Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blowing Amy Kaiser's Mind

We of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus have had an unusual season. What with one thing and another, it wasn't until the last weekend of February that the full chorus got to sing. For me it was an extra-special delight: only my second time singing Mozart's Requiem, an exquisite musical confession of a dying genius's Catholic faith.

I previously sang this piece under the baton of SLSO music director David Robertson, in the original edition completed by Mozart's vastly inferior contemporary Franz Xaver Süssmayr after the former's untimely death. The Süssmayr version is the most widely known, though least skillful, of the many completions of Mozart's Requiem. Nevertheless it is a work of stirring beauty and spiritual power, made all the more remarkable by its imperfections, the poignancy of its incompleteness, and the never-to-be-resolved ambiguity as to how much is Mozart and how much Süssmayr.

This time, conducted by the Italian maestro Roberto Abbado, we sang a blend of several different performing editions, including the recent completions by Franz Beyer and Robert Levin, as well as some of Abbado's own revisions and a touch of Süssmayr as well. And though the grouchy conservative in me was occasionally set off by an unwarranted change (most notably in the choral bass part of the "Lachrymosa" and "Agnus Dei" movements), Abbado's version has a lot to be said for it. In the Sanctus-Benedictus, for example, Levin extended the twin fugues on the phrase "Osanna in excelsis," which in Süssmayr's version tend to sound rather abrupt; Levin, or somebody, also contrived a transition back to the first Osanna's key of D so that the second one would not end in the musically heterodox key of B-flat.

Working with Maestro Abbado was a lovely experience. Some guest conductors in the past have elicited great hostility from members of the chorus. I remember one who was sour-faced and rude all week long, another who (although otherwise charming) rejected every detail of how we had prepared a piece and subjected us to a frustrating week-long crash-course in singing it his way, and a third who in the last minutes of an otherwise wonderful rehearsal-week let loose in a tirade of irrational fury. Roberto Abbado, in total contrast, was unfailingly gracious and diplomatic. He never made a performance note sound like a criticism, and he always said something positive first.

I didn't notice that this was a stratagem until, after saying something complimentary, he let slip a remark like "That's what I say instead of what I want to say." In other words, he is absolutely aware of the character of touchy musicians and singers; he realizes what he has to lose by offending them; and he goes out of his way to keep them smiling inside and out. It may not have been altogether sincere, but Maestro Abbado's unfailing sweetness was one of the things that made our Mozart week a memorably harmonious (no pun intended) and pleasurable week of music-making.

The high point of the fun, for me, came during the conductor's piano rehearsal with the chorus, with our director Amy Kaiser sitting onstage. When Abbado explained some of what was going on in the structure of Mozart's music - some of his reasons for doubting the orthodox position on where Mozart ends and Süssmayr begins - his reasoning blew Amy's mind. It was especially fun when Abbado pointed out the similarity between the "Osanna" fugue subject and the main theme of the "Recordare" ensemble number. Amy covered her face and groaned: "I've never noticed that before!" Then she sang the respective phrases and observed that it was mindblowing but true: Mozart (and/or Süssmayr) wove thematic links through this Requiem in ways that go far deeper than the musical repetition of the opening Introit and Kyrie music in the concluding Communio.

The Osannas and the Recordare share a thematic shape not only with each other, but with other points in the piece, such as the twin fugues on "quam olim Abrahae promisisti et semini ejus" during the Offertorium section. This shows that Mozart connected the disparate ideas of these movements on a deeply meaningful level, and signified that connection through musical connections of such unsung genius that, even after decades in the symphony-chorus business, Amy Kaiser can still respond to them as to a mindblowing discovery. And if these connections reach across the line between the sections known to have been written by Mozart and those of which no sketches in Mozart's hand are extant - i.e. the Süssmayr sections - it raises fresh and (forgive me) mindblowing questions as to how far Mozart's involvement in the latter sections really reached. Maybe his instructions to Süssmayr were more detailed than anyone previously realized. Either that or, for one freak moment in his mediocre career, Süssmayr became a real though imperfect channel for a genius on the order of Mozart.

The SLSO and Chorus presented the Mozart-Süssmayr-Bayer-Levin (etc.) Requiem on February 26-27. Forgive the past tense, given the date stamp on this post; it's been hard to keep up with my blog over the past couple of weeks. The performances, as I was saying, were warmly received. The chorus received especially flattering notices in the local paper. And the quartet of young soloists were a pleasure to see and hear: soprano Celena Shafer (a last-minute replacement for another singer who bowed out due to illness, who nevertheless nailed her part dead-on), mezzo Marianna Pizzolato (whose voice has an amazing power of penetration, and who looks like someone who would be fun to know), tenor Alek Shrader (who looks like a frat boy but sings like a pro), and baritone Luca Pisaroni (who looks like someone who should be modeling tweed jackets, but whose powerful and accurate voice bodes for a brilliant singing career). I particularly enjoyed their blendalicious ensemble numbers, such as "Recordare" and "Tuba mirum" (though, to be sure, they didn't have a lot to sing besides). The latter piece also featured a very fine solo by one of three trombones (alto, tenor, and bass) which play a prominent role in this work.

And of course no review of a Mozart Reqiuem is comnplete without a few reverential words about the basset horns - basically, tenor clarinets in F - which contribute to the remarkable tone colors of this masterpiece. The whole work opens, for example, with a quartet of two bassoons and two basset horns, singing a lament of heart-wringing pathos over a sobbing accompaniment by the strings, until a dramatic flare-up of trombone-driven grief introduces the chorus's urgent plea that the Lord would "grant them eternal rest." Mozart picked an unusual ensemble of instruments for his last work, instruments suited for a work filled with the muted glow of twilight and, on the cusp between life and death, a struggle between the darkness of doubt and fear and between the light of faith and hope.

IMAGES: Mozart; Abbado; Shafer; Pizzolato; Shrader; Pisaroni.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Meaningless Tackiness

Last week's message from the ELCA Temple of Tackiness down the street:


This would make a kind of sense if it had said "a journey, not a destination." A vague, iffy, questionable kind of sense, to be sure. But it would be a whole lot clearer than "a journey, not a guilt trip."

