- The Defiant - For the first two seasons of the series, anytime the personnel of the space station wanted to go somewhere, they had to take a ride in a runabout, which was DS9's version of the classic Star Trek shuttlecraft. One of the very first things seen in the third season premiere, the two-part "The Search," was Benjamin Sisko arriving at the station in the Defiant, the first Starfleet warship. It was Sisko's baby, something he helped develop thanks to his personal experiences during the Borg invasion that culminated in the Battle of Wolf 359, when he lost his wife Jennifer. The thing about the Defiant, rushed into service thanks to the new Dominion threat that saw a Galaxy-class starship (the same as the Enterprise-D) destroyed by a single Jem'Hadar fighter, was that it was a little overpowered. It was in constant danger of shorting out. Oh, and it had a cloaking device, on loan from the Romulans. The ship, and its successor, remained attached to the station for the remainder of the series, and was even featured in Star Trek: First Contact. It was a "tough little ship." And it remained Sisko's baby. And it was very, very sweet. Great way to kick off the season!
- Michael Eddington - Another addition to the series in "The Search" was the new Starfleet security chief. This was a position that Odo briefly had to contend with in the first season, but Eddington actually worked with the constable, respected him. And he trusted Sisko implicitly. He was a reliable presence in the series, not overly noteworthy, until...well, he revealed himself to be a member of the Maquis, the rogue group of Federation citizens who declared open war on the Cardassians. And how did he do it? By setting up Sisko's girl, Kasidy Yates, for the fall. And that made it personal. And that made a DS9 legend out of Michael Eddington.
- "Past Tense" - The season had a couple of two-hour adventures, but this time-traveling trip to the Bell Riots of the early 21st century featuring Sanctuary Districts for the homeless and unwanted rang most brilliantly. Sisko ends up having to replace Gabriel Bell after the man who would help bring about social reform is killed. And what is the fate of Bell according to the timeline? Oh, death. How is he going to make it out alive? This is sort of like the DS9 version of the original series classic "The City on the Edge of Forever." But I'd say "Past Tense" is better.
- "Explorers" - One of the reasons the third season was so memorable for me was that it was to that point and even for the rest of the series the best season for Sisko material. It found him at his most comfortable, and he couldn't get more comfortable than getting to hang out with his son Jake and working on a personal project, building a replica of an ancient Bajoran solar ship and then making the journey from Bajor to Cardassia just to prove it had actually happened. We learn Jake's plans for the future, his father's estimation of his writing, and generally just spend time with the Siskos. It's a sublime hour.
- Kasidy Yates - The Eddington affair would happen later, but both characters debut this season, so it's only fitting that their fates would intertwine again. Yates is a freighter captain, whose brother actively plays baseball, Sisko's main passion in life. They're positively fated to fall in love. If they can just overcome the problems of building a relationship while both leading demanding lives! Even if Penny Johnson didn't enter pop culture lore in this role, she would later, as the scheming wife of David Palmer in 24.
- Jennifer Sisko - The other woman in Sisko's wife appeared in Prophet-induced vision form in the series pilot, "Emissary," but finally appeared in the present thanks to the Mirror Universe, which saw the first of its two greatest hours in DS9 happen this season, "Through the Looking Glass." In the Mirror Universe, Sisko is dead. In our universe, Jennifer is dead. Their meeting this season is our chance to see them together, in all its awkward glory, given the circumstances. (Is that Tuvok, from Voyager? Well, no. Technically, it's Mirror Tuvok.) And finally, this character enters living DS9 history. Next time, Jennifer Sisko dies again, alas...
- Captain Sisko - Besides gaining a ship, Sisko also finally attains the rank of captain this season. (Wait, did I just fill this entire list with Sisko elements? Yes, yes I did. Also, Bashir and O'Brien singing "Jerusalem." Classic, classic stuff right there.) For the first two seasons, not only was there no starship in a Star Trek series for the first time, but the lead was a commander instead of a captain. This season corrected both of these oversights. In the season finale, "The Adversary," Sisko is not only sporting his goatee (Avery Brooks started out with the original look to distinguish the character from his other notable TV role, which saw him star in A Man Called Hawk for a season, spinning off from Spenser: For Hire), but gets promoted, too. I didn't mention Garak's shenanigans during the season. I'm sure Captain Sisko wouldn't have minded if Garak just stopped trying to meddle in things, and really did stick to being a plain, simple tailor...And Odo finally solving the mystery of his people? Say hello to the Founders. And just try and say goodbye!
Just in sheer terms of being the best series material possible, I'd say this season at least ranks with the best ones throughout the whole Star Trek franchise. But since this is my blog, I will just go ahead and say this is the best season of Star Trek. Ever. Did I mention Quark's Klingon bride? Because that happens, too. And the Rules of Acquisition are revised. And Bareil is turned into a robot. And O'Brien shifts through time. And Kira is tricked into believing she's Cardassian. And Nog decides to enter Starfleet. And Jadzia meets all the previous Dax hosts. And Odo almost ends up remaining one of them. And...and...and...!