Fri
Apr 11 2014 3:00pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “To the Death”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: To the Death“To the Death”
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by LeVar Burton
Season 4, Episode 22
Production episode 40514-496
Original air date: May 13, 1996
Stardate: 49904.2

Station log: The Defiant returns from driving Breen privateers away from a Bajoran colony to find that the station has been attacked. The top of one of the upper pylons has been completely blown off. Kira reports that a Jem’Hadar strike team beamed in from a civilian transport, blew off the top of the pylon, and then stole a bunch of stuff from the science lab. They were gone before anybody knew what hit them.

Sisko takes the Defiant after them, as their ion trail is still traceable. It leads to the wormhole, so they cloak as soon as they reach the Gamma Quadrant. Dax tracks a badly damaged Jem’Hadar warship, broadcasting a distress signal. Sisko beams the seven survivors on board, and they’re greeted by six security guards, Sisko, Worf, and Odo—and their weapons have been removed in transport.

The survivors include six Jem’Hadar and one Vorta, Weyoun. First Omet’iklan wants to kill everyone on board, but Weyoun restrains him (barely). The same Jem’Hadar who attacked the station attacked the Jem’Hadar ship. In private conference with Sisko, Weyoun reveals that the Jem’Hadar who attacked the station and the ship are renegades. Dominion scientists discovered an Iconian gateway on Vandros IV, and the Jem’Hadar guards killed the scientists and are now trying to complete construction of the gateway (the stuff they stole from DS9 will help them in that goal). Weyoun doesn’t have time to bring in reinforcements, and he needs to keep the loyal Jem’Hadar from learning about the gateway for fear of their joining the renegades. If the renegades do control an Iconian gateway, they could take over the Dominion within a year. Weyoun also admits that the Jem’Hadar’s genetic compulsion to obey the Founders is a bit overstated—that’s why they need to be addicted to ketracel-white.

Understanding the danger to the Federation if the Jem’Hadar get the ability to go anywhere in the galaxy they want, Sisko agrees. The crew isn’t thrilled about the notion of working with the Jem’Hadar, but they don’t really have a choice.

Sisko meets with Omet’iklan in private first, making it clear that it’s his ship, he’s in charge, and both Omet’iklan and Weyoun will follow his lead on the mission. Omet’iklan agrees, at least until the renegades are destroyed. After that, all bets are off.

The base is covered in a dome made of neutronium, so they can’t attack from orbit (the only way to be sure). A ground assault is their remaining option. During the briefing, the Jem’Hadar talk trash at both Odo and Worf, and in the latter case Worf and Toman’torax almost come to blows before Sisko and Omet’iklan stop them.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: To the Death

They run drills on the Defiant. In one drill, they can’t secure the room—a third Jem’Hadar hadn’t yet unshrouded. After the simulation ends in failure, Omet’iklan states that there was no third Jem’Hadar, and they should’ve armed the explosive and stayed behind if the room wasn’t secure, thus exposing the difference in Starfleet tactics vs. Jem’Hadar tactics, as the latter are willing to die to achieve victory.

Omet’iklan insists that they have mixed teams, but Weyoun says that isn’t practical, at which point Omet’iklan drops the bombshell: he and his men know all about the gateways. Weyoun is stunned, and Sisko agrees to mixed teams.

Worf, Dax, Odo, and O’Brien are eating in the mess hall and gossiping when Omet’iklan comes in with a case containing the white. There’s a ritual involved with the distribution of fresh vials of white. Omet’iklan speaks his part with feeling; Weyoun speaks his part by rote and with annoyance that they interrupted his meal.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: To the Death

Toman’torax then taunts O’Brien, and Worf comes to his defense, leading to a brawl. Sisko confines Worf to quarters. Omet’iklan’s punishment is harsher: he snaps Toman’torax’s neck. Omet’iklan is disgusted at Sisko’s weakness, and promises to kill him when the mission ends.

Weyoun approaches Odo, telling him that his people want him to come home, regardless of what he’s done. They still love him, and Weyoun can get him back to his people. Odo refuses, even though Weyoun sees through his denial that he wants to go home (something it took Garak an entire torture session to learn).

Worf found out that Omet’iklan threatened Sisko. (Sisko comments that he didn’t think it was public knowledge, and Worf just looks at him and says, “You told Commander Dax,” which Sisko admits to explaining how it became public knowledge.) Worf advises Sisko not to go on the away mission, even though he knows Sisko won’t take the advice, and also promises to avenge Sisko’s death, should Omet’iklan succeed in his wishes.

The Defiant arrives at Vandros. O’Brien distributes weapons to everyone, even the Jem’Hadar. However, when they beam down, the phasers don’t work. Dax theorizes that the gateway is putting out a dampening field. They’re then ambushed by Jem’Hadar fighting with kar’takins—swords, basically. Omet’iklan’s people and Worf have edged weapons of their own, and they’re able to defeat the ambush, but two Starfleet security guards are killed. Everyone grabs a kar’takin and they continue with the assault. Worf, Odo, Dax, Virak’kara, and the rest create a diversion, allowing Sisko, Omet’iklan, and O’Brien to get to the gateway and set off the explosive. Along the way, Sisko saves Omet’iklan’s life, at the cost of the use of his right arm, which confuses the crap out of the Jem’Hadar.

Once the explosion goes off, Weyoun beams down, thrilled that the mission is a success. The phasers all work now, so as soon as Weyoun appears, Omet’iklan vaporizes the Vorta for questioning their loyalty. Omet’iklan remains behind to track down the remaining renegades, and leaves Sisko alive.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Neutronium was first mentioned in “The Doomsday Machine” on the original series. It’s supposed to be material made from a collapsed neutron star, which would make it so heavy that it can’t possibly be constructed on a planet, as no planetary crust could possibly support it.

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko gets to navigate the treacherous waters of a temporary alliance with the Dominion, and it’s to his credit that he’s never not in control of the situation. (Probably the most amusing is when Sisko reveals that he knows about the gateways, and Weyoun is completely shocked, as he obviously didn’t expect the lowly Federation to know anything about that.)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: To the Death

The slug in your belly: Dax and O’Brien have two sweet conversations. The first is about how Molly is crawling into bed with the O’Briens all the time now that Keiko is pregnant. They later discuss letters that they write to their loved ones on the eve of battle in case they don’t come home.

