Category Archives: Deep Space Nine

Also known as DS9

“The Jem’Hadar”

Avery Brooks, Shit Just Got Real Face No. 5.

Sisko takes Jake on a trip to the Gamma Quadrant, and Quark and his nephew Nog (Aron Eisenberg) horn in on the fun. On a nearby planet, Sisko and Quark are taken captive by some nasty looking aliens called the Jem’Hadar, apparently the foot soldiers for the Dominion, a big, bad Gamma Quadrant empire first mentioned in passing earlier in season two. Meanwhile, a Jem’Hadar ship comes through the wormhole and a representative beams into Ops and tells Kira that the Dominion will no longer tolerate any travel to the Gamma Quadrant. Sisko will serve as an example of those who defy the Dominion. Starfleet sends the Galaxy-class Odyssey to DS9 and the ship and the two remaining runabouts go to retrieve Sisko’s party. Sisko and Quark — with the help of another captive, Eris (Molly Hagan) — have already escaped and are quickly retrieved (along with Jake and Nog). With the Odyssey and the runabouts retreating, a Jem’Hadar ship makes a suicide run at the Odyssey, destroying the ship and making it clear how far the Dominion is willing to go. Back on the station, it’s learned that Eris is actually a spy, and she beams away before she can be captured. With the Dominion apparently poised to attack, Sisko vows to be ready.

Could have been worse. The Odyssey could have been destroyed because the senior staff forgot they could remodulate the damn shields …

Why it’s important

As noted in the previous two reviews, the final third of DS9’s second season cements the station as a major galactic crossroads. With the Cardassians and the Maquis already nearby, the proximity to the wormhole now means DS9 will be the place of the first battle if and when the Dominion attacks (a point Sisko makes). DS9, which was a backwater of the galaxy when the series premiered, has become a very, very important place.

The introduction of the Dominion, the Jem’Hadar, the Founders (by name) and the Vorta (we learn later that Eris is a member of that race) are all huge events. With one exception (which we’ll address) everything that we see here mostly tracks with what we see over the next five seasons.

“Next time I say, ‘Let’s go to Bolivia’ … “

What doesn’t hold up

The creators made a very interesting choice in writing the Dominion’s motivations. Essentially, the Dominion says it will consider any further incursions in the Gamma Quadrant an act of war. Setting aside the actions taken by the Jem’Hadar before making these demands — capturing Sisko, destroying a Bajoran colony in the Gamma Quadrant, etc. — are the Dominion’s actions THAT different than another space-faring empire/organization declaring sovereign borders?

There are a couple ways that you can justify the Federation’s behavior, even if the creators (unfortunately) never bothered doing so. Considering that Alpha Quadrant races have been venturing into the Gamma Quadrant for two years without encountering the Dominion, we can assume that the Dominion’s territory doesn’t include the area right outside the wormhole. Indeed, later episodes indicate Starfleet knows the Dominion’s borders. So, is the idea that the Federation and other Alpha Quadrant races won’t abide by the Dominion’s warning because they don’t believe the claim is valid — as it’s overly broad?

That’s the only argument that really makes even a little sense. And keep in mind that the Dominion likely would have not started hostilities with the Federation if incursions through the wormhole had ceased. Now, perhaps you could argue that the Dominion later appears untrustworthy and would have attacked anyway. But, at this point in DS9, our heroes don’t know anything about the Dominion — and neither do we.

With that conceit pushed aside, there’s only one real problem with what we see here and what we see later. Eris, on board DS9 at the end of this episode, encounters Odo — and doesn’t seem to treat him as we later learn she should. Here’s why (spoiler alert) …

Next season, Odo learns that he is actually a Changeling, and Changelings are the Founders mentioned in this episode. In other words, the Changelings are the leaders of the Dominion. And we also learn later that the Jem’Hadar and the Vorta (of which, Eris is one) are bred to worship the Founders.

So, either Eris didn’t know that Odo was a Founder, or she had a great poker face — which doesn’t seem likely, considering the way Vorta almost instinctively fall all over the Founders in later seasons. One possibility is that the rest of the Founders, who are better shapeshifters than Odo, didn’t appear like Odo when they interacted with “solids” — and that all the Changelings we see going forward mirror Odo’s look. I suppose there are reasons they might do that — to make Odo feel a stronger connection, for example — but it’s never really explained.