Sorry, folks, this is what you get for trying to mix one too many plays on words. Now inquiring minds are going to ask what "Faith is a journey" is supposed to mean. The more you think about it, the less sense it makes - particularly when this is contrasted with "a guilt trip." I'm all for stimulating people to ponder the imponderable, as my post on "Jesus kōans" bears witness. But nothing stalls my mental engine like a piece of unprofound, unpithy, unclever unsense - example above.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

B5 Season 2

The second season of Babylon 5 , titled "The Coming of Shadows," takes place in the year 2259, though it originally aired from 1994 to 1995. Continuing the ongoing story of Season 1, it nevertheless sees the series through some major changes. Chief among those changes is the replacement of B5's captain. Jeffrey Sinclair (played by Michael O'Hare) has been reassigned to a diplomatic role on the Minbari homeworld. Taking his place is Capt. John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner of "How the West Was Won" and "Scarecrow & Mrs. King"), who is infamous among Minbari as the only human to destroy one of their battleships - hence his nickname "Starkiller." Those paying attention to the opening credits may notice that the female Narn character Na'Toth has been recast, with Mary Kay Adams replacing Caitlyn Brown; like Brown, however, Adams only makes a handful of appearances before being written off the show, though she continues to be billed as a regular cast member throughout this season.

Another addition to the main cast is Robert Rusler as Starfury squad leader Warren Keffer - a very admirable young man who leads a minor subplot, culminating in his discovery of the Shadow vessels that are secretly planning a galaxy-wide war. Unfortunately, Keffer dies a gruesome death in the final episode of the season. And finally, this season marks the return of Lyta Alexander, the station's first resident telepath who hasn't been seen since the pilot, played by Patricia Tallman. Though she doesn't rejoin the opening-credits cast until Season 4, Lyta's return spells the end for Talia Winters as a main character. Of all these cast changes, Talia's departure is the only one I regretted. Apparently the actress wanted out, but I was dissatisfied with the form her character's "trap door" took. More on that later.

"Points of Departure" opens the season by showing Sheridan, then the captain of the Starship Agamemnon, receiving his orders to take command of Babylon 5 from Gen. Hague of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Robert Foxworth of "Falcon Crest" and "Six Feet Under"). His first test of command, besides somehow squeezing his "lucky speech" into the first 24 hours on board, involves some threatening maneuvers by a rogue Minbari warship. Sheridan learns that the reason the Minbari aborted their genocide against mankind is that they discovered that some Minbari souls were being reborn as humans.

"Revelations" is the one where Minbari Ambassador Delenn comes out of her chrysalis, revealing that she has become half-human in an attempt to bridge the cultural gap between Minbar and Earth. The moment Sheridan claps eyes on her, you can see Cupid's arrow piercing his heart. Meanwhile, Garibaldi still hasn't come out of the coma resulting from his second's betrayal at the end of Season 1. Sheridan gets a visit from his sister Elizabeth (Beth Toussaint, who once played Tasha Yar's sister on TNG). The purpose of her appearance seems to be to raise the topic of Sheridan's wife Anna having been lost in the explosion of her science vessel. Narn Ambassador G'Kar begins trying to warn people about an ancient enemy, known to his people as the Shadows, who are about to return after a thousand years. And one of the Shadows' agents, an oily human named Morden, sets his hook deeper into the increasingly compromised soul of Centauri Ambassador Mollari.

"The Geometry of Shadows" guest-stars Michael Ansara as the leader of a group of "technomages" - people who use science to achieve the effects of magic - who intend to make B5 their last stop on their way out of the known universe. Apparently these spooky guys are spooked by the coming danger of the Shadows, and they want out before it can begin. This leads to problems for Sheridan, who isn't sure it's in Earth's interest to let these people leave, and for Londo, who invites a "curse" by attempting to finagle a prophetic endorsement of his political ambitions. Londo's snaky co-conspirator Lord Refa (recurringly played by William Forward) makes his first appearance here. And Ivanova gets a tough test of her diplomatic skills when Sheridan puts her in charge of controlling a bizarre form of gang warfare that has broken out among the turtle-faced aliens known as the Drazi.

"A Distant Star" marks the beginning of Warren Keffer's pursuit of the elusive Shadow vessels, which he first glimpses in this episode during a risky mission to rescue a starship that has gotten lost in hyperspace. Russ Tamblyn, lately "Riff" in the 1961 film West Side Story, guest-stars as Sheridan's friend Capt. Maynard. Also in this episode, Delenn endures some political fallout for her controversial decision to become half-human, and Dr. Franklin subjects the command staff to a rigorous "food plan" that threatens to upset Garibaldi's birthday tradition of bagna cauda (mmm, too bad this isn't a "food" post).

"The Long Dark" guest stars Dwight Schulz (lately "Barclay" on TNG and "Star Trek: Voyager") and Anne-Marie Johnson (late of TV's "In the Heat of the Night") as two victims of a scary alien that nourishes itself by sucking the life out of human beings. It first gets on board Babylon 5 via a pre-hyperspace-era spaceship whose cryogenically frozen crew has all been sucked dry, except for one deeply traumatized young woman named Mariah (Johnson). When people start dropping dead, the station goes into hysteria, with some suspecting either Amis (Schulz) or Mariah of causing the deaths. Ultimately the creature has to be lured into a trap baited with a semi-willing victim before it can be destroyed.

"A Spider in the Web" guest stars James Shigeta (who played the ill-fated Mr. Takagi in the original Die Hard), Adrienne Barbeau (of Escape from New York, etc.), and Michael Beck (of the cult gang-warfare film The Warriors) in a Talia-centric tale about a businessman who believes he has found a way Mars can achieve its independence peacefully, a Mars community leader who is afraid people will find out about her past association with a "Free Mars" terrorist group, and a Free Mars leader who has been turned into a high-tech, killer zombie by certain interests who don't want Mars to break free. As soon as I said "high-tech, killer zombie" you were sold, right?

"Soul Mates" is the howlingly funny episode that shows us Londo's three wives, previously described as "Famine, Pestilence, and Death." Their actual names are Mariel (a pretty young vixen), Daggair (a duplicitous backstabber played by the late, Emmy-winning actress Lois Nettleton), and Timov (a sharp-tongued shrew - just spell her name backwards! - played by English actress Jane Carr). Recurring Trek guest Carel Struycken also appears in this episode where Londo informs his wives that, by a special dispensation from the emperor, he has been granted a divorce. Only one of them will remain his consort, and the process of choosing her develops into a sort of comic version of King Lear. And Keith Szarabajka ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "The Equalizer") plays Talia's ex-husband, who as a result of Psi Corps telepathy-enhancing experiments has developed some nasty skills as an empath. Matthew tempts Talia with an offer of a way out of Psi Corps.

