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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 4 (Review)

This February and March (and a little bit of April), we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

The fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is one of the best seasons of Star Trek ever produced.

The first three years of Deep Space Nine were relatively rocky, although not quite to the extent that accepted fandom wisdom would contend. Each of the first three seasons had strong episodes, with the second season in particular featuring a strong selection of episodes that clearly cemented the tone and mood of the series. Nevertheless, those three seasons were also remarkably uneven. This is entirely understandable; the production team were consciously pushing the boat out and it is to be expected that it might take a little while to steady the ship.

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With the start of the fourth season, the ship has been steadied. After three years of experimenting and tinkering, the fourth season is all about application. It is about recognising the most successful aspects of what came before and compensating for what did not work. The four season is about refining and honing the best parts of those first three seasons and building a new show around it, right down to structuring The Way of the Warrior as a second pilot and featuring a new credits sequence.

Although Deep Space Nine would change quite a bit in the final three years of its run, the fourth season marks the point at which the series seems to have a firm sense of itself. Deep Space Nine has emerged from its chrysalis.

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The beauty of the fourth season of Deep Space Nine is the fact that the production team have clearly and excitedly been learning from past experience. Although a new cast member has been added and the theme song has been revamped, this is not retool – even though the studio executives might like it to be. A lot of what works in the fourth season can be traced back to the strongest moments of the prior three seasons. However, the key is consistency. The fourth season of Deep Space Nine is a staggeringly consistent season.

The first three hours of the fourth season rank as some of the best Star Trek ever produced. The Way of the Warrior is the best television movie in the franchise, and would be a strong contender among a broader pool of two-part episodes and honest-to-goodness feature films. It is a truly epic piece of science-fiction, but one that exploits the freedom of the “television movie” format to spend time with the characters. Although the action setpieces get a lot of attention, The Way of the Warrior works just as well in having its cast bounce off one another.

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However, as with a lot of the fourth season, The Way of the Warrior did not emerge fully-formed. The idea of opening the season with a two-parter designed to reframe the show’s central narrative and introduce a major new element was something that worked fairly well at the start of the third year. The Search, Part I and The Search, Part II fleshed out the threat posed by the Dominion and added the Defiant to the show, while allowing Odo to reunite with his people. The Way of the Warrior just takes the good idea of opening with a two-parter and refines it.

Instead of splitting the story across a two-parter with each episode to be broadcast a week apart, The Way of the Warrior turns the emergence of the Klingon threat and the introduction of Worf into a big event. Structuring the episode as a single ninety-minute episode instead of two forty-five minute episodes allows for better pacing and structuring, making room for character interactions and easing the flow of the story. The Way of the Warrior takes an idea that worked well enough in the third season and improves upon it greatly.

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(Even from a technical point of view, it is quite clear that The Way of the Warrior is built upon the success of Improbable Cause and The Die is Cast. Although somewhat overshadowed by later episodes – including The Way of the Warrior – the second part of that late third season two-parter really pushed out the boat in terms of what could be accomplished by the Star Trek production team working on a television budget. As much as the plot of that episode enabled the Dominion War, it also served as a technical proof of concept.)

However, The Way of the Warrior is dwarfed by the episode that follows. The Visitor is one of the single best episodes in the entire Star Trek canon, and a beautiful tribute to the love that exists between a son and his father. The connections here are markedly less obvious and direct, but the positioning of a quieter and more relaxed episode focusing on Benjamin and Jake Sisko after a status-quo-shifting two-parter reflects the placing of Explorers in the wake of Improbable Cause and The Die is Cast.

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There are lots of other obvious examples. As with The Abandoned early in the third season, Hippocratic Oath is placed early in the fourth season so that it might keep the audience’s attention on the Dominion and Jem’Hadar. However, while the third season lost focus on the Dominion for extended stretches, the fourth does a much better job of presenting the Founders as a threat bubbling in the background, with episodes like Starship Down, Homefront, Paradise Lost, To the Death, The Quickening and Broken Link speckled through the season.

While the third season struggled to tell big stories about the politics of Bajor in episodes like Destiny, Life Support and Shakaar, the fourth season opted to take a much more personal approach to crafting these sorts of stories. Crossfire and Accession provided the fourth season with its glimpses at Bajoran politics, but they were built more firmly around Kira Nerys and Benjamin Sisko. In some respects, many fourth season episodes feel like the show calling a “mulligan” and asking for a “do-over” on ideas that did not quite work the first time around.