There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf has a favorite seat in the Defiant mess hall. When Bashir sits in it, Worf gives him a death glare until the doctor moves. He’s in the same seat later before he and Toman’torax get into their brawl.

Preservation of matter and energy is for wimps: Worf carries Odo around as a bag, meant to distract the Jem’Hadar and make them think Worf has the explosives, and then using him as an ace in the hole when they’re outnumbered.

Rules of Acquisition: Quark is worried when the upper pylon is destroyed, because Rom—in his new capacity as a Bajoran Militia engineer—was supposed to be working on an upper pylon, but Kira assures him that he’s okay.

Victory is life: Virak’kara reveals that Jem’Hadar don’t eat (the white provides nourishment), don’t rest, don’t have sex (they’re hatched in a lab and become mature in a few days, which matches what we saw in “The Abandoned”), and rarely live to be teenagers. Jem’Hadar over twenty are considered honored elders, and no Jem’Hadar has lived for thirty years.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: To the Death

Tough little ship: Almost all the action of the episode takes place on the Defiant, and they use the ship to perform battle drills, though the ship doesn’t get to show off all that much though, unlike last time, they only use the cloaking device in the Gamma Quadrant like they’re supposed to.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: When Dax discovers that the Jem’Hadar don’t have any form of recreation, she figures that she’d be angry, too, if that was all to her life.

Keep your ears open: “I am First Omet’iklan, and I am dead. As of this moment, we are all dead. We go into battle to reclaim our lives. This we do gladly, for we are Jem’Hadar. Remember, victory is life.”

“Victory is life.”

“Such a delightful people.”

“I am Chief Miles Edward O’Brien. I’m very much alive and I intend to stay that way.”

“Amen.”

Omet’iklan revealing the Jem’Hadar pre-battle oath, his troops responding, Weyoun making snide commentary, O’Brien providing his rebuttal to his own people, and Sisko giving a coda.

Welcome aboard: Jeffrey Combs returns for his third role, having played Tiron in “Meridian” and the recurring role of Brunt, now playing Weyoun. Despite being killed at the end, he was so impressive in the role that they brought him back (and established that Vorta are cloned) in “Ties of Blood and Water.”

Brian Thompson, having previously played Inglatu in “Rules of Acquisition,” as well as Klag in TNG’s “A Matter of Honor” and another Klingon in Generations, returns as Toman’torax. He’ll next be seen on Enterprise as a Romulan (also alongside Jeffrey Combs in a recurring role, there as Shran) in the three-parter that starts with “Babel One.” Scott Haven plays Virak’kara; he’ll be back in Voyager as a Kazon and First Contact as a security guard.

Finally, the great Clarence Williams III knocks it out of the park as Omet’iklan

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: To the Death

Trivial matters: The Iconian gateways were first mentioned in TNG’s “Contagion.” Worf makes reference to his part in the events of that episode at one point. The gateways were also central to the Gateways novel crossover event in 2001, which included your humble rewatcher’s novel Demons of Air and Darkness and the novellas Horn and Ivory and Here There Be Monsters.

This is the first time we hear the Jem’Hadar battle oath, spoken as they are about to go into battle. It’s also the first time we see the kar’takin, though it won’t be named until “Sons and Daughters.”

Amusingly, almost two years after the species’ introduction, it’s finally verified that the Vorta of whom Ornithar spoke in “The Search, Part I” are actually the same species that Eris (“The Jem’Hadar”) and Borath (“The Search, Part II”) are part of.

An alternate timeline version of Omet’iklan is seen in your humble rewatcher’s A Gutted World in Myriad Universes: Echoes and Refractions, where he’s in the vanguard of a Dominion invasion of the Alpha Quadrant. The character won’t be seen again onscreen, but will be cited again by Sisko in “Rocks and Shoals,” as well as the novel Fearful Symmetry by Olivia Woods, and by Ezri Dax in the novel Avatar by S.D. Perry.

This episode was filmed after “The Quickening,” but aired first.

Walk with the Prophets: “Then receive this reward from the Founders, may it keep you strong.” This is a remarkably solid action piece that includes some of the show’s best character work. There’s nothing overwhelmingly game-changing here, though we do get some good insights into the Vorta, the Jem’Hadar, and the Vorta-Jem’Hadar dynamic.

The other two Vorta we saw were both trying to be something else—Eris was posing as a prisoner, Borath as a Founder. In Weyoun we see our first workaday Vorta, and he’s magnificently slimy, the perfect bureaucrat. He obviously has contempt for everyone around him, yet either sucks up to them (Sisko, Odo), is witheringly dismissive of them (Omet’iklan), or ignores them (everyone else). Jeffrey Combs is simply superb in the role, and I’m so glad that they would contrive a way to bring him back.

As for the Jem’Hadar, we get our most in-depth look at them as something other than big, scary monsters. This is, at heart, a military unit, one that’s fanatical to a degree we’re not used to, but also still individuals who are smart and tough. The three Jem’Hadar we meet in depth are all distinct personalities. Omet’iklan is the wise, ruthless leader, the brutal strategist, the loyal soldier—but his loyalty is to the Founders, not the Vorta, whom he holds in obvious contempt. Toman’torax is a blowhard—pretty much the exact Jem’Hadar you’d expect Brian Thompson to play—who lets his anger and emotions get the better of him. Virak’kara is the eager young guy who wants to do everything he can to make himself a better soldier. Too often, you learn too much about a bad guy and they lose their teeth (Voyager suffered this problem with both the Borg and the Hirogen), but learning more about the Jem’Hadar just makes them scarier.

But what makes this episode an absolute delight is the interaction. This ensemble has come together beautifully, and the banter mixes in nicely with the action. There’s the brief conflict over Worf’s seat in the mess hall (though the funniest line is Dax urging Bashir not to sit there, and Bashir’s instinctive question is, “Did Miles spill something again?”). Once the plot kicks in, it’s mostly Dax and O’Brien who provide the entertaining levity, either together (the line about the get-to-know-you buffet after the briefing) or separately (Dax’s conversation with Virak’kara, O’Brien’s response to the Jem’Hadar pre-battle ritual).

