“One Little Ship”
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Season 6, Episode 14
Production episode 40510-537
Original air date: February 14, 1998
Station log: The Defiant is investigating a subspace compression phenomenon. Dax, O’Brien, and Bashir take the Rubicon into the phenomenon, tethered to the Defiant via a tractor beam. The runabout shrinks when it hits the accretion disc, which makes O’Brien more than a little nervous.
A Jem’Hadar ship attacks the Defiant, using the phenomenon to mask their arrival. They trash the Defiant and board it, while the Rubicon goes hurtling into the phenomenon once the tractor beam is lost in battle.
First Kudak’etan is part of a new race of Jem’Hadar bred in the Alpha Quadrant. His Second is an honored elder from the Gamma Quadrant, Ixtana’rax, and Kudak’etan takes great pleasure in lording his superiority over Ixtana’rax. Their Vorta, Gelnon, charges them with proceeding to the nearest Dominion outpost, while he continues to the Coridan system.
Sisko, Kira, Worf, and Nog have been imprisoned in the mess hall, and Ixtana’rax takes Sisko to the bridge on Kudak’etan’s order. Kudak’etan needs Sisko to repair the warp drive, which Sisko agrees to, if Kira, Worf, and Nog assist him. Ixtana’rax thinks this is a mistake, but Kudak’etan overrides him.
The Rubicon is badly damaged, but they do manage to escape the phenomenon. Unfortunately, because they didn’t leave via the same trajectory, they didn’t revert to their proper size. They’re still a teeny-tiny little ship. The only way for them to get back into the phenomenon is with the Defiant’s help. Communications are down, so they go in via a plasma vent—which is fine until Kudak’etan orders the ship to impulse and the vent they’re in fills with superheated plasma. They barely escape to the engine room, where the Jem’Hadar are supervising Sisko, Worf, Kira, and Nog effecting repairs. Ixtana’rax tells Kira to show one of the other Jem’Hadar how she is making her repair.
Hiding in engineering, Dax and O’Brien observe what the crew are doing. They quickly deduce that Kira’s the only one actually fixing the warp drive. Sisko is working to transfer command of the ship’s functions to engineering, while Worf covers their tracks, sending false signals to make it look to the Jem’Hadar like the repairs are proceeding, and Nog is trying to eliminate the bridge lockout of the command codes.
The Rubicon crew try to help by getting to the bridge and releasing the bridge to engineering from there. They leave after Kudak’etan enters engineering to ask what’s taking so long. Sisko accuses Ixtana’rax of slowing him down. Kudak’etan orders Ixtana’rax to just observe, not interfere—but also tells Sisko that he has thirty minutes to fix the warp drive, or crew members start dying, beginning with Kira. Sisko agrees. He also tells Worf that Plan B is a computer virus that will cause the warp core to overload once they reach a certain speed.
Dax trails Kudak’etan to the bridge. The only way to help Sisko with his plan is for O’Brien to manually rewrite the encryption. The problem is, none of them can leave the runabout because the air molecules outside the runabout are too large for them to be able to breathe. But the circuit housings are airtight—Dax can beam compressed air into it, and it would last for about twenty minutes. She beams O’Brien and Bashir in. The chief has trouble at first—the different perspective is disorienting—but Bashir talks him off the ledge, and he does it.
In engineering, Nog thinks he’s transferred the command codes (it was really O’Brien and Bashir, but he has no way of knowing that), but just then Ixtana’rax has discovered that the warp drive has been online for an hour. Kudak’etan thinks it’s Ixtana’rax’s failure to notice that, but Ixtana’rax points out that he was told not to interfere. The First orders warp speed, which means Worf’s computer virus will kick in and destroy the ship soon.
However, Dax flies the Rubicon back to engineering and fires on the Jem’Hadar. That creates enough of a distraction for Sisko to transfer control while Kira, Worf, and the Rubicon take out the Jem’Hadar. Worf himself kills Kudak’etan, and Kira shoots Ixtana’rax, and Sisko floods the rest of the ship with anesthezine gas.
They manage to bring the Rubicon back to normal size, finish repairs, and head back to the station. The Jem’Hadar are sent to a POW camp.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? A subspace compression phenomenon can shrink anything that enters it, but it might also provide a method of quick transport between distant parts of the galaxy. That’s the excuse for exploring it, anyhow, and no reason is given why it must shrink things or really much of anything. It’s just there do to the shrunken-runabout plot.
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko plays Kudak’etan like a two-dollar banjo, playing him against Ixtana’rax. Ixtana’rax sees through it, but can do nothing because Kudak’etan is the First. Obedience leads to victory, and victory is life, which are actually Ixtana’rax’s last words….
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira gets to stand in for the audience who likely think the whole idea of a shrinking runabout is high-larious by giggling almost uncontrollably at the very idea in the teaser.
There is no honor in being pummeled: Dax asked Worf to compose a poem in honor of this particular occasion. As of the end of the episode he only got as far as “There once was a little ship that took a little trip.”