Really, the answer is simpler. The creators either hadn’t decided to make Odo’s race the leaders of the Dominion before writing this episode OR they got sloppy later. Or both.

Final thoughts

This is another strong — and consequential — episode toward the end of DS9’s second season. But I can see why fans didn’t think DS9 fit in with Roddenberry’s vision. The series would be the first, and only, in Star Trek in which we see a full-scale war. Of course, that’s largely put in motion here.

Frankly, though, after three seasons of TOS (and, at this point, six movies) and seven seasons of TNG, the creators probably needed to do something beyond the standard exploration that we saw in the first two series. Otherwise, DS9 would have been old hat. Put another way, DS9 lived up to its premise — whether fans liked the actual premise or not. Voyager, the fourth series, notoriously tried to  have its cake and eat it, too, for seven years and essentially pissed all over its premise.

Coming next week …

Sisko and Co. gear up for the looming Dominion threat.


“You want to go back to your universe, my dear? I bet you can’t get a decent milk bath over there … “

A runabout accident pulls Kira and Bashir into the parallel universe that Kirk and Co. visited way back in “Mirror, Mirror”. Turns out Kirk’s actions — hilariously — totally backfired. Mirror/bearded Spock tried the whole peace thing Kirk suggested, but the Cardassians and the Klingons formed an alliance and now run things, with “Terrans” as slaves. DS9 is run by a mirror version of Kira — Bajor is a part of the alliance — with Garak as first officer, Odo as overseer in the ore-processing center, O’Brien as a well-trusted slave and Sisko as a sort of pirate who works (ahem) for Kira. Kira and Bashir eventually escape with the help of Sisko and O’Brien — who appear poised to disrupt the universe’s status quo.

For the next five years, Avery Brooks would only call Colm Meaney, “Smiley”.

Why it’s important

As noted above, this episode shows how Kirk changed the course of an entire quadrant (maybe more) in the mirror universe — and how Kira and Bashir essentially do the same thing with their encounter. We don’t see it in this episode, but mirror Sisko and O’Brien go on to lead a rebellion against the Klingon/Cardassian alliance with humans (and some other apparently subjugated races) along for the ride. More on that next season …

And while this episode is significant, it’s mostly fun because of the mirror versions of our favorite characters (like the TOS episode) but with a dark DS9 tint to the image. More on that in a moment …


What doesn’t hold up

The alliance, as we see in later episodes, is just sort of incompetent. It’s ridiculous that the runabout Kira and Bashir used to travel to the other universe wouldn’t have been dissected for technical secrets — or, at least, placed somewhere out of reach to prevent Kira and Bashir from escaping. Beyond that, Kira and Bashir clearly mention the wormhole — and mirror Kira and Garak don’t do anything to find out what the hell they’re talking about. Finding the wormhole would have been a HUGE deal for the alliance. It is interesting to think, though how the prophets built the wormhole in the evil universe. Maybe the celestial temple has been replaced by an evil place where the pah-wraiths hang out?

And, of course, the big conceit — just as it was in “Mirror, Mirror” — is that so many of our heroes would be on the station. To DS9’s credit in this episode, mirror versions of Dax and Bashir don’t show up. Of course, that’ll change …

Final thoughts

I really love this episode because it’s so off the hinge in a way that mostly makes sense. The craziness of the evil universe here was never as well done in subsequent episodes, as we see just the right combo of seriousness and comic-book characterization. “Crossover” almost has a film noir feel to it, and all of the characters are just so well-conceived in a bizarro-world kind of way. There are great moments — from Sisko saying he never had feelings to hurt to Kira’s casual brutality to Odo’s ruthlessness to O’Brien’s defeatism. The characters are similar to the versions we know and love — but they’re appropriately tweaked for the lives they would have led. Only Garak — who comes across as an inept brute — is kind of boring.