The callback to “Contagion” is a nice touch. It’s not a vital connection to make, and the episode doesn’t do much with it—it’s just a Maguffin, just as it was in the TNG episode—but it’s a nice nod to the greater Trek universe, and it beats pulling yet another ancient race out of their asses. Much better to use an existing one.

What costs the episode a higher rating (though not by much) is the fact that a friggin piece of the station was blown clean off, and after the beginning of Act 1, it’s totally forgotten about. That’s kind of a big deal, and sets the episode up for something other than what it is. What it winds up being is fine, but it just feels like something that big shouldn’t just be abandoned never to be mentioned again.

 

Warp factor rating: 8


Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that he has a bunch of stuff coming out in the next few months: his latest Star Trek book, The Klingon Art of War; two anthologies that have Cassie Zukav stories in them, Out of Tune (edited by Jonathan Maberry) and Bad-Ass Faeries: It’s Elemental (edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jeffrey Lyman, L. Jagi Lamplighter, and Lee C. Hillman); an essay for the book New Worlds, New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics; a short story in the superhero anthology With Great Power; and the “Merciless” adventure for the Firefly role-playing game Echoes of War. If you’re not following Keith on Facebook or Twitter or reading his blog, why the heck not??????

57 comments
Alright Then
1. Alright Then
A fun episode. Too bad they never brought Omet’iklan back. And yeah, having part of the station blown off is a big deal. Guess they have spare pylons lying around for just such an occasion.
Alright Then
2. Eduardo Jencarelli
What costs the episode a higher rating (though not by much) is the fact thata friggin piece of the station was blown clean off, and after the beginning of Act 1, it’s totally forgotten about. That’s kind of a big deal, and sets the episode up for something other than what it is.

Truth be told, this isn't as bad as what happened on Voyager's second season, right around the same time as this episode, where the ship was crippled beyond repair, with major hull breaches.

Even with the ship stranded in the Delta Quadrant, all they had was Janeway delivering a log entry with the phrase: "repairs are continuing". Now, that was a slap in the face of intelligent viewers.

At least, DS9 has Bajoran and Federation support to conduct timely repairs.

Having said that, I'm surprised To the Death held up this well. Although very violent, it turned out very thoughtful and entertaining.

It's interesting just how well Behr and Wolfe balance character moments with plot and action. This episode is a prime example of that.

No offense to Ron Moore, but this is the reason why those two were the heart and soul of DS9 for so many years, the Lennon and McCartney of the DS9 writing staff.

You don't have to be a mythological expert. You don't have to strictly adhere to Roddenberry's Box. You don't have to deliver a human condition message every week. All you have to do is explore these characters in meaningful and entertaining ways (and occasionally pay homage to some golden-age Hollywood movies, the way Ira often tended to do).

And if the actors deliver, the way Combs did, all the better.
Christopher Bennett
3. ChristopherLBennett
Yeah, it's frustrating that the destruction of a major part of the station was ignored after that, and everything was back to normal the following week. It should've taken a month or two to rebuild that pylon. Of course, the problem is that the episodes weren't necessarily aired in production order. This episode aired the week before "The Quickening," but was produced the week after it. So it's debatable whether the next episode in the sequence would be "The Quickening" or "Body Parts."

Although for what it's worth, both those episodes take up a lot of time; "The Quickening" spans nearly a month, and "Body Parts" begins after Quark returns from a 2-week vacation (and there's no episode he's entirely missing from, though he's only glimpsed in the beginning of this one). So the pylon could be undergoing reconstruction in either of those episodes, or both if you put this one first. For what it's worth, the only station exteriors we see in "The Quickening" are closeups on the central portions of the station, with the pylons unseen. But the opening shot of "Body Parts" is of the full, intact station. So in airdate order, there's a gap of at least six weeks between the destruction of the pylon and our next glimpse of the intact station. Could that be why they inverted the episode order? To implicitly allow time for the pylon reconstruction?

This one does do a good job of fleshing out the Jem'Hadar, but it doesn't make me think all that highly of them. I don't respect anyone who deals or embraces death so casually. Killing anyone in your group who makes a mistake is stupid, because the only way to gain experience and wisdom is by learning from one's mistakes. If every soldier is killed at the first major error, then the entire unit will be made up of inexperienced or overconfident members. So I have to disagree with you, Keith -- it doesn't make the Jem'Hadar look scarier, it makes them look less competent.

Or, as George C. Scott said in Patton, "I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country." The Jem'Hadar are pathologically eager to die for their country, which puts them at a major disadvantage compared to Starfleet officers, who -- while not eager to make others die as an end in itself -- are dedicated to living for their country, to remaining intact so that they can contribute meaningfully to the cause, rather than just rushing into destruction and casually reducing their own numbers.

Of course, that's a function of the Jem'Hadar being bred as cannon fodder by a Dominion that has no respect for them as individuals. So it's understandable why they think that way even though it's against their best interests. But it shows a lack of judgment on the Founders' part. Their fundamental contempt for "solids" gives them a blind spot, because it makes them treat the Jem'Hadar more like munitions than people.

Still, in retrospect, it's remarkable how critical this one episode was to fleshing out so much about the Dominion. It established so much about J'H culture, it confirmed who the Vorta are, and it introduced Weyoun. Surprising, really, since plotwise it feels like kind of a standalone, a situation that was never really followed up on.

And it's kind of a waste that the one time TV Trek revisited the Iconians, it was as nothing more than a McGuffin in an episode about something entirely different. Yes, it's marginally better than bringing in yet another ancient alien race, but two references aren't much better than one. I often get frustrated that the Trek universe is so broad and shallow in its treatment of aliens, constantly bringing in new species and worlds rather than fleshing out ones mentioned in the past. It's a great deal of wasted potential and it makes the universe overly cluttered -- although it has given me and a lot of my Trek-novelist peers (Keith included) plenty of material to expand on.

Although the books haven't done that much with the Iconians either. They were more of a background element in Gateways even though their artifacts were more central. And aside from that, they only featured in one earlier novel, The Devil's Heart by Carmen Carter (which approached them differently than Gateways did). I think they've been used in a significant way in Star Trek Online, but I don't follow the game.
Alright Then
4. Eoin8472
So.....hows that blockade of the wormhole coming Sisko? Is it still not worth using the incredible strategic asset you enjoy... ok. And you are taking the Defiant away on AQ excursions now? Even though its original stated aim was to protect against a Dominion attack....ok.

