411. A Time to Stand
FORMULA: The Search Part I + a whole new ballgame
WHY WE LIKE IT: Weyoun vs. Dukat.
WHY WE DON'T: The new computerized Bashir. WHY I DON'T: Admiral Ross.
REVIEW: After letting us believe that the season would open with a huge battle featuring the mega-fleet from Call to Arms, A Time to Stand turns everything on its ear by skipping three months ahead, and that fleet's on the run and beaten. Basically, while we were sipping pina coladas in the sun, the DSNiners were fighting a brutal war and getting their asses kicked. When 14 out of 112 ships survive any given encounter, you can forgive the characters their pessimism. Since we don't retake the station here, the show sets up a new (albeit temporary) paradigm. Sisko and crew are even reassigned from the Defiant for a special ops mission behind enemy lines, aboard the quite spartan Jem'Hadar ship they captured in The Ship. That part of the episode is well executed with some humor, a suspenseful climax and a tense cliffhanger.
Part of the paradigm shift is Bashir acting like a human computer all of a sudden. This is less pleasant. Fine, he's genetically engineered and you can show him smarter and more agile, but calculating everything to the fraction of a second, all the time, is just turning him into Spock or Data. The new paradigm also brings a new supporting character, an admiral for Sisko to get his war time orders from, Admiral Ross. I won't lie to you, I hate this character. Even in this small first appearance, Barry Jenner gives an awkward, almost embarrassed performance that will remain Ross' character for the length of the series. Just another lame duck admiral that must never ever be stronger or cooler than the starring captain, and so never becomes strong or cool at all.
While you get plenty of action with Sisko and crew, the most interesting part of the episode is what's going on on the station. The uneasy peace between Cardassian, Dominion and Bajoran representatives is fascinating: A hagard-looking Kira rebuffing Dukat's creepy sexual advances (which are played for the first time as if, yeah, he really did know her mother), Damar acting like this was Occupation Part II, Weyoun dismissing Damar as the inconsequential brute he is, Weyoun instantaneously folding to Odo's requests (he is divine, after all), and Jake getting nowhere with his journalism (and yet, you totally see Weyoun's point that this isn't technically an occupation). Kira's only anchor at this point is Odo... so good luck with that.
LESSON: The same good ingredients can be used in more than one recipe.
REWATCHABILITY - High: The episode leaves us with many questions and pretty much ensures that you'll immediately set your DVD to play the next one.