Episode 4.7: Starship Down

•July 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The structure of this episode is very interesting and enjoyable. It masquerades as an action episode, but it’s infused with character intrigue. There is a central plot, however it is fragmented into 4 independent storylines, each centered on a different location. At this point in the series, 3 seasons in, there are several well developed characters that are able to carry an interesting storyline using a fraction of the screentime. Not only do they present interesting and independent stories, but all of them progress the characters in some capacity. Three are focused on individual characters, and one of them is focused on a relationship.

On the bridge, Kira’s faith collides with her fear of being rejected by the Emissary because of her faith. I like this one the most because the conflict swirls entirely within Kira and her own tensions. We see Kira frantic at the prospect of losing Sisko; her letting this fear show through is very unlike her. Sisko certainly gives signals that he’s uncomfortable at being Emissary (by scheduling this mission during Ha’mara), but the tension on the bridge is Kira’s struggle to be both a woman of faith and a loyal officer to Sisko. She tries hard to help Sisko using secular wisdom (talking to him about work, using a stimulant). But this is insufficient to assuage her because her core worry is the spiritual consequences of Sisko’s death. He represents great hope for her people; he’s a man who will do great things for Bajor and help heal her people. On a personal level, he represents Kira’s own hope in the future and trust in the Prophets. Once she starts to connect to him through her heritage, her tensions start to ease. When Sisko slips a second time, she turns to a beautiful Bajoran prayer and a medical stimulant. At last, she melds her secular and her spiritual. I like how the cause of his healing is left ambiguous. I like to think it was a combination of her secular and spiritual actions that brought Sisko through his injury.

Quark’s scene in the mess hall is a tale of Quark finding a fellow spirit in his love for business and gambling. Tragically, Hanok initially espouses a business ethic that I feel is most just; the costs of goods are determined by raw materials and labor, not any kind of perceived value or haggling acumen. However, by the end, Quark has convinced him of the joy of gambling. Quark truly is thrilled by this situation with Hanok. He may have been caught cheating, but Quark has the (risky) opportunity to turn this to his advantage and strengthen his relationship with Hanok. Quark thrives on these kinds of risks. As with many of Quark’s storylines, he stumbles through it on instinct, opportunity, and gambling. Without Quark’s actions, the ship would have been destroyed. But he’s resourceful and has the lobes to win his gambles.

Worf’s leadership style is tested and refined in engineering. Worf’s storylines, obviously, carry over from TNG, but in DS9, they have a distinct flavor to them. Worf is moving on from being a security officer, and starting to struggle with the burdens of command. In a combat situation such as this, he is an ideal officer to be in command of warship. However, crippled as the Defiant is, he struggles with using subpar resources. Prior to the attack, he is irked at the imperfect response times of the crew. It is elegant, then, that his command crew in this crisis consists of engineers. They are problem solvers, and on a crippled ship, they are better able to provide for his needs than a by-the-book command-track ensign. I also like how his command style is mentored by O’Brien. The Chief knows how his people work best, and he is able to detect how Worf’s command style chaffs at them. He bridges the gap between them.

Below decks, Dax and Bashir are faced with the reality of their changing relationship. Bashir conducts himself in a typical heroic, idealist fashion, rushing to save Jadzia at great risk to himself. For Jadzia, she has finally come to realize that this is simply who Julian is. He might hope that his heroics impress his love interests, but he is fundamentally motivated by his idealism, not his desire to impress. Julian is a romantic, in the broad sense of the term.  He strives to create the world he wishes to see, one where he can rescue those around him from danger. For Julian, he is (somewhat abruptly, I think) confronted with how his relationship with Jadzia has morphed to one of plutonic friendship. Dax likes who he is, but his initial immaturity was dissonant with her multiple lifetimes of experience. He pursued her too hard and naively. One of his own naïve fantasies has finally come true, and they do not connect sexually. It’s absurd to think they would in such a situation! Now that the sexual tension is lessened between them, they are truly getting to know each other. That tension was acting as a block for friendship. An interesting aside is how this gradual, plutonic path might have lead to them finally get together. In The Visitor (Ep. 4.3), it is implied that Jadzia and Julian end up together, if Worf is taken out of the picture. A similar thought is expressed by Ezri, and I finally found the episode that mentions it! In Afterimage (Ep. 7.3), Ezri tells Julian that if Worf hadn’t come along, it would have been him with Jadzia.

