Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “By Inferno’s Light”

“By Inferno’s Light”
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Les Landau
Season 5, Episode 15
Production episode 40510-513
Original air date: February 17, 1997
Stardate: 50564.2

Station log: We get a précis of “In Purgatory’s Shadow,” then see Kira take command of the Defiant. Along with the remaining two runabouts and Dukat’s Bird-of-Prey, they get ready to defend the station. But then the Jem’Hadar fleet changes course away from the station and toward Cardassia. Dukat breaks formation and goes after the fleet—but, as he reveals in a communication with Kira, not to attack it, but to join it. Dukat reveals that he’s been engaged in secret negotiations with the Dominion for months, and now Cardassia is part of the Dominion.

In the prison camp, Bashir and Martok show Worf and Garak where the life-support system that Tain modified is. It’s accessible via a wall panel next to Tain’s bunk, a very tight space. Worf’s plan is to modify Tain’s juryrigged transmitter to send a signal to the runabout and beam them to it. But Garak’s the only one with the expertise to do the work.

The prisoners are then summoned before Deyos, the Vorta in charge of the camp. He frees all the Cardassians, and congratulates them on their new status as Dominion citizens. However, Garak is not free to go, as Dukat wants him to stay right where he is.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on By Inferno's Light

On Cardassia, the ubiquitous propaganda screens are showing Dukat, explaining how incredibly awesome things will be now that Cardassia is part of the Dominion. He also pledges that within a week, no Klingon will be left alive and no Maquis colony will be left intact within Cardassian territory.

On the station, the bad news continues to pile up: the sabotage of the emitters created the opposite effect intended, and the wormhole terminus is actually more stable now, to the point where even explosives wouldn’t seal it off. The changeling posing as Bashir then makes the ballsy suggestion that they do more blood screenings, since there’s obviously a shapeshifter on board. (Ahem.)

While Garak works on adjusting Tain’s transmitter in the very tight crawlspace, Worf is brought into the ring. Ikat’ika explains that this is a training exercise, and urges his soldiers to analyze and learn for when they face Klingons in battle. Worf is hoping to face Ikat’ika himself, but Martok says that will come in time. Martok also reveals that Ikat’ika’s the one who cost Martok his left eye.

Worf fights a Jem’Hadar, their youngest and least experienced. Worf makes short work of him. Meanwhile, Garak is obviously not doing well—his pulse is racing, his blood pressure is through the roof—and Bashir insists he take a fifteen-minute break every hour.

Kira has a heart-to-heart with Ziyal, who doesn’t know what to make of her father’s latest actions, and just wants Garak to come back. Kira sagely reminds her that the only way to judge someone is not by what they think or what they say, but what they do.

A big-ass Klingon fleet arrives from Cardassia, having been chased out by the Jem’Hadar. Gowron himself is leading the fleet, and requests medical assistance. Sisko convinces Gowron to restore the alliance with the Federation. A Starfleet task force is en route, and Gowron’s fleet can be added to it, standing united against the Dominion.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on By Inferno's Light

The Bashir changeling—who was actually helping Sisko encourage Gowron to re-ally with the Federation—starts sabotaging the Yukon.

Worf wins his fifth straight match. He also has some broken ribs, and Bashir urges him to stop fighting, but he won’t. He might die, but he won’t yield. Meanwhile, Garak starts rebuking the lights when they flicker, and then has to convince himself not to give in to his claustrophobia, at which he’s not entirely successful. He starts banging on the wall in a full-blown panic attack, forcing Bashir to yank him out.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on By Inferno's Light

On the station, more of Gowron’s fleet shows up. Kira reports that Odo discovered a use of an industrial replicator by the saboteur, who got away and wiped the memory of the replicator, so they don’t know what was fabricated. Sisko orders double shifts for all security staff, and suggests asking Gowron for additional personnel.

