O’Brien’s wife Keiko (Rosalind Chao) returns from a year’s assignment away in Accession. She comes with a surprise: Miles knocked her up during their last visit. A 300-year-old ship emerges from the wormhole with a Bajoran onboard. When he comes aboard DS9, Akorem Laan (Richard Libertini) claims to be the Emissary, the position since given to Sisko. The captain seems more than eager to cede his position to Akorem, a poet whose work has remained very famous over the last few centuries. As he takes over the job, Akorem supports a return to a class system in which heredity determined careers. Since she comes from a family of artists, Kira seems less than happy about this.
In some ways, “Accession” feels like little more than an excuse to finally get Sisko to accept his title as Emissary. The series saddled him with that burden in its first episode and it infrequently reminds us that he doesn’t much like it. “Accession” seems to settle that but it does little else. In a way, it almost feels like a fantasy program, since we know much of what it proposes won’t happen. It’s not a great show.
A mystery launches Rules of Engagement. We find Worf imprisoned and the Klingons claim he killed 441 of their civilians for no good reason. Sisko defends Worf during the trial. All agree on the facts – Worf indeed ordered the Defiant to blast the Klingon vessel – but the question of motive becomes the main focus.
I usually like a good courtroom story, but “Rules” feels a little toothless. As with “Accession”, it loses some points for predictability; the conclusion is never really in doubt. The structure makes it somewhat intriguing, though, as we see the witnesses testify from their original vantage points. However, like many trial stories, “Accession” depends on the cavalry to ride in at the end, and the semi-magical solution robs it of some impact.
At the open of Hard Time, we find an older and grizzled O’Brien at the end of 20 years of imprisonment. However, he quickly learns that this was a mirage. His Argrathi captors only kept him a few hours; a virtual reality program simply provided the impression he’d been gone for two decades. The show depicts his struggles to come to term with his experiences.
At least “Time” doesn’t suffer from the “happily ever after” syndrome that marred the last couple of programs. While it doesn’t keep O’Brien at his lowest ebb, it also doesn’t easily resolve his issues. It’ll be interesting to see if future episodes follow up on these topics or if the series sweeps them under the rug.
Sisko reconnects to the alternate universe occasionally seen in prior episodes during Shattered Mirror. Jake becomes shocked when his mom Jennifer (Felecia M. Bell) pops up in his dad’s quarters. Understandably, this connection with a reasonable facsimile of his dead mother messes with Jake’s mind. He and Jennifer apparently high-tail it back to her universe, and Sisko heads out with accomplices to find them. It turns out everything was a ruse to lure Sisko over to help the rebellion.
The alternate universe episodes are usually interesting, and “Mirror” has its moments. However, it doesn’t offer much to develop the prior stories, and it lacks much emotional impact. One might expect Jake’s apparent reunion with his long-lost mother to provoke more feelings than just banal cheerfulness.
Our old friend Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barrett) greets Odo with a shock in The Muse: she’s pregnant! She ran away from her husband Jeyal (Michael Ansara) because he wants to take away her baby; Jeyal’s species believes in the separation of the sexes, so his father would raise the male child totally without contact from Lwaxana. She seeks assistance and protection from Odo. In the meantime, an alien named Onaya (Meg Foster) approaches Jake and seeks to help him bring out his writing talent to its fullest. Not surprisingly, she possesses an ulterior motive.
We spend too much of “Muse” in wait for that other shoe to drop. Onaya seems too good to be true, and the episode provides little more than a slow process to get to the inevitable. The subplot between Odo and Lwaxana also feels fairly contrived.
Matters complicate in Sisko’s relationship with Kasidy Yates during For the Cause. Station security suspects she’s working for the Maquis, a terrorist organization. Not surprisingly, Sisko resists this notion, and he needs to deal with conflicts between his feelings and his responsibilities. In the meantime, Garak gets to know Ziyal (Tracy Middendorf), Gul Dukat’s daughter and the only other Cardassian aboard DS9. Garak’s long-time rivalry with Dukat makes their interactions more interesting.
I always thought that Kasidy was up to no good, and “Cause” develops those suspicions. However, she doesn’t emerge as the show’s biggest double-dealer; another character presents with underhanded actions. Like a good mystery, “Cause” keeps us off-guard much of the time and doesn’t telegraph its points. It helps develop the series’ underlying plots and seems like an intriguing program.
At the start of To the Death, a Jem’Hadar attack team causes disaster on part of DS9. They destroy part of the station and kill a number of inhabitants. Sisko takes the Defiant to chase their foes. Eventually they locate a Jem’Hadar warship, but the attackers aren’t onboard. Instead, they discover that the Dominion also seeks the attackers, who are part of a renegade group. This means that for the time being, the Federation needs to work with the Dominion to stop the rebels.
