The show gets less cohesive after season 2, but the scripts for individual episodes get better starting with season 4 and beyond. So its definitely a toss up as to what's more important and either point is valid. Personally I'd say the show gets better simply because I *enjoyed* season 4 onwards a bit more due to the tighter scripts, less technobabble nonsense plots etc.
This is a really good explanation of why I prefer the post season 3 stuff so much more than the earlier stuff. Then again I do think the later seasons sometimes hit episodic lows that the earlier season don't... with a couple of obvious exceptions.
As far as Darkling
go (and why the exclamation mark? Silliness) they are both pretty damn bad IMO. I remembered Darkling
quite fondly but when I rewatched it I was shocked by how terrible it really is; the Byron bits were unspeakable and also it began to annoy me that the Doctor's experimentations were just causing extra work for B'Elanna. My opinion of Rise!
was so low that I used to rank it alongside the episode Nemesis
for sheer hate/boredom but on rewatch I found the Neelix/Tuvok confrontation to be rather good. The rest was unmitigated bilge though. Was it supposed to come off as a really cheapass version of Mission Impossible?