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In some respects, that “mulligan” was applied to entire characters. The writing staff knew that Julian Bashir was not a popular character, and the studio had made it clear that they wanted Siddig El Fadil taken off the show. This was not an unreasonable position. Bashir-centric episodes tended to be some of the more generic instalments of the first three seasons; The Passenger, Melora, Distant Voices. Those Bashir episodes that did work (like Armageddon Game or The Wire) were largely two-handers.

However, the writing team refused to give up on Bashir. Instead of writing the character out of the show or shuffling him into the background, they devoted time to figuring out what made the character tick and how best to use him in the ensemble. The fourth season has three really great Bashir-centric episodes, which speaks to the strength of this approach. After all, had the writers written Bashir out of the show, it would never have produced Hippocratic Oath, Our Man Bashir or The Quickening.

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This is something that Deep Space Nine did better than the other Star Trek shows. Deep Space Nine is legitimately an ensemble drama. It is the only Star Trek series where every member of the regular cast (and a significant number of guest stars) feel essential and necessary. On the original Star Trek, Kirk and Spock were arguably the only truly indispensible characters; DeForrest Kelley was not even added to the primary cast until the start of the second season. The crew did not really become an ensemble until Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

This also happened on the spin-offs. On Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was possible to go seasons between good episodes featuring Deanna Troi or Wesley Crusher. Even Geordi LaForge and Beverly Crusher felt somewhat underused as part of the cast. Star Trek: Voyager seemed to forget that Chakotay, Harry and Tuvok existed. Star Trek: Enterprise found very little character nuance or development for Travis Mayweather or Hoshi Sato. This did not happen from the outset of each show, it just happened that some characters found their voices slower.

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The beauty of Deep Space Nine was a willingness to take the time to find the voice of each and every character. Jake Sisko feels much better developed than Wesley Crusher. Very few Star Trek characters can claim to have a character study as effective as The Visitor. Jadzia Dax posed problems for the first three years of the show, but the fourth finds the writers getting a lot more comfortable with her. Rejoined is the bast Dax-centric episode of the show’s run, but even her little bits in Homefront, To the Death and Broken Link are memorable.

This sense of Deep Space Nine as an ensemble is reinforced by the tremendous guest cast. Some of those characters – like Garak and Dukat – date back to the earliest days of the show’s run. However, the fourth season really cements this ensemble by introducing five of the remaining major recurring guest characters. J.G. Hertzler makes his debut in The Way of the Warrior, playing Martok. Homefront introduces Brock Peters as Joseph Sisko. Return to Grace features Casey Biggs as Damar. To the Death welcomes Jeffrey Combs as Weyoun.

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The fourth season features no less than two of the three actors to play Tora Ziyals; Cyia Batten makes her first appearance in Indiscretion and Tracey Middendorf assumes the role in For the Cause. These characters will go on to become essential players in the larger scheme of the show. These characters are all – in their own way – an essential part of the show’s end game. Perhaps the least essential of these characters is Joseph Sisko, but he remains a recurring important part of his son’s life throughout the rest of the run.

Of course, there are important characters introduced later in the run; Admiral Bill Ross will provide the franchise’s most sympathetic external authority figure in A Time to Stand, Luther Sloan will reveal a shadowy side to the Federation in Inquisition, Ezri Dax will replace Jadzia in Image in the Sand. However, the fourth season represents the last time that so many important characters are introduced in so short a space of time. It suggests that these are the last big pieces of the puzzle that the production team are assembling.

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Again, there is a feeling of happy coincidence to all of this, as if the production team have stumbled into a collection of useful characters. Damar has one of the most compelling arcs in the entire run of the show, but he is little more than a named extra in Return to Grace. In some cases, it seems like the writing staff have no idea of their luck. Jeffrey Combs is phenomenal as Weyoun, but he is abruptly killed off at the end of To the Death. J.G. Hertzler is fantastic as Martok, but he will die in Apocalypse Rising. These do not seem like well-planned arcs.

Then again, the beauty of the fourth and fifth seasons of Deep Space Nine lies in the production team’s willingness to ad lib and improvise with the material available. changeling!Martok and Weyoun might not be long for this particular world, but the writers recognise great performances and won’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Capitalising on this great casting, the show contrives to keep the characters around through occasionally improbable means. Martok returns in In Purgatory’s Shadow. Weyoun is resurrected in Ties of Blood and Water.