Lastly, I always thought this was an example of the second-generation Trek creators poking fun at TOS. Throughout that series, Kirk’s sense of moral righteousness prompted him to do what he thought was right without really analyzing the consequences. “Mirror, Mirror” — in which decides to mess with a universe he’s been in for like six hours — was the most drastic example. And it led to nearly all of humanity being enslaved! Way to go, Jimbo.

Coming later this week …

Sisko, Jake, Quark and Nog go camping. And it’s a swell time and nothing goes wrong.

“The Wire”

So many secrets, so little time.

Garak (Andrew J. Robinson) the Cardassian-in-exile/enigma on DS9 and (sort of) friend of Bashir, starts having medical issues. He enlists Quark to get a piece of technology and sets off alarms when Bashir and Odo learn the item is classified by the notorious Obsidian Order, the “all-seeing eyes and ears” of the Cardassian Empire. Garak tells Bashir that the piece of equipment is a brain implant installed to help him get through torture in his past life as an agent of the Obsidian Order. He’s used it continuously for two years — to cope with his exile — and it’s breaking down. Bashir helps Garak through the withdrawal (and hears varying accounts of why he’s in exile) and eventually heads to see Garak’s old Obsidian Order boss Enabaran Tain (Paul Dooley). Tain helps Bashir because he wants Garak to live out his life in miserable exile on DS9. A recovered Garak, of course, casts doubts on most of what Bashir learned about him during the experience. But Garak’s shadiness is all the shadier afterward.

Why it’s important

This episode isn’t the first time we meet Garak (that was back in “Past Prologue” in the first season). But this cements him as a power player and a key recurring character on DS9. Garak is part of some of DS9’s biggest events over the years, and Robinson was one of DS9’s best actors.

The episode is also hugely important as it introduces the Obsidian Order and Tain. We see Tain again in DS9’s third season and again in the fifth, and his involvement in Alpha Quadrant dealings with the Dominion is hugely significant. More on that in future reviews.

One other small point. This is a nice episode in further establishing Odo’s credentials as someone who’s seriously plugged into events and information in the Alpha Quadrant (with a special emphasis on Cardassia).

“I’m very confident that everything I’ll attempt to do in the coming years will be quite successful.”

What doesn’t hold up

The episode suffers from trying to get some of the regular cast involved where they’re not really needed. The scenes with Sisko, Dax and Kira are just completely superfluous, and the scene with O’Brien isn’t much better. Beyond that, Bashir’s interest in Garak’s problem early in the episode isn’t handled that well. Bashir became one of DS9’s stronger characters — and the transition was starting in season two. But you can still see some of the annoying qualities that made eyes roll in the first season and half of the second.

Last point — and this is kind of minor — DS9 often tried to make foreign spy agencies/governments appear more ominous than they could have possibly been. Tain knowing so much about Bashir was just hard to swallow. The implication is that DS9 is filled with spies taking note of minor information all the time.

“Do you have any idea how much time Armin and I spend with the makeup people, Siddig?”

Final thoughts

This isn’t a great episode, but it’s a good one that puts some key things in place going forward. While we don’t learn here — and never fully learn — why Garak is in exile in the first place, we learn that he was a spy and a key operative in one of Cardassia’s most notorious organizations. That makes his “man of many talents” schtick work, to say nothing of his general cageyness.

Garak and Tain (though he shows up only a few times) were really great supporting characters on a series that would go on to be filled with great supporting characters. As mentioned in our last review, DS9 starts to get its footing in the final third of the second season because it puts so much in place for what we would see later. This episode is a huge domino.

Coming next week …

We return to the mirror universe in one of DS9’s classic episodes.

“The Maquis”

"Cal, you've come a long ways since your days with those nerds at Tri-Lamb"
“Cal, you’ve come a long way since your days with those nerds at Tri-Lamb”

The destruction of a Cardassian freighter near DS9 is learned to have been caused by Federation citizens turned terrorists, calling themselves the Maquis. The citizens opted to stay on planets given to the Cardassians in a treaty with the Federation — and they’re taking up arms in response to subsequent treatment by the Cardassians. Sisko fears that tensions stoked by the terrorists will cause another war with Cardassia, so he teams up with Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo) to stop the Maquis. But he learns that his old friend and fellow Starfleet officer Calvin Hudson (Bernie Casey) is one of the terrorists and plans to attack a weapons depot the Cardassians have placed on one of their colonies. Sisko takes DS9’s three runabouts and stops Hudson from attacking the depot, and allows Hudson to escape. Sisko is commended for his actions in preventing a war — but wonders if he simply delayed the inevitable.