Random Thoughts: 1) The title is a reference to the movie “Grey Lady Down”. 2) The action scenes are fun, as are Sisko’s and Worf’s cleverness in combat. The combat enables the separation of the crew into different compartments and adds well meaning excitement. 3) I like to think that Sisko’s journey toward being Bajor’s Emissary is helped by these exposures to Bajor’s heritage. 4) This episode is a clear win for Quark. His cheating of the Federation isn’t caught, and he forges stronger deals with Hanok. 5) Hanok is played by James Cromwell, the same actor as Zefram Cochrane in the movie Star Trek: First Contact. 6) The Ferengi vessels are effective against the Dominion. Ferengi aren’t useless, as they often are portrayed. 7) Sisko’s confidence in the Defiant is rooted in the fact that he built it during his stint at Utopia Planitia Shipyards after Wolf 359. 8) Quark’s coat comes off. You know it’s serious then. 9) Mourn has 17 brothers and sisters… 10) Kira dislikes holosuites, so her taking Sisko up on a game is very meaningful. Also, Nana Visitor says “Hot. Dogs.” with just the right amount of comedic hesitation.

Episode 4.6: Rejoined

•July 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Oh, how far the world has come in 20 years. This episode ranks fairly early in televised same-sex kisses, which is typical of Star Trek’s desires to push social boundaries before they are culturally accepted. This ranks with the TOS episode Plato’s Kiss (Ep. 3.10) where an early televised interracial kiss occurs between Kirk and Uhura. What’s elegant about how this episode is structured is that nowhere in the episode does any character express concern about Dax and Kahn being of the same sex. It is only the Trill taboo of reassoication that is discussed. This allows a doubled-edged allegory. DS9 explores homosexuality through symbolism of an alien society and portrays the challenges members of the LGBT community face. Simultaneously, DS9 can portray a world where homosexuality is a norm. Both are be done concurrently and with great plausibility. This is the advantage of sci/fi.

Dax, Kahn, and reassociation are infused with allegory. Reassociation is considered “unnatural” by Trill society; this is (to me) a clear reference to the NIV translation of the Biblical text of Romans 1. There is also a veneer of a “legitimate” reason against reassocation: that hosts might get lost in the past an not move on to experience more. This mirrors, in my opinion, thin reasons some Christians give for opposing LGBT rights. I see the Trill perspective then as intended to represent (at a very high level) this specific Christian perspective. Most of the episode is Dax and Kahn working closely together, being tempted. The nature of Torias’s death exacerbates the tension they have; there was so much unsaid between them, so much emotion. These feelings are where their struggle hinges. Ultimately, I think this episode does well in what it intends to do: create a space where the conversation around LGBT rights can be had amongst the audience during a time (1990s) when it wasn’t a pleasant conversation to have. The actual kiss wasn’t overdramatized; it was simple and intimate. Dax and Kahn had good chemistry between them. They had an appropriate nervous interactions. After the accident, Dax and Kahn have a passionate embrace together where they desire to never be apart again. Afterwards, however, only Dax retains this desire; for Kahn, the price to be paid for reassociation is too high and not outweighed by the love they have.

I do want to mention the conversation between Sisko and Dax when she expresses to him her desire to reassociate with Kahn. Sisko is a fierce friend to Dax to do what he did. He honestly challenged her on the social consequences of her choice. DS9 didn’t fully endorse acceptance nor rejection of reassociation (given the allegory and the early 90s air date, firmly endorsing acceptance would have been difficult). However, Sisko’s words do force Dax to engage with the consequences of her actions. She would be shunned by Trill society and her host would be the death of the Dax symbiont. He tells her of her own desires: that she herself values the fact that Jadzia is but a link in the chain of Dax. His argument isn’t about any sort of broad social context; rather he narrows the focus onto her and reminds her what it is that she has striven for in her life. As long as Dax is able to clearly see both what is currently in front of her (Kahn) and what decisions she has already made (her legacy in the Dax line), then Sisko would fully support any decision she makes.

Random Thoughts: 1) I have read some challenges saying that this episode doesn’t actually address homosexuality because the situation involved “an alien who used to be a man” and that Dax was actually kissing as a symbiont, not as the host. While I appreciate this perspective, I think it misses the intentional allegory. 2) I want to emphasize that not all Christians hold now (or even held back in the 90s) this perspective I outlined above. I myself support and desire full equality for the LGBT community both inside and outside the church. My perspective is (I hope) much more holistically considerate of a person. None of us should be solely defined by our sexual orientation or behavior. 3) In Christian culture, Romans 1 involves the most explicit discussion of same sex interactions of anywhere in scripture and, (in my opinion) it is the key verse any informed Christian opinion must address to develop a position of the topic. 4) I’d like to hope that Star Trek pushing these boundaries helped instigate the cultural conversation that formed in the 2000s around LGBT rights. The change in public opinion in the US on same sex behavior and general LGBT rights has been immensely fast, in historical terms. Over the course of 20 years (1996 to 2016), the approval of same sex marriage in the US nationally went from about 25% to 60%. Since just 2006, it went from about 40% to 60%. 5) I also tend to think of this episode alongside the TOS episode Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (Ep. 3.15). This was another episode that used sci-fi trickery to challenge a poor social norm (racism). 6) Quark’s “future” thoughts on how magic work are amusing (such as beaming the egg into Dax’s mouth). 7) Bashir is a true friend to Dax. He sits through a dinner with her as chaperone and is bored out of his mind! 8) I really looked at the station this time (during the opening sequence). Such a comforting sight to me. 9) Avery Brooks directed this episode. He absolutely loved it and felt it was a great episode. 10) Dax often gives off a cool exterior, even if her interior is boiling over with nervousness. It peeks through here when she puts her commbadge on upside-down. 11) I’m highly amused by Worf’s jokes: “It is better you do not know.” 12) This is Worf’s first command of the Defiant. 13) The artificial wormhole is very different than the Prophets’ wormhole. It is angry, red, and triangular. 14) Much of Dax’s willingness to flaunt the rules comes from Curzon. 15) Torias was Dax’s 5th host, Jadzia Dax’s 8th. With his early death then Joran, Lenara was only 1 host removed from being married to Dax. 16) The plasma fire was green. This is standard in Star Trek. I’m not sure if that would be accurate or not in real life. 17) When trying to convince Kahn to stay with her, Dax gets on her knees. I’m honestly not sure if that was intended to represent her begging or proposing. 18) Susanna Thompson, the actor who plays Lenara Kahn, has also portrayed the Borg Queen in VOY.