Yap, no-one could have forseen anything like this occuring. An attack through that incredibly easy to block chokepoint. Carry on Sisko. Carry on.
Christopher Bennett
5. ChristopherLBennett
@4: As I keep pointing out, the Dominion is not the only thing on the other side of the wormhole. There are plenty of other worlds there that have trade partnerships with AQ powers and plenty of resources for AQ explorers to seek out. The wormhole is a major trade and shipping route that's vital to the region's economic strength and particularly to Bajor's. You can't just choke it off without hurting Bajor and the Federation.
Luis Milan
6. LuisMilan
In Star Trek Online, the Iconians have been used as an enemy of the Federation (and of the Klingons and Romulans as well).
Alright Then
7. James2
@3, Their fundamental contempt for "solids" gives them a blind spot, because it makes them treat the Jem'Hadar more like munitions than people.

I still love how that blind spot, while a stregnth in the Gamma Quadrant, ends up being critical to the resolution of the Dominion War.
Alright Then
8. Alright Then
#5

Exactly. It would be like closing the Panama Canal. It's a major thoroughfare.
David Levinson
9. DemetriosX
Definitely a solid episode and the clear highlight is Jeffrey Combs. He plays the Weyouns absolutely perfectly, just the right amount of slime, smarm, and steel. Even when we get a Weyoun who breaks from his programming later, he's absolutely a believable variation of the type.

I suppose the destruction of the upper pylon was meant to show that the Jem'Hadar are extremely badass and dangerous. But as everybody has noted, it's handled poorly (including a throwaway line about Rom).
Alright Then
10. Eoin8472
So...the crew should not at least attempt the bare minimum of wormhole security. Such at least having some sort of emergency minefield activation or some such in case an enemy fighter appears? An opposing power that has designs on the AQ? Its reaching and (will surpass in season 5) absurd levels of stupidity. I'm sure a cursory google search will at least return the juxtipation of Panama Canal+ security.
Alright Then
11. Ashcom
All of that is addressed in the episode anyway, when Sisko states that he wishes the Defiant could stand guard 26 hours a day and Worf replies that restricting the Defiant to guard duty would be adopting a siege mentality and ultimately self-defeating.

Besides, in the mythos of this episode it is specifically stated that with the Iconian gateway the Jem'Hadar rebels don't need the wormhole to enter the Alpha quadrant, and hence if the Dominion were to have control of it or any other Iconian gateway they found, the same is true. The Dominion know that the Federation, and the other various factions in the Alpha Quadrant, are there now. You can't put that stopper back in the bottle, even if the wormhole were shut down, they would find another way.

My biggest problem with this episode, and as far as I recall something that is not addressed, Wayoun points out that they addicted the Jem'Hadar to the Ketracel White in order to control them, so then how has this group been able to go rogue? He states that they could take over the Dominion within a year, but surely whatever supply of the White they have is going to run out long before then?
Christopher Bennett
12. ChristopherLBennett
@10: Of course we're not saying there should be no security; the whole reason there's a heavily armed Starfleet station by the wormhole in the first place is to provide security. But security can be overwhelmed. You're trying to reduce this to a simplistic black-and-white choice, but in reality, balancing security with freedom of travel and commerce is a very complex and delicate matter. You have to find a middle ground that provides reasonable protection without unduly inhibiting people's freedom and safety, and that means there are going to be limits to security that a sufficiently powerful force, like the Jem'Hadar, might be able to overwhelm.

And planting mines around an active commercial shipping route is an obscenely bad suggestion. Surrounding civilians with explosives is a terrible way to keep them safe. Using mines in wartime is dangerous and ethically questionable enough -- using them in peacetime would be insane. Would you want the TSA to require to go through a minefield to reach your plane rather than just an X-ray scanner?

@11: "Wayoun points out that they addicted the Jem'Hadar to the Ketracel White in order to control them, so then how has this group been able to go rogue? He states that they could take over the Dominion within a year, but surely whatever supply of the White they have is going to run out long before then?"

We've already seen a Jem'Hadar that didn't need the White, in "Hippocratic Oath." There could be others. Or maybe they found an alternative supply somehow.
Brian Haughwout
13. bhaughwout
@3: I think that it's actually an interesting choice -- and a rare one -- to flesh out the Jem'Hadar so and NOT make them more noble and relatable. As a servitor race that's basically enslaved, it would be very easy for the writers to show them up close as being basically the same as them, as a Roddenbery statement on war. Instead, time and time again, the crew tries to interact humanly with them and gets shot down (sometimes literally) because there is no common ground with these aliens. The closest they'll get is the upcoming episode in the prison camp when Worf meets them on their own terms by fighting and refusing to die...

As for the pylon bit, I think part of it -- as you mention in the production order note -- is that the folks behind the show are still learning how to do a non-episodic show with the sort of linear ongoing plot that we're used to in TV nowadays. It's actually neat from a historical point of view to watch them not quite catching all the background bits that used to not matter when everything reset after 44 minutes! :D
Alright Then
14. Jason W.
Funny thing about this episode: in the making of it, the props people thought the gateway was from the old Tkon Empire (from “Last Outpost”) and had to refashion an Iconian prop when they realized their mistake.
Alright Then
15. RobinM
O'Brien has all the best lines in this episode. Weyoun must be killed more often.
Christopher Bennett
16. ChristopherLBennett
@13: Well, another factor was the expense of the visual effects. Before CGI replaced miniatures, creating new shots was more costly, so they had to rely more on stock footage, and thus couldn't afford more than a few shots of the damaged station. That's one of the main differences from something like Enterprise's "Minefield"/"Dead Stop" and the Xindi arc where they were able to carry forward damage to the ship from one episode to the next because they were using digital models by that point. (And in fact the specific damage elements from "Minefield" were actually reused as part of the damage NX-01 sustained in the latter part of season 3.)

