Written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by James L. Conway
Season 5, Episode 1
Production episode 40510-499
Original air date: September 30, 1996
Station log: We get a summary of the events of “Broken Link,” most notably Odo stating that Gowron is a changeling, then we cut to Ops. Kira, Worf, and O’Brien are apprehensive because Sisko and Dax are late returning from their meeting with Starfleet Command. Kira and Worf get into a brief pissing match over whether or not to take the Defiant to search for them when the Rio Grande shows up—damaged, but intact and with Sisko and Dax safe.
For the first time since the Khitomer Accords, the Federation and Klingons are at war. Starfleet Command has assigned Sisko to lead an infiltration team to publicly prove that Gowron’s a changeling.
Since becoming a solid, Odo has been spending his off-duty time in Quark’s—he even now has a usual table—being supremely depressed about everything. Sisko approaches him while he waxes rhapsodic about the bubbles in ale to tell him that he wants Odo on the mission. Odo is less than enthused, but Sisko makes it clear that it’s an order.
Gowron has relocated Klingon military operations to Ty’Gokor, one of the most heavily fortified installations in the empire. Assuming they can infiltrate Ty’Gokor, they can set up polaron radiation emitters, which will destabilize a changeling. The problems are several: it’s a prototype that hasn’t been tested, so they don’t know if it’ll work; they can only use it for a few seconds or everyone in the room, changeling or humanoid, will die of radiation poisoning; and to get to Ty’Gokor they have to get through a tachyon detection grid, which makes going in the Defiant impossible, as the grid will detect the cloak, and get past his bodyguards, the Yan-Isleth.
Getting to Ty’Gokor is actually the easy part, because they know someone with a Klingon ship to borrow: Dukat, who’s still bapping around in his stolen Bird-of-Prey. Bashir has surgically altered Sisko, Odo, and O’Brien to look like Klingons (Worf, meanwhile, has let his hair down and shaved his beard). There’s an induction ceremony for the Order of the Bat’leth in a few days, and Gowron will preside over it. Dukat is creating new identities for the four of them to insert in the Klingon central net, and will also add their names to the rolls for induction. The ceremony is their best shot at exposing Gowron in front of bunches of Klingons.
Worf is giving a tutorial in how to be Klingon. Sisko’s getting the hang of it right quick, but Odo and O’Brien are having a lot more trouble. Dukat is hailed by another Bird-of-Prey, which he says happens all the time. However, the holofilter he uses for visual communications is on the fritz, so Dukat—rather than let Worf try to bluff their way out of it—destroys the ship. Sisko and the others are, to say the least, unhappy.
Back on the station, Jake stands in his and Nog’s old spot overlooking the Promenade, and he comments to Bashir that you can always tell how things are going on the station by how people move on the Promenade. If they walk slow, window shop and such, things are well. If they walk fast, things are bad—and they’re all walking real fast right now.
Dukat drops them off at Ty’Gokor. He has no intention of sticking around to extract them, especially with the holofilter down. Besides, if they succeed, they can get home on their own, because the war will be over, and if they fail, they’ll be dead.
They beam down and join the party in the Hall of Warriors. A hall full of Klingons are drinking, singing, eating, laughing, and head-butting. Worf explains that it’s an endurance test as much as it is a celebration. If you’re still conscious and clear-eyed after partying all night, you’re worthy of your award.
General Martok arrives at one point, which concerns the crew, as he knows them. But he walks right by them without giving any indication he knows them. Martok’s presence also means Gowron should be along shortly, so they start placing the polaron emitters at various spots around the hall. There are moments of tension when Martok almost recognizes O’Brien and Odo drops his emitter, where it’s picked up by another warrior who wants to know what it is. Odo panics, but Worf gets him out of it by saying, “You found it!” and declaring it to be a Vulcan toy for children that Odo’s Klingon persona salvaged during the battle at Archanis.
Then Gowron arrives and starts the ceremony. Martok calls off names of warriors who then come to the stage to be given their insignia indicating that they are members of the Order. Just as Sisko’s about to activate the emitters, his Klingon alter ego is called to the stage. While Gowron doesn’t recognize him, Martok does and clubs him with the hilt of his bat’leth. However, after they’re imprisoned, Martok speaks to them alone, and Sisko realizes that Martok has suspected that Gowron is a changeling for months. His behavior changed after the attack on Deep Space 9, he stopped listening to his generals, and their losses continued to mount.
Martok says the only way to be sure is to assassinate Gowron. Worf suggests that Martok challenge Gowron, but Martok says there will be no honorable combat—he’ll get Sisko and the others to the hall and they will kill him. However, while Martok lets Sisko, Worf, and O’Brien in, he stops Odo—he doesn’t know where the latter’s loyalties lie.
Worf immediately challenges Gowron and they duel. Sisko blasts one warrior who tries to intervene, and Gowron verbally stops another from doing so. This will be a duel between Klingons. Martok is confused as to why Sisko doesn’t just use his disruptor to kill Gowron—
—and that’s when Odo puts it all together. His people don’t care about honor, and Martok’s words that there would be no honorable combat are not those of a Klingon. Gowron isn’t the changeling—Martok is.