"A Race through Dark Places" brings back Walter Koenig's recurring Psi Cop Alfred Bester. This time, Bester is hot on the trail of an "underground railroad" that he believes is helping unregistered telepaths elude recruitment by Psi Corps. He suspects that some high-level person on B5 is hiding these people, and he turns out to be right. The way the good guys pull the wool over Bester's eyes is simply ingenious. Meanwhile, Sheridan frets about being charged rent for his quarters, and Delenn asks him "out" for what could be interpreted as their first "date."

"The Coming of Shadows" introduces the recurring, and later regular, character of security officer Zack Allan (played by Jeff Conaway, late of TV's "Taxi" and "Celebrity Rehab"). It guest stars Turhan Bey, pictured here, as the Centauri Emperor (whose name also happens to be Turhan); and Malachi Throne (who made multiple guest-appearances on Star Trek) as Prime Miniester, well, Malachi. Hmm. Anyway, this episode won, I say won, the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1996. B5 went on to win another Hugo the following year, a noteworthy achievement when you consider that in 28 seasons and 11 feature films, Star Trek only won four Hugos; and, mind you, until 2002 TV episodes and feature films were nominated in the same category. It was "The Coming of Shadows" against an episode of DS9 and three movies, including Toy Story and Apollo 13! So that's pretty good. As for what happens in this episode - well, obviously, the Centauri Emperor comes to visit B5. Just as he is about to make a goodwill gesture towards the Narn, Londo conspires with the ambitious Lord Refa and the shadowy Mr. Morden to start another war against the Narn. Turhan dies whispering a curse into Londo's ear, Malachi gets assassinated, and some seriously bad stuff is set in motion.

"Gropos" - short for "Ground Pounders" - which, in turn, is a colloquial way of saying "Infantry" - stop over on B5 on their way to some battle or other, creating a serious short-term housing shortage and all the security problems you would expect. Leading these soldiers is an old warrior who happens to be Dr. Franklin's estranged father, played by Paul Winfield (late of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and TNG's "Darmok"). Warren Keffer makes friends with some of them, Garibaldi makes more than friends with one of them (pictured here after the battle - tsk), and the station gets a weapons upgrade from them, but other than that this episode is basically a pause in the forward march of the overall storyline.

"All Alone in the Night" introduces the recurring Narn character of Ta'Lon (Marshall Teague) in this episode, which also brings back Gen. Hague (Robert Foxworth) and the Minbari warrior Neroon (John Vickery). While Delenn goes before the Grey Council to find out how much her halfway-human transformation will cost her, Sheridan gets kidnapped by aliens who like to do crazy experiments on people, including forcing them to fight to the death. The trick will be surviving his fight with a strong young Narn, while keeping him alive so they can escape together. After being rescued, thanks in part to the self-sacrifice of a young Starfury pilot, Sheridan meets with Gen. Hague, who is sounding out the loyalty of the B5 command staff before proposing a conspiracy against the increasingly dictatorial Earth President Clark.

"Acts of Sacrifice" contains one of the funniest scenes in all of B5, which you can view here (following a little over a minute of introductory crud). Claudia Christian (Ivanova) really has a comic gift, which comes out to best advantage when Ivanova is assigned diplomatic duties toward an alien dignitary who, to conclude their treaty negotiations, insists on having sex "human style." Ivanova: "Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss, GRAB!!!" On a recent commute home from work, I spent the better part of an hour reliving this moment in my memory and laughing until it hurt. The alien ambassador is played by British character actor Ian Abercrombie (Army of Darkness, "Seinfeld," "Desperate Housewives"), his diminutive asssistant by singer-songwriter Paul Williams ("We've Only Just Begun," "The Rainbow Connection," etc.). In a separate storyline, G'Kar desperately seeks allies to help the Narn people fight off the Centauri invasion, but the only help he can get is humanitarian aid from the humans and Minbari.

"Hunter, Prey" guest-stars sometime pro football player Bernie Casey as an Earthforce security officer who comes to B5 to lead a manhunt for President Clark's physician, who allegedly absconded with classified data that could threaten Earth's security. Meanwhile, an operative of Gen. Hague informs Sheridan that the doctor is actually carrying proof that Clark's illness, his excuse for not being on Earthforce One when it exploded, was feigned. This may be the key evidence that Clark colluded in the assassination of then-President Santiago, but Earthforce wants to hush it up. Rescuing Dr. Jacobs and his all-important data crystal turns into a perilous adventure in the crime-infested down-below. Guest stars include Richard Moll (lately Bull on "Night Court") and Wanda de Jesus (best known as Jimmy Smits' significant other, and for her recurring role on "CSI: Miami").

"There All the Honor Lies" lampoons the merchandising craze that often springs up around a series like this, by bringing a tourist-trap boutique on board B5. Sheridan puts Ivanova in charge of making sure the boutique doesn't cross the line into bad taste, but eventually shuts it down when he sees a stuffed toy with his initials on it. On a more serious level, this is the episode in which Sheridan shoots a Minbari dead, and is accused of murdering him in cold blood. Of course it turns out to be a set-up, but along the way we find out that while Minbari cannot lie as a rule, it's a rule they sometimes break when family honor is at stake. Julie Caitlyn Brown, a.k.a. just plain Caitlyn Brown, appears in this episode without Narn make-up as Sheridan's Earthforce-appointed lawyer. This episode establishes several notable things. First, it shows that Lennier can be a more effective detective than Garibaldi when he has to. Also, it shows the beginning of Kosh and Sheridan's master/grasshopper relationship.

"And Now For a Word" shows Babylon 5 from the point of view of an ISN news reporter who comes to the station to shoot a 36-hour documentary. Her editorial slant may seem obnoxiously pro-Earth and anti-B5 until you see Season 4's "The Illusion of Truth." It doesn't help that Cynthia Torqueman's visit is right on time to witness a skirmish between Narn and Centauri ships. G'Kar is furious to discover that the Centauri are funneling "mass drivers" - illegal weapons used to bombard a planet with meteors - through B5 for their war against Narn. As the political and diplomatic crisis heats up, Torqueman submits Delenn to a distressingly hostile interview and Londo issues chillingly Macchiavellian statements on his government's position. The tragedy escalates until two battleships - one Narn, the other Centauri - fight to each other's destruction before live news cameras. The question of whether B5 can really claim to be our "last, best hope for peace" is left very much unresolved.

