TV Review | Star Trek: Deep Space Nine | Season 4
Season summary: Life in the Alpha Quadrant has been uneasy since the revelation the Founders have infiltrated the Alpha Quadrant. Convinced the Dominion are behind a successful coup on Cardassia, Gowron orders a Klingon invasion of the Cardassian Union. (Memory Alpha)
With The Next Generation having finished by the time this season came out, it was Deep Space Nine's chance to shine and it certainly proved up to the challenge. There was even a new addition to the cast as Worf (Michael Dorn) moved over from the Enterprise to the former Cardassian space station. And he was used to pretty good effect to highlight the differences between the shows.
Adding Worf came as part of a 'reboot' of sorts, with the Dominion story-line put on hold - although remaining ever-present as a background threat - and instead brought the Klingons to the fore as the primary antagonists for the season. TNG had fleshed out their culture a little, but the more serialised nature of DS9 meant we got to learn a lot more about them.
That serialisation will likely have been a shock for TNG fans, with Worf undergoing more character growth in a single season of DS9 than the seven spent on the Enterprise. This isn't to knock The Next Generation, but more of a contrast of The Next Generation's 'one and done' story-telling compared to the continuing evolution and repercussions of actions that made DS9 stand out.
It helped reinvigorate the existing crew somewhat too, with new combinations of characters to try out following Worf's arrival. I will admit here that it was weird to see Worf arrive even on this re-watch - I knew he was coming, but the crew felt complete even before he joined the team. It was fun to be reminded of how much his arrival did to shake things up.
What will have also helped is that this season kicked off with the two-part 'The Way of the Warrior' and was immediately followed by 'The Visitor' - both of which rank not just among DS9's best stories, but Star Trek as a whole. In fact, the entire first half of the fourth season is packed with genuinely great episodes, including the excellent two-part story of 'Homefront' and 'Paradise Lost'.
Even the lighter episodes, such as 'Little Green Men' and 'Our Man Bashir' were more enjoyable than the 'filler' stories that existed in previous seasons. How about the reveal of Gul Dukat's daughter in 'Indiscretion', the submarine-like story in 'Starship Down' and Star Trek's first lesbian kiss in 'Rejoined' - anyone joining the show now will have been kicking themselves for missing out.
Unfortunately, that high level of quality couldn't be maintained and the second half of the season suffers a little - it's not that the season becomes poor, as there's still plenty to enjoy ('Hard Time', 'Shattered Mirror' and 'For the Cause' all being personal favourites), but the standard drops to merely 'good' rather than 'great'.
At times, the second half of the season does feel like an example of the downside of serialisation, because if certain characters aren't hugely involved in the bigger arcs, the show has to give them their chance to shine somewhere else. I realise DS9 is an ensemble show, but I feel that more could've been done to tie these episodes (such as 'The Quickening') into the season-long plots a little better.
It's still a great season overall, with only one or two sub-par outings this time as the average level of quality continues to swing upwards for Deep Space Nine. With the addition of Worf, the core crew is now complete and, thanks to the constant antagonism of the Klingons, the audience has also been somewhat prepared for the conflicts to come in future seasons.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's fourth season is where the show really hits its stride and starts pushing for the title of 'best Trek show'. The second half of the season feels a little weaker than the first half, but is still really good - it's just that first half of the season is packed with so many great episodes that there had to be a fall-off somewhere. A great mini-'reboot' for the show.