Indeed, that's no doubt why they had so many station establishing shots that focused only on the core and habitat ring and left out the docking ring and pylons -- so that they wouldn't always have to do new FX shots to reflect whatever ships might be docked at the station at any given time.
Alright Then
17. Ashcom
@12 - well those are both total cop-out answers. If either one came up in an episode everyone would roll their eyes and not believe it. Those solutions are either a whole platoon or company of Jem'Hadar have all developed a genetic mutation which has only been encountered in one isolated instance before (yes if there is one there will be others, but a whole platoon?) Or an alternative supply of a substance that the most powerful empire in the entire galaxy relies on to retain control? I don't think it has been established yet but it is certainly established later that it requires pretty specialised manufacturing facilities to produce. I can believe that there is a black market trade in stolen White, but enough to sustain an entire army in a war against a power which controls roughly half the galaxy is going to require a lot more than a black market can provide, and there is no way anyone is producing those quantities under the radar.

The only satisfying answer is that Wayoun glossed over that part in order to manipulate Sisko into helping him. The problem I have there though, is that Sisko has been established as a master tactician, so if that's the first question that jumped into my head, it should certainly have been the first question that jumped into his.
Alright Then
18. Ashcom
(That should have read "quarter of the galaxy". Not sure how you edit comments on here.)
Pirmin Schanne
19. Torvald Nom
@17: You seem to forget the Iconian gateway - with that at hand, the rebel Jem'Hadar can plunder and take over White-producing facilities with ease.
As to why they haven't run out of it just yet - from what we've seen, Jem'Hadar units are supplied with a stock of the substance controlled by a Vorta, but we can assume that the Vorta of the rebel unit was killed by them (just as Weyoun is killed by Omet'iklan).
Alright Then
20. eoin8472
@12
No, the heavily armed Starfleet station is not effective security. Physics dictates that any Dominion fleet can scatter in all directions once they leave the perimiter of the wormhole. In which case they all warp away to different locations and the fixed station and its lone accompying ship can't exactly do much, can they? I keep going back to Stargate Sg1 and their effective plan of closing the unguarded entrance to their planet after their first episode. Yes, the Gould had ships, just like the gateways in this epiode, which would render the wormhole/stargate moot, but at least its an effective first stap at an attempt at security. Starfleets response was to s end a single ship and upgrade the station. Thats not good enough, not now. And while the argument from Worf that adapting a siege mentality is a self-defeating strategy sounds very nice, the fact is that the Defiant was sent away on an excurion in the AQ, NOT the GQ. Thats additional stupidity. It subtracts from the effective security even more. Then its just the fixed station and its runabouts. Stupid.

"Would you want the TSA to require to go through a minefield to reach your plane rather than just an X-ray scanner?"

But notice, that its a single line in the x-ray scanner, that can be easily closed off. Lets take the DS9 situation. Is there any evidance of
1: Scanning of incoming ships for Changeling infiltrators? NO
2: Any attempt to force incoming ships along a free channel of space that can easily be sealed off in emergencies. NO
3: Any contingency planning for a massed incoming hostile force? No, still none at this stage.

Your airport analogy falls apart. At the moment the comparison is, plane lands, all the passengers head straight to the taxis. No passport control, no effective security, no customs, Nothing. The airport police (DS9) are miles away from the runway. With some of them been sent off on unrelated errands. (Defiant in the first part of the episode)
Alright Then
21. Lynn71
It occurred to me recently after watching this episode and then continuing on into the next season that when Weyoun (4) tries to offer Sisko undisputed rule of the Federation on their first meeting, that there must have been a similar meeting at some point later on with Gul Dukat where Dukat no doubt said, "Tell me more, Mr. Vorta". And so the negotiations for the entry of Cardassia to the Dominion began.
Christopher Bennett
22. ChristopherLBennett
@20: Just because the security is imperfect, that doesn't make it any less horrific to suggest mining a heavily travelled civilian corridor as your first option. There have got to be less reckless and immoral options than surrounding civilians with explosives.
Alright Then
23. ad
@22: It's a perfectly good suggestion until someone comes up with a better one.
Alright Then
24. ad
as soon as Weyoun appears, Omet’iklan vaporizes the Vorta for questioning their loyalty.

Maybe it's just me, but murdering your superior because he didn't trust you seems to suggest that he was right not to.
Alright Then
25. Eoin8472
@22

So whats your alternative? At least I am coming up with possible solutions. How do you suggest solving the giant security risk that is the wormhole, especially given that this is a re-watch and we all know what is coming, an 800+ million casuality war. Which could have easily been averted at any time, with my (immoral/horrific) suggestion. And bear in mind that originally this wasn't hindsight on my part, I roared these exact same thoughts at the tv back in '96 when I first saw the series. I found it really difficult to enjoy seasons 3-5 when I doubted the intelligence of the main protaganists. Rather then focusing on the moral problems of my suggestion, why don't you tell us a plausable solution for the Ds9 officers to avert/minimise the coming war.
Hows about at least agreeing with me that (GASP) maybe screening of incoming ships for changeling infiltrators might be a good idea. No matter the effectiveness of the technique, at least it might appear to the average Federation citizen that someone gives a damn about the Dominion problem.

It will be interesting to hear the general excuses (not that I am suggesting that you will be excusing it) coming for Sisko's behaviour in In the Pale Moonlight (war, greater good etc) given the fact that Sisko, and the Federations, utter stupidity will put them into that desperate situation in the first place.
Brendan Guy
26. bguy
@25: Would a minefield even do any good? Sooner or later the Dominion would figure out the right technical solution to neutralize the mines and then they could mass an invasion fleet on the far side of the wormhole that the Federation would be completely blind to, send the right inverse tachyon pulse or what have you through the wormhole to take out the mindfield, and then swarm into the AQ with the Federation completely flat footed. At least without a mindfield, the Federation can run patrols into the GQ, so it can see where the Dominion's fleet is.

