1.01 – Emissary: B-
Deep Space Nine’s pilot episode, “Emissary,” has a lot of very big ideas about what it wants to be and where it wants the series to go. Unfortunately, the execution of the episode is very much flawed – to the point where it stands to lose some viewers. That’s not to say that it’s all doom and gloom. Indeed, there is enough here to provide fertile enough ground for some of the ideas to take root and grow. But in the most important of first impressions, the episode stumbles when it should be wowing audiences.
1.03 – Past Prologue: A-
“Past Prologue” is a surprisingly effective effort from Deep Space Nine. Unlike its uneven and awkward predecessor, the pilot episode titled “The Emissary,” this episode features a complex, yet tightly focused narrative that explores the shifting loyalties that are on full display in times of great upheaval. Indeed, this episode does a very good job of looking at the differences between ideology and pragmatism – between old allegiances and new comrades. Most commendable, however, is how comfortable most of the primary characters seem to be in their new roles. The result is an episode that feels as though it would belong in the midst of a series, rather than at the very beginning. As a matter of fact, only the heightened melodrama between main characters serves as a criticism. But to be fair, the melodrama does serve an overall purpose to the episode.
1.04 – A Man Alone: C+
“A Man Alone” is an interesting, if somewhat flawed episode. It is, essentially, a murder-mystery story with a smattering of character-driven subplots thrown into the mix. There are some very interesting and enjoyable scenes. But they are juxtaposed with a few awkward and unfortunate sequences which do more than their share to lower the overall effectiveness of the episode. Indeed, the final result is just a bit above average.
1.05 – Babel: C
“Babel” is a missed opportunity. The episode certainly features some high-minded suspense and a race against the clock to save the day (which play out reasonably well). Unfortunately, the main focus of the story is ultimately pointless. We know that the problem will be solved and life will go on. And the characters do little in the course of their attempts to inform the audience or provide any sort of commentary. Worse still, the greatest opportunity to turn the episode into an exploration of the human equation is wholly ignored – relegated to merely tantalizingly intriguing plot point, but nothing more.
1.06 – Captive Pursuit: C+
“Captive Pursuit” is a mildly entertaining episode thanks, primarily, to the friendship Chief O’Brien develops with the first alien visitor from the Gamma Quadrant. But otherwise, the episode stumbles with plausibility, pacing and an initial mystery that is insufficient to really generate a whole lot of momentum. The result is an episode that is just barely above average.
1.07 – Q-Less: C
“Q-Less” is an episode to feature one of the more memorable and enjoyable characters of the Star Trek franchise: none other than Q himself. And yet, while Q remains thoroughly entertaining, the stories around him do little to come to the help of the episode. Indeed, rehashing yet another TNG character feels like a gratuitous and vulgar attempt to latch DS9’s successes onto the momentum from TNG. Crossover between the two series isn’t a bad thing – provided it it’s done with a purpose. That really isn’t the case here.
And besides, Vash was never all that interesting begin with. Why bother excavating her character yet again?
1.08 – Dax: B-
“Dax” is an interesting episode primarily because of the backstory we get from Dax – both in terms of her character and the singularly unique nature of her symbiont species. But even though the story exists primarily as a vehicle for these explorations, it’s unfortunate that its premise and execution are so completely pedestrian. It’s not that there are any critical issues, but rather the whole production is unremarkable – which has the effect of undermining the episode just enough to keep it from becoming truly exceptional.
1.09 – The Passenger: D
“The Passenger” is a middling episode at best and a clumsily awkward, and incredibly putrid mystery at worst. In truth, there’s very little to this episode beyond its surface-level narrative. And the narrative itself is barely worth acknowledging. This is, in fact, an episode which is immediately forgettable and downright embarrassing – for the series and the actor charged with carrying the episode through its “climactic” paces. Indeed, this is an example of the worst of Trek: technobabble nonsense encompassing a story without any purpose or direction.
1.10 – Move Along Home: F
“Move Along Home” is, simply, horrid. The plot is preposterous. The writing is atrocious. The design is ridiculous. The acting is embarrassing. And the whole thing is almost entirely pointless. In fact, I might have had more respect for the episode if it *had* been pointless. That this was all to teach Quark a lesson about cheating? C’mon.
1.11 – The Nagus: D+
Deep Space Nine’s first season continues to struggle with “The Nagus” – an episode which is meant to provide some backstory and depth to the Ferengi (and, more specifically, Quark). But the Ferengi plot is annoying at best and, at worst, cringeworthy. What value there is to the episode comes from the interpersonal relationships explored by Sisko’s disapproval of his son’s friendship with Quark’s nephew, Nog. But even here, the narrative is presented haltingly, with an uneven pace and uneven performances.