Just as Worf’s about to kill Gowron, Odo—while locked in physical combat with Martok—reveals that the changeling is Martok. The Martok changeling reveals himself, and then Sisko, followed by basically every Klingon in the joint, shoots him.
Gowron can’t agree to end the war right there—battle has begun, and it must be finished—but Odo reminds him that talking is just what the Dominion doesn’t want them to do. He will advise a temporary cease-fire to the High Council, and also grant them safe passage back to DS9. Gowron thanks Sisko for the service he has done the empire. When they return to the station, Bashir restores everyone’s faces—Sisko says that he won’t miss the ridges, but he does miss the fangs. Odo—who says he won’t miss the fangs at all—declines Bashir’s offer to make his face whatever he wants. He’s happy to go back to his own unformed face.
The Sisko is of Bajor: At one point, Sisko overhears a warrior standing in front of the bloodwine barrel, bragging about a Starfleet captain he killed—who was an Academy-mate of Sisko’s. The captain beats the crap out of him, and then covers it with, “Brag all you want! But don’t stand between me and the bloodwine!” He also mentions that he was the captain of the Academy wrestling team—and then adds, while clutching his right arm, “twenty-two years ago. Ow!”
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira has an amusing scene where she blames Bashir for her pregnancy, which is an entertaining in-joke, since Nana Visitor’s real-life pregnancy was fathered by Alexander Siddig. She also tweaks Dukat with regard to who the father of the baby she’s carrying is.
The slug in your belly: From a story perspective, Dax would’ve been a good choice to go on the mission, but from a real-world perspective, Terry Farrell is allergic to the prosthetics. That was why they changed the Trill makeup from what it was in “The Host” to the spots, to accommodate Farrell’s allergy.
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo being kicked out of the Great Link has affected his personality, and also his day-to-day existence. He at first thought the process of ingesting food and drink to be disgusting, but he’s gotten used to it, and when Sisko finds him at Quark’s during happy hour, he looks like he’s enjoying drinking a little too much.
There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf actually does very well here, training Odo and O’Brien and Sisko in how to be Klingon—at which he’s very successful, as they all do well once the ceremony starts—and getting Odo’s polaron emitter back. One wishes Dukat had let him bluff their way out of the Bird-of-Prey encounter. And, in the end, he defeats Gowron, and only doesn’t kill him because Odo reveals the Martok changeling.
Rules of Acquisition: When Sisko goes to Quark’s to find Odo, he asks if the captain is there for happy hour. “Do I look happy, Quark?” Sisko asks tartly, but Quark points out that none of the happy people in the bar were happy when they walked in. He’s making it his responsibility to make sure that, in these dark times of Klingon wars and Dominion threats, his bar is an oasis of happiness. (Presumably, with his being declared persona non grata by the FCA, he’s jumping with both feet into the community leader role Sisko blackmailed him into back in “Emissary.”)
For Cardassia! Damar derides the plan as foolish, and thinks they should just bombard Ty’Gokor from orbit. Odo and O’Brien point out that that plan is at least as foolhardy, as the shields on the base can withstand a lot more than one ship can dish out.
Victory is life: The Dominion’s plan was to pretend to hide the “fact” that Gowron is a changeling from Odo in the Great Link in order to get Starfleet to try to assassinate Gowron and deepen the animosity between the two powers, thus paving the way for a Dominion invasion. The plan only doesn’t work because Odo figures out that Martok is the changeling, not Gowron.
Tough little ship: Worf wants to take the Defiant out to search for Sisko and Dax when they’re running late, but Kira won’t let him. He comes within a hairsbreadth of defying her and taking the Defiant anyhow—since he is in command of the ship in Sisko’s absence, while Kira’s in charge of the station—but Kira reminds him that Sisko’s actual orders were for the Defiant to protect the station. When Sisko and Dax arrive, Worf apologizes by doing Kira the courtesy of asking her permission to welcome the pair aboard.
Keep your ears open: “I hope I can remember how to set this thing up.”
“If that is a joke, I am not amused.”
“It’s not easy to be funny wearing these teeth.”
O’Brien trying to lighten the mood for an unwilling Worf.
Welcome aboard: J.G. Hertzler is back as what turns out to have been the changeling impersonating Martok. He’ll be back as the real Martok in “By Inferno’s Light.” Casey Biggs establishes himself as recurring with his return as Damar, and Marc Alaimo and Robert O’Reilly are back as Dukat and Gowron.
Trivial matters: Gowron’s promise that Worf won’t get another chance to kill him will prove to be false, as they will duel again in “Tacking Into the Wind.”
