Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “The Jem’Hadar”

“The Jem’Hadar”
Written by Ira Steven Behr
Directed by Kim Friedman
Season 2, Episode 26
Production episode 40512-446
Original air date: June 12, 1994
Stardate: 47987.5

Station log: Jake is doing a science project for school involving Bajoran katterpods. Sisko challenges him to do something a bit more impressive, and asks what his dream science project would be. His answer (after learning to pilot a runabout, which Sisko quashes) is a planetary survey in the Gamma Quadrant, and Sisko decides that they should do it, as a working father-son vacation.

Kira and Dax go over stuff with Sisko, then Jake comes in and says that Nog’s having trouble coming up with a science project, so he’s going to partner with Jake—which means joining them in the GQ. Sisko isn’t at all happy about having a third wheel in his father-son bonding trip, but Jake guilts him masterfully—if he doesn’t do well on this project, he’s going to drop out; he’s my friend, I have to help him—and Sisko agrees.

Odo gleefully informs Quark that Sisko has refused his request to use the monitors to sell ads. Nog then tells Quark he needs to take some shifts off so he can go to the GQ with the Siskos, and Quark pounces on the opportunity to change Sisko’s mind about the ads by going along, under the guise of being Nog’s chaperone, also guilting Sisko by saying that Rom thinks that humans look down on Ferengi, and Quark going along will prove him wrong, right?

Sisko bows to the inevitable with a rueful smile, and off they go into the wild blue yonder. They go to a pastoral world in the GQ, which Sisko thinks is as close to paradise as you’re going to get and which Quark thinks is just icky (he’s got an itch behind his ears). Quark also tries and fails to sell Sisko on ads. Then Sisko checks on Jake and Nog, who are doing a fine job with the mineral survey. Later that night, Sisko cooks jambalaya, which everyone but Quark likes. The Siskos’ reminiscence about a past camping trip that they took with Jennifer is interrupted by Quark setting himself on fire. Nog and Jake run off, and Quark and Sisko get into an argument.

A woman comes running into the campsite, hitting Sisko with a telekinetic attack, then warning them about the Jem’Hadar—a bunch of soldiers then phase into existence and capture Sisko, Quark, and the woman, whose name is Eris. She’s shocked to learn that Sisko and Quark have never heard of the Jem’Hadar, and Sisko explains where they came from. Eris says that the Jem’Hadar are the troops of the Dominion. Quark is surprised, since the Ferengi has been trying to open trade negotiations with the Dominion, and he’s never heard of the Jem’Hadar.

Eris claims to be a refugee from a Dominion attack, on the run after they attacked her homeworld. They put a collar on her neck to suppress her telekinesis. Sisko thinks that they can get the collar off her, and then they can use her abilities to escape. While he works, Quark keeps trying to get someone’s attention by shouting a lot and begging a lot and making offers. Eris asks at one point if they have to take Quark with them when they escape, but Sisko understands the value of gaining intelligence, and to do that they need the Jem’Hadar’s attention—and Quark is good at getting attention.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Jem'Hadar

A Jem’Hadar named Third Talak’talan steps into the security field. He says that the Founders have ordered the prisoners remain in custody. Eris dismisses the Founders as a myth, but Talak’talan insists that they created the Dominion. He then queries Sisko about the Klingons, the Cardassians, and just generally shows off how much he knows about the politics of the Alpha Quadrant, while stating that the Dominion will no longer tolerate ships from the AQ coming through the wormhole.

Jake and Nog beam up to the Rio Grande, and scan for Sisko and Quark. But they can’t beam them up through the field. A ship lifts off from the surface and heads away, and Jake doesn’t have an authorization code to command the runabout to function. They manage to disengage the autopilot, but that just means they have to fly it manually, which Jake has more than a little trouble with. (On the other hand, it means he gets his first choice as well as his second choice for science project…)

Talak’talan was on that ship that left the surface, which goes through the wormhole. Talak’talan beams into Ops to tell Kira that they’re holding Sisko indefinitely for questioning (O’Brien slaps him in a containment field as soon as he beams aboard). They will no longer tolerate ships coming through the wormhole, and provide a list of ships they’ve destroyed—said list is on a padd that they took from the New Bajor colony when they wiped it out. Talak’talan then walks through the containment field, beams off the station, and goes through the wormhole—O’Brien is unable to establish a tractor beam on the Jem’Hadar ship.