And frankly even collapsing the wormhole probably wouldn't do any good at this point since there are so many Changeling infiltrators in the AQ. It might have been a viable option back when the Federation first made contact with the Dominion, but I don't think its realistic to expect the Feds to destroy the only stable wormhole in existance just because they happened to brush up against a hostile government. (At that point the Feds had no real reason to believe the Dominion was any more dangerous than the Klingons, Cardassians, or Romulans, so blowing up the wormhole when the Dominion was seemingly staying in its own yard would have seemed like a massive overreaction to say nothing of infuriating the Bajorans.)
Alright Then
27. Eoin8472
A minfield WOULD do some good because thats exactly what the Federation ended up using in the first place. And even if it eventually failed, a solution that works for some period of time is by definition better then doing nothing at all and hoping that the problem won't occur (what the DS9 officers are doing at this point in time)

At this point in time, the Changelings have destroyed the Obsidian Order, crippled the Tal'Shair, infiltrated StarFleet and have attempted to start a war between the Kzanthathi (spelling) and the Federation. Hows about some preperation at least to destroy the wormhole at a moments notice and maybe its time to start screening of ships coming into the AQ? And mybe direct them to enter the AQ along dedicated space channels rather then just veering off at whichever vector they wish after exiting the wormhole?
Alright Then
28. Captain Sheridan
To add to the conversation about mining the entrance to the wormhole or implacing other security procedures at this point in the series: I would think that the Federation, "notorious" for going to great lengths to make peace, would consider mining the workhole, despite the Dominion causing trouble, as a direct act of war on thier part. I'd imagine the Federation Council debating the heck out of this entire issue and not finding a solution or making a decision until its too late, with most of them trying to maintain the peace and hope to avoid a war at all costs. Yeah, that proves a mistake but well...
Christopher Bennett
29. ChristopherLBennett
@28: Yes. Mines are weapons, not defenses. Deploying mines is an extreme, aggressive act. Most countries today have outlawed the use of land mines and free-floating sea mines because of the unacceptable danger they pose to noncombatants. That Starfleet would consider using such a weapon at all was a questionable choice on the writers' part, but it illustrated the desperate situation they were in at the time they made the choice. It was a weapon of last resort, not a first option.
Brendan Guy
30. bguy
@27: The minefield was useful during the war because it delayed the Dominion just long enough to enable the Federation to retake the station. During peacetime though what does it accomplish? The Dominion isn't on a tight time schedule for invading the AQ. If they have to delay their invasion for 3 months or so while they figure out how to knock out the minefield that doesn't cost them anything. (Heck they don't even want to invade until the AQ powers have whittled each other down, so they obviously aren't in any hurry.) So again the only thing a peacetime minefield really does is leave the Federation blind to what the Dominion is doing. It doesn't give any real security to the AQ.

And Sisko already has the ability to collapse the wormhole on a moment's notice. All it takes at this point is a single volley of photon torpedoes to collapse it which DS9 or any of the runabouts can easily provide. (The delay in "In Purgatory's Shadow" in attempting to collapse the wormhole was because he wanted to use a method that would collapse it without hurting the Prophets, but Sisko demonstrated in "The Search" that he was perfectly willing to use the photon torpedo option if necessary.)

Your point about screening inbound ships for changelings is a fair one, but did the Feds have any reliable method for actually doing that? The blood screenings and phaser sweeps were pretty much completely ineffective.
Alright Then
31. McKay B
In my book, calling this "a nice insight into the Vorta and the Jem'Hadar" doesn't quite do it justice. To me, this episode IS the Dominion. It's one of the best insights we get into alien psyche in all of Trek, and with one of the more complex species/cultures (the Jem'Hadar, antagonists who nevertheless have their own potent honor code).

You're dead on, KRAD, about how much of fiction avoids exploring the villains' personalities too much for fear of "nerfing" their danger. Like the Borg and the Hirogen ... and frankly most of the other major alien races of Trek. (Some of them, like the Klingons, were filled out enough in other ways that making them less "scary" is forgivable.) And you're dead on: Somehow this episode manages to make us sympathize with the Jem'Hadar, respect them, yet still consider them dangerous enemies. BRILLIANT.

Dax's and O'Brien's snark is delightful. Sisko's resolute control of the situation is awesome. And I find his brief debate with Omet'iklan about the prudence of self-sacrificing soldiers profound. In particular, Sisko gets the last word that I'm disappointed hasn't been quoted yet: "Oh, I don't know. I find in battle that nothing motivates me quite like a healthy fear of death."

The episode's weakness is that it's slightly too much story to fit into a 45-minute episode. And that's evident from the discongruous dropping of the "pylon blown off" storyline, but also on the other end: the ending of this episode is great, but it ends SO abruptly. Every time I watch it, I find myself waiting for some kind of denoument to "cool off" the ending ... but nope. It's just over.

Weyoun is an interesting topic (and I have wondered whether they intended to bring him back, or whether that was a retro-action, so thanks for implying an answer). There's no doubt he's a great character ... but he always feels like an incomplete great character to me. I guess I just always feel like he's capable of more nastiness, more mind-blowing deviousness, than he ever actually pulls off. Maybe I need to read some novels with him.

@11: Excellent point, they really should have come up with SOME explanation for what the rebel Jem'Hadar were doing for White. Preferably leading to Sisko organizing a new initiative to undermine the Dominion's control over its entire military.
Alright Then
32. Eoin8472
At least I am coming up with possible solutions here! What about a wall of manned orbiting turrets that can open fire from all directions if a minefield is so dangerious. Or just more ships. And even if the Dominion considers a minefield an act of war...so what? What can they do about it? They are on the other side of a choke point, thats the entire advantage of the Federation geographical position.

The Dominion is indirectly causing wars in the AQ through subterfuge and from The Search we (and the DS9 crew) know that their goal is to come to the AQ directly and impose their order. Given that we know an 800+ million casuality war is going to happen, peoples answer both in-universe and out...is to close their eyes? Carry on as before? Really?
Pirmin Schanne
33. Torvald Nom
@32: From what we've seen in the Way of the Warrior, DS9 actually should be able to take on a whole fleet by itself - the problem with this episode is that we don't get any information as to how the Jem'Hadar managed their attack (not to mention why they even bothered going to the Alpha Quadrant instead of hitting some outpost in the Gamma Quadrant).

