Episodes: The Search Parts I and II, The House of Quark, Equilibrium, Second Skin, The Abandoned, Civil Defense, Meridian, Defiant, Fascination, Past Tense Parts I and II, Life Support, Heart of Stone, Destiny, Prophet Motive, Visionary, Distant Voices, Through the Looking Glass, Improbable Cause, The Die Is Cast, Explorers, Family Business, Shakaar, Facets, The Adversary.
Deep Space Nine's third season begins eventfully, with Sisko promoted to Captain and being given a prototype warship equipped with a cloaking device, while Odo learns where he came from. In the two-part opening tale, this clever gambit is played to hook viewers into the idea of DS9 becoming an ongoing mystery/conflict show. Why the sudden intense change in format? Mostly it was to ensure the show continued to thrive, when a rather greedy production hierarchy fast-tracked Voyager onto the air mid-season (cue unnecessary crossover episode with Tuvok). Of greater concern was ratings thief Babylon 5, which played its counter-Trek cards at precisely the right time. Fortunately the result (initially at least) was a genuine boost for DS9.
Cast members seemed to have hit their stride and played off one another more assuredly than before. For example, Odo's character took several additional interesting twists, especially in his relationship with Kira. Rene Auberjonois had a very good year, directing two episodes to boot. Avery Brooks had begun this trend with the previous year's penultimate show. The real surprise was seeing Jonathan Frakes's name working behind the camera on three occasions, because he also appeared on screen in his alternate rogue Riker role, when Thomas dramatically steals the Defiant. Other welcome cameos that aided the feeling of casual camaraderie included the return of Lwaxana Troi, as well as first appearances by Quark's mother, the spooky Founder Leader, the lovely Leeta, and the sneaky Eddington. Clint Howard--a cult Trek figure--was briefly welcomed back, and with the many faces of Jeffrey Combs another was born. Stories advanced the complicated Bajoran/Cardassian healing process, while simultaneously brewing potential conflicts far worse than the behind-the-scenes ratings war. --Paul Tonks
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