to build one and take it for a whirl, and after some guilty feelings, Jake agrees to go along for the ride. They do some father/son bonding as Jake reveals his desires for the future, and they confront some minor but inevitable space obstacles. In the meantime, Bashir frets due to the impending arrival of the Lexington and its medical officer, his old rival Elizabeth Lense (Bari Hochwald). His first encounter with her goes poorly, as she totally ignores him. That sends Bashir into a spiral of semi-comic questioning, self-doubt and drunkenness.
Trek doesn’t always do humor very well, so some of this episode’s attempts at levity fall flat. Still, it seems like one of the better low action programs. It was inevitable that they’d slow the pace after the prior two-part piece, and “Explorers” does so fairly well. It’s not a memorable episode but it seems reasonably entertaining.
Historical footnote: “Explorers” marks the first appearance of Sisko’s goatee.
We learn a little more about Ferengi customs in Family Business. Ferengi officials audit Quark’s bar and charge him because his mother Ishka (Andrea Martin) acquired profit, something forbidden of women. Quark needs to return to his home to set matters straight. Jake follows up on his attempt to play matchmaker seen in “Explorers”, as he sets up his dad with freighter captain Kasidy Yates (Peggy Johnson).
”Business” explores Ferengi attitudes toward women but doesn’t really elaborate on them, since they’re so simple from the start. The feminist moralizing makes the show somewhat ponderous as well. Still, it’s interesting to see Ferengi principles in action, even if the show becomes something of a soap opera at times, and any episode with an SCTV regular like Martin is a-okay by me.
In Shakaar, the First Minister of the Bajoran provisional government dies, and Kai Winn gets the appointment to replace him pending an election. This troubles Kira, as she clearly doesn’t trust the woman. Winn comes to Kira to ask her help with a problematic situation on Bajor that involves Shaakar (Duncan Regehr), a former resistance leader who worked with Nerys in the past. She finds herself torn between past loyalties and current responsibilities when she meets up with her old friends.
While generally entertaining, “Shaakar” loses some points because it doesn’t tell us anything new. We already know Winn is slimy and deceitful, and we already know that Kira maintains rebellious roots and a disdain for Winn. The show works well for what it is, but it seems like old news – it’s one of those episodes that you watch for the first time but feel like you’ve already seen it.
Dax needs to complete the zhian’tara in Facets. This Trill rite of closure allows her to meet previous hosts, and she asks her best friends on DS9 to supply the necessary bodies. In addition, Nog goes through his tests to see if he’ll qualify for Starfleet Academy.
Probably the silliest episode of Season Three, “Facets” feels like nothing more than a superficial chance for the series’ main actors to play different parts. There’s no arc to the show or anything interesting that happens; it’s just a bunch of kids play-acting for no real purpose. Granted, I do admit it’s fun to see Auberjonois perform Curzon/Odo as a cross between Patton and Jimmy Durante, but otherwise this is a pretty crummy program.
Sisko finally gets his promotion to captain at the start of The Adversary. He soon learns of a coup on the Tzenkethi homeworld, and he needs to take the Defiant out to make sure the Federation’s interests are protected. Unfortunately for them, some funky wormlike parasites infest the ship’s system and render many operations unusable. This puts them on a search for a saboteur that ends up with a surprising culprit.
A welcome return to some action after a few lighter episodes, “Adversary” suffers from one flaw: it steals way too liberally from The Thing. I don’t mean that it borrows themes or anything minor; it literally heists full scenes from the John Carpenter flick. It tosses in liberal doses of Alien as well. Still, even though it’s a rip-off, it’s entertaining and tight. It loses points due to thievery but makes up for them with some nice action, and it ends with a tantalizingly ominous note for the future.
When I reviewed The Next Generation, I often felt the series emphasized particular characters during various seasons. For example, Season Four felt like Worf’s year to develop most strongly, as his storylines moderately dominated those episodes.
Through the first three seasons of DS9, I’ve not seen similar developments, but I nonetheless will think of it as Odo’s year. Stories that emphasize the constable don’t monopolize Season Three, but he clearly goes through the most substantial character arc. After all, he finds his origins at the start of the season, he declares his love for another crewmember, and he goes through other growing pains. The others develop somewhat, but not as much as Odo.
Season Three also helps develop the threat of the Dominion. Slowly but surely, they’re coming into focus, and this year, we learn who they are and what they want. We don’t see a major confrontation with Starfleet just yet, but we know it’s coming. DS9 expands this theme nicely and leaves me eager to see what will happen. Although I’ve not watched any episodes of the show beyond Season Three, I know the Dominion play an important role in the future, and I look forward to those battles.
Probably the other major event of Season Three comes from the arrival of the Defiant. I regard that vessel as a mixed blessing. On the positive side, it gives the crew the ability to conduct more missions away from the station. They’re not just stuck there waiting for the action to visit them, so we get more variety.
On the negative side, however, the Defiant feels like something of a crutch. It’s as though the writers started to run out of station-based ideas, so they fell back on the old tried and true: give them a starship and send them into the heat. DS9 was supposed to differentiate itself from the prior two Trek series because it wasn’t about space exploration, but the Defiant blends together the situations more than I’d like.
Still, the folks behind the show don’t overuse the ship, at least not during Season Three; since I’ve not seen any episodes beyond this year, I don’t know what will develop with it. Hopefully it’ll continue to be a device to occasionally spice up the action and it won’t take over the show completely.