"In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum" is the episode where, in one of his finest moments, Vir tells off Mr. Morden (video here). Sheridan learns that Morden was a member of the crew of his wife Anna's ship, the one that supposedly exploded, killing all on board. Actually, as he now begins to learn, the scientists on Anna's ship awoke an ancient evil that slept below the surface of a planet on the rim of the galaxy. This Z'ha'dum was the home base of the Shadows who warred against all the galaxy's forces of light a thousand years ago, and who were defeated but not destroyed with the aid of the "First Ones" - elder races who have not been seen for centuries, except for the Vorlons. This episode also establishes some far-reaching storylines, including Dr. Franklin's use (later abuse) of stims, the budding romance between Delenn and Sheridan, and the Nightwatch with its ominously appealing rhetoric about informing on people who dissent from the policies of the Clark regime. The Ministry of Peace apparatchik who introduces this rhetoric is played by Alex Hyde-White, who played Gen. Ambrose Burnside in Gods and Generals.

"Knives" is one of my favorite episodes of this season. In one storyline (pictured here), Sheridan becomes sorta-halfway possessed by an entity that just wants to go home. Its only way to communicate this to him, however, is through a series of hallucinations that make the captain begin to doubt his own sanity. It also guest-stars Carmen Argenziano, who has had recurring roles on "House" and "Stargate SG-1," as an old sparring buddy of Londo's who comes to visit B5. Urza Jaddo has fallen out of favor with the Centauri court and is in danger of being condemned as a traitor to his people, which would bring disgrace to his entire family. At first Londo tries to help him, but it turns out that the driving force behind Urza's denunciation is the same Lord Refa whom Londo has helped put in power. When he hears that Londo has taken up with Refa's crowd and their evil plans for the Republic, Urza challenges him to a duel. This duel Londo wins, in spite of Urza's vastly superior fencing skills, because it was Urza's plan all along. As his friend dies in his arms, Londo promises to adopt Urza's family into his own, and thus saves them from disgrace.

"Confessions and Lamentations" was the only episode of B5's second season that I saw during the series' original run. It made a deep impression on me, however; it's one of the reasons I took an interest in reading through the entire series on video. This is the episode in which the Markab race is completely wiped out by a plague, which (one might gather from some delicate hints) seems to have been planted in their midst by the Shadows. The poor Markabs don't stand a chance, because their culture and history have so conspired that anyone who gets this disease is assumed to be morally corrupt. So people don't report the symptoms when they or their loved ones begin to suffer from them; they don't respond well to outsiders' attempts to observe the progress of the disease, test the population for it, and search for treatments. Together with widespread panic about the possibility that the disease might jump the species barrier, this adds up to a species-wide catastrophe playing out right in front of everyone on B5. Dr. Franklin races to find a cure, and find one he does... only just too late. Then and now, I found the tragedy of this story very poignant. Pictured here, Irish character-actor Jim Norton appears as Markab medico Lazarenn.

"Divided Loyalties" is the episode that brings back Lyta Alexander, B5's original commercial telepath. It is also, not coincidentally, the end of the line for Talia Winters (played by Andrea Thompson), a really nice character who, in my opinion, came to a very unsatisfying end in this episode. Apparently the storyline where Talia turns out to be a sleeper agent, with a nasty latent personality programmed to surface and erase the old Talia at the pull of a given telepathic trigger, was planned from the beginning. Also planned, however, was a way to save the "good" Talia, using a recording of her personality Kosh had made early in Season 1. Instead, show runner J. Michael Straczynski used it as the character's "trap door" when actress Thompson asked out of the show. It was a bad end for a good character, I thought. On the other hand, this is also the episode that finally reveals the real reason Ivanova has always resisted being scanned by a telepath: she, herself, is a latent telepath, who has so far eluded the tender mercies of Psi Corps.

"The Long Twilight Struggle" is the episode in which the Centauri bomb the Narn homeworld into the stone age. Lord Refa and Londo call on the Shadows to stop a Narn offensive against a Centauri base, giving their own fleet a chance to strike at the heart of their enemy. Ultimately the Narn are forced to surrender, and G'Kar asks for sanctuary on B5. The chilling yet impressive image of Londo's face reflected in a window while he watches a starship bombard a planet, an clip included in the opening-titles montage throughout Season 3, came from this episode. Also, John Schuck guest-stars as Draal (previously played by Louis Turenne when he first appeared in Season 1), the Minbari custodian of the Great Machine on Epsilon 3, the planet adjacent to Babylon 5. The new Draal makes a humorously pompous appearance to Sheridan before inviting him and Delenn to visit him. This is where Sheridan learns about the Rangers, a combat unit organized by Jeff Sinclair and including both human and Minbari troops; here Sheridan and Delenn become joint commanders of the Rangers.

"Comes the Inquisitor" is the episode where the Vorlons send a nasty brute with a British accent to interrogate Delenn. Only, in Sebastian's idea of an inquisition, the questioner asks questions the answerer doesn't understand, then slowly tortures her to death while waiting for her to come up with the right answer. Evidently this test is necessary to determine whether Delenn is the right person to lead the forces of light in the coming Shadow war. Eventually it is the bond between Sheridan and Delenn, and their willingness to die for each other, that satisfies Sebastian. Sheridan learns that Sebastian was really Jack the Ripper, whom the Vorlons extracted from earth in 1888 and have kept on ice ever since, atoning for his crimes. G'Kar, meanwhile, begins his new role as the local leader of the Narn resistance against the Centauri occupation of their world. He immediately faces a challenge to his authority. This was the first B5 to feature guest star Wayne Alexander (here playing Sebastian); he went on to play members of four different species, most notably the recurring character of Lorien.

