Deep Space Nine: For the Fans

Nelson Au

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I liked Move Along Home too. It was at first kind of odd as I recall on my first viewing during its initial broadcast. So I am basically seeing it a second or third time just now as I re-view the series. It’s funny to me now watching it how it feels so 1990’s. The visuals from Past Tense, Jadzia‘s and others costume design.

And about Past Tense, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, at the edge of Silicon Valley. So I am not in San Francisco, but I do see the news and there’s sections of the city where the homeless problem still persists. It’s a difficult situation for all concerned. There are tents in some streets and the residents in the homes around the area of course don’t like it. And so the situation depicted in Past Tense, while extreme, could be happening. It’s not something a city like San Francisco wants to see.

Distant Voices I thought was the episode where the Defiant picks up a distress call from a wrecked ship and tries to save the survivor. That was a good one, don’t want to spoil it for Adam. But I see it’s not that episode.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Yesterday I watched:
  • 3x13 - "Life Support": This was an episode with a really compelling A story and a really terrible B story. Obviously, a peace treaty between Bajor and the Cardassians -- however tenuous and however potentially short-lived -- is a huge step forward for the central conflict of the series up until this point. It provided new insight into Kai Winn, who continues to be a ruthless politician but can no longer be dismissed as purely a villain; she accomplishes a great good in this episode even as she commits a small evil to bring it to fruition. When it comes to 24th century medicine, what we've seen is often so far advanced that it seems like magic. It was really interesting to see Bashir bumping up against the limits of Federation medical knowledge, and wading into the murky ethical waters that come along with that -- especially when his patient's wishes run contrary to his patient's medical needs. In a show that is so often about balancing and negotiating competing selfish interests in order to maintain peace and stability, Vedek Bareil's choices in this episode were driven by pure selflessness. He knowingly sacrificed himself, first bit by bit and later with the last full measure of devotion, for a peace he knew he would not live to see. I found that incredibly moving. On the other hand, the B story with Jake and Nog going on a double date felt like a real misfire, and somewhat of a betrayal of Nog's character. The most compelling thing about Nog is the way that living in a place shaped driven by the Federation's values and having a human best friend has made him different than other Ferengis. That the Ferengi culture is incredibly misogynistic is without question. But after all this time, Nog should no better than to behave the way he did. I also took issue with the moral relativism when it came to how the dispute between Jake and Nog resolved, basically: "Well, I guess I'm going to just have to accept that you're going to mistreat women and dismiss them as subhuman, and you're going to just have to accept that I'm going to treat them with respect." About the only thing I can say for that storyline was that it was fun seeing Lark Voorhies after her "Saved by the Bell" days but before her life got waylaid by mental illness.

