Deep Space Nine’s fifth season was the best to date. A lot of things happened in this season: the war with the Dominion began, the endgame with the Maquis ended, we got a visit from a fan favorite from another Trek series, a visit to the original Starship Enterprise, another Deep Space Nine, an end to the Klingon-Federation conflict, and a truly incredible twist at the end. This season must be counted as one of the show’s best.
It is difficult to give highlights when nearly every episode is a highlight, but I will try. The season begins with “Apocalypse Rising”, which has Sisko, Worf & co. masquerading as Klingons to expose the changeling in the Klingon High Council. After this episode comes the tense “The Ship”, which is a sort of mystery story where everything is not as it seems. Next comes “Looking for par’mach…” a fun (and funny) episode which culminates in Quark dueling another Klingon with Batleths! The best episode of the season is perhaps “Trials and Tribble-ations” which has the DS9 crew going back in time to the classic Trek “Trouble with Tribbles” episode. Everything about this episode works: plenty of humor, nostalgia, and trek trivia. The season moved along to a great two parter which dealt with changeling infiltrators (In Purgatory’s shadow, By Inferno’s Light) as well as “Rapture”, which showed the increasing responsibility that Sisko felt in his role as Bajoran Emissary. “Business as Usual” has Quark finally getting into the arms-dealing business, and eventually developing a conscience. The Maquis are dealt with in the satisfying “For the Uniform” and Eddington says good-bye in “Blaze of Glory”. “Empok Nor” has the feel of a classic slasher movie, with Garak going just a bit insane. “In the Cards” is a final light episode centering on Jake and Nog’s attempt to cheer up Jake’s father, then the season ends with “A Call to Arms”, one of the show’s best episodes and perhaps the best cliffhanger ever. So much great drama in this episode: The Dominion actually takes over Deep Space Nine, Kira has to work with Gul Dukat, Sisko leaves his baseball behind. This episode leaves fans craving more, and those cravings would be fulfilled in the sixth season.
Season 5 broke the mold with its bold storytelling and paved the way for the incredible final two seasons. There are many great moments here, and it is a solid season all around.
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Truly a risky season for all involved, Deep Space Nine’s fifth year had the show churning out some of its best hours of television and taking the show back onto its original course. Following the gloominess of season 4, Deep Space Nine featured not only more comic relief, but less of the heavy-handed devastating drama that so frequently reared its head in its predecessor. As a result, this season is much more balanced and also happens to give layers of complexity to new and previous characters. All in all, this season was the great beginning of a fantastic end.
That said, this season is close, but not nearly, the show’s best. Deep Space Nine was refined in this year, but it wouldn’t be until the following year that the show hit its creative and emotional peak. Another problem with this season is the occasional appearance of story flotsam (Let He Who is Without Sin, Ferengi Love Songs) that either just shouldn’t have been made (the former) or were poorly executed (the latter). However, aside from some minor faults, the season does mostly contain some thrilling, fascinating, and emotional episodes that brought the series forward.
It seemed like every major (and most minor) characters had at least one episode to shine here. Captain Sisko got to finally begin to mature in his role as Emissary by receiving visions from the Prophets (Rapture) and truly feel the futility of war (The Ship), as did Jake (…Nor the Battle to the Strong), who also got to undergo machinations to get a treasured Willie Mays card (In the Cards). Kira was pregnant for most of the season, which prompted inside jokes (Apocalypse Rising) and was a central plot device when her friends began dying off (The Darkness and the Light). She also got another episode with her Cardassian father-who’s-not-her-father, Legate Ghemor (Ties with Blood and Water), which exposed some of her shortcomings and resulted in some really nice scenes. Worf got to prove his mettle to the Jem’Hadar (By Inferno’s Light) and become a Fletcher Christian to save his crew (Soldiers of the Empire). But of course the season was notable for putting him together with Dax (Looking for Par’mach…). Odo found a brother (The Begotten) and had a relationship with a humanoid woman (A Simple Investigation), but ultimately confessed to Kira that he loved her (Children of Time). Quark got into the arms business (Business as Usual) and developed a conscience as a result. He also ended up courting Grilka once again (Looking for Par’mach…). O’Brien was tormented again, this time by a Pah-Wraith (The Assignment), and got to revert to his old soldier roots (Empok Nor). We began to see some characters more and more, such as Jeffrey Combs’ delightful Weyoun (Ties of Blood…, In the Cards, Call to Arms), Glinn Damar (Apocalypse Rising, Ties of Blood…, Call to Arms), Kai Winn (Rapture, Ties of Blood…,In the Cards). Others dropped in sporadically, such as Kassidy (Rapture) and Michael Eddington (For the Uniform, Blaze of Glory).