Dukat then contacts Sisko, telling him to convince the Federation to follow Cardassia’s course to joining the Dominion. He also wants the station back. Out of consideration for the times Sisko saved Dukat’s life, he’s willing to give Sisko a chance to surrender the station. Sisko, to no one’s surprise, does not go for this, and tells Dukat to bring it on.

Worf wins two more victories against Jem’Hadar opponents, even with his busted ribs. Martok is so impressed with Worf’s valor that he promises to have a song composed in Worf’s honor. He’ll even make sure there’s a verse about Bashir, the healer to who bound the warrior’s wounds. Garak then gets up and says that a verse about the Cardassian who panicked in the face of danger would just ruin Martok’s song. So he goes back in.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on By Inferno's Light

Finally, Worf gets to face Ikat’ika, who deems Worf a worthy opponent. For his part, Deyos is confused. After all Worf’s been through, he still wants to fight. Ikat’ika points out that he himself is the same, but the Jem’Hadar are bred for combat—all that motivates Worf is a “barbaric sense of honor.” Ikat’ika says, “Victory is life,” Worf says, “Today is a good day to die,” and then they fight. As they battle, Garak keeps working, muttering that he wishes Tain were still alive—mostly so he could be in there instead of Garak. As he works, three Jem’Hadar enter the barracks and demand that Garak be produced, as he’s to be put to death (probably on Dukat’s order). They find the tool they’ve been using to pry the panel open, and kill one of the Romulan prisoners to get Bashir to talk. Then one of the Jem’Hadar finds the wall panel. The Breen prisoner manages to grab a Jem’Hadar pistol and kill two Jem’Hadar before the Breen is also killed. Bashir uses the tool to stab the final Jem’Hadar.

Worf is totally getting his ass kicked by Ikat’ika, to the point where even Martok is telling him to stay down. But Worf keeps getting back up, keeps fighting, and now Ikat’ika is also telling him to stop fighting. Worf refuses to yield—so Ikat’ika yields instead. “I cannot defeat this Klingon. All I can do is kill him, and that no longer holds my interest.” Deyos then orders both Worf and Ikat’ika killed, but that’s when Garak finishes his work, beaming Worf, Bashir, Martok, the Romulan, and himself to the runabout.

Gowron’s fleet is in place, a Starfleet task force led by Admiral Gilhouly has arrived, and Kira takes out the Defiant. Also supporting are the two remaining runabouts—but the Yukon’s crew has been killed by the Bashir changeling, who is now piloting it.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on By Inferno's Light

A whole mess of Romulan ships decloak, requesting permission to join the fleet just as sensors detect a fleet of Jem’Hadar and Cardassian ships are ten minutes away. But there’s no visual sign of the fleet: lots of warp signatures, but no targeting locks.

Then O’Brien gets a call from the GQ from Bashir. Sisko immediately queries the computer for Bashir’s location. He’s told that Bashir isn’t on the station, and was last known to be on the Yukon. Sisko orders Kira to go after the Yukon, which is headed straight for the Bajoran sun. Dax detects a huge-ass explosive on the runabout, which would cause the sun to go nova, destroying Bajor, DS9, and all three fleets, thus crippling the Dominion’s enemies without a shot being fired.

The Defiant warps to the sun and gets the Yukon in a tractor beam, pulling it away from the sun so it explodes harmlessly. The warp signatures are now gone—it was a fake, the Dominion/Cardassian fleet never was there. It was all a lure to set them up for the sun going boom.

The runabout comes home. Garak and Ziyal are reunited, as are Dax and Worf. O’Brien is appalled to realize he’s been hanging out with a changeling for a month (though he says the signs were all there—for starters, the changeling was a lot easier to get along with). And Gowron agrees to leave a garrison of Klingon ships at the station, with Martok in charge—the latter at Sisko’s request, based on Worf’s recommendation.

