A lot of good points raised, I agree with most of what has been said above. One more thing about the ship being a character; TOS definitely managed it with the original E, and I feel that DS9 managed it somewhat with the Defiant. It is one of the reasons why I love The Changing Face of Evil
, the destruction of the Defiant felt like the loss of a major character, you could feel for Sisko as he stood there looking at his bridge one last time.
The Thaw (***½)
I remembered this as the stupid episode with the clown. I was half right. It is actually a pretty good episode, it basically comes down to people attempting to overcome the personification of fear, and this is a pretty good concept for an episode (even if the evil clown thing has been done a million times already). What makes it really work for me is some unusual directing (for Trek, at least), a moody score and a very unsettling performance by fear.
There is also some really funny moments, such as Neelix suggesting that they try to make fear go away by telling him a joke and everybody staring him into silence, to some nice moments of Shmullus interacting with fear. And Janeway acts like a heartless bitch at the end, great stuff.
It is my understanding that this episode divides viewers between those who love it and those who hate it. I used to hate it, and while I don't quite love it I do like it a lot.
However, this could also have been a TNG episode, and you all know my policy about that.