Written by David Mack & John J. Ordover
Directed by Alexander Singer
Season 4, Episode 6
Production episode 40514-479
Original air date: November 13, 1995
Station log: The Defiant is meeting with the Karemma in the Gamma Quadrant to discuss problems with the trade agreements made between the Federation and the Karemma—which are quickly revealed in a meeting among Sisko, Quark, and the Karemma representative Hanok to be all due to fees and taxes and tariffs levied by the Ferengi, who are serving as intermediaries.
On the bridge, Worf is cranky about slow response times in weapons drills, and Kira expresses disappointment to Dax that they’re missing Ha’mara, the anniversary of the Emissary’s arrival. Kira suspects that Sisko scheduled the negotiations so he could avoid the festival, since he’s still uncomfortable with his role as Emissary.
Two Jem’Hadar ships approach. Worf puts the ship on red alert and summons Sisko to the bridge, leaving Quark in the mess hall. The Jem’Hadar are after the Karemma, punishing them for defying the Dominion and meeting with the Federation. The Karemma ship tries to lose the Jem’Hadar in the atmosphere of a gas giant, and Sisko takes the Defiant in after them.
Kira has an echo-location trick from the resistance that she and Dax make use of to expand their sensor range to try to find the Karemma and the Jem’Hadar. They find the Karemma that way—but then the Jem’Hadar show up and fire on the Defiant. They’ve lost impulse power and weapons. The ship is plummeting into the atmosphere. A hull breach means a deck needs to be evacuated—the force fields can’t hold up for long under the atmospheric pressure—and everyone gets out except for Bashir and Dax, who barely make it to a turbolift shaft.
Dax was down there effecting repairs, which worked, giving the ship impulse power back, and O’Brien and his people have modified a couple of atmospheric probes to become torpedoes. They find one Jem’Hadar ship via Kira’s echo-location method, and go to a full stop with all nonessential systems shut down. They fire the modified probe, programmed to hit the first metallic thing it encounters. It works, but not before the Jem’Hadar fires repeatedly on the Defiant. Sisko is badly injured and barely conscious, two other crew members are dead, and all power to the bridge is out. Kira and Ensign Carson treat Sisko, but he has a concussion. Kira stays on the bridge to keep Sisko awake and conscious, since lapsing into unconsciousness would be disastrous. Carson tries to find a medic, while Worf goes to engineering to try to take control of the ship from there.
Hanok is pissed off at Quark for cheating him, and Quark’s attempts to mollify him all fail. The problem is that the Karemma believe that merchandise has a set value based on the cost of the raw materials, the labor involved in creating it, transportation, and a reasonable markup, and that’s how they set their price. There’s no room for greed, which Quark finds disappointing. The Karemma way is just barter—there’s no gambling involved, no risk, but the Karemma don’t believe in gambling.
Bashir and Dax are trapped—their combadges can’t penetrate the atmospheric interference, and there’s no way out. It gets colder and colder, and they have to cuddle, which is just awful for them...
Kira’s attempts to keep Sisko awake are awkward and difficult—mainly because they only talk about work, and that’s all she can think of to discuss with him. Sisko groggily asks her to tell him a story, and she tells him about the three brothers who go to Jo’Kala. Before she can finish the story, she gets frustrated, scared Bajor will lose the Emissary. Against her better judgment, she gives him a stimulant and prays for him, even if it makes him uncomfortable. Sisko interrupts the prayer to ask what happened to the three brothers. After she finishes the story, he asks her to tell him another one.
Worf takes over engineering, snapping at Muniz and Stevens, two of O’Brien’s engineers (at one point, O’Brien has to remind Worf not to be such an asshole when dealing with enlisted engineers). They detect two torpedoes and avoid one, but the second strikes the ship, penetrating the hull to the mess hall—but it doesn’t detonate. Against Hanok’s better judgment, he and Quark try to defuse the defective torpedo before it decides to go ahead and explode. Quark manages to get the casing off, and then Hanok admits that it’s a torpedo the Karemma sold to the Jem’Hadar. Quark makes a snide comment about how he thought the Karemma never sold substandard merchandise. Unfortunately, Hanok isn’t sure which of the two diodes they need to remove—one will defuse it, the other will detonate it. Quark reaches for one, and of course it’s the right one because he’s the opening-credits regular on a TV show. Hanok is enthused at the emotional turmoil of the risk, and starts to come around to Quark’s POV on risk-reward excitement.
Taking O’Brien’s advice, Worf gives Stevens and Muniz a problem to solve: give him a weapon that will fire once. They hit on routing the phasers through the deflector array. O’Brien uses the echo-location to find the other Jem’Hadar ship, and then Worf orders Stevens to fire on them. The Jem’Hadar are destroyed, and then they find the Karemma ship in the atmosphere. Bashir and Dax are rescued, Muniz goes to deal with the torpedo only to find Quark and Hanok renegotiating their deal, and Sisko is treated.