"The Fall of Night" is the Season 2 finale, and the episode that first shows us what lives inside Kosh's encounter suit. Actually, I suppose, that's a matter of perspective, since everybody in the Zen Garden looked up and saw whatever his or her race thought God looked like. Why the strip tease? Kosh had to act fast to catch Sheridan, who was slowly falling through the station's center of gravity after jumping out of a bomb-rigged cable-car moments before it exploded. Let's back up. The trouble starts when the Centauri start making aggressive gestures towards other alien races with borders adjacent to Centauri space. One of the few remaining Narn warships comes to B5, seeking repairs, supplies, and shelter. A Centauri warship soon materializes, threatening to violate the sanctuary. Into the midst of this highly-charged situation comes an Earth diplomat operating on behalf of the Ministry of Peace. After confabbing with representatives of all the alien races on B5 with the pointed exception of G'Kar, Lantz (played by Roy Dotrice of TV's "Beauty and the Beast") decides what he has to do is sign a non-aggression pact with the Centauri. At the same time, Sheridan is deciding that what he has to do is beat the hell out of the Centauri cruiser threatening his station. John Vickery also appears as a "thought police" cheerleader who comes over to stir up the Nightwatch in its disloyalty witchhunt. And finally, Warren Keffer bites the dust in a most unpleasant way, but only after obtaining photographic evidence of the Shadow vessels lurking in hyperspace.

Billed as "the year the Great War came upon us all," B5 Season 2 continued to carry forward a story of awesome breadth, complexity, and power. To be sure, it isn't a perfect year of TV. Coming at it from the perspective of a Star Trek fan, I have to admit feeling a small sense of antixlimax built into the structure of each B5 episode, what with the brief "tag" at the end, following the last commercial break. This tag usually comes after the main story of the episode has been tied up and so mainly serves to tie the episode back into series continuity. Add to this the fact that many of the episodes have titles that are difficult to distinguish from one another, and many of them almost cannot stand on their own as distinct stories outside the larger arc of the season or the whole series, and it becomes clear that B5 is a series that requires a longer attention span to truly enjoy. Every season has some episodes that can best be described in terms of how they incrementally advance the series arc. This is a strength for the series, but at times a weakness for the individual episode.

Yet it is, in spite of this and because of this, a fascinating series, and deeply rewarding for those who see it through. As I write this, I am already in the middle of watching Season 4, so I know whereof I speak. It is full of interesting aliens - interesting to look at, and even more interesting to discover how they think and live. It has pages upon pages of beautifully written dialogue. It has riveting story developments that move on a massive scale, holding you in suspense across several episodes at a stretch. It has actors who are really amazingly good at what they do - especially Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar), Peter Jurasik (Londo), and Stephen Furst (Vir). It has an eyepopping succession of guest stars, a parade of spectacular imagery, and resonances to our own world in many of the earthy, flawed, and dangerous characters and currents of events. Students of journalism and political science should be made to watch this series from beginning to end because of the dangers it warns of, dangers (for example) in the way public leaders deal with dissent, dangers to the freedom of thought and expression, dangers to the laws of warfare and the prospects of world peace, that can be seen in the mirror this sci-fi series holds up to the march of events in our time.

See also my review of Babylon 5 season one. For comparison purposes, see also my season-by-season reviews of Star Trek, including TOS seasons one, two, and three; of TNG seasons one, two, three, four, and five; and of DS9 seasons one, six, and seven.

DS9 Season 6

The sixth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (first aired 1997-98) carries forward an ongoing storyline of breathtaking scope. The season opens with a six-episode arc that picks up where Season 5 left you hanging: in the midst of an all-out war between the United Federation of Planets (our guys) and the Dominion (those control freaks from the Gamma Quadrant with all the shape-changers and clones). As of the end of last season, Station DS9 has been captured and occupied by the combined Dominion forces of Cardassians, Vorta, Jem'Hadar, and the female changeling "Founder" over all. Kira has stayed behind on behalf of the neutral Bajoran government. Quark is still running his bar. Odo is still looking out for station security (a job he did under the previous Cardassian occupation, after all). Even Jake Sisko has stayed behind, hoping for a break in his budding career as a reporter. But all the other regular characters have run for it, and spend the next six episodes gathering the forces of Starfleet and the Klingon Empire to take back Deep Space Nine.

"A Time to Stand" begins this opening arc. DS9, or rather Terok Nor (as the Cardassians call it), is under the joint administration of Gul Dukat and the Vorta Weyoun. Jake Sisko is hoping his inside story of the Occupation will make his journalistic career, but the censors won't release his articles for political reasons. Kira, Odo, and Quark settle uneasily into the same-but-different-ness of doing their old jobs under new management. And on the front lines, the war against the Dominion isn't going well for the Federation-Klingon alliance. A chance to pilot a captured Jem'Hadar ship behind enemy lines may give Sisko and his crew a way to even the odds. It's a complex episode, setting up several far-reaching plot lines.

"Rocks and Shoals" is the one where Sisko, Dax, Bashir, Nog, Garak, and O'Brien crash their stolen Jem'Hadar ship on a planet where a Dominion crew is already stranded. This sets up a tense confrontation with a group of Jem'Hadar who are running out of the drug that keeps them sane, and with a treacherous Vorta who is willing to betray his own men in order to survive. Meanwhile, Kira gets shaken out of her complacency with the Dominion occupation when a Bajoran cleric publicly hangs herself in protest. "Evil must be opposed!"

"Sons and Daughters" reveals that Worf's son suffers from Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome. Last seen as a 10-ish boy on TNG, Alexander has suddenly aged to young manhood, as seen here. And in spite of having rejected his Klingon heritage until now, Alexander is suddenly keen to join up for death and glory, Klingon style. His adventures on the good ship Rotarran, where Worf serves as General Martok's second-in-command, provide ample fodder for father-son conflict. Meanwhile, back at the castle--er, the space station, that is--Dukat revives his on-again, off-again relationship with his daughter Tora Ziyal. Though there seems to be a real affection between the Cardassian warlord and his half-Bajoran lovechild, it's obvious that his real reason for bringing Ziyal to DS9 is to keep Kira off-balance. Sometimes Dukat's need to win Kira over can be quite pathetic, if pathological isn't a better word; but in the context of the Occupation it's diabolically shrewd. Here's a shocker: One of the female Klingons in this episode was played by Gabrielle Union, who has had a big Hollywood career since DS9.

"Behind the Lines" focuses on Kira's double life as the executive officer of Dominion-occupied DS9 by day and the leader of a resistance cell by night. She and her rag-tag team of Rom, Leeta, Quark, and Jake Sisko have to risk everything to stop the Cardassians from taking down the mine-field that prevents Dominion reinforcements from coming through the wormhole. But just when they're counting on Odo to do his part, he goes all gooey--and I mean that literally--over the Female Founder. Once he starts linking with his fellow-changeling, Odo loses all sense of time, not to mention concern for the resistance cell and the cause it represents. Meanwhile, back on the front lines, Sisko gets promoted right off the bridge of the Defiant, then squirms in anxiety while Dax commands a risky mission he had planned.