Though the idea behind “Death” seems a little contrived, it manages to produce a pretty good episode. Yeah, the whole Dominion and Federation thing feels a little “high concept”, but the results are interesting and lively. We learn more about the Jem’Hadar in a painless way and get some good action as well.
Footnote: remember how I referred to Tony Todd as possibly the only Trek actor to play two roles on the same show in the same season? Jeffrey Combs equals that feat here, and he does so in a shorter amount of time. 13 episodes elapsed between Todd’s two appearances, while only six shows popped up between “Bar Association” and “Death”.
On a survey mission to Gamma Quadrant, the team of Kira, Bashir and Dax intercepts a distress signal in The Quickening. They meet a leader called Trevean (Michael Sarrazin) and find out that when they resisted the Dominion, the Jem’Hadar laid waste to their world and they were affected by “the blight” that kills them when they “quicken”. Trevean poisons folks who get quickened so they’ll avoid the slow death that otherwise would occur. Not surprisingly, Bashir doesn’t cotton to this assisted suicide concept, but most of the inhabitants don’t seem to want his help. When he meets some who do, he and Dax risk attack by a Jem’Hadar patrol to find a cure.
Time for another old Trek standby: the culture that accepts ritualistic death and resists attempts to change their longstanding ways. All we’re left to find is why they fight against progress and what will happen with the quest for a cure. “Quickening” doesn’t bring much fresh to the table.
Quark believes that his death is near in Body Parts. According to a Ferengi doctor, he has Dorek Syndrome, and that leaves him with only about a week to live. Quark feels like a failure in life, so Rom attempts to reassure him by peddling Quark’s remains ala Ferengi custom. Complications ensue when he sells them but finds out he doesn’t have Dorek Syndrome; the winner still wants his merchandise. In the meantime, an expedition that includes Keiko O’Brien goes awry, so to save her baby, Bashir pops the fetus into Kira’s womb. Because of Kira’s internal structure, the baby needs to stay there until delivery.
Remember when I stated earlier that DS9 doesn’t overdo the Ferengi shows? I guess some exceptions occur. “Parts” doesn’t overdo things badly, but it seems a little soon for a show of this sort. The bits with Kira and Keiko also seem silly and unnatural. Too much of “Parts” comes across as gimmicky for it to be a very effective episode.
Season Four finishes with Broken Link. Odo collapses for no apparent reason. Bashir attempts to figure out what’s up, but his lack of knowledge of changeling physiology hampers his efforts. Odo’s condition continues to degenerate, and this necessitates a trip to his homeworld, which also happens to be the location of the Founders, the heads of the Dominion. In addition, the Klingons threaten war with the Federation over an alleged claim to a particular territory.
The latter component doesn’t feature too prominently in the overall plot, though it does constitute the episode’s cliffhanger elements. We’ll have to wait until Season Five to find out what happens there. As for the rest of “Link”, it feels largely expository. Not much happens other than at its end, when Odo’s life changes significantly. As a drama, “Link” seems dull, but it’s interesting due to its overall importance to the series.
Other than perhaps Odo’s experiences in “Link”, the biggest change seen during Season Four comes from the acquisition of Worf as a new crewmember. Of course, Sisko shaved his head as well, but that remained a cosmetic change. The arrival of Next Generation’s favorite Klingon impacted upon DS9 only in moderate ways. Frankly, at the end of Season Four, I can’t quite decide if this addition is good or bad.
On one hand, Worf remains an interesting character. I liked him on Next Generation and continue to find him intriguing here. On the other hand, however, his arrival feels somewhat desperate, as though the show’s producers thought they needed a popular character from another show to make DS9 more successful. I thought Worf’s character arc was done pretty well on Next Generation and there wasn’t much left to explore here. Future seasons will determine if I’m correct, but so far, the Worf-based episodes from this year feel like the same old thing we saw on the prior series.
While I can’t quite decide if I regard Worf’s arrival as good or bad, I do feel that Season Four is DS9’s best to date. Of course, it has its share of less than stellar programs, but the overall level of quality seems good. I’d like to see the plot that relates to the Dominion kick into higher gear, however. Every year I think that this will occur during the next season, but we’re not there just yet.
Will Season Five deliver the goods? I guess I’ll find out soon. I look forward to that, as Season Four added to my enjoyment of Deep Space Nine. It’s hard to point out exactly why it seems like the best year to date, but it just feels more coherent and richer. The characters are better defined and developed and everything coalesces more cleanly. Here’s hoping that matters continue to grow with Season Five.