If you asked me today (and I’m going to pretend that you did), I would say that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is my second-favorite Star Trek series (excluding TOS and the animated series for the moment). And, this silver medal ranking is behind Enterprise, not TNG, as I would have suspected when I began this Boldly Going project.
If you’re interested, TNG earns the bronze. Which leaves Voyager in last place at the moment (sorry, Captain Janeway), and not on the podium.
When I look at all of the episodes that make up the third season of DS9, I’m more than a little surprised at myself for making this statement. I gave a 4-star rating to only one episode this season, and that was the season finale, Episode 3.26 “The Adversary.” This was a good episode. And Benjamin Sisko became a captain during the episode as well, which probably pushed it up to 4 stars for me. Of the remaining 25 episodes, 20 of them earned a score of 3.5-stars. The other 5 episodes were 3-star outings for me, which equates to an “average” rating for me, meaning I might not actively seek out the episodes to watch, but I wouldn’t turn them off if they happened to be on the television. There wasn’t a single subpar episode in the season.
Revealing my personal rating system may be a little too “Inside Baseball” for this blog. However, I wanted to show some of my thought processes that I might otherwise be unable to communicate. This series managed to become my second-favorite Trek series (at least through the third seasons) without having a single 5-star episode and only one 4-star. DS9 has proven to be a consistent series, with a premise I’ve grown to respect after disparaging it for more years than I care to admit, and with a diverse cast that I love.
As a disclaimer, I’ll point out that Enterprise has only one more season to earn its final slot, while TNG, DS9 and VOY still have four seasons to go, so the rankings could—and probably will—change. This is just my ranking of the NextGen-Era Trek shows at this point in time. I don’t know if I’ll ever rank all of the series (including TOS and DSC) together. I’ll decide that later.
So, now that I’ve completely unearthed the lead here, let’s talk about Season 3 of DS9, and why it has earned my admiration.
This is the season that we learn more about the Dominion—and a few of its constituent parts, such as the Jem’Hadar and the Founders. As it turns out, Odo is one of the race of shapeshifters who are known as The Founders in the Dominion. They are the brains of the operation, in fact. I love finding out, along with Odo, more about his heritage. I loved even more that Odo turned his back on his people because he felt more for the people on Deep Space 9.
Because of the threat of the Dominion from the Gamma Quadrant, Commander Sisko is able to bring the USS Defiant to DS9. It is a prototype of its class, smaller than your average starship, but much larger than the runabouts we’ve been using on the series up to this point, with formidable defenses and weaponry. This means, from a story standpoint, that we can get more of our regular series characters on a single ship for different adventures. It also means that Benjamin Sisko can eventually become one of the “captains” of the Trek universe. It was a welcome addition to help keep Terok Nor from becoming a giant obsolete Space Mall.
Keiko O’Brien leaves DS9 on a lengthy expedition to Bajor. Don’t get me wrong: I like Keiko and the O’Brien child (whatever her name is), but the family stories seemed to hamstring Miles O’Brien. He is more free to act while Keiko and child are away. By the same token, I’m happy they didn’t kill O’Brien’s family off.
Jonathan Frakes makes a guest appearance as Thomas Riker, disguised as William T. Riker. This was fun.
Nog applies to Starfleet Academy in this season. One small step for a Ferengi . . .
O’Brien is actually killed off this season, but is replaced by O’Brien from an alternate timeline. Really. This happened.
In Episode 3.19 “Through the Looking Glass,” we get yet another glimpse of the Mirror Universe (as seen in the TOS episode “Mirror, Mirror”). This continues to be a Trek Trope, even into its current incarnation in Star Trek: Discovery.
We learn more about Garak’s past as a member of the Obsidian Order. The Cardassian tailor continues to be an important and enigmatic member of the DS9 cast.
The series becomes more exciting during this third season. Benjamin Sisko also begins to act with more agency, which makes him a more engaging character to me. Up to now, I’ve been told I should respect and admire him, but he hadn’t given me very many reasons to. By the conclusion of the season, Sisko has taken his rightful place as one of the Trek Captains.
For me, Season 3 is also when the space station begins to feel less like a setting and more like a real place. There is a sense of weight and size to the space now that I hadn’t felt with such intensity before. It’s easy to believe that all of these places coexist even when not on-screen. But, the show begins to feel less claustrophobic because of the arrival of the USS Defiant.
I have high hopes for the series. I know who’s coming to join the cast next season, and I’m really looking forward to it.