Dukat contacts Sisko to congratulate him on foiling the Dominion’s plot. Sisko tartly reminds him that his daughter would’ve been one of the casualties if the plan had succeeded, but as far as Dukat’s concerned, she’s no longer his daughter. He also promises that Cardassia will be strong again, and this isn’t the last time they’ll clash.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on By Inferno's Light

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The Bashir changeling goes for overkill, creating an explosive that includes trilithium (established as an unstable explosive in TNG’s “Starship Mine”), protomatter (established as unstable and dangerous in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock), and tekasite (that’s a new one).

The Sisko is of Bajor: When Sisko gets a call from Bashir in the Gamma Quadrant, and then determines that Bashir isn’t on the station and was last seen on a runabout he wasn’t assigned to, he doesn’t hesitate—there isn’t time to—and immediately tells Kira to find the Yukon and destroy it.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Fittingly, it’s Kira to whom Dukat reveals his sooper-seekrit plan to have Cardassia join the Dominion. He ends the communiqué by saying that him and Kira on the same side never was really right, which is one of those rare instances where Dukat is absolutely right. Kira later tells Ziyal that if her father said that rain was wet, she wouldn’t believe him.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on By Inferno's Light

There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf makes up for ten years of getting his ass kicked by winning fight after fight after fight, to the point where even the Jem’Hadar First thinks he’s a badass. What I especially like is that he does feel the effects—when Martok waxes rhapsodic about how even the heroes of legend couldn’t have endured what he did, Worf painfully adds that heroes of legend probably didn’t ache so much—but gets past them. He isn’t being a steel-jawed stoic, but he’s being true to his nature. He’s a warrior, and he’s not going to let anyone get the better of him, no matter how much it hurts.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on By Inferno's Light

Rules of Acquisition: Quark laments what he sees as a likely Dominion takeover of the station, concerned that neither the Jem’Hadar nor the Founders eat, drink, or have sex, which doesn’t say much for his financial future. Ziyal cheers him up by reminding him that the Vorta could well be gluttonous alcoholic sex maniacs. (Plus, of course, the Cardassians are now part of the Dominion, and Quark knows full well how much they like to eat, drink, and have sex, so what’s he worried about?)

For Cardassia! In his propaganda speech, Dukat refers to Cardassia and the Dominion being “equal partners,” a statement that sounds—and, over the next two-and-a-half years will prove to actually be—optimistic, naïve, and totally wrong. (At some point, somebody probably should have showed him the dictionary definition of the word “dominion.”)

Plain, simple: Garak comments that the space he’s working in would make for a dandy interrogation chamber: tight quarters, no air, bad lighting, random electric shocks—it’s perfect. His claustrophobia is almost overwhelming, but he manages to complete his work and beam everyone to the runabout.

Tough little ship: Kira risks having the Defiant go to warp inside a star system to get to the Yukon in time to stop the changeling’s sabotage of Bajor’s sun.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on By Inferno's Light

Victory is life: The fights in the ring are meant to be training exercises for the Jem’Hadar. Ikat’ika understands and appreciates Worf’s warrior spirit. Deyos, not so much—he’s baffled as to why Worf keeps fighting against the odds, and as to why Ikat’ika doesn’t just finish him off. The disgust in the Vorta’s voice when he orders Ikat’ika and Worf both to be killed is palpable.

Keep your ears open: “Think of it. Five years ago, nobody had ever heard of Bajor or Deep Space 9 and now all our hopes rest here. Where the tides of fortune take us, no man can know.”

“They’re tricky, those tides.”

Gowron and Sisko, together again for the first time.

Welcome aboard: Back from “In Purgatory’s Shadow” are Marc Alaimo (Dukat), Cathy DeBuono (Breen prisoner), J.G. Hertzler (Martok), James Horan (Ikat’ika), Andrew J. Robinson (Garak), Melanie Smith (Ziyal), and Carrie Stauber (Romulan prisoner). We’ve also got Robert O’Reilly returning as Gowron, Barry Wiggins and Don Fischer as the Jem’Hadar guards, and Ray Buktenica being delightfully smarmy as Deyos.

