Well, here we go again, eh? Yet another weekly stop on our attempt to review every single episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9. A word about this week's, however--as we're doing these disc by disc through the DVD sets, by the end of the season, there's usually just 2 episodes on the final disc with the special features.
So that's why this review will only be two episodes long. But one has some big-time ramifications for the series as a whole, it'll make up for in gravitas what numbers failed to do.
"ENOUGH! This is already the longest trial in Cardassian history!"
Some ideas are too good to leave as throwaway bits, and Dukat's little aside about the Cardassian justice system in "The Maquis Part II" was too good a hook not to use. What's more, it had been a week or nine since the last time O'Brien was tortured, well, it was time to put him through the wringer again.
On his way to the first vacation in a long time, O'Brien gets jacked by the Cardassians for providing weapons to the Maquis. Of course, this isn't quite what's going on, but we run with that for awhile while Our Heroes try to figure out what the hell is going on with this (the obtuse "arrested without charge" nature of Cardassian law enforcement provides a sufficient drive to give everyone something to do in the unraveling of the scheme behind all this. How neatly drawn, eh?) and ultimately, it all works out.
This is not really a complex episode, really. In fact it's a little maddening, as we already know how it's going to go the minute that O'Brien runs into Guy We've Never Seen Nor Heard Of Before Who Looks Very Suspicious And Immediately Does Something Suspicious, and we know the Cardassians are full of shit, and frankly, the key that unlocks the plot isn't that interesting.
All the same, it's really good. The Cardassian court is appropriately ominous, and can be besst summed up by O'Brien's defender:" "Whatever you've done, whatever the charges against you, none of that really matters in the long run... This trial is to demonstrate the futility of behavior contrary to good order."
The courtroom shenanigans are pretty entertaining, as it proves very hard to work the Cardassian legal system in any kind of quirky David E. Kelley sort of way, and everyone's sufficiently good in it that nothing particularly bad stands out in it. It's not essential by any means, but there are worse DS9 episodes to while away an hour with.
"You have no idea what's begun here."
Well, this is it. After three big teases in which we have had them built up as an ominous, terrifying force in the Gamma Quadrant, the Dominion are here. And boy howdy do they announce their presence with authority.
Well, after we get done with the stupid comedy bits with the Siskos and Quark and Nog, of course. I won't be spending . . well, any time on the comedy bits because they're eye-rollingly awful--Quark complains about bugs and sets himself on fair, sadly failing to die. Nog simpers a lot, and he and Jake take apart a runabout. There you go. I've shaved half the episode off by glossing over that. I also skipped over the bit where Quark throws Sisko's Ferengi prejudice in his face because I DON'T GIVE A FUCK, OK?
This leaves us with the bits that actually work, namely the Dominion bits. The Dominion--well, specifically, their foot-soldiers, the Jem'Hadar, nab Sisko, Quark, and an alien girl named Eris (who is a Vorta, another member race of the Dominion, though we don't. Stop coming over here and getting on our collective lawn." To further make their point, they pop by the station, tell them they've wiped out a dozen colonies already and to stay on their side of the wormhole.
From the jump, the Jem'Hadar are presented as bad motherfuckers. They can walk through shields, transport through shields, and their weapons punch right through Federation deflector shields (sparing us the whole "ship rocks, someone gives a random percentage of what the shields are at) and just to underline just how fucking dangerous these guys are, they beat the crap out of a stand-in for the Starship Enterprise, then destroys it in a kamikaze attack just to show they mean business.
So, this is . . .well, half a good episode, at least. The Dominion pay off their build up quite well (even if "Dominion let prisoners escape because it's all part of the plan" becomes a bit of a shopworn cliche after awhile--seriously, creative incarceration is kind of their thing) and come off as a race of utter badasses who, for one, aren't a mono-culture like previous Star Trek baddies have been--the Dominion is literally an anti-Federation, and while that's not as foregrounded as much as I would like, it makes them a unique adversary to our heroes in a way that hasn't really ever been done before.
It's also great that the season ends on such a tenuous note--DS9 is no longer a remote outpost to more unknown space. DS9 is now the first line of defence against an implacable enemy that is definitely coming. The only question is "when" and "how pissed off."
And it's on that note that we're going to close out Season 2. Join us next week when we get a few new addition to the cast (one major one, as a matter of fact) and Our Heroes adjust to their new roles and suffer a (spoiler) really bullshit ending in "The Search, Parts 1 and 2"; Quark gets married and embroiled with Klingon politics in "The House of Quark"; and Jadzia suffers the Trill equivalent of repressed memories in "Equilibrium." Season 3 begins, and everything changes, mostly for the better, starting next week!