Also, 800 million casualties is not a lot in an interstellar war - that's somewhere above tenfold of what we managed in WW2. Admittedly, it's entirely possible that that is just the writers' misconceptions about what constitutes high casualty numbers - after all, they also considered the 20 million dead in the Denobulan-Antaran wars to be unforgivable for 300 years (that one made me laugh - Archer should have just shown them some of Earth's records).
Alright Then
34. Eoin8472
But the problem is containing a Dominion incursion, not destroying it. AS I said, there is nothing stopping any Dominion fleet from scattering in all directions once they exit the wormhole terminus and reforming further away. A stationary space station, no matter how heavily armed isn't going to do much good. And thats even before the consideration of the Dominion of just sending in say 20 Jem'Hadar fighters on a suicide run against the station. Given that, and the Dominions skill at infiltration (so the stations weapons could be knocked off in time for an attack), its clear to me that the Federation defences are not at all sufficient.
Christopher Bennett
35. ChristopherLBennett
Until now, though, what reason had the Dominion given the Federation to shore up their defenses? As Keith frequently points out, they threatened to destroy any ship that passed into the Gamma Quadrant, but then never followed through on that threat. Starfleet knew they had a few Changeling infiltrators in the Federation, but mostly they'd only struck back when provoked, and often not even then. So at this point, they hadn't been aggressive enough to provoke any kind of siege-mentality weapons buildup around the wormhole.

Eion8472, I think you're back-projecting what we knew later about the Dominion threat onto a point in the series before they had reason to be that afraid. It's like expecting Pearl Harbor in 1939 to be as hypervigilant to attack from Japan as Pearl Harbor in 1942 would've been.
Brendan Guy
36. bguy
@34: Well like I've said before, I think the reason the Federation isn't fortifying the wormhole more heavily is because Section 31 already has a plan well underway to neutralize the Dominion threat, and so it is keeping the Federation from taking any provocative action against the Dominion because it doesn't want to goad the Dominion into striking before the changeling virus takes root. Time is actually on the Federation's side here. They just need to keep the Dominion from attacking until their virus does its work.

In fact I actually wonder if that's why we didn't see a Dominion War in "The Visitor" future timeline. Maybe without Sisko the Federation failed to uncover the Martok changeling, so the Dominion continued to use the Klingons to attack the other AQ powers rather than invading the AQ itself. That in turn meant Section 31's virus succeeded in wiping out the Great Link which led to the Dominion collapsing without it ever invading the AQ. (The AQ powers did not know the Dominion had collapsed since the Klingons had sealed off the wormhole and thus were getting no news from the GQ.)
Christopher Bennett
37. ChristopherLBennett
@36: Hmm, that "Visitor" theory is certainly credible.
Alright Then
38. Eoin8472
Good point on the Visitor timeline, I had not thought of that, maybe Dukat didn't negotiate with the Dominion there, but no worries we will be coming back to this discussion again. As the DS9 crew stupidty increases.
Brendan Guy
39. bguy
@38: Yeah, keeping Dukat from hooking up with the Dominion is actually pretty easy in "The Visitor" timeline. With Sisko gone, Kira's responsibilities on DS9 are presumably much greater, so she can't be spared to attend that diplomatic conference in "Return to Grace." Without her on that mission, Dukat is unable to capture the Klingon bird of prey, so he stays a bitter transport captain and thus is never even a blip on the Dominion's radar.
Alright Then
40. Eduardo Jencarelli
What if Odo hadn't infected the Great Link with the changeling virus? We know he was infected in Homefront. Is is it possible the Dominion moved into the Alpha Quadrant because of the illness?

What if that's the reason the they decided to gather their fleet and move towards the wormhole, midway through season 5? Because the Female Founder knew it was do or die, due to the ongoing and spreading infection.
Alright Then
41. Lsana
Regarding the ongoing debate about mining the wormhole and various other potential defenses here, I know jack about military strategy, so I don't want to say anything about the specifics. I do, however, remember something that some guy, I think his name was Ben Sisko or something like that, said:

"If the Jem'Hadar come through the wormhole, the first battle will be fought here. And I intend to be ready."

That was the finale of Season 2. Here we are almost at the end of Season 4, two years later, and we're incapable of handling a single strike team that came in on a civilian transport. Bang up job, guys.

Like I said, I don't know what they SHOULD have done, but I do know that if two years after you identify a major threat and vow to be ready for it, said threat walks all over you the way the Jem'Hadar just did, your doing something wrong.
Alright Then
42. TBGH
To my mind the main weakness isn't that the Federation didn't establish more wormhole defenses, it's that they didn't even address why not.

First of all, the wormhole is not in Federation territory. It's in Bajoran space. Clearly there would be diplomatic problems in positioning a fleet there just as there have been with USA military bases on foreign soil. How would Japan react if we wanted to increase our military presence on the base on their soil by a factor of 20 or 30 to protect us from China?

It would have made a great A-plot addressing this (and as a teenager when it first aired I remember expecting it) when a Star Fleet Admiral wants to send in more ships and people on Bajor view it as an invasion.

Maybe Star Fleet was planning to reinforce it once Bajor joined the Federation which is why they were fast-tracked. But that wasn't made clear either.

The political realities were more than enough to explain the current lack of defenses but they were never addressed and in fact seem to be dismissed by later episodes with the minefield.
Paul Keelan
43. noblehunter
Also worth pointing out that with the dissolution of the Khitomer accords, Starfleet has a lot on its plate since they have a whole new hostile border to protect. And the instability on Cardassia would increase the need for starships on that border.

@41, Sisko can intend to be ready all he wants, but Starfleet apparently had other priorities. And given what we know about DS9's defences, the raid from this episode probably started covertly before degenerating into a smash and grab.
Christopher Bennett
44. ChristopherLBennett
It's worth pointing out, of course, that no defense system is infallible. How many stories, after all, are about the heroes surmounting a seemingly infallible defense system in order to reach or destroy their target? (Heck, that describes the climaxes of two of the original three Star Wars movies.) So maybe Starfleet did have reasonable defenses in place, but the Jem'Hadar raiders were just that good and were able to pierce them. I mean, isn't that the whole idea behind the Jem'Hadar, that they're preternaturally skilled warriors?
Keith DeCandido
45. krad
Quoth Christopher: "This one does do a good job of fleshing out the Jem'Hadar, but it doesn't make me think all that highly of them. I don't respect anyone who deals or embraces death so casually. Killing anyone in your group who makes a mistake is stupid, because the only way to gain experience and wisdom is by learning from one's mistakes. If every soldier is killed at the first major error, then the entire unit will be made up of inexperienced or overconfident members. So I have to disagree with you, Keith -- it doesn't make the Jem'Hadar look scarier, it makes them look less competent."

Christopher: what you're not taking into consideration is that Jem'Hadar soldiers are inherently disposable and completely replaceable. It's like the old Bill Cosby joke about parents threatening to kill their child: "Don't matter to me, I can make another one, looks just like you."