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The fourth season demonstrates the production team’s willingness to improvise and engage around unexpected events. Ira Steven Behr had not planned on starting the fourth season with The Way of the Warrior. The original plan had been to bridge the third and fourth seasons with a two-parter that looked a lot like Homefront and Paradise Lost, albeit with the Vulcans leaving the Federation. Instead, the studio instructed the production team not to end the third season on a cliffhanger, leading to a rather hasty writing session for The Adversary.

Between the third and fourth seasons, the studio offered notes and suggestions for what they would like to see from Deep Space Nine. This represented the most direct involvement of the studio in the day-to-day running of the series, which had traditionally been left to its own devices in the shadow of The Next Generation and Voyager. Among these suggestions were a renewed focus on the Klingons and the addition of a cast member from The Next Generation to the show in an effort to bolster ratings.

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This was very pointedly not what Behr and his staff wanted to do with the fourth season. However, they engaged with the network’s input and found a way to bend those suggestions to suit their own objectives and their own interests. The Way of the Warrior introduced the Klingons to the fray, but heavily suggested that this was just a front in a larger looming conflict with the Dominion. The closing scene of Broken Link tied those two threads together gracefully, making it clear that the Klingon conflict was a small part of a larger picture.

While Behr and his staff incorporated the Klingon conflict into episodes like Return to Grace, Sons of Mogh and Rules of Engagement, they never let the conflict distract from the stories that they wanted to tell. The show still devoted considerable time and effort to the Dominion threat in the background. They still wrote Homefront and Paradise Lost, just positioning them in the middle of the season, rather than the start. Admiral Leyton was still more worried about the Dominion than the Klingons.

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This knack for improvisation and adaptation makes the fourth and fifth seasons of Deep Space Nine so compelling. There is a willingness to follow plot threads and character arcs in the most interesting direction, rather than adhering to a more rigid plan. Gul Dukat’s arc seems ridiculous when examined from afar, but it generally makes sense on an episode-to-episode basis. Dukat can go from high-placed official in The Way of the Warrior to outcast after Indiscretion to space pirate in Return to Grace to ruler of Cardassia in By Inferno’s Light.

Of course, this becomes something of a double-edged sword in the final seasons of the show. The freedom to improvise and elaborate lends a free-form charm to the fourth and fifth seasons, but presents a clear challenge when the production team actually have to begin wrapping up character arcs in the sixth and seventh seasons. The beauty of having a plan is that the ending feels integrated and natural. The improvisational approach leads to sprawling plot threads and messy details that are hard to streamline into a single satisfying conclusion.

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However, all of that is still in the future. For the moment, this improvisational approach to plotting has served the creative team well. There is a willingness to build off past plot points that distinguishes Deep Space Nine from all of the other spin-offs, to follow character arcs and plot threads in weird (and occasionally tangential) directions because there is something interesting to be mined from the idea of Dukat as a space pirate, regardless of how silly that might sound when trying to summarise the character’s arc.

Similarly, Deep Space Nine deserves a great deal of credit for its skill in introducing Worf. When a new character arrives on a show, particularly a new character mandated by studio or network notes, they can easily come to dominate proceedings. The addition of Seven of Nine to the fourth season of Voyager is one such example, where it seemed like Seven of Nine immediately became one of the series’ three material leads while the rest of the primary cast were firmly shunted into the background. In contrast, Worf is introduced gradually.

"Can you tell that the budget just got increased...?"

The writing staff integrate Worf in a number of clever ways. Worf’s integration into the cast is made an issue of itself; the show does not assume that Worf finds his place and role on the station immediately, dramatising the difficulty of integrating a new cast member into an ensemble. However, while Worf’s integration is played out as a recurring plot thread, the character is not allowed to dominate the show. Worf generally gets assigned the secondary plot line in a given episode, whether fighting with Odo in Hippocratic Oath or moving to the Defiant in Bar Association.

The first episode to focus primarily upon Worf is The Sword of Kahless, the ninth episode of a twenty-six episode season. That is quite a considerable wait following The Way of the Warrior. Worf waits his turn for a character-focused episode, while the fourth season cycles through some of the more difficult and problematic of its regular cast members. Bashir gets Hippocratic Oath. Dax gets Rejoined. Quark gets Little Green Men. There is a sense that Worf is not a particularly special character in the grand scheme of Deep Space Nine.

