DS9: Season by season.

Cymro

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#1
Season 1:

Michael Piller and Rick Berman set this show up with the best of the Star Trek pilots, with a premise and characters that promise to set it apart from previous Trek shows in many important ways.

Then, they kind of forget about all of it for most of the season and just do C-Grade TNG stories, but without the benefit TNG had by that point of a well-established cast and familiar group of characters that often made these kinds of episodes more enjoyable on that show. I imagine "Move Along Home" would have been much better if Data, Worf and Picard had been the players.

The best episodes of the season all derive their stories from the show's background story - "Progress", "The Hands of The Prophets", and the masterpiece, "Duet". Honourable mention goes to "The Storyteller" for being quite fun and setting up the friendship between Bashir and O'Brien that later became one of my favourite parts of the show.
 

Cymro

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#2
Season 2:

They must have re-watched season 1, sat down and thought about everything that was wrong with it and got it fixed for season 2. While it doesn't have any 5 star episodes, the show is a lot more consistent this season, and the introduction of the Dominion, plus more of an emphasis on the intricacies of politics and diplomacy make this season far more interesting than the previous. It also sheds any doubt about the Cardassians being the best aliens introduced in the TNG era, if not in all of Star Trek.
 

Bean

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#3
I don't know if I'd call the Cardassians the "best" aliens. Certainly the second most fleshed out behind the Klingons.

Personally my favourite has always been the Romulans. They've had enough episodes to have been fleshed out a bit, but not so many that you get tired of hearing about them.
 

Cymro

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#4
Romulans and Cardassians are very similar, and I guess I like the Cardassians more just because they were more fleshed out. There is something grotesquely human and intelligent about them that makes them so disturbing and interesting. They're complicated in a way that the Romulans never got to be. There are episodes where you're not sure if Dukat or Garak are heroes or villains, and both of them are so vert Cardassian, yet so very human.
 

Bean

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#5
Well virtually every species in the franchise (aside from the god like ones) could be described as so very human. Klingons take the warlike and honor bound parts of our species such as the Mongols or the Samurai. Ferengi are capitalism taken to it's extreme. Romulans are the Cold War super powers personified.

Cardassians seemed to reflect our arrogance as a species. Our belief that, regardless of what science and experience tells us, we are truly special in the cosmos. When this couldn't be further from the truth.

I think had the Romulans ever gotten such a strong treatment it may have been more satisfying. But that's just personal preference. Perhaps because the Romulans have always been an A list power in the Alpha quadrant whereas Cardassians always seemed to be more B list. The only way they were ever elevated above that was when they joined the Dominion, so it wasn't even really on their own merits. And I've always enjoyed the back and forth play between the three major societies.
 
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#6
Roddenberry's original intention was for the Klingons and Romulans to represent the Soviets and Chinese - two governments that are similar in quite a few ways, and different in quite a few others, but are both antagonistic with the Federation (of course, a proxy for the US and other Western powers). The shifting between alliance and near state of war reflected the real-world state of affairs between the Communist powers.

When TNG came around, the Klingons moved to a state of uneasy alliance, reflecting the fall of the Berlin Wall. In that light, DS9 was hella prophetic about the Klingons eventually returning to a state of antagonism...


As far as the strength of the Cardassian empire is concerned, it was certainly implied in TNG and DS9 that the Federation/Cardassian war was fought to a standstill between powers that fielded roughly equal forces...though we later saw that doing so basically bankrupted Cardassia, while the Federation wasn't mobilized onto anything near a "total war" footing.
 

Bean

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#7
As far as the strength of the Cardassian empire is concerned, it was certainly implied in TNG and DS9 that the Federation/Cardassian war was fought to a standstill between powers that fielded roughly equal forces...though we later saw that doing so basically bankrupted Cardassia, while the Federation wasn't mobilized onto anything near a "total war" footing.
And that's my point. Sure, they came to a standstill, but the Cardassians had to put everything they had into that fight, just to come to a "tie". The Federation, from what it sounds like, didn't need to commit even what would be considered a large portion of their resources to it. Their existing forces were more than enough to hold their own with the Cardassians.