Episode 4.5: Indiscretion

•July 13, 2017 • Leave a Comment

In this episode, Dukat becomes quite a bit more complex as both a character and a villain. This man is an arrogant, self-absorbed megalomaniac who has a twisted love affair with Bajor and her inhabitants. Ziyal is the physical embodiment of Dukat’s split nature. He is deeply Cardassian in his inflexible rules and his superiority complex. But he has a love for Bajorans that oscillates between slimy, lust-fueled interactions to genuine compassion, even if that compassion is executed through his insensitive and arrogant methods. His relationship with Ziyal gives Dukat his most relatable quality; he has strains of both good and evil within him. This is only present in his character while Ziyal is alive, however. Especially after she dies, Dukat descends into a madness that is part evil, part insane. By allowing her to live, he finds compassion for someone who he knows will only cause him pain everywhere else in his life. It’s really easy for us to create caricatures of our enemies in life. But all people, even the most terrible ones, I truly think have good within them. Like Dukat though, they might only show it to their most intimate relationships. And I would challenge anyone who thinks they don’t have enemies. They might not be storybook ones, but all of us have people we disagree with, we might secretly try to rival, or who antagonize us.

Dukat and Kira’s argument over whether the Occupation helped the Bajorans was short but immensely fascinating to me. Dukat’s attitude is certainly laced with Cardassian arrogance, but some of his arguments should make us wonder. The Bajorans are better prepared to handle the galaxy as it is, especially with more villainous foes on the other side of the wormhole. They become more cautious, able to endure hardship, and have a stronger military. Good qualities for a dangerous galaxy. However, it is extremely important to note that this assumes that being a quiet, contemplative race is a less important than these things! I envy these qualities in the pre-Occupation Bajorans. In fact, Kira argues that Bajor accomplished all it did in spite of the Occupation. I would say that the Bajorans who do retain the contemplative nature (Opaka and Bareil practice it; Kira finds it as she grows) are able to prevent the Occupation from hardening them. Instead, it allows them to be pliable for the needs of the greater whole of Bajor. I think the ultimate arrogance of Dukat here is not that he assumed that the Occupation made the Bajorans stronger (which tragedy often does), but that their strength was his definition of strength.

As with many subplots, Sisko’s actions with Kasidy have a refreshing, lighter tone than the main plot. It has a humorous undercurrent, with Sisko appearing to be the typical commitment-resistant man, but I like how they connected this back to a very personal fear of his. His job is what killed Jennifer, and the last thing he wants to do is expose someone else he loves to that kind of danger. That is meaningful, and I think it’s clear at the end that his hesitancy is justified. But thankfully it isn’t enough to overcome how well suited Kasidy and Sisko are for each other. She is a strong woman, accepting of the dangers that come along with Sisko.

Random Thoughts: 1) I’m not unaware that 2 of the 3 people I listed as contemplative are dead (effectively). Their contemplation lead them to risk much, accomplish much, and pay with their lives. 2) Odo and Kira are seen meeting for the weekly criminal activity report. It has an intimate undertone, as Odo knows what Kira will do before she does. 3) Waiting 52 hours is two days in DS9 time. A station day is 26 hours. 4) Dukat does have knowledge of the Bajoran people, by respecting their burial customs. Kira also knows enough of Cardassians’ high respect for family. 5) Bajoran faith mirrors most faiths, by placing importance on the soul, not the body. 6) The Bajoran Resistance was fairly sophisticated. They implanted key people with trackers. 7) Kira takes a strong interest in Ziyal from this point forward. I think she sees her as abandoned by her father and motherless by tragic circumstance. Kira herself was orphaned early in her life. 8) Jake has surpassed his father in some ways. His and Nog’s advice was filled with wisdom. 9) The Breen are first introduced. 10) Dukat and Ziyal have a tumultuous relationship. A big portion of that, I think, is that Ziyal is traumatized by Dukat wanting to kill her right off the bat, and she had to convince him otherwise. 11) Thanks to Ziyal, Dukat loses his career, family, and power.  12) When Dukat sits on the spine, that is a pivotal moment for Kira’s relationship to him.  In that moment, Kira starts to see Dukat as a person, not just a villain.