  • 3x14 - "Heart of Stone": As bad as the previous episode was in its portrayal of Nog, this one was really great. It really captured just how far Nog has come since the start of the series, and how having a foot in two different worlds provided him a point of reference that allowed him to examine what he valued and make his own choices. And I appreciated that while Sisko was very skeptical, he didn't entirely dismiss Nog out of hand. He took the request seriously, made Nog earn his recommendation letter, but he also took the time to listen and understand. The dynamic between Quark and Rom has always been played for laughs, but this episode understands the tragic dimension underlying it: it's not that Rom is worthless, it's that Ferengi culture doesn't value his worth. Had he been born into a different species he might never have become a great strategist, but he could have found success as an electrician or an engineer. I didn't love the story with Odo and "Kira" trapped in the cave nearly as much. But it was somewhat interesting to see the female Changeling make another appearance. And I appreciated a story about an unrequited crush that wasn't centered around a sense of entitlement. Odo made his declaration of love to who he thought was Kira not because he expected her to reciprocate his feelings but because he felt it important for her to know how he felt.
Today I watched:
  • 3x15 - "Destiny": This felt like a really important episode, both for Sisko and for the series as a whole. Up until this point, he has treated the Bajoran religion as a political consideration, and has been consistently uncomfortable when people have addressed him as the Emissary. He really has a dual role: as the Starfleet commander in charge of Deep Space 9, and as the religious icon who discovered the celestial temple and spoke with the Prophets directly. These two roles are not entirely separate; his status as the Emissary lends legitimacy to a Starfleet commander leading a Bajoran space station, and his leadership of the Bajoran space station positions him well to fulfill his destiny as Emissary. But up until now, he has focused on the former and neglected -- even actively avoided -- the latter. It makes a certain amount of sense that it took this long in the series to engage with that aspect of his character; until Sisko began to see Deep Space Nine as his home, how could he accept his responsibility as Emissary? The fulfillment of the prophecy in this episode also introduces a new duality to the relationship between Sisko and Kira; now, in addition to being commander and first officer, Sisko is a religious icon and Kira is his apostle. The prophecy also highlights the ambiguity inherent in a religion built around beings who do not perceive time in a linear way; all of the prophecies may be true, because the Prophets may have already seen the events described unfold. But translating their experience into something that corporeal beings with a linear sense of time can understand inherently leans on metaphor, and metaphor is open to multiple interpretations. Just because so many key moments in his life are predestined doesn't mean that Sisko's choices don't matter; indeed, the prophecies involving the Emissary only exist because of choices that -- from the Prophet's perspective -- Sisko will make/is making/has made. By the end of the episode, SIsko feels even more rooted as the hub around which the rest of the series pivots.

  • 3x16 - "Prophet Motive": I didn't care for this one. The Prophets are such a big and mysterious part of the show's mythology that bringing them back for what is essentially a slapstick episode felt cheap and ill-advised. Wallace Shawn is always fun as Zek, but it felt like too big of a swing for such a lightweight story. Likewise, the B story with Doctor Bashir being nominated for the Carrington Award felt a bit too much like inside baseball; writers of television shows are up for awards like this, so I'd imagine it was easy for them to put themselves in Bashir's shoes. But I personally found it hard to care whether a successful doctor would win an award. Bashir didn't really change or grow from the experience. It was just an opportunity to take the piss out of Bashir for his arrogance, convincing himself that he was going to win despite having outlined earlier in the episode all of the reasons why he wouldn't.
 
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Adam Lenhardt

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Tonight I watched:
  • 3x17 - "Visionary": This episode reminded me a lot of "Deadlock" from the second season of Voyager, in that it involves multiple versions of the same characters and didn't resolve cleanly at the end. Whereas that episode involved Voyager being duplicated, and the duplicate versions of Harry Kim and Naomi Wildman replacing the originals that had been killed, this one involved the O'Brien from the main timeline dying, and being replaced by the O'Brien from a timeline that was aborted due to the information that the O'Brien from that timeline brought back with him. In both cases, the point of divergence between the two versions of the characters was only several hours prior to the replacement, so the impact going forward is basically non-existent. But it still points to the strange things that can happen to you in Starfleet. I preferred the first half of the episode, where O'Brien caught up to the events of the flash forwards and experienced them from the perspective of the other O'Brien. Stories where the timeline is non-linear but immutable, like "Blink" during the second series of David Tennant's run on "Doctor Who", or Outlander, have always fascinated me. Once they killed him off and then jumped to dealing with alternate timelines, I was less interested. It did get me thinking though: Spock died in the Kelvin timeline in 2263, 124 years before he disappeared from the Prime timeline. Thanks to "Picard", we know that the Prime timeline still exists, with Spock and Nero presumed dead as a result of the artificially created black hole. That would seem to point to the Star Trek universe operating according to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, which in turn would seem to point to each of O'Brien's journeys into the future resulting in new realities, so that the versions of the universe where Deep Space Nine was destroyed, including the one where the prime version of O'Brien died of radiation poisoning, still exist. It makes my head hurt just thinking about it.