Now were the pre DS9 Romulans and Federation to go to war, it probably would have been more akin to the Dominion war as far as mobilization. The Federation would have had to go all in (assuming the Klingons weren't involved) to hold their own with the Romulans.

Therefore:

Federation, Klingons, Romulans - Superpowers

Cardassians - Not helpless, but not a genuine threat to the major three.

Edit: I guess my point is that prewar, had the Romulans gone at the Cardassians in an all out war, they would have stomped the Cardassians into dust.
 

Cymro

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#8
Federation/Cardassian war was fought to a standstill between powers that fielded roughly equal forces...though we later saw that doing so basically bankrupted Cardassia, while the Federation wasn't mobilized onto anything near a "total war" footing.
The problem here is that we always tend to think of these things with total war in mind, forgetting that total war has been the exception and not the rule in our history. The border wars O'Brien took part in were more like the wars over colonial territory between the great european powers in the 16th-19th centuries. A great example would be France and Great Britain in the late 18th century. Neither had any hope of capturing the other's home territories, and trying to do so would be prohibitively expensive and damaging to both, but colonies were a different matter. Like France after the American Revolution, Cardassia could have bankrupted itself through attrition by smaller scale wars all over the place, without being in a state of total war.

Cardassia's immediate goal was to capture resources, not to conquer the whole Federation, likewise the Federation probably didn't want to divert ships defending other parts of its territory, especially not if it would risk escalating a fairly contained conflict.

It's also useful to consider that in the 24th century, travelling from one side of the Federation to the other would be like going from one side of the Earth to the other was two centuries ago. It took a long time. 24th century warfare seemed to look more like old 18th century warfare; there's no long-range artillery, no aircraft or missiles that can strike the enemy's capital, and battles are pitched.

You could consider Cardassia to be a country that quickly swelled into a great or regional power very quickly, but on shaky foundations.
 
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Cymro

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#9
Cardassians seemed to reflect our arrogance as a species. Our belief that, regardless of what science and experience tells us, we are truly special in the cosmos. When this couldn't be further from the truth.

I think had the Romulans ever gotten such a strong treatment it may have been more satisfying. But that's just personal preference. Perhaps because the Romulans have always been an A list power in the Alpha quadrant whereas Cardassians always seemed to be more B list. The only way they were ever elevated above that was when they joined the Dominion, so it wasn't even really on their own merits. And I've always enjoyed the back and forth play between the three major societies.
I don't know, I guess Klingons were played too much like caricatures, and TNG Romulans were as well, and their motivations for war and aggression are difficult to identify with. In reality, humans go to war for reasons economic, ideological, or defensive, and often a mixture. Romulans and Klingons seem to be aggressive for the sake of it, they want to conquer for the sake of it, fight for the sake of it, they hate us for the sake of it. We don't really understand that.

Cardassians are a little more moderate, they're all complicated. The very first time we meet them in "The Wounded", they're very cordial, and we find that while their government is sneaky and warlike, not every Cardassian is a hate-filled, bloodthirsty monster. Star Trek TNG - O'Brien's PTSD - YouTube

This is a theme that continues all the way through to the end of DS9. Rather than seeing caricatures that are one-hundred percent bastards, we get these disturbingly complete characters. Cardassia is a lot like Nazi Germany, or the Soviet Union where the state is evil but the people are not. Not everyone agrees with what it does, but few are able to do anything about it, and the government gets results. We've never seen a Romulan or a Klingon show remorse for killing someone, but we saw a Cardassian who was willing to get himself executed because he felt guilty for crimes his countrymen committed. Why is Romulus the way it is? We don't know. Why is Cardassia the way it is?

We do know: Picard and the Cardassian - YouTube

Cardassian motivations aren't that far a cry from our own. They're so much like us that we can really see ourselves in them, and it's scary to think how close we are to being like them.
 
