Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “The Ascent”

“The Ascent”
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Season 5, Episode 9
Production episode 40510-507
Original air date: November 25, 1996
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Jake is moving out of the Sisko quarters into his own cabin, way the heck on the other side of the habitat ring. Sisko is dealing with it as best he can, which is mostly badly, and he puts the parental curse on Jake (wait until your son moves out on you).

Jake is actually sharing the new digs with Nog, who is back on the station to do his sophomore year field study. Rom is very excited to see his son home and Quark, despite his disapproval, has brought by a case of root beer for the prodigal cadet (Rom snags a bottle for himself, to Quark’s disgust). However, Quark doesn’t get to see Nog’s arrival, as he’s arrested by Odo, who will be escorting him in a runabout to Inferna Prime to bring him before a Federation grand jury. When Quark demands to know what it’s about, Odo cagily says, “I think you know.” Quark insists he’s ignorant, and Odo says he has eight days on a runabout with Odo to think about it.

Quark tries to pass the time by playing cards, which Odo refuses. Quark is amused to discover that Odo’s reading a romance novel. Odo insists it’s research, since homicides are often motivated by romantic obsession of some sort, but Quark isn’t buying it. Odo doesn’t care, though, because after ten years, he’s finally won: after this trip, Odo’s going back to DS9 and Quark is going to prison. Quark gleefully points out that he’s not there yet. Odo also refuses to tell Quark what the charges are, as it’s high security, and he can’t discuss it.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Ascent

Nog reports to Sisko. He’s become quite the spit-and-polish cadet, and he assures Sisko that he won’t let him down—and that he’ll take care of Jake. That proves more entertaining than expected, since Nog insists that the room be cleaned every day, that they go to bed at 2200 (Jake says he hasn’t gone to bed that early since he was twelve) and get up at 0430 to go to the gym. Jake is less than thrilled with these notions.

After four days, Quark is getting fed up with being stuck on a runabout. There’s a buzzing noise, Odo smacks his lips when he eats, and the temperature’s too cold. But then the buzzing changes pitch and gets louder, to the point where even Odo can hear it. Quark traces the noise to a hatch, where they find a bomb. Odo transports the bomb away, but that causes it to detonate. It doesn’t destroy the runabout, but it’s badly enough damaged that they have to crash land on a nearby Class-L planet. It’s barely habitable, but more so than the runabout will be once life support fails from the explosion damage.

As they’re crashing, Odo promises to make whoever planted the bomb regret it if they survive, and Quark says Odo doesn’t want any part of the Orion Syndicate. Only then does Quark realize that Odo had no idea what Quark was talking to the grand jury about. Odo was pretending to know more than he did in the hopes that Quark would say something incriminating.

After the crash, they’re well and truly screwed. The communications and environmental systems were trashed by the explosion, as were all but two packs of field rations. They’ll either freeze to death or starve to death, since the world has no animal life and the plant life is all poisonous.

Jake wakes up and stumbles into the main room of his and Nog’s cabin to find Nog already done with his workout. Jake has not exactly been on board with the morning exercise program, and he’s also pissed that Nog edited his latest story without Jake’s permission.

Quark tries to fix the subspace transmitter, but while he can fix most of it, the booster is shot to hell. The only chance they have is to carry the transmitter to higher ground. There’s a mountain nearby that they’ll have to climb. Only one survival suit wasn’t destroyed in the explosion, so they trade it back and forth, with the other one carrying the transmitter, the exertion providing warmth.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Ascent

Nog comes home from a day working with O’Brien to find their cabin a mess. Fed up, Nog decides to leave—which makes Jake happy, as he’s fed up with Nog barking orders.

Quark and Odo’s journey has taken four days, and will likely take six more. While they walk and snipe at each other, Quark reveals that he’s not a suspect in the grand jury case, he’s a witness. Members of the Orion Syndicate don’t need to kill each other, as they’d rather die than testify. Odo realizes that Quark tried to join the syndicate, but he couldn’t afford the considerable membership fee, especially now that he’s been blacklisted by the FCA. He’s too small-time for the syndicate. Quark points out that, if he’s a nobody, what does that make Odo, who’s failed to capture him for a decade?