Interlude: The Opening Sequence

•July 2, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The opening sequence of DS9 makes one major change, between Seasons 3 and 4, so now seemed like a good time to discuss the two variants. The sequence is reflective of the setting and tone, and the change happens while the show’s tone is transitioning. Some of the changes are subtle while others are much more obvious. The visual changes, such as adding the Defiant, were obvious. But the tempo change actually took me several years and multiple viewings to realize it happened. Despite the changes though, the core of the opening sequence is the same. The station remains the central focus of the sequence; the camera rotates around the station, as opposed to the station moving past the camera (as the Enterprise does in the opening sequence to TNG). This show is about a crew based in a single place where they must manage the changing situation around them and deal with the consequences of their actions. The steadfast nature of the station is prominent.

The first version of the sequence is the one that sticks most strongly with me, and it is the one I usually conjure in my mind’s eye. As the camera pans through the scene, there is mostly darkness, and the station grows in size as the camera approaches. The station is a bastion of light and activity in the literal darkness, as if it’s a fort in the wilderness in the Old West. This is the crew’s speck of home in an empty, distant place. There is permanency to the station’s presence that lays a bedrock for the setting. The station also has the feeling of being on the doorstep of the unknown. It is the origin for the lone runabout, and the sequence ends with a burst of light, color, and motion just outside the station. The wormhole is clearly a portal as the runabout goes through into an unseen beyond. There is absolutely this sense of the station being an unusual place that stands out against the blackness. The opening seconds with the comet and the quiet music is soothing, inviting, and calm. The song itself isn’t grandiose or attack the senses; it retains a quiet strength to the melody as it crescendos. I relate strongly to the song itself; the musical qualities mirror attitudes I want to cultivate in myself. The first version of the sequence was slower and fit the Old West style.

The changes that struck me first were the visual changes. The station is a much more active place from Season 4 onward. There are multiple runabout flying about, lots of ships docked at the station, and the Defiant is present. The station has changed from a bastion to a hub. Lots of activity surrounds the station, as it now is the epicenter of the Dominion threat. Science vessels prepare to head into the Gamma Quadrant on exploratory missions; the Defiant also heads to the unknown quadrant, but for defense and reconnaissance, not science. The change in the song took me several viewings to actually catch. The tempo sped up, and there’s some added melodic nuance and a strong beat. Both of these changes reflect the more urgent and tense nature of the show. I find the heavy beat symbolic of the Dominion threat; it is the narrative that runs throughout the rest of the series.

Random Thought: 1) The song itself actually has a physical soothing effect on me whenever I hear it. I’m sure it’s an interplay of nostalgia and lyrical quality, but it can act as a touchstone for me to recenter myself. 2) The order of billing starts with Avery Brooks, as the captain, followed by the rest of the crew in alphabetical order. 3) Throughout the series, there are changes to how the crew is billed. Promotions happen, Worf and Ezri are added, and Siddig El Fadil changes his name to Alexander Siddig.

Episode 4.4: Hippocratic Oath

•June 24, 2017 • Leave a Comment

All meaningful relationships get tested at some point, and Bashir and O’Brien’s relationship is put under the strongest strain seen in the series. This episode has many similarities to Armageddon Game (Ep. 2.13). In that episode, the friendship has a positive watershed moment; here the two can hardly look at each other at the end. But the similarities are striking. In both, Bashir and O’Brien are isolated and cut off from the rest of the crew. They are in a combat situation, and though O’Brien is technically the junior crewmember, he attempts to take command. O’Brien sharply ignores the contribution Julian could have to the situation. Two key differences though. First, Julian attempts (and fails) to assert command over Miles by pulling rank. Miles had a choice; he chose to not trust Julian’s judgement in a combat situation and disobey orders. In combat, Miles feels completely superior to his friend. By doing so, he condemned the Jem’Hadar death. His defense is that he acted to save him and Julian. Second, by the end of the episode, neither has come to appreciate the contribution or viewpoint of the other. Near the end, O’Brien takes a command tone with Bashir, which Bashir promptly ignores. Only by physical violence, destruction of Bashir’s work, is the impasse broken. Ironically, at the end, it is Goran’Agar who connects with both O’Brien and Bashir, where the two cannot connect with each other. Goran’Agar turns to O’Brien to explain the duty of a commander, while Goran’Agar is able to trust Bashir and convince him of the sincerity of the Jem’Hadar need.