Trivial matters: In this episode, Cardassia becomes part of the Dominion, giving that latter a foothold in the Alpha Quadrant, and the Klingons reenter the Khitomer Accords, restoring the Federation-Klingon alliance and ending the Federation-Klingon conflict.

One of Sisko’s visions in “Rapture” was of a huge swarm of locusts pausing over Bajor before proceeding to Cardassia, which predicted the actions of the Jem’Hadar fleet in the teaser.

The claustrophobic Garak’s having to work in an enclosed space was inspired by The Great Escape, in which Charles Bronson’s “Tunnel King” has to do something similar. To add insult to injury, Andrew J. Robinson was suffering from the flu on the day of filming and has a touch of claustrophobia himself. Robinson later said, “I didn’t have to act. I was there.”

The tremendous convenience of the runabout Worf and Garak took to the GQ being right there in orbit will be addressed in “Inquisition.”

Dukat reminds Sisko of the times the latter saved the former’s life—to which Sisko’s disgusted response is, “Don’t remind me.” Those occasions include “The Maquis, Part II,” “Civil Defense,” and “The Way of the Warrior,” and Sisko also greatly aided Dukat in “Defiant.”

Una McCormack’s novel The Never-Ending Sacrifice shows how the Cardassian people responded to suddenly becoming part of the Dominion following this episode. (That novel also helped set up the Garak-Ziyal relationship by showing how much of an outcast Ziyal was on Cardassia between “Indiscretion” and “Return to Grace.”)

There’s a peculiar obsession in fandom, and also in the tie-in fiction, insisting that the Klingon Empire and parts of the Federation are in the Beta Quadrant, one that was codified by the (generally very excellent and wonderful) Star Charts map book by Geoffrey Mandel. It’s based solely on one open-to-interpretation line in Star Trek VI, and your humble rewatcher has never bought it, mainly because the phrase “Beta Quadrant” is never spoken on DS9, a show for which quadrant-based political entities are kind of important. In particular, Gowron’s line in this episode is about how the Dominion absorbing Cardassia has ramifications “for the entire Alpha Quadrant.” If the Klingon Empire was entirely in the Beta Quadrant, as so many have postulated, then Gowron’s line would of necessity have to be different. The fact that he only mentions the AQ is the best evidence that the Klingons are also only in the AQ.

Walk with the Prophets: “Armageddon will have to wait for another day.” Even if the rest of the episode was terrible—and it isn’t—it would be worth it for the magnificent double-fakeout of the teaser. What’s especially impressive is that they didn’t just pull it out of their asses—the Jem’Hadar fleet turning toward Cardassia was seeded back in “Rapture” in Sisko’s visions, not to mention Dukat’s cagey comments in the previous episode. We’re so sure that it’s an invasion that an alternative never even occurs.

And that alternative is so much worse for everyone. Well, except the Dominion, anyhow. I’m sure the Cardassians think it’s better, too, in much the same way the poor and starving citizens of the Weimar Republic of the 1920s thought that guy with the Charlie Chaplin mustache had some good points and was worth getting behind.

But having the Dominion gain territory in the Alpha Quadrant just makes everything worse (with Dukat being in charge of Cardassia the cherry on top). This shit just got real.

What’s even more entertaining is that there has yet to be a large-scale military action taken by the Jem’Hadar. The Obsidian Order and the Tal Shiar were wiped out by a plan of Tain’s, although the Lovok changeling facilitated it to make sure they were taken out in the nebula. The Federation-Klingon alliance being sundered was the result of the Klingon invasion of Cardassia, again facilitated by the Martok changeling, but still due to someone else’s actions. Martial law on Earth was accomplished by the detonating of a single explosive in a conference, and ongoing conflicts among the Cardassians, Federation, Maquis, and Klingons have weakened everyone—and none of it involved a single overt military engagement by the Dominion (with the exception of the destruction of the New Bajor colony in “The Jem’Hadar”).

