TV Review | Star Trek: Deep Space Nine | Season 2
Season summary: In their second year together, the crew of Deep Space 9 face problems that will affect the galaxy forever. A Bajoran extremist group attempts to force the Federation out of the Bajoran system. The Cardassians are secretly supplying them with weapons, hoping to return to reclaim the planet and hold the Bajoran wormhole for the Cardassian Union. However, the greatest enemy of all is lurking beyond it. (Memory Alpha)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's second season is a strange beast, symptomatic of a show that hasn't quite found it's feet yet, although the groundwork for future greatness is clearly being laid. I was surprised how many of these episodes felt new to me despite having seen each at least twice before, which is a bit of an indicator why this season doesn't earn top marks.
The chief problem this season has is that we still don't know the characters too well even two-thirds of the way through the season and the show struggles when trying to get us to know them. DS9 is unquestionably an ensemble show and thrives on the relationships between the characters, so when an episode has a plot thread that focuses on just one of them, it doesn't quite work.
As a result, there are a few too many episodes that feel a little unnecessary thanks to their focus on the one character and it does feel like the creative team behind the show must've agreed, because there are a lot of character details we're given that play absolutely no part in helping to develop the character in later seasons.
It really is incredible how this works, because even episodes where there's just two of the cast being focused on, the quality rises immensely. It's helped by the knowledge of knowing where these characters and the relationships with each other are headed, but that added knowledge only serves to reinforce just how much more important the focus on multiple characters at a time is.
There is one exception to this rule though: the "torture Chief O'Brien" episodes, namely the excellent "Whispers" this season. Colm Meaney is a fantastic actor and can just about carry an episode on his own, but it's helped by the fact that these episodes making the Chief suffer automatically engender sympathy for him by casting him as an immense underdog and someone for the audience to root for.
However, and just to more than balance things out, when the cast actually get to play together, the show shines and there are plenty of episodes that feel of similar quality to what was to come further down the line. And there's a lot of stuff set up in this second season that will run all the way to the series finale five seasons down the line - how's that for ambition in a show produced when serialised story-telling was nowhere near as popular as it is today?
Odo is made more of a central character, gaining almost superhero status at times with how many antagonists consider him the primary threat; the Cardassian intelligence agency, the Obsidian Order, is brought into play - along with Enabran Tain, who will be influential later; Winn gains more power on Bajor, much to Kira and Sisko's dismay; the Mirror Universe is brought back from the original series; and then there's the Dominion.
There are extremely brief mentions early on in the season, with them being little more than the name of a superpower in the Gamma Quadrant, but it serves to build up to the season finale, "The Jem'Hadar", when we get to see just how much of a threat the Dominion will prove to be, including a kamikaze attack on a Galaxy class starship (the same model as the Enterprise from The Next Generation) that destroys it completely.
It might well be the season finale, but "The Jem'Hadar" is one of the most important shows in the series' entire run, introducing the titular soldiers of the Dominion, along with the race we would come to know as the Vorta, and raising the stakes higher than they'd been at any point in the show so far. Effectively, this is where the Dominion War starts - five years of struggle await for Deep Space Nine.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's second season improves on the first although it isn't without wobbles of it's own. While the average quality level has increased, along with longer-running story arcs weaving in and out of the season, there are still some clunkers in here that can take an effort to get past. That being said, there are more than enough good episodes to cancel them out and make this season very enjoyable overall.