"Cal do you know how much these uniforms cost?! I could've returned it for store credit!"
“Cal, do you know how much these uniforms cost?! I could’ve returned it for store credit!”

Why it’s important

If anyone questions’s DS9’s importance in Trek lore, they should watch this two-parter. It’s the first time we see DS9 as a sort of crossroads in galactic politics. It’s the nearest Federation outpost to the Cardassian border, so Sisko and Co.  are drawn in — even though it’s unlikely their roles could have been anticipated by anyone when Starfleet set up shop at DS9 a little more than a year earlier.

The Maquis are a huge Trek domino, of course. The events here are set in motion by TNG’s “Journey’s End” and are furthered by TNG’s “Preemptive Strike”. The second season of DS9 and seventh season of TNG are interesting as they’re the most coordinated concurrent seasons in Trek history. With Voyager taking place out of the Alpha Quadrant, this kind of cross-cutting between series never happened again. But, of course, Voyager’s very premise — a Starfleet crew and and a Maquis crew forced to work together on the other side of the galaxy — was set in motion by the events of this DS9 two-parter and the two related TNG episodes.

Beyond that, the Maquis are a major force in DS9. They helped destabilize the Cardassian Empire, which becomes part of the Dominion three years later BECAUSE of its instability. And the guy who forged the Cardassian/Dominion alliance was Gul Dukat … who really comes into his own as a major DS9 player in these episodes. His scenes with Sisko really were incredibly well acted and well written.

Prior to “The Maquis”, Dukat was really a recurring character/Cardassian. His personality wasn’t fleshed out — he was just the former Cardassian prefect of Bajor who appeared on view screens here and there. But this episode established him as a major foil for Sisko and the DS9 crew. One, who for a couple seasons, was an ally. This, of course, was one of DS9’s strengths. No other Trek series was so good at embracing shades of grey. We’ll discuss another one of those shades, Garak, in our next review.

"I've got this aide, Damar, he'd love this Kanar!"
“I’ve got this aide, Damar, he’d love this Kanar!”

What doesn’t hold up

Bernie Casey isn’t great in this episode, but that’s largely forgivable. The biggest problem after that is the issue of scope — something DS9 struggled with early on.

Sisko and Co. must take on the Maquis with the station’s three runabouts. While they are successful in doing so, it’s a really close call — and only works because the Maquis have limited resources. It’s kind of goofy to think that Starfleet wouldn’t have sent a starship to deal with the Maquis. Had that happened, the ship would have pretty easily handled a couple of (well-armed) shuttles — but, then, Sisko and company would have likely been left on the sidelines.

This, of course, is addressed in season three when Sisko brings the Defiant to DS9 to address the Dominion situation. But it’s hard to swallow that Starfleet couldn’t have devoted more resources to diffuse matters with Hudson here. We know there are Federation starships in the general area (as the Enterprise spends much of the seventh season dealing with Cardassian matters).

Final thoughts

I’ve had friends ask me when they should start watching DS9, and I usually tell them that these two episodes represent the turning point. There are definitely some good episodes in the first season-plus — notably, the Bajoran political stuff from the end of season one into season two. But I understand why those episodes don’t have the mass appeal that we got starting in this two-parter.

This is also a great example of the DS9 characters getting their footing. The crew was never going to be as conflict-free as the TNG gang, nor did it need to be (nor was it designed to be). But the over-the-top writing/acting from season one is gone here. The scene in part one where the senior staff is clearly at odds — I love when O’Brien calls Odo out for security breaches — is great. No other Trek series did this kind of thing as well.

Sisko’s growing importance is shown here. He’s not just some bureaucrat tasked with getting Bajor ready for Federation membership. He’s a guy who must deal with terrorist groups and Cardassian reactions (in addition to Bajor). Later, of course, he becomes the guy to deal with the Dominion threat.