"Favor the Bold" is the one where Sisko plans a big-ass fleet action to re-take Deep Space Nine, but its success hinges on whether Worf and Martok can talk the dithering Klingon chancellor into committing his forces. Meanwhile Rom awaits execution after being caught in the act of sabotage. Ziyal is torn between devotion to her father and her own better nature as she tries to go to bat for Rom. Damar begins the countdown to the minefield being taken away so that Dominion reinforcements can arrive. Jake finds a creative way to send a message through the information blackout. And Odo comes to his senses, only to hear Kira tell him: "We are way, way past 'sorry.'"

"Sacrifice of Angels" takes its name, evidently, from the fact that sweet, innocent Ziyal meets her demise in it. This happens after she helps Quark spring Rom, Kira, and Jake from the brig. As their little resistance cell scrambles to stop the minefield from coming down, the combined forces of the Federation and the Klingons face a Dominion-Cardassian fleet twice their size in one of Star Trek's greatest space battles. Finally, however, the only thing that can save the day is the proverbial God from the Machine--or rather, the Prophets from the Wormhole--who make a huge incoming Dominion fleet vanish halfway between the Gamma and Alpha Quadrants. This episode marks the series' transition from optical to CGI effects, the beginning of Dukat's madness, and a pivot point for two other Cardassian characters, as Damar (now a murderer) becomes the new Cardassian leader, and Garak (who had a November-April thing with Ziyal) seems fated to become harder and more ruthless than we have seen him before.

"You Are Cordially Invited" to the first on-screen wedding of two regular Star Trek characters: Worf and Jadzia. But first, they have to go through a bunch of Klingon marriage rituals, including a bachelor party that is more like an ordeal by fire and a gruelling grilling by Jadzia's future "mother-in-law" (i.e., Martok's wife, the exquisitely shrewish Sirella). It's a wonderful exploration of the romantic side of the Klingon character, but it also happens to be oh, so funny! FYI, it's goodbye to Alexander after this episode. I wonder what happened to him. Maybe he turned out to be a great Klingon miiltary officer. I was going to say "warrior," but the very suggestion made me choke...

"Resurrection" resurrects the late Vedek Bareil (Philip Anglim), a recurring character since the end of Season 1 and a sometime love interest for Kira, who was killed off in Season 3. You wouldn't know that, of course, since we skipped Seasons 2-5 (for now), but this episode does a good job of filling in the blanks. Kira is understandably surprised when Bareil appears on DS9--holding her at gunpoint, no less!--but he's actually the mirror-universe Bareil. Kira warms to him, even though he is confessedly a habitual criminal with nary a spiritual bone in his body. Eventually he turns out to be in cahoots with the Intendant (i.e., bizarro-Kira), and planning to steal one of the Orbs that give the Bajoran people a spiritual connection to their Prophets. They seem to think a religious scam will go over well in their mirror universe--but the Intendant isn't counting on Bareil discovering that he likes our Kira better.

"Statistical Probabilities" introduces Jack, Lauren, Patrick, and Sarina: four genetically-enhanced people whose mental gifts are offset by disabling social and personality problems. Being a mutant himself, Julian takes them under his wing in hopes that he can somehow get through to them. Get through he does--or maybe it's they who get through to him. Before you know it, the four savants are calculating the outcome of the Dominion war to the umpty-umpth decimal place. The result? Julian advises Starfleet to surrender in the hope that, some years further on, they can break up the Dominion from within. It's the only way, as he sees it, to save billions of lives. The difference between Julian and his newfound friends is that he will, grudgingly, reluctantly, acknowledge defeat when Starfleet rejects his advice. Now he has to stop his friends from betraying DS9 to the Dominion.

"The Magnificent Ferengi" is basically "Star Trek does The Magnificent Seven." In this spoof of a classic Western movie, Quark leads a crack(ed) team of six Ferengi up against a whole battalion of Jem'Hadar. Together with Rom, Nog, his arms-dealer cousin Gaila, business nemesis Brunt, and stone killer Leck (even Ferengi families have them), Quark escorts a Vorta prisoner (Keevan, previously seen in "Rocks and Shoals") to DS9's abandoned sister-station Empok Nor. Their plan is to trade Keevan for Quark and Rom's mother Ishka, a.k.a. "Moogie," who has somehow gotten captured. Naturally, everything that could go wrong does so, with all the dark humor one can expect. Picture a dead Vorta, plastered all over with neural stimulators, being manipulated like a life-size puppet. Rock icon Iggy Pop plays another Vorta, trying not to roll his eyes at the Ferengi's antics.

"Waltz" begins with Sisko visiting Dukat in the brig, where he is being held in preparation for his war-crimes trial. The Jem'Hadar attack their ship, and Sisko wakes up on an inhospitable planet where Dukat has managed to land their escape pod. The next few days are a an acting bonanza for Marc Alaimo and Avery Brooks, and a nightmare for the injured Sisko as Dukat becomes dangerously insane. Perhaps shockingly (from some people's point of view), Sisko comes to realize that Dukat is the embodiment of pure evil. It is therefore worth noting that these two characters never see each other again until the series' final episode, Season 7's "What You Lave Behind." Dukat on the Bajorans: "I should've killed every last one of them! I should've turned their planet into a graveyard the likes of which the galaxy had never seen! I should've killed them all!"

"Who Mourns for Morn?" would be a perfect place to show a picture of the big, bristly barfly at Quark's, whose name is significantly "Norm" spelled backwards (cf. Cheers). A running joke throughout the series has it that the ever-present Morn hardly ever shuts up, whereas on-screen he never utters a syllable. In Morn's one and only "star turn," the chubby alien hardly appears at all, on the very reasonable grounds that he is supposed to have been killed. Quark inherits all his worldly goods, notably including a jacuzzi full of mud and a painting of a bullfighter on black velvet. He also inherits a ton of trouble, in the form of several of Morn's past criminal associates, each of whom expects Quark to hand over a large pile of latinum. The alien pictured here, from an unknown race, is named Krit, and the actor playing him (Brad Greenquist) seems determined to make you think of Jack Nicholson. One of the other crooks is played by frequent Trek guest Gregory Itzin. And finally, this episode reveals that the Ferengi's beloved "gold pressed latinum" consists of a precious liquid metal (latinum) suspended in worthless gold!