The Odyssey arrives at the station. A Galaxy-class ship, its captain, Keogh, has been ordered to rescue Sisko and find out more about the Jem’Hadar. Kira insists that the remaining runabouts accompany them, as they need all the help they can get. Kira and Bashir take the Orinoco while Dax, O’Brien, and Odo take the Mekong. The two runabouts go through the wormhole with the Odyssey, and are surprised at the lack of a welcoming committee. They do, however, find the Rio Grande, and O’Brien beams aboard to save the boys’ asses.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Jem'Hadar

Sisko gets the casing off of Eris’s collar, and then Quark picks the lock. Eris is able to telekinetically take the force field down. Sisko kicks some ass (with some unexpected help from Quark), and they escape. Once they’re in the open, O’Brien is able to beam all three up to the Rio Grande.

A trio of Jem’Hadar ships engage the Odyssey and the runabouts (which is the name of my next band). The Jem’Hadar are using a phased polaron beam weapon, which plows right through everyone’s shields. With Sisko rescued, they head to the wormhole, which is good as both the Mekong and the Odyssey are pretty much toast. But as they’re retreating, one Jem’Hadar ship makes a kamikaze run right at the Odyssey’s deflector dish, destroying both ships completely.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Jem'Hadar

Quark had held onto Eris’s collar, hoping to replicate and sell the telepathic suppressor, but he discovers that all it has is a complex locking mechanism. It didn’t suppress anything. Quark tells Sisko, who then holds a phaser on Eris in Ops. Sisko assumes she’s one of the Founders, but Eris assures them that the Founders would never waste their time on someone as inconsequential as them. Before Odo can take her into custody, she beams away—to where, no one can tell.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The Jem’Hadar use force fields generated by a circle in the floor that are lethal. They have personal cloaks that allow them to stay in hiding until they attack. Jem’Hadar ships use phased polaron beam weapons that Starfleet shields are defenseless against, and the Jem’Hadar themselves can walk through force fields. Also the Vorta apparently have access to Scotty’s long-distance transporter from the two latest Trek films….

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Jem'Hadar

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko’s attempt at a getaway with his son gets ridiculously complicated and unpleasant—and that’s before the Jem’Hadar show up.

The slug in your belly: Dax and Keogh don’t get along at all. This adds absolutely nothing to the plot, but that’s part of the entertainment value. It’s just two people who really dislike each other, which is kinda nice to see.

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo goes along on the rescue because he figures that, while most people are focused on Sisko and the two boys, someone should look out for Quark.

Rules of Acquisition: Quark hates nature, viewing the pastoral planet as nothing more than an exploitable resource, quoting Rule #102: “Nature decays, but latinum lasts forever.” He also testily informs Sisko that Ferengi history has nothing in it as barbaric as concentration camps, genocide, slavery, and warfare.

Victory is life: We meet the Dominion’s soldiers, the Jem’Hadar, and their diplomats, the Vorta, though the latter species has yet to be identified by name. They make it clear that they view any journey through the wormhole as an invasion, and destroyed New Bajor to put an exclamation point on that.

Keep your ears open: “Maybe they were attacked by a wild animal!”

“You heard my dad. There aren’t any wild animals, just insects and plants.”

“Maybe they were attacked by a vicious tree!”

Nog and Jake’s response upon returning to an empty camp.

Welcome aboard: Robert Alan Oppenheimer, one of the great character actors, plays Keogh, having previously played Koroth in TNG’s “Rightful Heir.” And, of course, Aron Eisenberg is back as Nog. Cress Williams plays our first Jem’Hadar and Molly Hagan—who had just finished up a well regarded run on the TV series Herman’s Head—is our first Vorta.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Jem'Hadar

And our Robert Knepper moment is Michael Jace, who plays the Odyssey first officer. Jace would go on to play Officer Julien Lowe in The Shield, one of your humble rewatcher’s favorite shows.

