This February and March, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily Tuesday through Friday for the latest review.
The third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was really just a dress rehearsal for what lay ahead.
The third season had been a tumultuous time for the show, with Michael Piller departing the franchise to pursue opportunities outside Star Trek. It was the year directly after the end of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and all attention was focused on the pending release of Star Trek: Generations and the launch of Star Trek: Voyager. On top of that, the third season suffered from a great deal of confusion and disorganisation throughout the year, making it very hard for the production team to set an end goal for themselves.
In fact, the third season of Deep Space Nine was such a mess that the production team had not even managed to hit the end of season cliffhanger that they wanted. The Adversary had been drafted at the last possible minute when the studio vetoed the idea of ending the year with a Vulcan withdrawal from the Federation. This is not to discount the long list of impressive episodes produced during the season, but it does illustrate that the third season of Deep Space Nine had not progressed according to plan.
At the same time, it was a vital learning experience for the show. It provided a clear framework for what followed, providing producer Ira Steven Behr with a foundation from which he would build the rest of the run. The work put in during the third season would pay dividends in the fourth and fifth seasons, as the show began to play with and pay off ideas that had been carefully and meticulously established during that most chaotic of seasons. In fact, the show begins paying off those dividends with The Way of the Warrior, the first episode of the fourth season.
The Way of the Warrior owes a number of obvious debts in terms of form and structure. The most obvious point of comparison for The Way of the Warrior is with The Search, Part I and The Search, Part II at the start of the third season. While other Star Trek shows tended to favour season-bridging cliffhangers, Deep Space Nine was fond of ending the season by shattering the status quo and then allowing a bit of space at the start of the next season to build upon that twist. The second, third, fourth, sixth and seventh seasons all begin with multi-episode arcs.
However, The Search, Part I and The Search, Part II were interesting because they represented a clear attempt to produce a second pilot for Deep Space Nine. New characters and rules were introduced into the story, just as the script took time to emphasise existing dynamics. The Defiant became part of the fabric of the show, while the Romulans found themselves brought into the show’s mythology. Odo finally got to discover his people, only to find out that they were the Changelings at the head of the Dominion.
The Search, Part I and The Search, Part II are well-written episodes, but they do suffer from some problems. The most obvious is the fact that they are very much a two-part episode rather than a feature-length adventure. A lot of The Search, Part I is spent building towards the obligatory cliffhanger so that The Search, Part II can shift its focus almost entirely. More than that, the introduction of the Romulans and the Changelings into the show’s central storylines feels rather shallow. Both threads recur throughout the season, but they never hold focus for too long.
In contrast, The Way of the Warrior seems to have learned from these problems. The Way of the Warrior is clearly constructed as a second pilot for Deep Space Nine, and it does a tremendous job. It is a feature-length episode that genuinely feels like a feature length episode instead of two separate episodes stitched together. It introduces Worf and the Klingons to the show, but is smart enough to understand that those elements cannot be shuffled to the background for most of the season after making such a dramatic introduction.
According to Robert Hewitt Wolfe in Charting New Territory, this was very much the impetus behind the production of The Way of the Warrior:
The studio wanted to make people re-sample the show. They felt like, “Let’s give people a reason to tune the show back in. It’s a great show, we want people to check it out.” And the solution that Rick and Ira came up with was, “Let’s bring on Worf. Let’s make him a regular. Let’s stir things up.” Bringing Worf on definitely did that.
It is very much a logical approach to the material. The Next Generation had been off the air for a year at this point, and Deep Space Nine and Voyager could not match their predecessor’s ratings. A reintroduction was not a bad idea.
I started watching with The Way of the Warrior, and I think that’s quite a good place to come into DS9; it’s a very slick episode, the show has a new surety of touch. You feel immediately immersed in this quite detailed and rich milieu. That season keeps that up, so I felt that I was watching a well-imagined show with plenty going on that I could learn about and discover. It didn’t feel cardboard, it felt as if it had depth.
Then I liked the kinds of stories it was telling, which asked political questions. The Homefront/Paradise Lost two-parter was when I distinctly remember sitting up and paying attention. “Oh,” I thought, “I didn’t know they did that kind of story on Star Trek!” I’d been a big fan of Babylon 5, which also does that kind of thing really well.