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Bean

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#10
I disagree with your assessment of the Romulans hating us "just cause".

Throughout their history in the franchise they've been shown to be extremely defensive and xenophobic towards anyone that's not all for the Empire. Think about current trends in American politics (America, FUCK YEAH!) and anyone who thinks differently is branded as unpatriotic and other such nonsense.

You can also look to the Chinese government. Western culture is extremely censored and controlled within China. The way they deal with the rest of the world strongly echoes the Romulans.

And now with the way the US seems to be headed towards being a genuine police state, you could say that the Romulans as they've been portrayed are the inevitable results of such policies going unchecked and gaining momentum.

Then we have other episodes like The Defector where we see that the Romulans aren't entirely what we think they are. Nor are we entirely like they believe. It's the result of a lack of interaction, coupled with government propaganda.

In Unification we get for perhaps the first time, a look at Romulans from the inside, and it would appear that they share a lot in common with us. The difference being that they're afraid of their government. (Again, a natural possibility with the current climates in the US and Russia).

I agree that it was spelled out for the Cardassians exactly WHY they're like that, but that's what I said at the beginning. They got more screen time with writers that had more freedom to flesh out character than the Romulans have ever gotten.

The Klingons, yeah, they wound up being caricatures, but for the beginnings of TNG they were closer to the example of human culture I previously mentioned.

Again, it all comes down to the fact that the Cardassians got more story time, and benefited MASSIVELY from the specific series they were on. Had DS9 been on the Romulan border, we most likely would have received similar satisfaction with them.
 

Cymro

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#11
You can also look to the Chinese government. Western culture is extremely censored and controlled within China
And there's a reason for it. China was a victim of European and Japanese imperialism for over 150 years, if not longer. Then, after a long civil war it adopted a system of government and economics that was at odds with western values, and threatened by the west. The government blames the west for China's problems, and in some respects it's not wrong.

People hate jews for a reason, people hate black people for a reason, people hate Russians for a reason, people hate Gays for a reason. Those reasons might not be logical, they might be completely imagined, but they usually come up in conversation.

The Romulans never mention what the Federation has done to piss them off. They never mention ridiculous stories about how humans are bloodsuckers, or that we eat our young, or that we keep Romulans poor, or that we want to conquer them, or that we're trying to destroy their culture. We have no idea what the Romulan government uses to vilify the Federation, they just hate us. We are the enemy. They have no idea why, we are just the enemy.

Then we have other episodes like The Defector where we see that the Romulans aren't entirely what we think they are. Nor are we entirely like they believe. It's the result of a lack of interaction, coupled with government propaganda.

In Unification we get for perhaps the first time, a look at Romulans from the inside, and it would appear that they share a lot in common with us. The difference being that they're afraid of their government. (Again, a natural possibility with the current climates in the US and Russia).
Yeah, a small group of dissidents who seem to be completely open to the other side with no caveats, no doubts, no economic or spiritual reason to want what they want, no ulterior motives. But it's never mentioned why all the others want war. The guy in "The Defector" makes no mention of what his superiors hope to gain by provoking the Federation.
 
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Cymro

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#12
Season 3:

Carries on building on the foundations they'd established. This season has a feeling of togetherness that the first two didn't have, the character interactions are really working now, the Dominion gives the station the importance it lacked, the Defiant gives the show something cool that it needed. It even seems to look a bit brighter and sharper than previous seasons.

But the best thing about the third season is that the episodes are more memorable than what came before. "The Search" was a huge moment for the series, "Past Tense" was a great Star Trek episode, "Improbable Cause/The Die Is Cast" just kicked ass and set DS9 apart from it's predecessors not only in terms of visuals, but in terms of characterisation. Even lighter episodes like "Explorers" and "The House of Quark" just come together in a way previous episodes didn't.

Probably not a coincidence that Ira Behr took over as Showrunner, and Ron Moore joined that year.