Rom joins Sisko for a drink in the replimat. Rom is concerned at how much Nog has changed. Sisko says that a year at the Academy will do that to someone, which relieves Rom, as he was worried that Nog was a changeling. (Rom even took some blood to be sure. Eight hours later, it’s still blood, so he probably figures it’s okay.) Nog even put Rom on report for his toolkit being untidy. Rom wishes that Nog could relax and enjoy himself the way Jake does, and Sisko wishes that Jake would show some of Nog’s discipline.

As Quark and Odo continue to climb up the mountain, the tensions between them boil over and they both declare their undying hatred for each other. Then they rather lamely fight, resulting in one of Odo’s legs being broken. Quark manages to splint the leg (after fainting more than once when he looks at the broken limb), and construct a pallet to rest Odo on. Quark insists on dragging Odo with him up the mountain while carrying the transmitter—not out of any altruism, but because if Odo dies, Quark can eat him.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Ascent

As he goes higher, Quark keeps trying the transmitter, which keeps not working, so he keeps dragging Odo farther up the mountain. But eventually, Quark collapses, unable to go on. He plans to just lie there and die with dignity. So Odo decides to crawl up the mountain, pushing the transmitter ahead of himself. Embarrassed—and also appalled at the notion of Rom getting the bar and his bones lying frozen and unsold—Quark gets up and carries the transmitter farther up the mountain, leaving an exhausted and spent Odo behind.

Sisko goes to Jake’s quarters and informs him that regulations state that this size cabin has to have two people, and there are no smaller quarters, so he has to have a roommate: Nog. Sisko orders them to work out their differences—and since he’s Nog’s CO and Jake’s father, this order carries a certain weight. Jake admits that the room is a pigsty, and Nog suggests they play a game of dom-jot.

Odo records what he assumes to be a final log entry, but then is beamed to the Defiant. Worf and Dax tracked them via the subspace transmitter, and they tell Odo that Quark saved both their lives. “I was afraid you were going to say that,” Odo says before he falls unconscious.

As they lie in the Defiant sickbay, Quark says that when he told Odo he hated him, he meant every word. Odo says he did, too, and then they both laugh.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Ascent

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko’s sophomore year field study was on Starbase 137. He said it was one of the best experiences of his life. He’s also handling Jake’s moving out very poorly, though he handles Jake and Nog’s rift expertly (and successfully) by virtue of his being both the captain and the dad.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Ascent

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo gets an object lesson in the joys of being stuck with a fragile human body, as he has multiple contusions and a broken leg, and also comes close to starving and/or freezing to death.

Rules of Acquisition: Quark is testifying against the Orion Syndicate, which is spectacularly dangerous, but the only thing he can do given that the syndicate won’t actually let him in.

Keep your ears open: “Healthy body, healthy mind.”

“Please, Nog, no clichés before breakfast.”

Nog trying to get Jake to exercise, and Jake being less than impressed.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Ascent

Welcome aboard: The only “guests” are recurring regulars Max Grodénchik and Aron Eisenberg as Rom and Nog.

Trivial matters: A primary inspiration for this episode was Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, with Odo and Quark as Vladimir and Estragon, something Ira Steven Behr had been thinking about doing practically since the beginning. It finally came together here (and needed some kind of plot, since that’s something the Beckett play doesn’t actually have…)

Nog’s time at the Academy was seen in the Starfleet Academy comic book series published by Marvel, written by Chris Cooper.

Fizzbin was first seen being pulled right out of Jim Kirk’s ass in “A Piece of the Action,” and I adore the notion of it catching on among the Ferengi a hundred years later.

Having Nog assigned to do field work on Deep Space 9 was done to keep the character around without having to contrive another trip to Earth like “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost,” or to the Mirror Universe (where Nog is dead in any case).

Orion pirates were seen in “The Menagerie, Part 2” and “Journey to Babel” on the original series and “The Pirates of Orion” on the animated series. This episode is the first reference to the Orion Syndicate, which will next be seen in “A Simple Investigation,” and which will continue to recur in the 24th century on DS9 and also be seen in the 22nd century in the Enterprise episodes “Borderland” and “Bound.”