  • 3x18 - "Distant Voices": After Robert's tease above, I wasn't sure what I was in for with this one. It reminded me a bit of "Herman's Head" and Inside Out, with different characters personifying different aspects of Bashir's identity. I think it was a better concept than an actual episode. His mind is in such distress during the events of the episode that everything is fragmented and a lot doesn't make sense. I do give credit to the writers for having Bashir figure out exactly what was going on halfway through the episode rather than waiting until the final act. I think my frustration with episodes like this one is that what's going on in the "real" world is more interesting to me than whatever is going on the fantasy or dream or (in this case) coma.
 
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Sam Favate

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I've been taking a break from my DS9 rewatch to watch seasons 1 and 2 of Discovery before the season 3 premiere, but I am anxious to get started again, because I will be starting season 4, which is one of the best seasons.

Distant Voices is the kind of episode the actors love, because they get to play things differently, but it's never a satisfying experience for the audience. Fortunately, DS9 excels at satisfying the audience, as we will see in short measure.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Tonight I watched:
  • 3x19 - "Through the Looking Glass": I've said before that I'm not a fan of Mirror Universe episodes, and that is still true. But this was an exception. It did what the show "Counterpart" did so well: provide a tantalizing glimpse of what might have been. Jennifer's death was the foundational tragedy that shaped the man Sisko has become. It paralyzed him for three years, and even though he's found a way to move forward and build a new life on Deep Space Nine, he's definitely not over her death. There was just enough of his Jennifer in the Mirror Universe Jennifer to remind him of the woman he loved, and all that he had lost. Avery Brooks was great at playing the wistfulness of those scenes. At the same time that he's going on that emotional rollercoaster, Sisko is getting laid more than he has for the entirety of the show up until this point.
 
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Nelson Au

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I watched Through The Looking Glass a few nights ago. And I saw Improbably Cause and I’m looking forward to The Die is Cast tonight. I’d not seen these two episodes in some time so it will be good to re-see it.

Through The Looking Glass was really well done. And I liked how they played out the situation with Jennifer so that Sisko could turn her to his side.
 

Josh Steinberg

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I’ve been wanting to watch some more Star Trek and just take the ride again. I was hoping to get my wife onboard since she enjoyed TNG, Picard and Discovery but she was very lukewarm on both Enterprise and DS9 and we had stalled out after the first few episodes of each, I think this was last fall or this spring. (Time has no meaning here!) I think DS9 is ultimately the better show, but Enterprise is probably slightly easier to get into and is less of a time commitment.

Watched the next episode of Enterprise on my own from where we left off and that didn’t do much for me. Last night I did the same with DS9 and quickly went through three episodes so I’m thinking I’ll keep going and maybe even catch up with Adam (stretch goals!). The hard part for me is going back to the beginning - I really could be content dropping in during season 3, and I’m more excited about Worf joining in season 4 - but I know that the whole thing will be more satisfying if I go through the full journey.

And by the time the missus is ready to give it another chance, I’ll be ready to start over.

I’ve never heard the 5.1 version of the audio before, that’s new to me this time. I really like the Trek engine rumbling room tone. I hear that sound and I’m already in the future.
 
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Nelson Au

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Josh, for me, it was good to start from the beginning. I’d not seen the series in several years and I don’t have as much recollection of all the events from the first two and three seasons. So this was a good refresher. I can see not being into a new Star Trek series after watching so many seasons of TNG. I missed it at first, but it was great to get reacquainted with Sisko and the crew.
 
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Josh Steinberg

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I also didn’t do a great job of selling it. “Yeah, the first two years are rough, but by year four, it’s awesome” is not a great sales pitch.
 

Nelson Au

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I’ve found the interesting aspects of the first two seasons are the political intrigue with Kai Winn. She’s a real piece of work! Then there was the delicate truce between Bajor and the Cardassians. It’s fun to see Dukat pop up and swagger through his scenes. And then Sisko is the Emissary.