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The fourth season of Deep Space Nine has three Worf-centric episodes: The Sword of Kahless, Sons of Mogh and Rules of Engagement. To put that in perspective, Bashir and Quark also get three character-centric episodes apiece. Bashir gets Hippocratic Oath, Our Man Bashir and The Quickening. Quark gets Little Green Men, Bar Association and Body Parts. Given that neither Bashir nor Quark could be considered the most popular cast members on the show, and Worf was a hugely popular character migrating from a more popular show, this is quite pointed.

Then again, the decision to handle most of Worf’s character development across running threads buried in particular episodes speaks to another strong aspect of the fourth season as a whole. The fourth season marks the point at which Deep Space Nine really grasps continuity and long-form storytelling. Of course, its biggest and boldest experiments still lie ahead, with the shift in the status quo in the second half of the fifth season leading to the six part epic at the start of the sixth season culminating in the ten-part series finalé. But the fourth season sets the basic template.

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The fourth season of Deep Space Nine understands that continuity of character is an essential part of serialised storytelling on television. While the second season of Voyager also experiments with serialised storytelling, it fixates upon continuity of plot to the point that characters become chess pieces slotted around a board. However, the fourth season of Deep Space Nine acknowledges that long-form storytelling requires an investment in the characters as much as the sequence of events happening around them. As a result, there is a lot of attention paid to little details.

To pick a number of small examples of this attention to detail: Worf and Dax’s arguments about the relative merits of various Klingon swords bubble across Sons of Mogh and Bar Association; the importance of the “criminal activity reports” to Odo and Kira plays a part in both Crossfire and Broken Link; Garak’s history as a gardener is brought up in Body Parts and given greater focus in Broken Link. Even Rom’s interest in engineering in Our Man Bashir pays off at the end of Bar Association.

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This plays into the show’s improvisational approach to plotting. Little details casually mentioned in dialogue can be examined and evaluated in later episodes. The fifth season would radically reimagine the character of Julian Bashir in Doctor Bashir, I Presume, a revision that would be based primarily upon a single line of dialogue in Homefront. On a somewhat smaller scale, the teddy bear that Bashir affectionately mentions in The Quickening makes an actual appearance in In the Cards.

This is a nice way to build continuity and create the impression of a living universe. The fourth season is great at threading these recurring ideas across episodes, suggesting that life on Deep Space Nine continues around the forty-five minute chunks of plot that are distilled every week. For example, both The Visitor and Hippocratic Oath make references to the resurgent Klingon threat in dialogue, even though they are not essential plot elements of a given episode. There is a sense that these elements do not go away once they are no longer plot relevant.

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There are limits to this approach, and the show will brush up against those limits in the sixth and seventh seasons. This engagement with character beats as continuity and the shifting status quo works very well for the mood and tone of the fourth season, as stories unfold against the backdrop of an interstellar cold war that might turn hot at any given moment. However, the approach struggles a bit in the sixth and seventh seasons, when it seems like the Dominion War might require a tighter sense of serialisation and plotting.

Again, these are issues that will only become problems in later seasons. The fourth and fifth seasons strike a perfect balance, reconciling the more traditional episodic storytelling of Star Trek and The Next Generation with the more heavy serialisation that contemporary audiences expect from their dramas. This was perhaps the boldest and most experimental phase of the franchise; by the time that Enterprise played with long-form storytelling in its third and fourth seasons, the concept had been eagerly embraced by the mainstream. It is something to see.

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In keeping with the sense that the fourth season of Deep Space Nine marked the point at which the spin-off was truly (and finally) fully-formed, it also marks the moment at which Deep Space Nine transitioned into a show about war. Of course, this is debatable. The arrival of the Defiant in The Search, Part I arguably represented an escalation in the show’s militarism and war would not actually be declared until A Call to Arms. Nevertheless, the fourth season marks the point at which “war” emerges as one of the show’s core genres.

The Way of the Warrior is very much a war story, a meditation on the political realities of warfare that features some of the most impressive combat sequences in the history of the franchise. Worf is appointed as “strategic operations officer”, making it clear that his tactical concerns are not just individual phaser and torpedo banks but the military organisation of an entire sector. Rules of Engagement suggests space combat is part of the show’s brief. Broken Link finds Gowron pushing the Klingon Empire and the Federation closer and closer to actual warfare.

