Apocalypse Rising (***½)
In the middle of a war, Starfleet decides to send one of their top commanders, the captain of a strategically vital space station, on a covert mission into the heart of Klingon territory. You'd think that Starfleet would have a division devoted to these kinds of high-risk undercover operations (in fact they do, Starfleet Intelligence), they they decide to send Sisko instead. Maybe some admiral at Starfleet Command knows Sisko and knows that his... eccentricities would allow him to disguise himself as a Klingon quite easily, but it's still an unusual choice, and it's one that the episode hinges on. But while it doesn't make much sense in-universe, it does lead to an enjoyable adventure, one where we see beloved characters as Klingons, and one which allows us to see a little more of the culture and traditions of one of Trek's most famous races.
I'm kinda torn on the reveal that Martok was the Changeling and not Gowron. On the one hand, it does add a twist to the episode that serves to shake things up from the expected, but on the other hand it is an easy way out of killing a popular recurring character. Killing off Gowron would have been a big deal, killing off a guy that we've only seen once before isn't such a big deal. On the third hand, in was in this episode that the writers came to appreciate J.G. Hertzler's work and decided to introduce the real Martok, who goes on to become a great character. So there are pluses and minuses to this whole thing.
As a season opener, this is a step down in scale from what we've come to expect of DS9. Revealing a Changeling at the heart of the Klingon government sounds big on paper, as does almost assassinating Gowron, but compared to the galaxy-shaking events of The Search
(and arguably even the Circle trilogy), this doesn't feel as big. It's a good episode, an important episode, but it comes across a bit low-key. Something I did appreciate about this episode were all the little nods to past events. Dukat (and Damar) show up in a Klingon ship, Martok reappears, Odo is still adjusting to being a humanoid, Kira has a few cute scenes about her pregnancy. The show is coming together really well even if it's not willing to commit to full serialisation just yet.