December 9, 2012

Blog Space Nine #25: Season 2 in Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was always my favourite Star Trek series - rewatching the second season has confirmed to me that it still is. It has a moral complexity and a rough edge that you simply don't find in any other iteration of the franchise. The first season was concerned primarily with setting up the characters, reassuring them they were still watching a Star Trek series, and cementing the religious and political affairs of Bajor as a core element of the show.

The second season has successfully expanded from that base to provide two long-running hooks for the show: the Maquis, demonstrating that there's unrest within the Federation, and the Dominion, demonstrating that the Federation isn't the most powerful force in the galaxy any more and pointing Star Trek towards all-out war. It's funny that these elements make Deep Space Nine feel more important and influential in the history of Star Trek than any other series, yet this is the one series were the show doesn't physically go anywhere: they're on a space station and the important elements by-and-large come to them.

I started watching this season to compare it against Babylon 5's first: which aired at approximately the same time on American television. The difference is obvious. Where Babylon 5 often feels forced, two-dimensional and trite, Deep Space Nine feels nuanced, well-rounded and complex. I wrote in my round-up of Babylon 5 Season 1 that it takes a monologue for Straczynski's writing to shine. In the case of Ira Steven Behr, Peter Allan Fields, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Michael Piller and the rest of the DS9 writing staff (and freelancers), all it takes is an interesting situation and two of the show's characters.

Deep Space Nine's cast is significantly better as well. There really isn't a weak link in the regular cast, which creates a bigger difference between this series and Babylon 5 than the writing does.

The best episodes of the season are, to my mind:
  • "Cardassians"
  • "Necessary Evil"
  • "Rules of Acquisition'
  • "Sanctuary"
  • "The Jem'Hadar"
The five episodes that I just couldn't bring myself to recommend are:
  • "Melora"
  • "Second Sight"
  • "Rivals"
  • "Armageddon Game"
  • "Paradise"
To be fair, not one of the episodes above is anywhere near as bad as the Great Babylon 5 Trilogy of Shit, once again ensuring this series is way ahead of the pack when it came to early 1990s SF television. To be honest the only American SF series of the period that topped DS9 was The X Files, and that was a show different enough to essentially sit within a different genre.

Now I have a choice: do I keep pushing forward to Deep Space Nine's third season, or do I jump back and rewatch and review the first season? I'll let you know in a week or so.

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