TV Review | Star Trek: Deep Space Nine | Season 7
Season summary: Benjamin Sisko discovers his mother was a Prophet, a new Dax host arrives on DS9, Odo discovers that his people have been infected with a fatal disease, Kai Winn turns on the Prophets, and the Breen join the war and side with the Dominion as the Cardassian-Dominion alliance breaks down. (Memory Alpha)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has picked up a lot of fans over the years, especially once it appeared on streaming services, with it's serialised nature making it a natural fit for the current binge-watching attitudes to consuming TV shows. I say that because how you first watched this season may well affect how positively you see it.
First off, it isn't as good as the previous two seasons, which can feel a little deflating - but seasons 5 and 6 of DS9 are possibly the best two seasons in all of Star Trek, so it was a pretty high bar to reach. And this season is really good, which I've always thought, but I know many people don't share that view and I think having to wait a week between episodes may be the issue.
This season is easily the most serialised of all seven and it's pretty easy to see why more than a few episodes might feel a bit of a letdown for an epic final season when you had to wait a week for the nest 'chapter' in a bigger story. The thing is, for anyone coming to DS9 as a new viewer, they can instantly continue the story and aren't left waiting ages for something to happen.
Another downside of such heavy continuity is there are only a couple of truly great episodes, such as "The Siege of AR-558", and a lot more 'merely' good/very good episodes - when that's a criticism, it shows just how strong a show is overall. Again, binge-watching means it isn't that big of a deal, but you don't get the same level of concentrated excellence that regularly punctuated season 6.
On the flip side, the continuing story-telling means that everything flows a little neater, without too much having to be tied up a little too neatly to finish off an episode, with big moments happening as the story requires them, whether that's at the beginning, end, or even in the middle of an episode. DS9 certainly keeps you on your toes and keeps your attention, at least.
The second-biggest complaint I've regularly seen of season 7 has been Ezri Dax, played by Nicole de Boer, filling in the gap left by Jadzia's departure at the hands of Gul Dukat in the season 6 finale. I do think her arrival causes some issues, as the show spends a lot of time with Ezri in the first half of the season to familiarise her with audiences and means the regular cast have to take a backseat - not great for a final season.
Again, I think this is one of those problems where the issue will be magnified if you watched it week-by-week and not multiple episodes at a time. Having to wait two weeks to see your favourites back in the spotlight would've been frustrating, but having to wait just 45 minutes these days makes the Ezri 'diversions' no problem at all.
Nicole de Boer is also very good in the role and I think the character of Ezri is portrayed about as well as a new character could be coming in for just the last season. She's uncertain of herself - for good reason - and it takes her a while to fit in, just as I imagine was the case for the actress joining a cast who'd been working together for years.
Ezri's arrival also allows us to see new sides of certain characters, but especially Worf, whose reaction to another Dax arriving on the station is as awkward and painful as could be imagined after losing Jadzia. There is some loss as I enjoyed the Sisko-Dax dynamic, but such a drastic change from the playful confidence of Jadzia at least keeps things interesting.
There's also a fair amount of shake-up when it comes to the antagonists too, although the Dominion - Founders, Vorta and Jem'Hadar - remain a constant menace. The Cardassians begin to realise how the Dominion truly view them, even more so after the Breen ally themselves with the forces from the Gamma Quadrant.
In addition to the larger threats, there is continued character development for Damar, becoming a greater leader for Cardassia than Dukat could've ever been; Kai Winn turning away from the Prophets - which had long been coming thanks to her jealousy of Sisko's role as Emissary; and Dukat providing an occasional threat before becoming Sisko's final challenge as the Pah-Wraiths again try to challenge the Prophets.
There are the occasional lighter moments too, with "Take Me Out to the Holo-Suite" being a soft spot of mine thanks to its broad humour; "Treachery, Faith and the Great River" which pairs Nog and O'Brien brilliantly; "The Emperor's New Cloak" is an enjoyable last visit to the Mirror Universe and a wrap-up to the long-running, if off-screen, story there; and "Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang" is an uneven, but still enjoyable homage to classic heist movies.
I could mention more episodes for certain moments such as "The Changing Face of Evil" where the Defiant is destroyed or Worf challenging Gowron in "Tacking Into the Wind", but these episodes are tied so strongly into the Dominion War super-arc that it's tough to recommend them as episodes to watch in their own right.
There are two that just about manage it though, both featuring Section 31 and William Sadler as Luther Sloan - "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" and "Extreme Measures", the latter of which is Star Trek doing a variation on Inception over a decade before the latter came out. Even though the Section 31 elements are fairly self-contained, even these episodes require watching the season as a whole to feel complete.
So Deep Space Nine finishes with a very, very good season that only felt like a slight letdown to me thanks to the excellence of what came before. The stronger focus on continuity and continuing stories across multiple episodes has its ups and downs, although being one of the first modern shows to do this, it's not like the team behind DS9 had a blueprint they could follow.
As one last note, I will say that I love the finale "What You Leave Behind", although I know many don't share this sentiment. It's not perfect, but it does wrap up things fairly nicely, even if it is overall a bittersweet way to end the series. And 'bittersweet' is not a criticism, it's about as perfect a mood for DS9 to end with as is conceivable.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's seventh and final season isn't it's best, but still manages to satisfactorily tie up dozens of loose plot and character threads - both before and during that epic 10-episode story that finishes off the series. Greater serialisation rewards binge-watching, but does mean that, with so many episodes heavily connected to each other, there aren't any true standouts.