Its kind of like the Prequel Star Wars films, I’ve really come to enjoy the rise of Anakin and Palpatine’s maneuvering.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Today I watched:
  • 3x20 - "Improbable Cause": I enjoy Garek, both as written and as embodied by Andrew Robinson, but at this point in the season he is starting to feel a bit overexposed; he's gotten juicier material than many of the series regulars. The nature of his character also means that the more we know about him, the less interesting he is -- an enigma we don't really want solved. The other interesting point at this point in the series is that the show has come to rely on Avery Brooks more heavily as a regular director than the other Star Trek series leads; I believe this is the fourth episode that he helmed. The flip side of Brooks being more involved behind the camera is that it means more episodes where he's less involved in front of the camera. Kirk, Picard, and Janeway drove the action in almost every episode of their respective series. DS9 is far more willing to do episodes where Sisko has a very minor role to play.

  • 3x21 - "The Die Is Cast": This was a weird pairing of episodes, because this one picks up right where the previous one left off, but it doesn't quite feel like a two-parter; they're very different stories, with different focuses. This one makes up from the relative lack of Sisko in the previous hour with a story that captures how he has come to prioritize his loyalty to his "family" aboard the station over his loyalty to Starfleet. I think the reason he gets away with insubordination here that would never fly on one of the other shows is because he's got a very difficult job that nobody else wants in a remote corner of space that is going to be first in the line of fire if hostilities with the Dominion heat up. Plus, it would be difficult to find a Starfleet officer more acceptable to the Bajorans than the Emissary to their Prophets. Elsewhere in the episode, we get some really good stuff between Garek and Tain and some even better stuff between Garek and Odo. The interesting thing with Garek and Tain, who almost feel like an estranged son and father, is how similar they are -- which in turn makes the differences all the more stark. Both Andrew Robinson and Paul Dooley play their characters with an amused understatement, but there's an underlying warmth to Garek and an underlying hardness to Tain. The interesting thing with Garek and Odo is their commiseration over each other's status as an outsider the space station. Garek has been shunned by his people, while Odo is in self-imposed exile. Garek literally tortures Odo in this episode, and yet it doesn't much impact their relationship because they understand one another and Odo can appreciate why he did it. The other big takeaway from this episode is the Dominion's use of unconventional warfare tactics; given the Dominion's clear tactical and technological superiority over the Federation in previous skirmishes, I was expecting a full-on assault with overwhelming conventional forces. But that doesn't appear to be the Dominion's preferred strategy. Instead, the Founders manipulated the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order into seeking out their own destruction. When the one Changling told Odo that they have plans for the Federation and the Klingon Empire as well, I expect the strategy to be similarly unconventional. With every major decision the Federation should be asking itself whether it's just doing what the Dominion wants it to do.
 

Sam Favate

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That two-parter is one of my favorite things about season 3. It expanded and advanced the story with the Dominion and at the same time drew in Cardassia and the Romulans. It was really bringing the Star Trek universe together. And as good as it was, it only gets better from here.
 

Nelson Au

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Yes, I just watched those two episodes and it was interesting to see your reaction Adam. At the risk of being a potential spoiler, I thought they were two very good episodes that are setting up stuff that happens later. There’s a couple of good payoffs.

About Sisko, I noticed on this re-viewing of the series that he’s been less the focus of any lead in any Star Trek series, this is very much an ensemble. So we get stories on each character.

I’ll be curious of what you think of the next episode.
 

The Obsolete Man

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Yes, I just watched those two episodes and it was interesting to see your reaction Adam. At the risk of being a potential spoiler, I thought they were two very good episodes that are setting up stuff that happens later. There’s a couple of good payoffs.

About Sisko, I noticed on this re-viewing of the series that he’s been less the focus of any lead in any Star Trek series, this is very much an ensemble. So we get stories on each character.