Last point. You’ll notice that many of the next several episodes make the tapestry, as DS9 enters a stretch of really consequential stories. You could argue that DS9 becoming more consequential was the key to its improved performance.

Coming later this week …

We finally learn what’s up with Garak. Sort of. Maybe.

“In the Hands of the Prophets”

“Tell me what it’s like to be a pawn, my child. I think I might need to know in a few years.”

A dust up between the Federation and the Bajorans ensues when Keiko O’Brien (Rosalind Chao) starts teaching Bajoran children at the station’s school that the wormhole is not (explicitly) the Bajorans’ celestial temple. Orthodox Vedek Winn (Louise Fletcher) shows up and starts making noise in her bid to become the next kai, after the previous one’s death earlier in season one. Her chief rival Vedek Bareil (Philip Anglim) comes to the station to help mediate, and Winn gets O’Brien’s Bajoran assistant, Neela (Robin Christopher) to make an attempt on Bareil’s life. O’Brien figures out what’s happening in time to alert Sisko, who stops Neela. Kira, who had supported Winn, confronts her, accusing her (rightly) of plotting the whole thing to get Bareil out of the way — though Neela later says she acted alone. This sets the stage for Winn to be a manipulative power player and enemy to the Federation going forward. The event also has the effect of pushing Sisko and Kira together after a season of (mostly) acrimony.

Winn and Bareil brace for the stunning conclusion to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

Why it’s important

Early DS9 focused much of its time on turmoil involving the Federation and Bajor. This is likely the best example, as it shows the schism between the spiritual Bajorans and the non-spiritual Federation. It also partly explains the factions forming on Bajor that take effect in the three-parter that begins the second season. We won’t review those three episodes — though they are good — because the actions in them really don’t have consequences. The characters and the extremist group behind it never appear again, except for Winn and Bareil, who are introduced here.

Winn, of course, is a HUGE character in the DS9 mythos, as we’ll see going forward. So, to a lesser extent, is Bareil.

Thematically, this episode shows one of DS9’s strengths — the ability to slowly and gradually depict an evolving situation over several years. The Federation/Bajoran turmoil was personified by Sisko and Kira and the quiet realization that the two of them have at the end of the episode is an important development.

What doesn’t hold up

Really, Keiko O’Brien is the biggest problem in this episode. It’s hard to imagine that she would be so hard-headed AND oblivious to the fact that her secular teachings could cause problems among a spiritual people. In “Emissary”, we learn that the only thing that binds the Bajoran people together is their religion. Even if Keiko disagreed with Winn, her shock at what happened was an example of poorly done exposition (or bad acting, anyway).

The only other problem is that the Bajoran issues seen here as a big damn deal mostly go away in later DS9. Essentially, the creators pivoted from the Bajoran storylines in season two (when the series wasn’t doing well) and brought in the the Maquis, the Dominion and (later) the Klingons. That probably was a smart idea for the sake of the series — but it’s too bad that we see SO little of the Bajoran turmoil going forward (when so much time is wasted on things like Ferengi nonsense or Lwaxana Troi pining for Odo). Other than Sisko’s role as the Emissary, Winn’s backbiting and the eventual rise to power of Kira’s resistance buddy Shakaar in season three, the Bajorans seem pretty content and in step with the Federation.

And that feels odd considering just how tumultuous and factional things were during the Federation’s first year-plus at DS9. I guess you could figure that as more Bajorans accepted Sisko as the Emissary, they figured they should follow his lead and/or they were tired after the struggles with the Cardassians and the brief civil war. But it’s never really explained that way. Maybe implying it was a better choice …

Final thoughts

This is a great episode as far as understanding why DS9 was such a square peg in Trek. This wasn’t the type of outing that any other series would have likely attempted. Where I grew up, DS9 and TNG aired back to back. I can imagine someone wondering what the hell they were seeing while watching “In the Hands of the Prophets” after seeing a TNG episode like “Timescape”, a fairly by-the-numbers sci-fi/Trek outing, which aired around the same time.

But “In the Hands of the Prophets” is still a good episode, even if some of the first season issues still show up. It’s the episode that best explains the Bajoran situation after the Cardassian withdrawal.

Coming next week …

Are all humans evolved and peace-loving in the 24th century? Apparently not …