The debate between O’Brien and Bashir sparks a strong discussion on how to view an enemy. O’Brien sees only killers; his experience on the battlefield gives him authority in recognizing that. In his words, the Jem’Hadar act in their own self interest; why didn’t they ask for help instead of demand it? To Miles, the situation is simple. Julian sees a much more complex situation. This is their chance to start a revolution in the Jem’Hadar! Julian’s idealism is strong and (to me) appealing. Where Miles sees killers, Julian sees slaves to White. Julian is hopeful that when freed, these slaves would follow the same path as Goran’Agar. It was Goran’Agar’s compassion to his injured soldier that turns Julian’s toward the humanitarian nature of their plight. Miles’s best contribution is how neither him nor Julian know how the other Jem’Hadar would react off the White. He fears not all of them would react like Goran’Agar, by becoming civilized and honorable. What if they become unchained marauders instead of an honorable species?

It’s a very strong trait in humans to be suspicious of an enemy. It takes tremendous fortitude to see an enemy as something other than a faceless entity. The DS9 producers were very clever to give the Jem’Hadar actual faces; this allows them to take on human characteristics and leads to much more complex storylines, such as this one. I feel like O’Brien reacts how most of us would react to an enemy. Hit them where it hurts the most and look out for ourselves. Julian takes the more compassionate, though more dangerous, path. He has sympathy for his enemy. Perhaps they are not villains; rather they might be slaves to their villainous master. He posits that it is the White that keeps the Jem’Hadar acting as they do and under the will of the Founders. O’Brien’s path is safer, but has no room for change (the Jem’Hadar will always be the enemy) nor room for compassion for an enemy. Bashir’s path is filled with hope for a better future, yet is naïve and would have deadly consequences for being wrong. I love the ambiguity that is left at the end of the episode. Would they have become honorable? It isn’t clear cut, as even Goran’Agar retained his adoration for the Founders. The White is how the Vorta control them, not the Founders.

Despite the battered friendship, Bashir takes the first step toward reconciliation, by already implying to O’Brien that he wants to continue to see him for darts. It was Bashir who initiated the friendship, and it is Bashir who fights to keep it alive. Good friendships are strengthened by these strained times, by persevering through and seeking reconciliation. Bashir doesn’t seek to assign blame; he can remain friends with someone whom he disagrees. This is another hallmark of a strong friendship.

Worf’s subplot seems fairly orthogonal to the main storyline. Differences between TNG and DS9 are explicitly woven in. Worf struggles with the fact that security on a station is a much more fluid and ambiguous affair compared to a starship. In fact, Worf’s rigid sense of right and wrong forced Odo to settle for the little fish in the smuggling ring. Quark’s shade of grey is how his actions aren’t that bad, and by using him, Odo is able to address bigger, more systematic criminal enterprises. Quark’s presence also has larger positive effects; Quark remaining on the station in Emissary (Ep. 1.1) is a cornerstone for restarting commerce and life on the Promenade. Worf is learning that the rules don’t define what is right and wrong on DS9. In fact, his approach seems so amateurish compared to Odo that Quark mocks Worf in the opening scene. That would have more sting though had Worf not so easily barged in on Quark to arrest him. Worf also blunders through the command structure on DS9. He goes over Odo’s head to Sisko and bungles a sting; Odo rightfully is livid at Worf’s interference.

Random Thoughts: 1) I don’t think it’s the right use of the literary term, but I would say this episode and Armageddon Game (Ep. 2.13) are foils of each other. Bashir’s growth in confidence over the last two seasons is clear through his actions in this episode. 2) The actor who plays Goran’Agar has a smattering of TV guest appearances, including several on Star Trek. In DS9, he also played Tosk from Captive Pursuit (Ep. 1.6). 3) I like the scientific components here as well. Goran’Agar speaks of his withdraw from the White so simply, and Bashir’s research mind sees many more possibilities. 4) I think that O’Brien lives because of Bashir’s compassion. Goran’Agar would not have saved them at the runabout had he not formed a bond with Bashir. 5) The Jem’Hadar very quickly size up the two and the runabout. Both Bashir and O’Brien are evaluated both as targets and as assets. We also get insight into how Dominion society is structured. The Jem’Hadar revere the Founders as gods, though they are controlled through the Vorta; these are two chains the Founders have to control the Jem’Hadar. 6) I love how Worf’s dialogue is written sometimes: “I remain vigilant.” 7) Bashir and O’Brien have a robust friendship at the start. Bashir is platonically mocking O’Brien (“You wish Kieko were a man?”). 8) This is the first direct mention of the White and its purpose (i.e. control). 9) The Jem’Hadar child from The Abandoned (3.6) is referenced. 10) Sisko is seen working on the clock from Dramatis Personae (Ep. 1.18).