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: While Bashir and O’Brien are celebrating in the bar, telling the story of their grand exploits to M’Pella and Morn, Odo tells them that he thinks they’re both about a centimeter or two shorter than the last time he saw them. When Quark backs him up, the two of them rush to the infirmary. Quark turns to Odo. “And they say you don’t have a sense of humor.”
Rules of Acquisition: Nog reports something about the runabout, interrupting Worf’s awkward explanation of his poem. Kira speculates that Nog was covering for Worf, and Sisko agrees.
Victory is life: This episode establishes that the Dominion has been breeding Jem’Hadar in the Alpha Quadrant. The rivalry between “Alphas” and “Gammas” was only ever referenced in this episode, but it displays itself in the Alphas being dismissive of Gammas, of foregoing the verbal part of the white-renewal ritual, and valuing initiative.
Tough little ship: The Jem’Hadar put the Defiant’s “bridge crew” in the mess hall, but it’s only Sisko, Kira, Worf, and Nog. It’s never made clear what’s done with the rest of the crew.
Keep your ears open: “This conduit is filthy, Chief. Don’t you ever clean up in here?”
“All right, all right, let’s not badger the chief.”
“I’m sorry. It was very small of me.”
Bashir making fun of O’Brien, Dax chastising him, O’Brien expressing gratitude, and Bashir coming back with the inevitable pun.
Welcome aboard: Leland Crooke makes the first of two appearances as Gelnon; he’ll be back in “Honor Among Thieves.” Scott Thompson Baker, Fritz Sperberg, and Christian Zimmerman play the Jem’Hadar, while Aron Eisenberg returns as Nog.
Trivial matters: This episode—which had the nickname of “Honey, I Shrunk the Runabout” in the production office—was filmed prior to “Far Beyond the Stars” but aired afterward, probably due to the great postproduction work required for this episode.
The episode was based on a notion Rene Echevarria first pitched when he was on staff at TNG, but Jeri Taylor didn’t go for it. He pitched it again on DS9, but Michael Piller didn’t go for it. Neither did Ira Steven Behr, at first, but eventually Echevarria wore him down.
Science advisor André Bormanis had been dreading that someday they would do a shrinking episode, thus forcing him to have to come up with a scientific justification for it.
The animated series did a similar riff in the episode “The Terratin Incident,” and of course the Enterprise was also shrunk to tiny size in the original series episode “Catspaw.”
Coridan was first established in “Journey to Babel,” where its admittance into the Federation was under discussion. The world itself also appears in the Enterprise episodes “Shadows of P’Jem” and “Demons.”
Walk with the Prophets: “I don’t feel any smaller.” There’s really nothing to say about this episode. I mean, it’s the one where they shrink. Ever since Fantastic Voyage first was released, the shrinking episode has been a staple of genre on the screen. The Star Trek animated series did it in the 1970s, and Doctor Who did it just a few weeks ago.
And it’s cute and all, and I appreciated Kira lampshading it in the teaser (not to mention Nog taking offense at finding small things humorous), and it’s fun to see the banter among Dax, Bashir, and O’Brien, plus I liked the attempts to keep the science real. I especially liked Bashir pointing out that they can’t actually breathe outside the runabout because the air molecules would be too big, though they lose points by having Bashir refer to “oxygen molecules.” First of all, it would be oxygen atoms, not oxygen molecules, secondly, we don’t breathe oxygen, we breathe air. Our cells extract oxygen, but it isn’t pure oxygen we’re breathing.
But ultimately the biggest problem is that the Jem’Hadar are portrayed here as total bloody morons. The whole Alpha-Gamma rivalry feels constructed and silly, as evidenced by the fact that we never saw it again, and is the kind of stupid thing that I can’t see the Dominion actually doing. Kudak’etan does things, not because it’s smart, but because he’s enjoying snarking off Ixtana’rax—exactly the kind of petty stupidity that the Jem’Hadar have been mostly free of.
Sisko’s plan hinges on a number of things, starting with the tiresome tendency of bad guys on television to not have surveillance in their cells, whether electronic or in the form of guards—seriously, why isn’t there a Jem’Hadar inside the mess hall with Sisko and the others? It also relies on the Jem’Hadar not knowing Starfleet engineering—but we already know that the Jem’Hadar have captured lots of Starfleet ships, and they’re allied with the Cardassians, who must know something about Federation engineering from their own captured ships from prior wars. It makes no sense, none, that the Jem’Hadar would be as totally ignorant of Starfleet systems as they are in this episode. The Dominion has never been shown as being this stupid before, and if they were, they would never have been considered a threat ever.
The episode has its moments, but ultimately the plot is just there in service of doing the shrinking-runabout gag, and it’s not enough.
Warp factor rating: 3
Keith R.A. DeCandido’s newest novel is Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution, based on the FOX show that just started its second season. The book will be published next week, and you can order it from Sleepy Reads or find in your local bookstore.