Even the battle in this episode is entirely one of brinksmanship and covert ops: the Dominion only pretends to send a huge-ass invasion fleet to DS9 while the Bashir changeling is going to blow up the sun. Fake with the big thing, really do damage with the small thing—it’s been the Dominion’s MO from jump, and it makes them a far more effective and dangerous opponent.

Which makes the way they run their prison camp all the more maddening. They can impersonate a talented doctor well enough to fool all his closest friends (not to mention, y’know, his patients), they can fake an invasion fleet, but it never occurred to them to put surveillance equipment in their cells? Seriously? What kind of imbeciles don’t have a security camera in a friggin prison cell? This is something that we have now in 21st century Earth, and which Odo has on DS9, so why does the super-advanced Dominion not have this incredibly basic technology? And even if you accept that they don’t have basic surveillance, why did they just leave the runabout sitting near the prison? For that matter, how’d the single runabout get out of Dominion territory unmolested?

It’s maddening because the Dominion generally is miles ahead of our heroes, but in order for the prison-camp part of the plot to work, they have to be spectacularly stupid.

Which is too bad because once you get past that particular idiocy, the prison stuff is superb. Watching Worf push himself is compelling viewing. Yes, it’s a training exercise for the Jem’Hadar, but it’s one for Worf, too, as he’s learning more about how the Jem’Hadar fight just as they’re learning about Klingons.

But the main point is that he won’t yield. There’s a saying in Asian martial arts circles, a Japanese phrase, “nana kirobi ya oki,” which translates to “seven times fall down, eight times get up.”* Worf embodies that spirit in this episode, refusing to yield even though every bone in his body (the few that are still intact) is crying out for him to stop, because to do so would be to truly lose. And Worf has always been the ideal Klingon, so he has to push it even farther. Martok is telling him that honor’s served and to just stay the hell down, his own opponent is telling him to stay down, but he clambers to his feet anyhow. It’s a thrilling example of a strong spirit refusing to be broken and some very nicely understated work by Michael Dorn. He doesn’t go for bluster here, he just keeps getting back up.

* I actually appropriated it as a Klingon saying for The Klingon Art of War, only I made it “eight times fall down, nine times get up,” because Klingons must do everything bigger.

Worf isn’t the only one whose spirit rises to the occasion, either. We find out that Garak is claustrophobic, a revelation that kinda comes out of left field, but there hasn’t been anything prior to this that contradicts it. (And even one throwaway line of dialogue about the Defiant cabins being claustrophobic in “Second Skin” to back it up.) Andrew J. Robinson is stellar here, selling Garak’s breakdown beautifully. What’s especially impressive is that this is the first time Garak has been in any way heroic—but he never does violate his credo of self-preservation uber alles. His main goal is to get himself out of the prison camp—especially once it’s revealed that he’s had a death sentence passed against him. But in this case, he’s also serving a higher purpose, and he’s not doing it under protest for a change.

In addition to everything else, we end the Klingon conflict (which is fine, I like the Klingons better as allies) and get ourselves another new compelling recurring character in J.G. Hertzler’s Martok, who will continue to be a fantastic, regal presence on the series going forward, thanks to the supreme gravitas and energy that Hertzler brings to the role. The status quo has been set on fire again, which is delightful, and sets up so many more possibilities. The Dominion fleet going to Cardassia wasn’t the only thing Sisko predicted in “Rapture,” after all, he also predicted a “coming war with the Dominion,” and it just got a whole heckuva lot closer.


Warp factor rating: 9

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be one of the guests, alongside Nelly Reifler,’s own Emmet Asher-Perrin, and host Ryan Britt, for “Lust For Genre: Classic SF&F Readings form Our Favorite Humans,” a week from tonight, the 27th of June, at Singularity & Co. in Brooklyn at 7.30pm. We’ll each be reading, not our own work, but the work of one of our favorite classic authors. Come on by!


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