The Syndicate is also seen in several novels, notably Well of Souls by Ilsa J. Bick, A Time to Heal by David Mack, The Good that Men Do by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin, Homecoming by Christie Golden, Full Circle by Kirsten Beyer, Christopher L. Bennett’s Rise of the Federation series, and your humble rewatcher’s Demons of Air and Darkness and Articles of the Federation. In addition, the various Star Trek role-playing games from FASA, Last Unicorn, and Decipher have made tremendous use of the Orions.

Jake’s latest story shares a title, “Past Prologue,” with the second episode of DS9.

While it’s possible that the Bashir we see in this episode is the one we know and love, the Bashir we see moving forward is a changeling, as this is the last episode featuring the gray turtleneck/colored jumpsuit uniforms that were created for DS9. Between this episode and “Rapture,” Starfleet will switch to gray jumpsuits and colored turtlenecks, new uniforms created for the movie First Contact. (Your humble rewatcher’s eBook Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment, part of the Slings and Arrows miniseries, explained the uniform switch as a policy made by newly elected Federation president Min Zife.) “In Purgatory’s Shadow” will establish that some time prior to the uniform switch, Bashir was captured and imprisoned in Internment Camp 371 in the Gamma Quadrant, replaced on DS9 with a changeling.

Walk with the Prophets: “Fascist!” “Failure!” This episode has all the elements of a strong one, especially since it plays on two of DS9’s strongest elements. The double act of Odo and Quark has never failed to be anything other than magnificent, even when the material hasn’t entirely been up to it (cf. “Civil Defense”), and the Jake/Nog friendship has been one of the more quietly impressive elements of the show, giving us two childhood friends growing up together. And all four actors in question are mostly at the top of their game here, particularly Cirroc Lofton and Aron Eisenberg, who have enough of their first-season childhood selves intact, yet they’ve both obviously turned into adults.

But still, the entire episode has a sense of perfunctory inevitableness about it. Quark and Odo are always at each other’s throats, so an episode like this was pretty much expected, with the only surprise being that it took until the fifth season to do it. Yet when we got to it, every beat was meticulously hit without any surprises or twists—or, most depressingly, any new insights into the characters. Yes, it’s a chance for them both to snark at each other, but we get that most every week already. Aside from showing how frustrating Odo’s punishment is, since his humanoid form gets the crap kicked out of it, there’s nothing all that interesting here. The damage to the runabout is all tiresomely specific, just enough to keep the plot moving—not bad enough to be hopeless, but not good enough to be entirely useful—and the fight the pair of them have is so tiresomely predictable that even these two actors have trouble with it. The “mostly” caveat above was mainly because of the scene where Odo and Quark start yelling at each other because it’s just so completely unconvincing. It’s the only time you can tell that the two of them are acting rather than inhabiting their characters.

The Jake-and-Nog plot is also a cliché, but doing the pair of them as The Odd Couple is actually entertaining, especially given how they started. The son of the captain is the one you’d expect to be all spit-and-polish and the Ferengi is the one you’d expect to be an irresponsible slob, so inverting the expectations is tremendous fun. Adding to the fun for me is that I’ve got a little bit of both of them in me—both Jake’s focus-on-writing-and-ignore-everything-else mentality (not to mention playing computer games as a way of resetting the brain, though I usually do it with FreeCell, Solitaire, Scrabble, or Frozen Bubble), and as a martial artist, I get Nog’s focus on healthy body and healthy mind (going to the dojo to train always makes me feel better).

The episode is fun to watch, but it never quite rises above the bog-standard nature of its storyline to be anything more than that.

 

Warp factor rating: 6


Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that The Klingon Art of War is on sale now! You can find the hardcover at your local bookstore or you can order it in hardcover or eBook form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, or direct from the publisher. Hear interviews with him about the book on the “Literary Treks” podcast from TrekFM, on TrekRadio, on The Chronic Rift, on The Sci-Fi Diner, and on The G & T Show.

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