BEST EPISODE: "The Maquis"
I told you you'd see more of them later! This is it: the first episode of DS9 I've ever seen, period, and I would've gone with it anyway for that sentimental reason, but even after a second view 19 years later, it's a damn fine 2 hours of Trek. Looking back on my 7-year-old self watching it, I know now that I didn't quite understand the world as it was: I thought the Maquis were legitimately bad people if only because they opposed the Federation, but now I understand what DS9 brought to the table in terms of writing was a shade of gray; the Federation was operating out of a pragmatic desire for peace with the Cardassians and was willing to subvert individual rights to do so. Sure, that description might be a little simplistic, but it certainly made the Maquis sympathetic, if not flat-out correct. This episode also furthered Sisko's characterization as someone who could be as brash as Kirk and as contemplative as Picard, but not be as "Lawful Good" as either one. Just an excellent 2-part episode. Another observation: The Maquis storyline is a great example of both fast-paced storytelling and coordination among writers. The land concession to the Cardassians happened in "Journey's End" on TNG. "The Maquis" happened a week later, concurrent with the "Firstborn" and "Bloodlines" episodes of TNG. Two weeks later, the penultimate episode of TNG, "Preemptive Strike", was also a Maquis story. This was the best early use of serialization in the Trek universe. (Retroactively, Season 1's Best Episode is "Duet".)
HONORABLE MENTIONS: "The Homecoming"/"The Circle"/"The Siege", "Necessary Evil", "Crossover", "The Jem'Hadar"
BEST CHARACTER: Miles O'Brien
I really wanted to pick Dax or Quark, both of whom received increased screen time and development (and would continue even moreso in Season 3), but it has to be O'Brien. Why? O'Brien is you. He's me. He's the relatable everyman of the series. Screenwriting law dictates that there's really two ways to approach the audience surrogate of your ensemble: As a naive newcomer (like Voyager's Harry Kim), or as someone who's been around but only wants to do his job and live a stable life. That's Chief O'Brien. He was a non-commissioned officer and didn't possess any unique science-fiction "abilities" other than his mechanical genius. Even though he might have been familiar due to TNG (where we found out he was on the front lines of the Cardassian War) , this season is where he comes into his own. It was around this time that the writers realized that Colm Meaney's O'Brien carried a lot of pathos as a normal, everyday human being and proceeded to put him through the wringer, knowing that what O'Brien would feel in a certain situation would be what we, the viewers, would feel. He would react to his situations the way we would. And thus, the "Let's Torture O'Brien" episode was born. He's the best character of the season because this particular season had THREE of them: "Armageddon Game", in which he is used as a pawn by two warring races and must depend on Bashir for survival; "Whispers", a Twilight Zone-esque tale that sees him strangely alienated from his family and friends, and "Tribunal", in which we get to see the oft-mentioned Cardassian legal system, and watch the chief struggle to maintain innocence. There were more where that came from, eventually, because the writers knew that O'Brien was our man. (Again, retroactively, Season 1's Best Character was Kira, if only for her role in the last two episodes.)
BEST RECURRING CHARACTER: Garak
Apparently, Garak was only supposed to be a one-off character in Season 1’s “Past Prologue”. I find that hard to believe; I mean, he didn’t do much, and we didn’t learn much about him. He came off as a man of mystery, and the viewers wanted that mystery to be solved. So we saw him again, in the aptly-titled “Cardassians”, in which he helped Bashir uncover data on the Cardassian homeworld in his always-shady way. Garak isn’t like other Cardassians (heh heh!) in that he communicates his ever-present cynicism with a disarming smile and cheerful tone. He adds yet another shade of gray to the show, with his checkered past and opportunistic scheming that causes the rest of the ensemble to watch their backs. This season, Garak got his first showcase episode, “The Wire”, in which his past was finally revealed…or not. (As for Season 1, there weren’t many recurring characters, as many were only making their first appearances and were only involved in one episode with minimal character development…that means you, Dukat and Winn!)
BEST GUEST STAR (NON-RECURRING): Michael Ansara as Kang, William Campbell as Koloth, and John Colicos as Kor
I really wanted to give this to Frank Langella as Minister Jaro, who drove the action of the season-opening three-parter, but this has to go to the three original Klingons. The three played off each other (and Jadzia) so well in the Magnificent Seven-esque “Blood Oath”: Kang, the stoic leader; Koloth, the angry bruiser; Kor, the boisterous drunk; and Jadzia Dax, the tagalong kid. Amazing performances in an all-around fun episode. (Season 1’s Best Guest Star was Harris Yulin as Aamin Marritza, “Duet”.)
WHAT DIDN’T QUITE WORK:
Martus, in what was another attempt to give Quark an archenemy. The episode (“Rivals”) was an inconsequential and not particularly enjoyable hour of DS9 because there weren’t any stakes involved. The basic plot of the episode was “Martus cons people, Martus competes with Quark, Martus loses, Martus gets caught”, and I couldn’t have cared less. The first attempt to give Quark an archenemy was in Season 1’s “The Nagus”, with Grand Nagus Zek’s dimwit son Krax (the Fredo Corleone of the Ferengi), who was never seen again, despite Zek’s continued presence on the show. Martus, interestingly enough was the second El-Aurian we’ve seen on Trek, after Guinan, but even that (as well as Chris Sarandon’s enthusiastic performance) couldn’t make him remotely interesting enough to last beyond a one-gimmick episode. Eventually they’d find a suitable archenemy for Quark…
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO…?
Minister Jaro? I suppose he took the fall for the attempted coup, but even Memory Beta (the non-canon Star Trek wiki) doesn’t mention what happened to him afterward. I guess we could’ve seen Frank Langella again if the show didn’t move in a different direction. Also, we never saw Eris again after "The Jem'Hadar"...she turned out to be the first Vorta we'd ever see, and once Jeffrey Combs debuted as Weyoun, I guess the show didn't need any other recurring Vorta.
SEASON 3 COMING SOON!