Sisko’s fleet begins fighting the vastly larger Dominion force while Dukat watches with glee and prepares to take down the minefield around the wormhole. At Damar’s suggestion, Kira, Jake and Leeta are all taken into custody (where Rom was being held pre-execution), leaving Quark as the only member of Kira’s resistance cell able to do anything. Quark, getting an assist from Ziyal, frees Kira’s team, and Kira and Rom work to disable the station so it can’t remove the minefield. The Defiant eventually breaks through the Dominion lines — with some late help from Worf and the Klingons — and sets course for the station. Odo picks his side and helps Kira and Rom, but Rom is just a second to late — and cuts the station’s weapons after the minefield has been destroyed. The Defiant arrives just in time to watch the mines explode and Sisko sets course into the wormhole, where the ship runs into the huge Dominion fleet. Then, the Prophets summon Sisko, asking him if he’s trying to die. Sisko talks the Prophets into intervening — “If you want to be gods, BE gods” — which they do, after telling Sisko there will be a penance. The Dominion ships disappear, and the Defiant comes out of the wormhole, firing on a disabled DS9. Weyoun orders evacuation and a retreat to Cardassian space and a stunned Dukat starts to fall apart. He finds Ziyal, who admits to helping Kira, and just as Dukat has apparently forgiven her, Damar shows up and shoots and kills Ziyal. After the Dominion evacuations, Sisko and company retake the station and find Dukat, a broken man from the ordeal.
Why it’s important
That’s likely the longest plot summary we’ve written, so you can tell that a lot happens here. The Federation retaking DS9 is a HUGE domino, of course — as is the decision by the Prophets to take on a more active role in “corporeal matters,” which plays into the seventh season in a major, major way. And then there’s the matter of Dukat …
Dukat’s breakdown and subsequent actions, which we’ll get into in future reviews, really change the math for the rest of DS9. Instead of merely fighting the Dominion, Sisko must face a random element in Dukat who decides to take on the Bajorans, Sisko and the Prophets because of their actions there.
What doesn’t hold up
Before I get started, let me be on record as saying I really like this episode, despite what may come across as ranting.
As the episode begins, occupied DS9 has at least a handful of Dominion and Cardassian ships in the area. There’s no discussion of these ships being sent to help with the fighting. And yet, they seem to magically disappear after Rom disables the station’s weapons. This is very important, in that the Dominion gives up the station (too easily) when the Defiant emerges from the wormhole. If even one of those ships was still around, it could have at least tried to take on the Defiant. I know that subsequent dialog establishes that the Starfleet/Klingon ships were on their way to the station after breaking through the Dominion lines. But if the Dominion had kept even a ship or two at DS9, they might have been able to hold off the Defiant until the station’s weapons were fixed so they could hold off the Starfleet and Klingon attackers.
And, BTW, we KNOW that some Dominion ships were still at the station, as the Dominion used them to evacuate its personnel. The creators somewhat weakly sidestep this by not showing the evacuation ships, meaning that maybe they were just shuttles or something that would have been unable to stop the Defiant. But that’s really weak sauce, as it would suggest that the Jem’Hadar and the Vorta would be cool putting a Founder in a small (and presumably lightly armed) ship in the middle of a war zone (among a host of other reasons).
And, frankly, Weyoun and the female Changeling are just WAY too chill about losing the station. Keep in mind that a season-plus later, we learn just how much the Dominion doesn’t like to lose.
As long as the complaint fest is going on, let’s address the fact that the Defiant still has the cloaking device on loan from the Romulans — despite the fact that the Romulans (at this point) have a non-aggression pact with the Dominion. The cloaking device is disabled during the battle early in the episode, but it is mentioned. Shouldn’t the Romulans have gotten that back when the war started?
While this is a criticism that might be best addressed after this episode, it makes sense to mention here: Why wouldn’t the Dominion take action against some weird wormhole aliens who just (apparently) destroyed 2,800 of their ships? After this episode, Dukat is the only one who seems to grasp the Prophets as a threat and a potential enemy. That’s really unlike the Dominion, who take every opportunity to strike out at perceived foes. We learn after this episode — too late, really, as the question is left unaddressed until the end of the season — that the Prophets will begin keeping ships from using the wormhole, preventing reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant. That’s another reason the Dominion likely should have been looking for ways to attack the Prophets.
Of course, I could quibble with the deus ex machina allowing Sisko to get rid of 2,800 Dominion ships. Watching this in 1997, I felt the ending was a cheat. But I’ll give the DS9 creators credit for how they incorporated the penance later — and how they use this as a springboard to make the Prophets more active participants. Put another way, it was a cheat — but it was a well-done cheat after the creators (in true DS9 style) stacked the deck too highly against themselves and our heroes.
Lastly, I really love that Quark kind of saves the Alpha Quadrant here.
Coming next week …
We see just how badly this all messed up Dukat.