Your humble rewatcher provided the background of the Order of the Bat’leth in the novel A Good Day to Die: that the Lady Lukara, Kahless’s mate, created the Order after Kahless’s ascension to Sto-Vo-Kor to make sure that Kahless’s teachings would still be followed in the absence of the presence of Kahless. As the centuries passed, the Order became more ceremonial, as we see it in this episode. Part of the plot of A Good Day to Die and its followup Honor Bound is the Order returning to its original function. We also see the induction ceremony at the beginning of A Good Day to Die, and when Klag puts out a call to members of the Order in Honor Bound, we see the responses of H’Ta, T’Vis, and Huss, the three inductees from this episode. Huss also appears in your humble rewatcher’s A Singular Destiny. Other Order inductees seen in those two novels include Klag (from TNG’s “A Matter of Honor”), K’Vada (from TNG’s “Unification” two-parter), and Worf, who is inducted in A Good Day to Die.
Ty’Gokor will be seen again in the Enterprise episode “Judgment.” After the Borg invasion in the Destiny trilogy by David Mack devastates Qo’noS, Martok temporarily moves the seat of the Klingon Empire to Ty’Gokor in A Singular Destiny.
Sisko’s past as captain of the Federation wrestling team will come up again, most notably in “Take Me Out to the Holosuite.”
Michael Dorn was looking forward to his co-stars enduring what he endured every day with Klingon makeup, but while it was no big deal for Rene Auberjonois, and while Avery Brooks was apparently okay with it, Colm Meaney spent the entire time filming complaining about the prosthetics, to the point where Dorn specifically petitioned the producers to never put Meaney in prosthetics ever again.
The last time Auberjonois appeared in Klingon makeup, it was also a disguise: in Star Trek VI, his Colonel West disguised himself as a Klingon who tried to assassinate Azetbur.
Vilix’pran has apparently been promoted to lieutenant since “Heart of Stone” and is budding again.
Walk with the Prophets: “What’s the matter, Dukat—haven’t you ever seen a Klingon before?” A solid season opener that once again sets the status quo on fire, and includes a very nice twist. The notion of Gowron being a changeling is one that’s actually fun to deal with because he’s a character we’ve known for years now on two shows, going all the way back to “Reunion” on TNG. But it’s something we can believe given his aggressive posture in “Broken Link” of invading Archanis.
So the twist we get that it’s Martok is brilliant, especially because of how well the changeling (and J.G. Hertzler) sells Martok’s “suspicions” that Gowron is a changeling.
Odo’s figuring it out is a slightly problematic bit of writing, as half of it makes sense. Martok has the same contempt for Odo that we saw in the changeling disguised as Admiral Leyton in “Paradise Lost,” notably when he keeps Odo out of the hall.
But while that’s enough to arouse Odo’s suspicions—and also drag him out of the funk he’s been in all episode, rambling about bubbles, dropping emitters, and so on—what clinches it is the Martok changeling’s lack of understanding of pretty basic concepts of honor.
Except this makes no sense. The Founders have proven to be superb at disguises. O’Brien, Sisko, and Odo are able to pass as Klingons after just a few days of tutoring from Worf on Dukat’s ship. Why can’t the Martok changeling, who’s been in the role for years, understand something so incredibly basic to the Klingon culture as an honorable duel?
Getting there, however, has been tremendous fun. The tension over the war with the Klingons is palpable in the teaser, as well as the interlude with Jake and Bashir back at the station (that scene serves as a nice prelude to “Nor the Battle to the Strong”), and you can feel the urgency and desperation of Sisko’s mission. It’s actually a pretty good plan, and it’s tremendous fun to see our heroes as disguised Klingons. I especially adore how each character responds to being a Klingon: Odo is terrible at it, mostly because he’s already in pretty poor shape from his depression over the Founders’ judgment; O’Brien is uncomfortable, but manages well enough (particularly his bluff against Martok); and Sisko jumps in with both feet, making himself into a fantastic Klingon.
Even with the not-entirely-convincing ending, though, this is a fun episode with tension and stakes and head-butting and other family values. It also gives Odo a chance to get his mojo back. The early scene of him staring at bubbles in Quark’s is heartbreaking, and he doesn’t get any better despite two different pep talks from Sisko. What brings him out of it, of course, is a puzzle to solve. Like any good detective, he thrives on seeking out the truth, and he finds it when the Martok changeling gives him clues.
But what’s best about this episode is that Dukat was wrong. He said that if the mission was successful the war would be over, and it isn’t. Gowron can’t just stop the war with a snap of his fingers, and it’s clear that he doesn’t entirely want to, either. No, this is just the first step to peace, and it’s going to take a lot more to make the Federation and the Klingons allies again…
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that his latest Star Trek book The Klingon Art of War officially goes on sale on the 6th of May, and it’s already started showing up in some bookstores. You can also order the book online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, or directly from the publisher. He’s talked about the book on the podcasts Trek Radio, the G & T Show, and SciFi Diner. He’ll be doing three signings for the book in May: at Singularity & Co. in Brooklyn, New York on Friday the 9th, at Pandemonium Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Thursday the 15th, and at the Enigma Bookstore in Queens, New York on Saturday the 17th.