McCormack’s experience was by no means unique. Many fans of Deep Space Nine really jumped on board the show during its fourth season, then diving into the history of the series.
The Way of the Warrior is very conscious of its role as a second pilot for Deep Space Nine. The fact that the episode was broadcast as a feature-length episode meant that there was more room in the story for little character moments and exchanges; writers Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe were spared the awkwardness of having to structure two separate forty-five-minute blocks of television and assigned the task of piecing together a single ninety-minute episode of Star Trek.
This approach explains why the cliffhanger bridging the two-parter is particularly weak. When The Way of the Warrior is watched in syndication, the first part ends with Gowron begging Worf to accompany him as part of the invasion. “Come with me, Worf,” Gowron implores. “Glory awaits you on Cardassia.” It is a nice act break, but it does not work as an end-of-episode cliffhanger. It would have been very strange to bring Worf back, add him to the opening credits and then have him defect to the Klingons.
The weak cliffhanger is easy to forgive. The Way of the Warrior was not designed to be watched as a two-part episode. It was intended to be consumed in a single sitting, where each of the little character moments punctuating the episode might be appreciated as part of the greater whole. Aware that a whole bunch of new viewers might be showing up, The Way of the Warrior cleverly and skilfully introduces the characters and dynamics of the show without ever seeming clumsy or forced.
Short sequences like Bashir and O’Brien fooling around or Kira and Dax playing in the holodeck or Odo and Garak sharing a meal add a great deal of depth to the show. Even the reappearance of Kasidy Yates adds a sense of context to everything that is happening, particularly when Sisko talks to Worf about how profoundly he was affected by the loss of his wife. These situations and interactions all feel organic rather than forced. Behr and Wolfe even manage to have Odo tell Worf about his own conflicted history in a way that doesn’t feel clumsy or awkward.
Perhaps the best of these sequences is the conversation between Quark and Garak about the similarities between root beer and the Federation. According to actor Armin Shimerman, the idea to play the scene so seriously came from the actors:
“While rehearsing it we came to find out that there was more to it than what was written on the page,” Shimerman said.
“We saw that there was more being said than what was on the page. We started to modify it from a comic scene to a very insidious sort of scene with some comic overtones as well and we rehearsed it that way at my house.
“When we took it in on Monday and the director (James L Conway) said let’s read this we presented it the way we had rehearsed it. He said, ‘We can’t shoot that, that’s not what the producers have asked me to shoot. This has to be a much more funny scene.
“I was rather adamant and happy with the choices I had made and the director, doing what his bosses had asked him to, said, ‘I can’t shoot it like that’.
“It’s the only time ever in my carer, ever, where I simply said, ‘Well I can’t shoot it the way you want to do it’ and put my foot down. “So the producers were bought down to the set and the director explained what the problem was.
“The producers took about 30 seconds, consulted amongst themselves, and then turned to the director and said, ‘Shoot it the way Armin wants to do it’. And it’s of great satisfaction to me that it’s one of the most popular scene from Deep Space Nine because it would have been a totally different scene had we done it the way it was written.”
It is a delightful scene which perfectly articulate’s the show’s skepticism about the trappings of the larger Star Trek universe. Both The Next Generation and Voyager have a tendency to be unquestioning about the Federation, so it is always fun to subvert such expectations.
At the same time, producer Ira Steven Behr disputes the idea that the sequence was written to be goofy or light-hearted. He told The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion as much:
“The scene was never meant as a joke,” commented Behr. “It was two aliens giving their individual viewpoints about what it was like to live under the Federation. They have serious problems with the whole Federation philosophy, and the fact that it’s such a behemoth organization. But at the same time, we wanted to end it on a somewhat positive note, even though they question the giant, they want the giant there on their side when they’re in trouble.”
Behr’s lasting legacies on the franchise was a willingness to broaden horizons and push the envelope when it came to interrogating core ideals. Repeatedly, Deep Space Nine critically examined the idea of the Federation as paradise.
This is another lesson learned from the third season. As much as The Search, Part I and The Search, Part II are a clear influence on The Way of the Warrior, the episode also learned a lot from Improbable Cause and The Die is Cast. The late third season two-parter is notable as the first point in the Star Trek franchise where the Federation was a passive observer in major galactic events. The failed attempt by the Romulan Star Empire and the Cardassian Union to destroy the Dominion was an event only witnessed by our heroes; not directly involving them.