Trivial matters: After mentions in “Rules of Acquisition,” “Sanctuary,” and “Shadowplay,” we finally meet actual members of the Dominion. They will be an antagonist for our heroes for the remainder of the series’ run.

Several of the technological feats the Dominion displays here are not seen again: Eris is the only Vorta to display telekinetic abilities, and both the long-range transporting and the walking-through-force-fields ability are never really seen again.

Talak’talan refers to “the anomaly,” continuing the trend of GQ folk using that phrase to describe the wormhole.

Your humble rewatcher fleshed out the crew of the Odyssey and explained the tension between Keogh and Dax in The Brave and the Bold Book 1, a story that took place shortly before this episode. That story gave Keogh the first name of Declan, named the first officer as Michael Shabalala, and established the rest of the main crew as well.

Talak’talan appears again in the Dominion Wars videogame, and your humble rewatcher showed an alternate timeline version of him in A Gutted World (in Myriad Universes: Echoes and Refractions). The Mirror Universe version of Eris appears in the MU novel Rise Like Lions by David Mack.

Trailers for the episode included shots of the Odyssey’s destruction, leading some viewers to fear that the Enterprise-D was going to show up on DS9 and be destroyed. Which was kinda sorta the idea….

Walk with the Prophets: “You have no idea what’s begun here.” This episode was way more effective the first time, as knowing what’s coming blunts the impact on two levels. One is the obvious: once you’ve seen it, you know that the Jem’Hadar blow up the Odyssey and that Eris is a Vorta and therefore a major player in the Dominion.

But the other is that, while the episode in general establishes a new status quo with a new and very nasty bad guy, the specifics are not followed up on hardly at all. Talak’talan says that any travel through “the anomaly” will be viewed as an invasion of Dominion territory, yet ships will continue to bugger through the wormhole for the next five seasons without any specific response. We meet no other telekinetic Vorta, we see no more soooooper transporting over long distances, we see no more walking through force fields.

Having said that, it’s still a very strong episode, mostly for the bits with the Siskos and the Ferengi (together, they fight crime!). Quark’s speech on how the Ferengi are better than humans is a masterpiece (with the delightful coda, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lock to pick”). Just in general, this episode does a superb job of establishing that the Ferengi are a complex species that can’t just be pigeonholed into “yucky capitalists.” I adore the notion that they don’t have anything like the history of warfare and violence that humans (and other species in Trek) have.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Jem'Hadar

The interaction between Sisko pere et fils remains powerful and brilliant and one of the very best things about the show. This is Cirroc Lofton’s best outing to date, giving us his bright smile when Sisko agrees to the trip, the serious please-don’t-make-me-betray-my-friend expression when he guilts Sisko into letting Nog come along, his bittersweet reminisce about his mother, and his attempts to remain calm in the face of danger.

Avery Brooks is particularly magnificent here, as well, showing Sisko’s loving side, his frustrated side, and his badass side, with Armin Shimerman keeping up with him every step of the way. And the hilariously awful attempts by Jake and Nog to rescue their chaperones and make the Rio Grande work right are beautifully played. (And it’s especially funny given where Nog winds up by series’ end. One wonders if watching helplessly while Jake took the Rio Grande apart was a contributing factor in his pursuing a career as a Starfleet engineer down the line.)

And Cress Williams and Molly Hagan do great work as our first Jem’Hadar and Vorta. Williams is especially scary (“I was really hoping to meet a Klingon”), and Hagan’s modulation from victim to bad guy in the final scene in Ops is chilling.

Plus, we get to watch a Galaxy-class ship go boom, a very unsubtle and obvious but still damned effective use of symbolism: these guys could’ve blown up the Enterprise. More than the walking through force fields and the phased polaron beams (whatever the heck those are), this shows that the Dominion is a force to be reckoned with.

 

Warp factor rating: 7


Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at New York Comic-Con at the Javits Center in NYC this weekend. Look for him in the podcast area promoting The Chronic Rift and Dead Kitchen Radio. For this reason, the second-season overview won’t be until next Tuesday, the 15th, with “The Search, Part I” kicking off the third season on Friday the 18th.

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