Episode 4.3: The Visitor

•June 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The sci-fi and fantasy genres utilize a storytelling method that is more rare in other genres of TV. This episode leaves open the question of whether the entire story, the experience of the older Jake, ever happened at all. This method is beneficial because it allows the setting of a show to go to an unpleasant ending, but not disrupt the broader series narrative. This episode portrays quite a tragic experience for Jake, but this gets reset in the last 2 minutes of the episode. All of the future what we saw, except for the snippets that Sisko was present for, are lost to the collective knowledge of the characters. DS9 engages this method a couple other times; Far Beyond the Stars (Ep. 6.13) is another where the viewer is unsure whether it happens in the canonical DS9 world or is standalone.

This episode is a tragedy. I initially thought that Jake losing his father was the impetus for him missing out on his life. But that’s not really the case. It is when Sisko reappears in Jake’s mid-life, at age 37, that Jake is shattered. All the mourning he did was completely undone. Jake’s thrown back to a moment when he’s most vulnerable and most terrified for his father. He switches to doing anything he can to save him, even if it means giving up on his family and his talents. More than that, Jake ends up missing life. That’s the central thematic element of this story: Missing life due to singular focus is tragic. It makes me ponder how my life has been shaped by the events of my past. It’s actually a beautiful thing that our species is capable of; we can speculate on what could have happened. Our minds are able to literally conceive of what doesn’t exist. It can get us into trouble, which is a main message in this episode, but I believe it’s a core element to what makes us uniquely human.

There is the implication that Jake and Sisko’s souls are interconnected in a way that transcends the physical. At the moment of Jake’s death, Sisko is snapped back to the moment of the accident. The death of Jake is an infinitesimal change in the physical makeup of Jake. It is only when the spark of life within Jake has fully gone out that Sisko returns to normal space in his normal time. Our connections to the people around us, particularly influential people like our parents, goes beyond physical interactions. It’s more than gravity and electromagnetism. Even at 18, Jake needs his father still. He carried that throughout the rest of his life, like an anchor; the sci-fi premise of Jake pulling Sisko through time is symbolic of this. I find this elegant, and a lovely reminder that we are connected to those who are closest to us, not by some physical techno-babble, but by the spiritual bonds we form.

Random Thoughts: 1) While I see enjoyable, interesting themes here, this wasn’t one of my favorite episodes. I can’t really put my finger on why. However, I have to note that this is an extremely popular episode, often ranking in the Top 5 episodes on various lists and polls. 2) The episode begins as “a dark and stormy night.” The episode is structured to resemble a novel. 3) Jake is 18 here at the start of Season 4. That makes him 15 at the start of the series and probably 22 at the end of the series. 4) Tony Todd is another of the great guest actors DS9 was able to acquire. He already had Star Trek credits though. He was Kurn in TNG, a role which he will reprise in DS9. He’s had other notable repeat appearances in sci-fi. 5) Melanie is played by Rachel Robinson, Andrew Robinson’s daughter (Garak). She also auditioned for the role of Ezri, but obviously wasn’t selected. 6) The future uniforms and combadges are the same as those in TNG All Good Things… (Ep. 7.25/26). 7) There are some light themes here regarding Jake’s boyhood-to-manhood journey. We need our fathers, or a father figure, to complete that journey. Men learn from those who came before; we all stand on the shoulders of giants. 8) Jake’s work with O’Brien allowed him to help Sisko in a crucial moment: finding the right tool. 9) Quark’s compassion comes through a bit, when he allows Nog time to be with Jake. 10) The name of the book, Anslem, is the book that Jake writes in The Muse (Ep. 4.21). 11) Without Sisko, the Dominion War never happens. This could be a convenience, but it more likely that Sisko’s leadership forces the Dominion’s moves. 12) When Jake gives Melanie his notes, that is his legacy as a writer. She will incorporate his style into her own works. 13) Upon death, Jake grabs the baseball, as both a comfort for what he is about to do and as a way to more deeply connect to his father. Several times throughout the series, the baseball is symbolic of Sisko. 14) I think it is strongly implied that Bashir and Dax are married. I’ve yet to remember where, but I know Ezri says sometime that if it wasn’t for Worf, Jadzia would have chosen Julian. By abandoning DS9, Jadzia and Worf never got a chance. 15) It’s also ironic and tragic that in this timeline, Jadzia is very much alive into old age. 16) Kira dons a new uniform, one that she’ll keep for the rest of the series. I like this change. The old one was rough and brutish, I think. This one is more stylish and freer. 17) This episode was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Makeup.