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Christopher Bennett
46. ChristopherLBennett
@45: Yes, I know the Jem'Hadar are designed to be disposable, but my whole point is that it was the Founders' error to make them that way. A seasoned, experienced fighting force that had learned from its past mistakes would be a more effective fighting force than a bunch of disposable drones -- not to mention that it would be a larger fighting force because fewer of its members would've been killed off by their own superiors. So treating the Jem'Hadar as casually disposable is wasteful and works against the Founders' best interests.
Alright Then
47. CaptainSheridan
@46 The Dominion has been around for, I believe 2000 years? Seems that the Founders methods of using disposable troops is working out just fine. I think the Jem'Hadar are treated as disposable because they are disposable and its probably not too hard to make more. The Dominion has had enough time to pefect the cloning process to minimize the costs. Maybe its cheaper to replace dozens/hundreds of clones than to deal with the ramifications of any seeds of rebellios behavior. And any "combat experience" could be simply bred into the Jem'Hadar from the get go- at least enough for them to get the job done. The Founders probably don't want their warriors learning too much and thinking for themselves too much anyways- they just need to get the job done- serve thier purpose. The Founders best interest is to use the Jem'Hadar as cannon fodder- they hav the means and the methods to make more- experience not required for them to get the job done. And besides, would a god make an imperfect warrior in the first place? :) They already are everything they need to be.
Christopher Bennett
48. ChristopherLBennett
@47: There's a difference between "adequate" and "excellent." The Founders make up for the weakness in the Jem'Hadar as individuals by going for quantity instead. But that's still compensation for an ingrained limitation in the design. One-on-one, I expect a Starfleet officer to be able to outmatch and outthink a Jem'Hadar, because Starfleet does not murder its officers when they make mistakes, and thus they can learn, grow, and adapt in ways that Jem'Hadar are not permitted to. Their experience and finesse can let them prevail over their opponents' crude force.

If the only way the J'H can triumph is by outnumbering the opposition, that doesn't make me buy them as the ultimate badasses. The real badass is the one who's outnumbered but manages to win anyway.
Alright Then
49. CaptainSheridan
@48 - Agreed= we often see one Starfleet officer take out many enemies due to experience and thinking ways around situation-- but that doesn't matter to the Founders, nor should it. They've managed to keep an empire up and running for 2000+ years with mass-produced Jem'Hadar- until they need to do something different, it must have worked. They must feel safer with mass quantities of completelty loyal troops as apposed to risking one or two more experienced ones breaking away and thinknig for themselves as they learn and grow--- they may gain experiences that enable them to go beyond thier design in unexpected, perhaps detrimental ways (to the Founders and the Dominion). The Founders have set themselves up as gods- with rules that cannot be broken. They don't need thier warriors living long enough to get any bright ideas and rebel against them, or to learn not to fear them as gods either.
Christopher Bennett
50. ChristopherLBennett
@49: I'm not saying it matters to the Founders. I'm saying it matters to me. I'm disagreeing with the premise that what we learned here about the Jem'Hadar makes them seem more intimidating. To me, it makes them seem rather pathetic.
Alright Then
51. CaptainSheridan
@50 Ah.....I see. I was still refering to whether the Founders made a mistake by making the JH the way they did...as disposable troops.
Christopher Bennett
52. ChristopherLBennett
@51: I think that, at the very least, they missed an opportunity. They were able to make it work through sheer overkill, but that's not the most efficient or intelligent way to approach a problem. Plenty of governments and organizations manage to make inefficient or imperfect systems work -- indeed, I doubt there's ever been a government or organization or business that hasn't been laden with flaws and inefficiencies -- but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.

Of course, dictatorship is in itself an extremely inefficient and ill-conceived form of rule. If you have to squander your resources on fighting and suppressing your own subjects, then that's inefficient because you're pitting your nation's people and energies against each other, cancelling each other out, rather than harnessing them toward a common goal and bringing out all of their potential to its fullest. Plus it's a lot easier to govern if you don't make your people hate you and rebel against you. Ultimately all tyrants are fools.
Pirmin Schanne
53. Torvald Nom
Christopher,
I'm not sure how much of the upper echelons of the Dominion military consisted of Jem'Hadar, it's entirely possible that they just make up the lower ranks - and experience is not something you care all that much for in your jarheads.
Alright Then
54. CaptainSheridan
Can't argue in favor of a dictorship (unless I was a dictator, but then I guess I would't have to argue about it)-- anyhoo, the Founders established the Dominion to suit their own goals not its members- I think its beens established already it the series that they don't trust nasty solids so they chose to control them. They needed a dictorship to accomplish thier goals- like any dictator- and that was to survive. That's wrong, but to get what the perceived they needed- they did what they had to. The Founders could never make a happy we are all friends Federation- it wouldn't suit thier needs or thier delusions about nasty solids. OR maybe they read The Prince and decided it should be titled The Gods. Fools? Well, yeah- they assume all solids are bad when not all are.
Christopher Bennett
55. ChristopherLBennett
@53: We never saw any sign that the J'H answered to anyone but the Vorta, and the Vorta were bred as bureaucrats.

@54: Sure, it's clear enough what thinking motivated the Founders, but that doesn't mean it wasn't objectively wrong and self-defeating, just like any tyrannical ideology. Call me crazy, but I happen to think freedom works better than the alternative. I'm not saying I don't understand their reasons; I'm saying I disagree emphatically with them.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
56. Lisamarie
I definitely agree with the sentiment here that being so willing to die for your cause and nothing else, compared to those who actually have something to live for (which may involve sacrificing one's life), is going to be unsustainable in the end. Also about being able to learn from your mistakes - and my first thought was that they were already outnumbered, so what did that accomplish, anyway?
Andrew Hogenson
57. totalperspec
This is a fun episode. The actual plot is extremely paint by numbers, and I don't like the blocking or camerawork at the 'Sisko gets stabbed to save Omet'iklan's life' bit, but it was good. All the performances were stellar (my favorite was Dax and her Jem'Hadar. I think it may be the only time we see one look nonplussed), and now Wayoun is in the picture. I read the intention was to flesh out the Jem'Hadar without making them less indimidating, and I'd say it succeeded.

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