Episode 4.1: Way of the Warrior

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.

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~ by Joshua Black on June 8, 2017.

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