Episode 4.1: Way of the Warrior

•June 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I’ve seen Way of the Warrior listed in the top episodes of DS9 many times, and I think it rightfully earns that place. Other than Emissary (Ep. 1.1) and What You Leave Behind (Ep. 7.26), this is the only episode to be originally aired in a single two-hour block. The Dominion’s threat plays a major role in how this episode proceeds, but it is only a shadow of the Dominion that is present. There is only one Changeling amongst all the characters in this episode (Martok). Diplomatic situations are often balanced very finely. All the Changeling needs to do is give a slight push in the right direction at the right time, and the fragile peace falls apart. It will be a full season before Martok’s true identity is revealed, and the activities of this episode appear completely to be the natural consequence of the fear of the Dominion threat, the culture of the Klingons, and the vulnerability of the Cardassians. Yet it is Martok who pushes in the right places to cause the Khitomer Accords to crumble. His influence is subtle, magnificent, and it’s great storytelling.

The station itself again takes on a personal tone, as if it was a character. The military upgrades to the station are reflective of the changed nature and purpose of the station in galactic politics. This isn’t an outpost dealing with local problems. War is looming. The station must be able to weather the coming storm, as much as her crew must be prepared. The actions in the opening scene are the crew learning the station in a whole new light. They must know her intimately and better than any Changeling. She is both a home to the crew and an ally in the fight. The upgrades to the station are an homage to the deception Sisko played on the Cardassians in Emissary (Ep. 1.1), and that original deception is mirrored in Martok’s words. This time, it’s no trick. The incredible irony and poetry is that these upgrades were made to fight the Dominion, yet they’ll be used because of the Dominion’s influence.

I’m sure the reason Worf was brought over was to attempt to recapture some of the TNG viewing audience, and for characters to crossover, I think he was the best of the TNG crew to do so. He’s always been an outsider, which was quite appropriate on a station where different galactic cultures were clashing. Worf himself didn’t assimilate well into station life, which fit his character. His switch to command is crucial to his fitting into DS9 after TNG. It shows that his character has notably progressed and that he will be different than he was in TNG. He also enabled a huge number of storylines surrounding honor, the Klingon ethical code, and Klingon spirituality. The show dynamic wasn’t thrown into upheaval, however. Worf is forced to face the consequences of his choices, and his interactions with non-crewmembers are recurrent. His relationship with the real Martok is immensely satisfying. Finally, his presence isn’t overwhelming. He catalyzes many storylines and plays an integral role in many others, but the writers don’t allow him to become the focus too often. In this episode, Worf refuses to back away from the consequences of his actions, and he stands firmly with his honor.

A element that is added to DS9 is the presence of the Klingons. The title of this episode, Way of the Warrior, is clearly a nod to the role the Klingons will play in the rest of the series. “Way of the Warrior” is reminiscent of the Japanese code of honor, Bushido. Culturally, the Klingons are a mix of Japanese, Viking, and Native American cultures. They are proud, war-like, principled, and honorable people. They live by a code, which enables fantastic storylines. In this episode, and throughout the rest of Season 4, this code portrays the Klingons straddling the line between outright enemies and dangerous friends. The crew is forced to, with one hand, fence with the Dominion to keep them at bay, while with the other hand attempt to convince the Klingons of a common enemy. I’m convinced that the breaking of the Khitomer Accords was because the Klingons were outraged the Federation would stand by doing nothing while they were giving their lives in battle against the Dominion threat. Why ally with cowards? While the main narrative they are involved in is the war with the Dominion, that culture, primarily through Worf, also allows DS9 to engage themes and stories around honor, death, and justified aggression. The Klingon characters become some very real characters as well. In particular, the real Martok struggles deeply with his own competency, leadership ability, and how he could thrive in the face of adversity. Once the Federation and the Klingons have a common enemy, that relationship thrives beautifully, both on the individual-level between characters and broadly between cultures.

Martok is totally a changeling at this point. First of all, his character is not the same as the Martok in later seasons. This Martok is deceptive; he tells Sisko he’ll speak to Gowron, but instead orders an attack on Cardassia. He’s also insulting to others and attacking innocents. Succinctly, this Martok is without honor. Once we meet the real Martok in Purgatory’s Shadow (Ep. 5.14), we meet a Klingon who deeply respects the honor of himself and others, even if they are not Klingons. Secondly, upon meeting him, the real Martok claims he was in the camp for 2 years, which was before this time. An important consequence of this is that the Changelings already know how to defeat the blood test. Changeling Martok initiates it with Sisko and Kira.

As much as I love the philosophical elements of DS9, the action that is interwoven is an equal pillar to why I think this series is so fantastic; it’s also the primary reason why I love Way of the Warrior. There are multiple scenes involving action in this episode. There are a couple space battles and some firefights shown directly onscreen. DS9 made a significant shift in this episode toward showing the action and the consequences (to be fair, the change was started during The Die is Cast, Ep. 3.21, but that was just a teaser). This was an intentional move by the producers, which accomplished a couple things that I see. It spiced up the show, to be honest. I certainly loved the stories up to this point, but the action elements that become standard round out the show more fully, in my opinion. As I said in one of my opening blogs, I see DS9 as doing TV extremely well, and that pursuit requires multiple pillars: good storytelling, action, excellent characters, clever dialogue, humor, and thoughtful themes. The introduction of action also enabled a different kind of storytelling to occur. Stories with action are more frantic, more dire, and have visceral kinds of consequences. The Siege of AR-558 (Ep. 7.8) comes to mind. In that episode, as here in Way of the Warrior, the action enhances the emotional elements of the episodes.