"Far Beyond the Stars" is the episode where Sisko dreams that he is a 1950s pulp science fiction writer named Benny Russell. It's an unusual episode, to say the least. All the main characters, and several recurring ones, are transformed into period earth people in Benny's life, dramatizing (in a somewhat heavy-handed way) the professional and social plight of non-WASP males in pre-civil rights-era America. It's weird to see all the alien characters made up (or rather, not made up) as humans. O'Brien plays an Isaac Asimov type, Quark becomes Harlan Ellison, Jadzia becomes a gum-smacking secretary, Martok an artist, Kasidy Yates a waitress, Worf a baseball hero, Jake a street hood, Dukat and Weyoun a couple of brutal cops, and so on right through the cast. Of course it's the kind of episode that one imagines Avery Brooks had stipulated in his contract. And since he directed it, it also serves as an example of why some actors should never direct themselves: the climactic scene where Benny loses it is totally overdone.

"One Little Ship" is "Star Trek meets Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!" Miles, Julian, and Jadzia have just piloted a runabout into an "insert technobabble," which causes them to shrink down to the size of toys, when a Jem'Hadar ship captures the Defiant. Now the crew's only chance of turning the tables depends on, heh, one little ship flying around inside the big one. In this picture, you can see the Rubicon nosing up to a button that will open a door on the Defiant. In another scene, O'Brien and Bashir run around inside a circuitboard filled with chips as big as themselves. It's a cute episode, spotlighting a conflict between two generations of the cloned Jem'Hadar production line. If you've got to get little in order to save the ship, this is clearly the way to do it (in contrast to the wretched TNG episode "Rascals," in which four Enterprise officers regress into children).

"Honor Among Thieves" is "Star Trek does Donny Brasco." A "vacation episode" focusing almost entirely on O'Brien, it involves him in an undercover operation targeting the mafia-like Orion Syndicate. An honest crook named Bilby (played by Nick Tate, late of TNG's "Final Mission") vouches for O'Brien before the local crime boss, meaning that when Miles breaks his cover, Bilby will be killed. This becomes more of a problem as Miles gets to know the guy. The denouement, when Miles must reveal himself to Bilby or let him fall into a Klingon trap, strikes the kind of tragic note film noir is made of. On another tragic note, Tate was a last-minute casting replacement for Charles Hallahan (Dante's Peak, TV's "Wings" and "Hunter"), who passed away suddenly as filming was about to begin. Though it's interesting to imagine what this episode would have been like with Hallahan playing Bilby, Tate turned it into one of the series' most memorable guest performances.

"Change of Heart" may be a misleading title for this episode, suggesting that Worf and Jadzia are having second thoughts about their marriage. On the contrary, it is one of DS9's most movingly romantic love stories. On their first mission together since they got hitched, Worf and Jadzia are sent to extract a Cardassian double agent from the jungle surrounding a Dominion base. But when Jadzia is injured, Worf is forced to choose between devotion to his wife and his career as a Starfleet officer. And, though it may surprise many of us who have followed his career through (at this point) nine and a half seasons of Star Trek, Worf chooses the old ball and chain. It's a decision that could cost lives (over and above the life of one obnoxious Cardassian) and that will hurt Worf's career, but it will leave you dissolving in valentine-pink awwws. Plot B, meanwhile, involves Julian and O'Brien trying to break Quark's winning streak at tongo. Sometimes I think it would be interesting to learn that game. (Yes, I know it isn't a real game.)

"Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night" reveals the true fate of Kira's mother. Long proud of the memory of her mother, who supposedly died for the cause when Kira was a wee tot, Kira is shocked when Dukat gleefully tells her that Mama Kira was his mistress. This claim is too disturbing for her to take sitting down, so Kira goes back in time to see for herself (via the Orb of Time, a uniquely low-tech plot device for Star Trek). Dukat's claim turns out to be technically true, but even as Kira's feelings toward her mother swing from "venerate" to "despise," she has second thoughts when it comes to blowing Mum up with a bomb. Leslie Hope, lately Mrs. Jack Bauer on 24, plays Kira Meru in an episode also featuring the familiar face of character actor David Bowe and frequent Trek guests Thomas Kopache and Tim deZarn.

"Inquisition" introduces Sloan and the shady, beyond-top-secret Section 31 in an episode that turns out mostly to have been an elaborate, holographic prank on Dr. Bashir. At first it seems Julian is under suspicion as a Dominion spy. Later the scary possibility is raised that Julian may be hiding the memory of his double-agent status even from himself. But ultimately it's all just a recruitment exam by Starfleet's most elusive, unsanctioned intelligence agency. Interestingly, in the original story concept for this dark, creepy episode, it was supposed to be a comic romp. You never know where an idea will take you!

"In the Pale Moonlight" is the episode where Sisko confesses to his personal log how he rode a slippery slope to evil while trying to get the Romulans to join the war against the Dominion. His dance with the devil (suggested by the episode's title) takes the form of a partnership with Garak, who takes care of the more morally dubious side of a plan involving forgery, deception, and assassination. At the end of this most disturbing episode, Sisko cynically concludes that he would do it all again and deletes the log entry. Stephen McHattie of TV's "Beauty and the Beast" is here pictured as the Romulan senator who delivers the memorable line: "It's a fake!" I guess it was in the delivery, but somehow it became one of those cult moments that fans like to repeat. If DS9 is regarded as Trek's darkest series, this may be its darkest episode.

"His Way" is, as you can see here, the episode where Odo and Kira finally lock lips. But before that can happen, Odo has to work out how to approach her, how to woo her. He takes lessons from a holographic 1960s Vegas lounge singer Vic Fontaine (a recurring character through the end of the series, played here for the first time by James Darren). Vic turns out to be smarter than your average collection of asymmetric photons, able to transfer his holo-matrix to the Bajoran temple, turn himself on and off, and call people on the station's comm system. And he also shows an interesting flair for matchmaking, including a scene that made me wriggle with glee - the one where Odo thinks the real Kira is a hologram, and makes love to her accordingly.