The Way of the Warrior is not quite so removed from the action; the climax of the episode finds Deep Space Nine under siege from a Klingon fleet. However, the core of the episode is built around the Klingon invasion of Cardassia, a fairly major galactic event that hinges on two non-Federation players. The Way of the Warrior devotes considerable time to non-human guest characters to emphasise that the impact of the invasion on Deep Space Nine is secondary. Garak is assaulted by Drex; Garak banters with Quark; Garak trades barbs with Dukat.
To be fair, The Next Generation had attempted something with Redemption, Part I and Redemption, Part II. In that two-parter, the Klingon Empire descended into a civil war fueled by Romulan plotting. Picard and the crew of the Enterprise were forced to sit the conflict out. They played a significant role at the climax of Redemption, Part II, but the bulk of the two-parter was given over to Klingon (and Romulan) politics. However, Deep Space Nine took this to the next logical step with Improbable Cause, The Die is Cast and The Way of the Warrior.
The Way of the Warrior is not an example of a single story thread reaching an inevitable conclusion as the Klingon and Romulan plots across the third and fourth seasons of The Next Generation had. Instead, The Way of the Warrior is the culmination of a number of disparate story threads coming together to form a new crisis. This is what happens when the collapse of the Obsidian Order coincides with paranoia about the Dominion threat and the general volatility of the Klingon Empire.
According to Ira Steven Behr in Charting New Territory, the idea developed in the writers’ room as both a response to changeling!Lovok’s dialogue in The Die is Cast and as a way of satisfying a studio that wanted to shake things up on the show:
And I said, “We could do a whole story arc just about that. About the Dominion causing problems between the Klingons and the Federation.” I just thought it was a throwaway thing, and Rick’s eyes lit up. “Wow! What a great idea! Throw the Klingons and the Federation into turmoil! We could bring back Worf! Why not forget just the Klingons? We can bring back Worf!” Because the studio had been saying that we needed – that they wanted – another element added on to the show. And that’s how it all began.
One of the interesting aspects of the way that the writing staff approached Deep Space Nine was a somewhat relaxed approach to long-form plotting. The writers had a rough idea where they wanted to go, but never in too much detail. There a flexibility to the arc-based storytelling on Deep Space Nine, as The Way of the Warrior demonstrates.
In many respects, the fourth season of Deep Space Nine can be seen as something of a detour for the show. The second and third seasons had worked very hard to establish the Dominion as a credible threat, so it seemed rather strange for the show to turn its attention back to the Klingons. Deep Space Nine had worked so hard to establish its own identity and its own corner of the shared universe that shifting focus away from the looming Dominion threat to the prospect of war with the Klingon Empire seemed counter-intuitive.
It is telling at a lot of the major changes to the status quo made over the fourth season would be reversed in the fifth, providing a nice sense of symmetry to the show. Odo loses his shape-shifting abilities in the fourth, only to regain them in the fifth. Quark loses his license in the fourth, only to regain it in the fifth. Worf loses his standing in the fourth, only to regain it in the fifth. More than that, the fourth season opens with the first battle of Deep Space Nine in The Way of the Warrior while the fifth season closes with the second battle of Deep Space Nine in A Call to Arms.
As Behr confesses in Charting New Territory, the sudden addition of Worf to the cast and the reintroduction of the Klingons meant a deviation from the production team’s plans for the show:
It was not the direction we thought the show was going. We thought we were going to get into the whole Dominion thing. And we suddenly had to begin this problem with the Klingons, which I think was exciting for the audience, but took a lot of thought [about] how it was all going to link up.
This is a very dramatic change to make to the direction of the show, particularly at a relatively late stage of the game. The idea to introduce the Klingons was something that happened after The Adversary had been rewritten.
It would be tempting to dismiss a lot of the fourth and fifth seasons as a narrative cul de sac, if it weren’t so brilliantly executed. A lot of the changes wrought by The Way of the Warrior are ultimately undone by the events of By Inferno’s Light; the Khitomer Accords are brought back into force, the Klingons are forced to withdraw from Cardassian space. However, there is generally a logical progression to the storytelling on Deep Space Nine. The events of By Inferno’s Light would never have occurred if not for the events of The Way of the Warrior.