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The episodes focusing on the Dominion take on a very militaristic bent. Starship Down reframes the franchise’s tried and tested “disaster episode” as a submarine movie. Homefront and Paradise Lost features a military coup on Earth in response to a terrorist attack. To the Death opens with a terrorist attack upon Deep Space Nine by a bunch of renegade Jem’Hadar that leads to some intense ground-based hand-to-hand combat in an effort to deny the Jem’Hadar access to a vital (if not decisive) combat resource.

Even outside of the focus on the Klingons and the Dominion, the general tone of Deep Space Nine morphs into that of a war story; albeit a war story without an actual war. The Visitor is essentially a story about loss and abandonment, about a father taken away from his family. While not explicitly a war story, it shares many themes and tones. For the Cause is a tale about betrayal and loyalty told through the prism of terrorism, which plays into many of the same ideas. Shattered Mirror allows the cast and crew to play at being Star Wars.

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Given this conscious attempt to transition Deep Space Nine into a show about war, the fourth season marks the point at which Deep Space Nine becomes even more controversial among Star Trek fans. Of course, Deep Space Nine was always controversial. Many fans refused to engage with a Star Trek show that could not “boldly go”, dismissing a television series about a crew who were forced to “boldly sit.” The concerns about the show’s cynicism and militarism would become a lot more pronounced when war was actually declared in A Call to Arms.

Nevertheless, the fourth season marks the point at which the tone of Deep Space Nine becomes inescapable. This is going to be a show about warfare and conflict, building off the earlier themes of trauma and survival. For some Star Trek fans, that is simply too much. Some viewers refuse to engage with a Star Trek show that is openly and candidly about warfare, treating it as affront to the franchise’s utopian ideals. This is something of a revisionist narrative of the franchise, given Kirk’s behaviour in A Private Little War or The Omega Glory.

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Still, it is understandable that many fans would have trouble engaging with a Star Trek show that was openly and candidly about war. There is enough war on television and film as it is, and it is understandable that some fans would want Star Trek to be a “safe space” where they can imagine a future beyond such petty concerns. At the same time, it seems ridiculous to argue that it is impossible to construct a long-form Star Trek narrative about war and conflict. It is certainly less offensive than more conventional episodes like Tattoo or Alliances.

These arguments that “Deep Space Nine is not Star Trek” always seem hollow and ill-judged. Deep Space Nine does not abandon the guiding principles and optimism of Star Trek. Instead, it filters those ideals through a prism. It is easy to stick to ideals and principles in a world where there is no scarcity or disagreement, where everybody can have everything that they want and technology can do almost everything. But if those values only apply within that hypothetical post-scarcity thought experiment, then they are ultimately pretty shallow and ineffective.

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Deep Space Nine dares to ask what happens when that idealism is applied to more challenging and ambiguous situations. How do you apply optimism and hope to horrific disasters and seemingly no-win situations? The fourth season hits on this theme repeatedly, but it always suggests that those ideas and ideals can triumph against impossible odds and in awkward situations. To paraphrase Sisko’s observations from The Maquis, Part II, it is easy to be a saint in paradise… but the fourth season suggests it is possible – just harder – to be a good person beyond that.

This is most obvious in the handling of Bashir. It is no coincidence that the show broadcast Our Man Bashir directly before the Starfleet coup in Homefront and Paradise Lost. In both stories, idealistic characters are confronted with the reality that idealistic fantasies might not be as perfect as they appear. When the holodeck safeties fail, Bashir and Garak argue about how best to proceed. Garak argues that hard choices and sacrifices have to be made, and that realism is about accepting the compromise; Bashir rejects this, and promises to save everyone.

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Bashir is correct. In fact, the fourth season suggests that Bashir is consistently and repeatedly correct. The show’s most idealistic character, the fourth season consciously positions Bashir as a champion of the utopian values most associated with the franchise. (As well, perhaps, of some of its vices like self-righteousness and ego.) Despite O’Brien’s cynicism, Bashir is correct that the Jem’Hadar are not unstoppable killing machines in Hippocratic Oath. Despite Garak’s pragmatism, Bashir is correct that he can save everyone in Our Man Bashir.