Everyone makes it back safely to Deep Space 9. Hanok takes a spin at the dabo wheel—and wins, to Quark’s dismay and Odo’s great amusement—while Dax rescues Bashir from the world’s most boring conversation with Morn, thus making them even. Meanwhile, Sisko invites Kira to accompany him to a baseball game, which Kira happily accepts.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Dax needs to repair an ODN conduit in order to get impulse power back, and O’Brien, Muniz, and Stevens get to do all kinds of entertaining rerouting and reorganizing and stuff.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko is barely conscious for most of the episode, but he hears Kira babbling on about four-shift rotations enough to suggest that they look into it at episode’s end. He also invites Kira to a baseball game, the truest sign of friendship with Sisko.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira is frustrated by her continued inability to talk to Sisko about anything but work because she has a hard time reconciling her colleague and commanding officer Benjamin Sisko with the Emissary of the Prophets. But she manages it in the end...
She also uses an old resistance trick to help find other ships in the gas giant, using a trick they developed when hiding in the Badlands.
The slug in your belly: Dax fixes an ODN conduit, which saves the day, and her reward is to be stuck in a turboshaft with Bashir.
There is no honor in being pummeled: Between this and “Rejoined,” it appears that Worf is in charge of the day-to-day of the Defiant, and second in command to Sisko. As time goes on, this will become clearer, but it appears to be set up that Worf is the SIC on the Defiant, while Kira is SIC on the station. This makes sense, as DS9 is a Bajoran station and the Defiant is a Starfleet ship, although that doesn’t explain why Kira’s on this mission...
Worf gets to be in charge, and get some advice from his senior noncom on how to deal with the enlisted folk. Proving he’s not an idiot, he listens to O’Brien’s advice.
Rules of Acquisition: Quark admits that dealing with the Federation, who are apparently ridiculously easy to cheat, has made him lazy and so he gets caught by the Karemma. But he also introduces Hanok to the joys of gambling.
Victory is life: Following the events of “The Search, Part I,” the Karemma and the Federation have been trading partners, using the Ferengi as intermediaries. However, the Dominion doesn’t like this idea at all, and send two Jem’Hadar ships for the express purpose of taking it out on the Karemma.
Tough little ship: The Defiant gets its ass kicked, but it also kicks lots of ass, and wins in the end, though they only manage it with modified weapons, as the Jem’Hadar take out their primary weapons in their second attack.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Bashir admits that being stuck in a turbolift alone with Dax is very much like a fantasy he had in his early days on the station. Dax is disappointed that he doesn’t have that fantasy anymore, making Bashir decide that she liked his chasing her. That’s a generous interpretation, though Dax doesn’t deny it, and Bashir says he doesn’t have to chase her since he knows she liked it, so he doesn’t have to anymore. It’s tortured logic, but at least it means we don’t have to keep watching him make an ass of himself...
Keep your ears open: “The captain’s gotten us out of tougher spots than this. Last year, when the Romulans tried to invade the Founders’ homeworld, we went up against a dozen Jem’Hadar ships.”
“I know, Chief. You’ve told me the story.”
“Yeah? Well unless you want to hear it again, you’d better get down to the torpedo bay and start working on those probes!”
O’Brien motivating Stevens by telling him about “The Die is Cast.”
Welcome aboard: James Cromwell, who played Nayrok in TNG’s “The Hunted” and Shrek in the TNG two-parter “Birthright,” and who will go on to play Zefram Cochrane in First Contact and a couple of Enterprise episodes, plays Hanok. F.J. Rio, Jay Baker, and Sara Mornell play, respectively, Muniz, Stevens, and Carson. Rio will return as Muniz in “Hard Time” and “The Ship,” and he’ll appear as other characters in Voyager’s “Repentance” and Enterprise’s “Cogenitor.”
Trivial matters: This episode is one that I have a particular interest in, because the two people in the writer credit, David Mack and John J. Ordover, are numbered among my closest friends. For that reason, I was in on much of the writing of this episode, including an informal table read among a bunch of us of the script before they submitted it. Mack and Ordover’s original notion was that of a submarine-style story—indeed, they originally pitched it as being underwater, later changed to a gas giant. Mack’s original notion was to sink the Defiant, inspired by having watched Das Boot the night before.
At the time the episode was written, Mack was an aspiring screenwriter, and Ordover was the Senior Editor at Simon & Schuster in charge of the Star Trek novels. Ordover’s job gave him the in to pitch, and Mack had the creative spark for a lot of their stories, and they wound up collaborating on several scripts and comic books for many years, including a Voyager script that was purchased but never produced, the story for the DS9 episode “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” and the TNG/DS9 crossover comic book Divided We Fall.
The script received an uncredited page-one rewrite, which I mostly know because I was part of that aforementioned table read, and know that very little of Mack and Ordover’s script made it to the final episode. However, they received sole credit.