Along with all of this character development, we got some truly fantastic stories. “Apocalypse Rising” is yet another great season opener, combining suspense, political machinations and some wry humor. “The Ship” has got suspense, but also some moving dialogue at the end, dealing with meaninglessly lost lives. “Looking for Par’mach…” is a very funny episode, a Cyrano de Bergerac parallel that culminates in Quark dueling another Klingon with Bat’leths! “The Assignment” finally introduces the Pah-Wraiths, setting up the series finale. But, of course, the stunner of the season is “Trials and Tribble-ations.” Technically stunning and filled with nostalgia, this episode is a winner. “Things Past” was a dark examination of Odo’s psyche, and “The Ascent” allowed Quark and Odo to confess to some friendship, “For the Uniform” was a fantastic episode that brought the struggle between Sisko and the Eddington-led Maquis to a point. The Dominion two-parter (In Purgatory’s Shadow, By Inferno’s Light) brought forth most of the story threads that would propel the series into its final years. “Doctor Bashir, I Presume” is a dramedy looking at Bashir’s sordid past. It also features Robert Picardo as a guest star, a.k.a. the EMH. “Children of Time” is an interesting science-fiction episode dealing with time-travel and the crew meeting their future descendants. “Empok Nor” captures the feel of a great slasher movie, and Garak is a very convincing psychotic killer. Credit actor Andy Robinson (Scorpio from Dirty Harry) who had problems about playing the same type of character that got him typecast. The season concludes with the stirring “Call to Arms”, the show’s best cliffhanger. All in all, the episodic offerings here are great.
In short, one needs only think of the difference that this season made in the run of the series to realize how important it…
The Klingon conflict continues as season five begins. But after spending a fourth year doing that, the writers and producers began to return to the Dominion story line. While some saw this tonal shift proof the series was in trouble, for the writers and producers, it was what they needed to bring the Dominion arc back to center stage.
“Apocalypse Rising” brought about an end to the Klingon “problem” and opened the door for the return of the Changelings.
Season five also had other things going for it. Star Trek was celebrating its 30 anniversary that year, and both DS9 and Voyager were going to do special episodes to commemorate that fact. Voyager brought back George Takei and Grace Lee Whitney as Sulu and Rand in a so-so tale adventure that brought Janeway to the bridge of the Excelsior during the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. DS9 would go the distance and bring everyone back from TOS. Of sorts, anyway. Thanks to the breakthrough technology used in the Oscar winning film Forest Gump, the crew of DS9 travels back into the events of TOS episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.” In the humorous and slightly goofy “Trials and Tribble-ations”, Sisko and his crew have to stop a plot to kill Kirk before all of time is destroyed. The writers worked a miracle, by placing the crew into a 30 year-old episode.
The 100th episode, “The Ship” also aired, along with “Looking for Par’Mach in all the Wrong Places”, “Nor Battle to the Strong” (a special episode for Cirroc Lofton, a birthday present for the actor from the producers, as he was now 18 and no longer had to have a teacher on the set), “Things Past”, “The Ascent”, “Rapture”, “The Darkness and the Light”, “The Begotten” (where Odo gets his shapeshifting abilities returned),”For the Uniform”, the two-part “In Purgatory’s Shadow/By Inferno’s Light”, “Doctor Bashir, I Persume?”(which featured a performance from Voyager’s Robert Picardo as the real Dr. Zimmerman), Business as Usual”, “Ties of Blood and Water” (a sequel of sorts to season three’s “Second Skin”), “Ferengi Love Songs”, the brilliant “Children of Time”, the darkly humorous “In the Cards” and the shattering finale “A Call to Arms”.
As I’ve mentioned before, there are always stinkers (the less said about “A Simple Investigation” the better), but overall, the series was in its stride. The fifth season would also see a magnificent visual effect of all of Starfleet heading towards DS9 -now overtaken by the Dominion and the Cardassians. It was an awe inspiring, jaw dropping effect.
And as the ships head towards DS9, Gul Dukat -now back in his office -discovers a message that Sisko left him.
Dukat, as he holds the ball, tells a puzzled Weyoun that Sisko intends to return.
And the war begins…