I’ll be curious of what you think of the next episode.
IIRC what 3x22 is, that was a very good episode, and a beginning of sorts.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Last night I watched;
  • 3x22 - "Explorers": This was kind of a goofy one, but also perhaps the DS9 episode that has most closely hewed to Gene Roddenberry's vision of discovery and exploration. It was a lot of fun seeing Sisko really excited about something that many people would find trivial or frivolous, and it was nice to see Jake choose spending time with his dad over chasing girls. It's also nice to see Jake starting to find his purpose as a writer, and Sisko finding ways to support him in his passion even though it's not a passion he shares. And the ending, with the Cardassians going from actively trying to thwart their voyage to celebrating its success, is a nice window into Cardassia's Soviet-style rewriting of history. ("Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.")
Tonight I finished up the third season:
  • 3x23 - "Family Business": I adore Andrea Martin, one of the most talented comedic actresses there is, so I enjoyed this episode a lot more than I enjoy most Ferengi-centric episodes. Meeting their mother really illuminated for my why Quark and Rom each are the way they are, and especially why they're more comfortable with and less hostile to assertive women. It's also a good reminder of the ways that Rom is savvy when Quark is oblivious; Rom is so often played as Quark's punching bag that it's always nice to be reminded that he has aptitudes that rarely come in handy at the bar. By the end of the episode, I had a greater appreciation for both characters and the forces that shaped them. The B-story was fun too, with Sisko finally getting a love interest. It's interesting seeing Penny Johnson Jerald, after having watched her as the ship's doctor on "The Orville". She seems like a good match for the character; she brings warmth to Kasidy Yates, but also the kind of toughness that a freighter captain would likely need. Avery Brooks was wonderful in the coffee date scene; at the beginning, the date was clearly petering out, but then as soon as Yates alludes to baseball, Sisko comes alive.

  • 3x24 - "Shakaar": This episode was a really enjoyable counterpoint to "Progress" from the first season; both episodes begin with the Bajoran government sending Kira on a mission to complete an unpleasant but necessary task. However, the two episodes end very differently. Partly that is because of the ways in which Kira and Sisko have evolved since "Progress": the bond between them has deepened over the last two seasons, and Sisko has grown more comfortable asserting himself in Bajoran affairs and using his nebulous but significant influence as the Emissary. But the main difference is the man standing in progress's way. Mullibok in "Progress" was obstinate and unyielding, while Shakaar (Duncan Regehr, doing his best Kirk Douglas impression) in this episode is willing to engage constructively with his opponents, and has things he values more than achieving his objective. Given the current political moment in the real world, it was also fascinating to see how our protagonists deal with a leader, in Kai Winn, whose narcissism has developed into a messiah complex that she uses to justify to herself her anti-democratic tendencies. The emergence of Shakaar as the expected new head of government further complicates the political picture, on a planet that is roughly analogous to mid-twentieth century Ireland in that it has a secular government that is far less powerful than the dominant religious sect of its people. Our protagonists lost an ally when Vedek Bareil was forced out of the running as Kai, and then later died for his cause. But they've potentially gained an ally in Shakaar, who has far more widespread popular support than the previous First Minister being both a war hero and a man of the people. On a more shallow note: It was nice to see cave scenes that looked like real caves instead of the same cave set that has been used by TNG, DS9, and "Voyager" countless times.

  • 3x25 - "Facets": This one of those episodes that the show does every so often to explore the duality of Dax's nature. The main attraction was getting to meet Curzon Dax (or at least an echo of him) after having heard so much about him from Sisko and others. Rene Auberjonois did a great job of embodying the charisma and energy that drew people to Curzon and made them remember him fondly, while also foregrounding the significant flaws in his nature. It was also a wonderful opportunity for Odo to get a glimpse of what being a solid is like, and for Jadzia Dax to get a glimpse of what being a Changeling is like. Given that Odo is caught in a brewing conflict that puts him on the opposing side of his own people, it's important for the show to regularly provide reminders to Odo (and the audience) of why Odo is so loyal to the people of Deep Space Nine. Of the other past hosts embodied by series regulars, the only one who really stood out was Avery Brooks as Joran Dax. He made Joran feel really dangerous. Given that Curzon didn't know about Joran, this was the first time he was let out of his cage since he died and he certainly wasn't messing around. The subplot with Nog taking the entrance exam for what is essential a summer prep course for Starfleet Academy was mainly great for the way it further captured Rom's pride in Nog and his pursuit to join Starfleet, and the way he was willing to stand up even to Quark to protect his son.