Bashir faces perhaps his most severe challenge in The Quickening, when he finds that he cannot apply the “fly in, fix the problem, fly out” logic of The Next Generation or Voyager to a horrific situation. Instead, The Quickening suggests that making a better world cannot happen overnight. There is no single magic fix to all of the world’s problems. In fact, Bashir’s magical medical technology only causes more harm than good. In spite of all this, Bashir is able to make a better world for the next generation by rolling up his sleeves and investing in long-term solutions.

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This is the idealism of Deep Space Nine. This is a perspective that argues that improvement is possible, but it is not easy. The world can become better, but it takes time and effort. There is no easy fix to the big problems. In fact, some of those problems may never go away. However, according to Deep Space Nine, the key is not to eliminate factors and horrors that may never go away; the key is to respond to them with integrity and optimism. The utopian ideals of the franchise are embodied in the characters of Deep Space Nine more than the world around them.

Deep Space Nine adopts a cyclic view of history. It suggests that patterns and events tend to repeat and reiterate. This is particularly true of the fourth season of Deep Space Nine, positioned midway through the show’s seven-year run. The fourth season suggests that character arcs and events tend to move around in circles, repeating and reworking. Both the past and future of Deep Space Nine resonate through the fourth season, as if to suggest that all of this has happened before and will happen again.

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To pick one example, the conversation between Jake and Kira at the docking pylon in The Visitor calls back to the destruction of the Saratoga in the teaser to Emissary and harks forward to the closing shot of What You Leave Behind. The possibility of losing Sisko evokes the recurring trauma of separation and loss that bubbles across the seven years. Jake lost his mother in Emissary. He will lose his father in What You Leave Behind. He loses versions of both again in the fourth season; his father in The Visitor, his mother in Shattered Mirror.

There are plenty of other examples to be found. Kira finds herself forced to become a rebel and terrorist in Return to Grace, harking back to the life she left behind in Emissary. In that same episode, she finds herself training a bunch of Cardassians to fight a guerilla war against a vicious oppressor. Kira even teaches Damar, as she will again in Tacking into the Wind. Sisko is betrayed by Michael Eddington to the Maquis in For the Cause, mirroring Cal Hudson’s betrayal in The Maquis, Part I.

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This approach might easily seem cynical, suggesting that history does not march forward and that the human experience is trapped in an endless repeating loop that dwells upon loss and suffering. It is easy to understand why so many fans treat Deep Space Nine as the most cynical of Star Trek shows. However, there is hope. Even as these cycles repeat and recur, the fourth season makes it clear that they can be broken. It is possible for people to learn and grow through these repetitions.

When Kira teaches Dukat about terrorist tactics in Return to Grace, Dukat aspires to restore his past position. This fixation upon returning to the way things used to be ultimately proves disastrous, both to Dukat and to the Cardassian Union. Instead, it will be Damar who breaks the cycle by coming to understand that Cardassia needs to change and evolve rather than trapping itself within these self-perpetuating cycles of violence and suffering. That growth is painful and harsh, but necessary.

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More than that, Kira makes a point to save Ziyal from the life of a terrorist. She takes Tora Ziyal to live on Deep Space Nine, away from a rebel war against the Klingon Empire. When Dukat asks why Kira would do that, Kira explains that she sees some of herself in the young woman. Kira believes that nobody should be forced to live through the pain and suffering that she endured. Kira genuinely believes that there is a better way to live a life, and she gives Ziyal that chance.

Even Sisko has grown and changed through the repeated iterations of that loop. In The Maquis, Part II, Sisko was very clearly betrayed by Calvin Hudson. The two characters never reconciled, never spoke again. In Blaze of Glory, Michael Eddington reveals that Hudson died at the hands of the Jem’Hadar, making such a reconciliation impossible. Sisko was unable to forgive, unable to heal. Again, this plays back into the character as defined by Emissary, a man who carries his scars around with him.

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In contrast, For the Cause suggests that Sisko has grown in the intervening years. When Kasidy Yates betrays him to the Maquis, Sisko is heartbroken. As he points out, she unknowingly put Jake at risk. That is a more intimate and personal betrayal than any perpetrated by Calvin Hudson. However, the final sequence of For the Cause reveals that Sisko is perfectly willing to forgive Kasidy for her betrayal. Sisko is willing to heal. When Kasidy promises to return, Sisko promises to wait. Sisko has learned to move past the hurt and the pain.