1.12 – Vortex: B
“Vortex” is a surprisingly enjoyable and effective episode, despite its rather predictable plotting and overly sappy ending. What works best for the episode is the process itself – managing to keep the audience interested and engaged, regardless of what is unfolding on screen. On its surface, this is curious take on the murder-mystery story while, at its heart, this is a character piece focusing on such themes as truth, sacrifice, longing and, ultimately, belonging. The acting and dialogue are very strong, and if the events do unfold a bit too predictably, the rest of the episode more than compensates for any shortfalls.
1.13 – Battle Lines: B+
“Battle Lines” is a multi-layered morality tale about how individuals and whole societies become immersed and even addicted to war. Throw in a few “miraculous” events like artificial resurrection and you’ve got the makings of an engaging, if rather simplistic, take on the need to find peace through the never-ending cycle of prejudice, hatred and violence. Unfortunately, the episode is just a bit too rough around the edges to be truly masterful. Indeed, at times this feels much more like an Original Series episode with its juxtaposition of deeply profound ideas and almost cartoonish characters and events. In the end, though, the fact that the episode successfully conveys its message trumps its less-than-praiseworthy elements.
1.14 – The Storyteller: C
“Storyteller” is a relatively lighthearted episode which has some amusing and charming moments tucked into an otherwise clumsy and awkward story. The truth is, though, that the episode doesn’t try to be much more than mid-level comic romp and so by planting its tongue firmly within its cheek, it manages to traverse its most detrimental moments. The end result is an installment which can prove to be an enjoyable distraction, but certainly won’t prove inspiring, thought-provoking or particularly memorable.
1.15 – Progress: B-
“Progress” is an episode that starts with a very typical, predictable story and manages to throw a few gut-wrenching twists into the telling. It’s not a flawless outing, but there are a number of moments which are both memorable and compelling. The subplot is intended to be a lighthearted counterpoint to the tension of the main story, but its rather juvenile approach doesn’t mesh with the rest of the episode and it becomes more of an anchor than providing true balance. Even so, the episode is still a worthwhile installment, filled with enough conflicting situations to stir the heart and the mind.
1.16 – If Wishes Were Horses: C-
“If Wishes Were Horses” is meant to be an exploration, celebration, and exaltation of our imaginations. Ironic, then, that the episode seems to be overwhelmed – indeed overrun – by hyperactive imaginations from everyone from the characters to the writers. It’s the kind of idea that sounds nifty as an idea, but whose execution is necessarily too esoteric and obscure to be really compelling or meaningful. To underscore the point, the episode really only gets to the heart of its message in its last scene – when the message is explicitly stated. Stories are best when they demonstrate their message, rather than having to resort to characters waxing quasi-philosophically in their final moments. Alas, such is the fate of this particular installment.
1.17 – The Forsaken: D+
Can I call an episode insufferable? Watching “The Forsaken” is, if nothing else, an exercise is endurance – as in, can you make it to the end of the episode before your brain collapses into an amorphous pool of liquid? There are only two words Trek fans need to know in order to explain exactly how and why this particular installment is so bloody excruciating: Lwaxana Troi.
1.18 – Dramatis Personae: D-
Oh, the false and insincere drama!
“Dramatis Personae” tells the story of attempted mutiny on DS9. Of course, because the characters are all acting so ridiculously out of character, the large arc of the plot is painfully obvious. All that remains are the technobabble details which are utterly incapable of creating any real drama, much less providing any measure of insight into the characters themselves. As such, the episode is both plodding and pedestrian – with the annoyance of melodrama tossed in for bad measure.
1.19 – Duet: A
“Duet” is a gripping, emotional and compelling episode. From start to finish, it immerses the audience in an incredible web of anger, outrage, guilt and deep, deep sadness. It’s a story about emotions – but, more importantly, it’s a story about knowing when emotions blur the lines between justice and vengeance. There are a few moments which, upon reflection, may tilt the whole affair a bit too much over the top. But given that there have been very few episodes like it in the series thus far, the result is arresting and effective.
1.20 – In the Hands of the Prophets: A
“In The Hands of the Prophets” is an expansive, multi-layered episode that provides a powerful and fitting conclusion to the first season of Deep Space Nine. The episode focuses on the character interactions, the political situations, and the thematic elements which were not only introduced in the pilot episode, but also explored in various episodes throughout the season. The payoff is substantial and, more importantly, the episode manages to not only find meaning within its own story, but also manages to fundamentally influence the series as a whole. It isn’t flawless, but without question, this season finale is a success.