The Cardassians fundamentally change. With the destruction of the Obsidian Order, the military rule of Cardassia simply cannot stand. Civilian rule, gained through the dissident movement, is established. The Cardassians, both the ones like Dukat who wish to preserve the old order and ones like Garak who desire a new Cardassia, begin to lose their identity. The authoritarian feel of Cardassian society crumbles during the war with the Klingons. It resurges with the Dominion’s occupation, but instead of the oppressors, they are the oppressed. But those changes are to come.

Finally, there are a ton of title sequence changes. Certainly Worf is credited, which was a bit of a giveaway when first watching it. Sisko is now billed as a Captain. Dax also got a promotion. The intro song changed tempo, has a stronger beat, and has more melodic nuance to it. There is more activity around the station itself, with extra-vehicular repair drones around the hull and more ships about. The Defiant is present, and instead of a runabout going through the wormhole at the end, it is the Defiant doing that. Finally, Siddig El Fadil changes his stage name to Alexander Siddig. He did this because he found Siddig El Fadil was difficult for others to use. Apparently, Alexander was chosen from a hat. His full name is much longer (see Wikipedia).

Random Thoughts: 1) J. G. Hertzler, the actor who plays Martok, is mostly known for this role. But he’s another fantastic actor who plays a supporting role. Incidentally, since DS9, he’s been elected to the town council of Ulysses, NY and was arrested with another Star Trek alum, James Cromwell. They were arrested for disorderly conduct while protesting environmental issues. 2) On the box set, this episode has a production code of 718, which is completely out of order from surrounding episodes (which are in the 470s). Randomly, Emissary (Ep. 1.1) has a code of 721. I’ve no idea why this is. It might be related to the fact they were both originally aired in a single two-hour block. 3) This episode was dedicated to the memory of two production crewmembers, Duffy Long and Ronald W. Smith. 4) Sisko remains bald through the rest of the series. A change that Avery Brooks loved and I think makes Sisko seem much more at ease. 5) Both Kasidy and Sisko are very well dressed during their date; their relationship is quite serious. 6) It is 8 weeks to cross the Federation at maximum warp. 7) The Khitomer Accords that are mentioned (and broken) here are from the 6th TOS movie, The Undiscovered Country. 8) The shedding of blood to prove one isn’t a Changeling already has become ritualized. 9) Along with action, DS9 got a little more adult with Dax and Kira in bathing suits. Very little, given our current Game of Thrones precedent. 9) Odo and Garak are having the breakfast they spoke of in The Die is Cast (Ep. 3.21). 10) I love the line, “I’m not sure Constable Odo has a mother.” 11) There is a model of the International Space Station in Sisko’s office. A similar tradition to TNG having models of Enterprise clipper ships in Picard’s office. 12) The Klingons have a shoot first and find evidence later attitude. 13) Dax goes to fight Worf, not to beat him, but to simply show she is worthy to give him advice. 14) I greatly enjoyed the scene between Worf and Odo. Two good actors whose characters have a kinship and are struggling with an unpleasant reality. 15) Using Garak as a conduit to Dukat and the Cardassians brings Garak was excellent, and given they did it without directly telling him, the crew gained more respect from Garak. His loyalty to them increased (though it never outstrips his loyalty to Cardassia). 16) Kira is given direct command of DS9; her standing is also increased this season. Overall, the crew isn’t green anymore. Even Bashir takes on several leadership roles. 17) Dax and Sisko’s bet about Dukat’s thankfulness was hilarious! 18) The scene between Quark and Garak about their helplessness and their dependence on the Federation is striking. They both despise yet need their hope in the Federation. Alien takes on, and challenges to, the Roddenberry philosophy of paradise. Drink enough of it, and you’ll begin to like it. 19) While I mentioned many funny lines in this episode, the best is this. Quark: “I’ll kill him!” Odo: “With what?” 20) Garak is protecting the council because he wants to protect the change they represent. Dukat is there because he’s an opportunist. 21) During the hand-to-hand combat, Worf is a leaf on the wind. Without the same ending as Wash. 22) Excellent line: “I don’t think so. My shields are holding, your boarding parties are contained, and my reinforcements are closer than yours.” 23) Gowron shows some wisdom, with prompting from Worf, to not fight a two-front war. Martok wants to keep going. Who’s the Changeling again? 24) Quark reopening the bar, and Morn being the first to enter, is a symbol of life returning to normal on the station. That symbolic act is used a lot.  25) I ended up with about 5 pages of notes on this episode, with so many things I could talk about. Scarily, this is my pared back blog post.