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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 3 (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

The third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a turning point for many reasons. The most obvious was that Star Trek: The Next Generation had gone off the air, meaning the first half of the third season was broadcast during a window where Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the only Star Trek show on the air. The show was no longer the goofy kid brother to a much beloved mainstream television show. It was out in the syndication market place by itself.

More than that, though, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was no longer the child of the franchise. With Star Trek: Voyager on the way, launched as the flagship of UPN, Deep Space Nine was left to its own devices for the first time since it was created. Voyager was the high-profile standard-bearer for the franchise, serving as the cornerstone of a new network. In contrast, Deep Space Nine chugged along in syndication, with the powers that be working overtime to bring Voyager to screen.

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In some respects, this was a tough time for Deep Space Nine. It was no longer the newest and freshest Star Trek. It was no longer the bright promising future of the Star Trek franchise. The novelty of having a second Star Trek show on the air had worn off. (Indeed, the decision to treat Voyager as the eighth season of The Next Generation was largely a response to how Deep Space Nine was not filling the niche.)

At the same time, the fact that Michael Piller and Rick Berman were focused on other projects meant that Deep Space Nine really came into its own during the third season. Ira Steven Behr had helped run the writers’ room towards the end of the third season of The Next Generation, and was the logical choice to take the reigns on Deep Space Nine. His influence on the show had been obvious since the beginning, becoming more pronounced after The Maquis.

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However, the third season saw Behr becoming the driving creative force on Deep Space Nine, a changing of the creative guard. Ronald D. Moore and Rene Echevarria joined the show from the staff of The Next Generation. Given all this drama behind the scenes, the third season was as chaotic as you might expect. There were all manner of production problems that haunted the third season, with a sense that Deep Space Nine was being produced by the seat of the producers’ pants.

Episodes tended to get shifted around in production order. Various scripts ended up produced under time constraints so tight that there was no opportunity to properly polish them before putting them in front of the camera. There were rumours that Colm Meaney might have been considering leaving;. Episodes had to be extended into two-parters at the last minute. The show had great ideas, but difficulty realising them. The season as a whole was rather oddly paced, plotted haphazardly. And yet, despite all this, the chaos felt necessary.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Search, Part II (Review)

The September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

In a way, The Search feels almost like a parody of the classic Star Trek season-bridging cliffhanger. It is a story told under the same title, but with both halves of the story feeling distinct enough to stand on their own two feet. Written by two different writers and directed by two different directors, it very much feels like two very different stories linked primarily by an efficient cliffhanger.

It’s not radically dissimilar to the two-parters from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Redemption and Descent come to mind, two-part adventures that very much feel like two different stories melded together rather than one single over-arching story. This disjointedness makes a great deal of sense, given the standard operating procedure when it came to Star Trek cliffhangers, as established by Michael Piller with The Best of Both Worlds, Part I. The logic is simple: write part one; go away for a few months; return and try to write part two.

Of course, The Search very clearly isn’t a season-bridging cliffhanger. It’s a season-opening two-parter. And it’s so cleverly and consciously structured as two very different episodes that it can’t help but feel like a sly nod at the inevitable outcome of that approach to writing – playfully self-aware of how disjointed the whole experience feels as a single story.

A whole new Vorta problem...

A whole new Vorta problem…

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