Ordover was responsible for a lot of innovation in the Trek novel line in his tenure, responsible for the first interseries crossovers (starting in 1996 with Invasion!), the first novels not based on one of the TV series (starting in 1997 with New Frontier). He remained at S&S until 2003 before moving on to Phobos Books; these days he’s the owner of the SoHo Art House, a space in New York City where your humble rewatcher had the launch for his short story collection Ragnarok and Roll, and which hosts the monthly New York Review of Science Fiction Readings, AniMiniCon, BaconPalooza, and many other cool events.
Mack moved over to the prose side of things, and has become one of the most prolific authors of Trek fiction in recent years, including the landmark Destiny trilogy and the New York Times best-selling Cold Equations trilogy. He collaborated with your humble rewatcher on the Starfleet Corps of Engineers story Invincible, and his SCE story Wildfire was similarly themed to “Starship Down,” in that the da Vinci had to go into the atmosphere of a gas giant, though the da Vinci took considerably more damage (and suffered more casualties) than the Defiant. Mack also co-created the original-series-era novel series Vanguard and Seekers.
While Stevens never appears again on screen, he became a regular in the aforementioned SCE series, given the first name of Fabian, and working as a structural systems engineer on the da Vinci. He also appeared in your humble rewatcher’s A Singular Destiny. (In the flashback to his arrival on the da Vinci in your humble rewatcher’s War Stories, he and Duffy—from TNG’s “Hollow Pursuits”—compare Chief O’Brien stories.)
Hanok is mentioned as being elected to the position of chief overseer for the Commercial Authority on Karemma in your humble rewatcher’s Q & A.
Ferengi trade with the Gamma Quadrant started in “Rules of Acquisition,” and have apparently continued apace since.
Kira’s four-shift rotation suggestion will be implemented in “Accession.”
The cap that Sisko gives Kira to wear for their baseball game belongs to the Homestead Grays, the Negro Leagues team that Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell, among others, played for. Sisko’s cap is the Pike City Pioneers cap that Kasidy Yates gave him in “The Way of the Warrior.”
The holiday of Ha’mara will be retroactively established in the eponymous short story in Prophecy and Change by Kevin G. Summers, which takes place right after “Emissary,” and has Kai Opaka officially declaring Sisko to be the Emissary.
Walk with the Prophets: “I hate the Gamma Quadrant.” This is a fun little episode, and I’m not just saying that because two friends of mine wrote it. If anything, I was hoping for better from the two of them. (And oh man, am I gonna hear it from them for that sentence...)
But it’s a very enjoyable action piece with suspense and thrills and character development. It’s very much like “Civil Defense” and TNG’s “Disaster” in that the crew is divvied up into different areas during a crisis. Just as the other two episodes had their weak spots (Quark and Odo, and La Forge and Crusher, respectively), this one has the limp Bashir-Dax pairing, which falls completely flat (and is also kind of creepy, trying to retroactively make Bashir’s near-stalking of Dax in season one into something she enjoyed; yuck).
The rest works just fine. Kira confronting the six-hundred-pound elephant of Sisko’s status as a major figure in her religion needed to be dealt with, and I like the way it played out, both with her storytelling at his urging and his invite to baseball at the end.
It’s good to see Worf learn more about command. He’s been a CO of a staff before, but those were security guards, and you figure his drill-sergeant style would work just fine there, but, as O’Brien said, engineers are different.
And the Quark-Hanok interaction is superb, two excellent actors playing nicely off each other. I like the contrast between the Karemma’s scientific, safe capitalism versus the Ferengi’s uncontrolled greed.
Still, the episode has its problems, beyond the Bashir-Dax stuff. Sisko’s “they may be closer than you think” to Kira makes absolutely no sense, and has had me scratching my head for decades now. Worf’s ordering of Stevens and Muniz to give him a weapon seems like a nice way to get them to do something and him to take O’Brien’s advice, but he says the modified probe is “unavailable”—why? The actual plan that he implements could just as easily have been done by the modified probe. It never makes any sense.
Still, as I said, it’s a fun little episode.
Warp factor rating: 6
Author’s note: Your humble rewatcher is running a Kickstarter for a new story in the Dragon Precinct universe, featuring the characters of Gan Brightblade and his friends from that novel. He hopes you’ll support it—just two bucks will get you a copy of the story itself! The project is funded, but that just means you’re guaranteed a story if you support it, plus there are stretch goals, the first of which is cookies! Details can be found here.
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Farpoint 2014 this weekend, both as an author and as a musician (his band Boogie Knights will perform Saturday at noon). Other guests include this episode’s co-writer David Mack, as well as actors Melissa McBride and Phil LaMarr, Star Trek authors Alan Dean Foster, Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Dave Galanter, Allyn Gibson, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Robert T. Jeschonek, Aaron Rosenberg, and Howard Weinstein, Klingon linguist Marc Okrand, and bunches more. The convention will be held at the North Baltimore Plaza Hotel in Timonium, Maryland. Here’s Keith’s schedule.