  • 3x26 - "The Adversary": An absolutely tremendous season finale. The promotion of Sisko to captain seemed like it came out of the blue, but it never made sense to me that the chief executive officer of an entire starbase would be the equivalent rank of a First Officer on a starship so in that sense it did seem long overdue. The USS Defiant, while far larger than I had thought up until this point if it had a crew of 47 onboard, is still much smaller than the starships designed primarily for exploration. It allowed for the kind of close quarters paranoia that is common in submarine movies but not really suitable for the wide airy corridors of an Enterprise or a Voyager. It also finally utilized the real tactical advantage of the Changelings: their immense espionage capability as infiltrators who can replace key people in the Alpha Quadrant and change decision making without anybody actually from the Alpha Quadrant being any the wiser. Going forward, anybody at any time could potentially be a Changeling just wearing another character's face. It also introduced a way of definitively identifying Changelings, using blood tests, while highlighting the potential limitations of that approach. Also threaded intriguingly throughout this episode: Lt. Commander Eddington has a secret he doesn't want Sisko or the others to uncover. The fact that he was ready to pull his phaser before the Changeling was out seemed very telling. He does his duty well in this episode, but it's clear this his primary loyalty isn't to Sisko. Whether it's to another element of Starfleet or not remains to be seen; however his frustration over not having a career path to the captain's chair kind of makes me doubt it. When Odo and the other Changeling fight, the morphing effects are actually pretty impressive. They'd be easy enough to do now, but in 1995 they couldn't have been easy or cheap to do. And the aftermath of that was impactful: The bedrock truth of the Changelings is that, despite centuries of persecution by the solids, no Changeling has ever harmed another. And then in this episode Odo kills a Changeling. That feels like it's going to reverberate in a big way -- both for Odo personally, and for how the Founders see Odo.
 
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The Obsolete Man

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  • 3x24 - But the main difference is the man standing in progress's way. Mullibok in "Progress" was obstinate and unyielding, while Shakaar (Duncan Regehr, doing his best Kirk Douglas impression) in this episode...
Just be glad Regehr wasn't playing the role like he did his last Trek role, when he was Doctor Crusher's (and her Nana's) magical Scottish fu*k candle ghost lover in "Sub Rosa".

There's a lot more I could discuss with you in what you wrote, but it's all spoilers. Maybe in a season or two's worth of episodes.
 

Nelson Au

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I watched The Way of the Warrior, the season 4 premiere last night. I won’t spoil it for Adam. I had not seen it in some time and it was fun to see it again. I had forgotten some of the subtext and plot points and character arcs. It is a really good season premiere!
 

Nelson Au

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And tonight I watched The Visitor. This is an episode I avoid because it’s such a strong one, I like to limit the views so that when I do see it, it still packs that emotional punch. Again, I won’t spoil it for Adam.

spoilers: sort of. I place this episode with The City on the Edge of Forever and The Inner Light. But it stands on its own uniqueness because of the relationships.
 

Josh Dial

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And tonight I watched The Visitor. This is an episode I avoid because it’s such a strong one, I like to limit the views so that when I do see it, it still packs that emotional punch. Again, I won’t spoil it for Adam.

spoilers: sort of. I place this episode with The City on the Edge of Forever and The Inner Light. But it stands on its own uniqueness because of the relationships.
I agree, Nelson.

I know I've been rather lukewarm on DS9 in my comments during Adam's journey through the series (and I'm hard on it in the DISCO thread, too). But "The Visitor" is a tremendous episode of science fiction. "In the Pale Moonlight" gets a lot attention among fans, but for my money "The Visitor" and "Far Beyond the Stars" are the best DS9 episodes.
 
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