"The Reckoning" isn't the first DS9 episode to introduce the pah-wraiths (that honor goes to Season 5's "The Assignment"), nor is it the first episode to position Kai Winn as a villain (she antagonized Sisko from her first appearance in Season 1, though she warmed to him later). Nevertheless, both of these elements of DS9's long-range storyline take on a new significance here, foreshadowing tragic developments to come. It begins when a Bajoran archaeologist finds an ancient artifact with an inscription referring to the Emissary. Sisko takes possession of the artifact (to study it); Winn gets territorial; the thingy gets broken and some kind of energy escapes. By the time they figure out that the inscription has to do with a cosmic battle between good and evil that must take place on the station, a prophet has taken possession of Kira; a pah-wraith has taken Jake (pictured); and Winn has pretty much decided to mess things up for everybody. Interestingly, there's a note of "Abraham and Isaac" in this story, with Sisko showing a willingness to sacrifice his son.

"Valiant" is another "vacation episode," focusing on Jake Sisko and his Ferengi friend Nog. The opening finds them bickering on a runabout. Their argument is interrupted by an attacking Jem'Hadar ship. Their annihilation is, in turn, interrupted by a Defiant-class starship named, duh, the Valiant. This ship is crewed entirely by Starfleet cadets in what began as a training cruise. (Anybody thinking about the classroom ship Concordia?) Then the war broke out and they were caught behind enemy lines, the grown-up officers bit the dust, and for eight months they have been trying without success to complete their mission (which involves gathering intelligence about a new class of Dominion ship, and must be carried out in radio silence). What makes me mad about this episode is how dumb these space cadets are. They've just completed their mission. It stands to reason that they avoid engaging the enemy - especially vastly superior forces - and run like the wind to bring their valuable intel home. Instead, goaded on by a charismatic young twit whose brain has been fried on drugs, these kids decide to attack a ship eleventy-two times their size. And get killed. Every. One. Of. Them. Except, of course, Jake, Nog, and exactly one sweet young thing who lives to argue with Jake about the difference between a good leader and a good captain. Aargh! If they give cruises to cadets that spacy, mankind has no right surviving into the 24th century.

"Profit and Lace" is "Star Trek does Some Like It Hot." Sort of. What you see here is not, in fact, Quark in drag. No, friends, he has actually become female. Surgically. Talk about taking one for the team! Why does Quark do this? Because the Nagus's job is on the line. Zek's only chance of heading off "Acting Grand Nagus Brunt" is to make a deal with the CEO of Slug-o-Cola (the slimiest soft drink in the universe) proving that females are good for business. Females, that is, who wear clothing, work outside the home, buy and sell property, and even make business deals themselves. Zek is under fire because of his new, female-friendly policies, inspired by his love for Quark's forward-thinking Moogie. Quark disagrees with these reforms, but what with one thing and another, he (she) ends up having to sell the idea to Slug-o-Cola. Quark's discomfort, his efforts to elude the advances of the amorous Nilva (played by Henry Gibson of "Laugh In" fame), and his exchanges with Rom and Leeta on how to walk, sit, and talk like a female, are pure comic gold (pressed latinum).

"Time's Orphan" puts Miles and Keiko through parents' worst nightmare. Or maybe, what their worst nightmare would be in a world where an ancient civilization left a fully-operational time-portal lying around where any kid on a family picnic might stumble through it. When they beam her back from the other side, cute little eight-year-old Molly has grown up into a wild, eighteen-year-old woman. After surviving ten years alone on an uninhabited planet, the new Molly has trouble adjusting to life back at home on DS9. In fact, it begins to look like the O'Briens may be forced to give her up to an institution, when they escape with her and go back to the picnic planet for another go at that portal. No episode of Star Trek explores this particular heartbreak, the heartbreak of parents discovering that their kids have grown up to be strangers. Plus, in Plot B, Worf is driven to desperation when he attempts to babysit Yoshi O'Brien, believing that it is a test of his worthiness to make babies with "the magnificent Jadzia Dax."

"The Sound of Her Voice" features the voice of "Mad TV" star Debra Wilson as Lisa Cusak, a Starfleet Captain whose distress call reaches the Defiant from a remote planet. As the ship races to her rescue, members of the crew stay on the horn with Capt. Cusak around the clock, encouraging her to keep her chin up even as she slowly dies of oxygen starvation. Meanwhile, she helps them talk out some of their sorrows and anxieties. In the end it turns out that all these transmissions went through a time distortion, so all along they've been talking with a woman who has been dead for three years. Shown here is the final scene of the episode, in which the DS9 officers hold a wake for a friend who died before they met her.

"Tears of the Prophets" wraps up Season 6, and sets up Season 7, with Sisko, Martok, and Admiral Ross planning an attack on a weak point in Dominion-held territory. They have to hurry if they're going to take out the Chin'toka system before the Cardassians activate their new "orbital weapons platforms." Before separating for the battle, Worf and Jadzia find out there's a chance they could have a baby together. Sisko, meanwhile, has a vision in which the Prophets warn him not to leave the station. He goes anyway, leaving the way clear for a pah-wraith to transfer itself from Dukat's body into the Orb of Contemplation in the station's Bajoran temple. As a result, the wormhole seals itself and all the orbs on Bajor go dark. As collateral damage, Dukat mortally injures Jadzia, leaving her just alive enough so that Julian can save the symbiont and Worf can say his farewells. The season ends with Sisko going back to Earth to think about how he can bring the Prophets back to Bajor.

Season 6 is a landmark year for DS9 in many ways. The wedding between Worf and Dax was a big event. Jadzia's death struck one of Star Trek's most tragic notes ever. Kira and Odo finally hooked up. Rocker Iggy Pop (pictured) guest-starred as a Vorta. Comic legend Henry Gibson appeared as a Ferengi. The Romulans, Klingons, and Federation all become allies for the first time in history. This season is sprinkled with incidents that had long-range plot significance, from the beginnings and growth of Dukat's madness to Sloan's first attempt to recruit Dr. Bashir for Section 31. The conflict between the Prophets and the pah-wraiths is introduced. Tora Ziyal makes her exit, while we meet Vic Fontaine and Julian's mutant friends for the first time. And we get a last look at two characters we thought we might never see again: Bareil (or someone just like him) and Alexander (all growed up). Some of Star Trek's funniest, some of its darkest, some of its most romantic, and one or two of its saddest episodes hail from this year. And even from a Trekkie point of view, there are surprisingly few lame moments in it. Its 26 episodes go down smoothly, many of them with a flavor that lingers.

Want a refresher course on previous seasons of Star Trek? Click the following links to see my reviews of TOS seasons one, two, and three; of TNG seasons one, two, three, four, and five; and of DS9 seasons one and seven. For comparison purposes, see also my review of Babylon 5 season one.