This is perhaps the true idealism of Deep Space Nine, one that suggests people can learn from their mistakes and improve upon their past performance. For all that Garak and Quark might discuss their anxieties about the corrupting power of the Federation in The Way of the Warrior, the show suggests that both Garak and Quark have been improved and strengthened by their time on the station and their exposure to Federation ideals. The suggestion is that exposure to other worlds and cultures (and possibilities) leads to a richer and better perspective.

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In For the Cause, Garak and Ziyal make a clean break from the past. Thrown together by fate, Ziyal decides to forgive Garak for his crimes against her family while Garak decides to open himself up to another person. In Bar Association and Body Parts, Quark finds himself creeping further and further from the rigid capitalist ideals of Ferengi culture towards a more liberal and humanist philosophy. These events do not occur as a result of conscious “meddling” or intervention. They are presented as the logical end point of broader horizons and infinite diversity.

In its own way, Deep Space Nine is as true to the principles and utopian ideals of Star Trek as any other iteration of the franchise. Ira Steven Behr and his writers just adopt a slightly different approach to the source material, albeit one that remains broadly humanist and optimistic about the human condition, even as it becomes wary of political authorities and centralised power. As with a lot of what makes Deep Space Nine unique, that perspective really shines through over the course of the fourth season.

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The fourth season of Deep Space Nine is a fantastic season of television, and one that plays to many of the series’ strengths.

You might be interested in our reviews of the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:

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9 Responses

  1. ….What he said.

    (It’s funny how DS9 came at the exact right time AND the wrong time. It was decades before Star Trek was unmoored from Gene Roddenberry’s memory, and so it goes unappreciated by the Roddenberry loyalists. It also came at the right time politically, when the Cold War was a fading nightmare and television was beginning to chew over the legacy of the 70s and 80s.

    Now we’re back to the late seventies/early eighties. Everything is a little too muddled. You can criticize Islamic terrorist so long as you portray the government as not-so-crypto fascists. It doesn’t really challenge the system or the viewer, and leaves it rebel loners like Bruce Wayne and Chris Pine to ‘solve’ complex problems for us, usually with guns.)

    • Thanks Ed! That was a fun (but exhausting) run of reviews.

    • Crypto fascists – that always reminds me of the Red Dwarf episode Timeslides when the crew meet a younger Lister who’s deluded himself into believing he could front a rock group someday. And that’s what he calls anyone who speaks out against that dream.

  2. Excellent analysis of one of Star Trek’s strongest seasons.
    “On the original Star Trek, Kirk and Spock were arguably the only truly indispensible characters.” I would say that McCoy was also invaluable because, I’m sure you’ve heard this, Kirk is man of action, Spock serves as Kirk’s brain, and McCoy serves as Kirk’s heart. All three needed in order to accomplish things.
    It is funny to think how much Ds9 added to the star trek mythos when it came to expanding on Cardassians, or introducitng the Dominion, Meanwhile, Voyager, which was set in an entirely different quadrant for its entire run, never succeeded in anything new, but instead was forced to rely on old ideas, such as the borg or the Feringi.

    • Thanks William.

      Fair point about Voyager. Even the Kazon could frequently feel like “the Klingons, but with more racially problematic elements thrown in to liven things up!” But there’ll be a wrap-up review of the second season arriving… soon-ish.

  3. In Our Man Bashir, Garak says there’s hope for the good doctor yet, and that’s the production staff speaking too – give us time and we’ll turn Bashir into a good character after all. And the debate in Our Man Bashir about the need for hard choices if you want to survive foreshadows the similar one between Garak and Sisko for In the Pale Moonlight, and it’s something that Sisko eventually comes to agree with, unlike Bashir.

    That picture of the Defiant surrounded by Jem’Hadar ships is a creepy image because the sinister colour of those warp nacelles look just like eyes in the darkness. Is that the Dominion’s way of letting people know they’re always watching you?

    • Darren, the link for The Maquis Pt I connects me with Pt II instead. Could you rectify that please? Thanks.

    • I love the purple/grey aesthetic of the Dominion ships, actually. It’s quite distinct from the greens associated with the Klingons and Romulans or the yellows associated with Cardassians or the orange associated with the Ferengi. Although it does scream “supervillain!”

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