The writing staff on Deep Space Nine had a gift for improvisation when it came to long-form plotting. This didn’t always work out perfectly – look at Bajor, for example – but it did help to keep things fresh and exciting. It is something of a cliché to compare Deep Space Nine to Babylon 5, but their approaches to long-form plotting contrast quite nicely. J. Michael Straczynski plotted his story in intricate detail ahead of time, meaning that there was very little room for adjustment or tweaking. In contrast, Ira Steven Behr was more willing to make it up as he went along.
While the idea of bringing Worf and the Klingons into the world of Deep Space Nine originated from Ira Steven Behr and Rick Berman, it was very much in service of a greater objective set by the studio. Discussing the launch of the fourth season in Charting New Territory, Ronald D. Moore recalls that it was just one of several ideas for the show:
Of all the options bandied about – “get them off the station”, “blow up Bajor”, just nutty things – Worf was the safest thing. “Bring in Worf, bring in a Next Generation character, bring over that fanbase.”
As with Robert Hewitt Wolfe’s comments about encouraging fans to “re-sample” the show, there is a sense that the studio was not entirely happy with the performance of Deep Space Nine. While the fourth season of Deep Space Nine was not a retool on par with the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise, it was still a retool.
This brings up an uncomfortable truth about Star Trek from this point onwards. Following the end of The Next Generation, the Star Trek franchise saw its ratings in decline. The ratings slump that would eventually lead to the cancellation of Enterprise after just four seasons would begin with the third season of Deep Space Nine and the first season of Voyager. The end had begun; the studio’s interest in retooling Deep Space Nine just a single year after the end of The Next Generation made it clear that this decline had already been noticed.
It is tempting to read too much into this decline. Most obviously, these sorts of declines are frequently cited in arguments about the relative quality of particular works. Ignoring the fact that quality is frequently subjective, it is worth noting that many of best loved and most highly regarded television shows of all time were not ratings “winners.” To trot out an old argument, Baywatch and CSI: Miami are among the most popular shows in the world; very few people would argue that they are the best.
While there are undoubtedly both high and low points in the Star Trek franchise in the years ahead, it seems a bit simplistic to cite declining ratings as proof of declining quality. There are lots of other factors at play in something like this. Television shows are not rated in a vacuum; there is a broader cultural context to be considered. Most obviously, the market had changed in the years since The Next Generation took television by storm – both in terms of content and distribution.
The Next Generation had been a relative rarity when it first appeared, the only major science-fiction show on television. However, success quickly spawns imitation. There were all manner of science-fiction and space opera shows flooding the market in the mid-nineties. SeaQuest DSV had been on the air since 1993. Babylon 5 and Earth 2 had launched in 1994. Shows like Space: Above and Beyond, The Outer Limits and Sliders would debut in 1995. Stargate: SG-1 would arrive in 1997, launching its own shared universe.More than that, the decline in ratings for the Star Trek franchise is also tied to the evolution of network television in the nineties. Deep Space Nine was always the most esoteric Star Trek show, and probably the least populist. As such, it could be argued that the decision to tie Voyager into the launch of UPN was a miscalculation for the franchise. Whereas The Next Generation was syndicated all over the country, Voyager was not as readily accessible to casual viewers. Then again, the fact that Deep Space Nine was not tied to UPN afforded the creative team more freedom.
Of course, the most significant change wrought by Deep Space Nine is the addition of Worf to the show’s primary cast. Michael Dorn becomes a credited regular and a pretty essential part of the show’s large ensemble. This a pretty big deal, as it marks the only time that a regular on one Star Trek show has become a regular on another. Worf hangs around the show from The Way of the Warrior to What You Leave Behind, becoming the character with the largest number of appearances in the entire Star Trek universe. (Take that, O’Brien!)
We [Star Trek: The Next Generation] ended in ’94 and we did a movie real fast and were kind of guaranteed we were going to do another movie after that. So my life went on, back into the acting world with auditioning and things. Then in ’95, just a short year later I was doing a video game in Baltimore called “Mission Critical” and I was in the hotel after a couple days and I got a call from Rick Berman. Rick and I are close, we talk and he said “Michael I want to ask you something,” he said “What would you think about coming back and reprising your character on ‘Deep Space [Nine]’?” I was surpassed and I was sort of like “OK” you know? “It sounds interesting.” It shouldn’t be a surprise, things strike me differently at times and it shouldn’t have been a shock, but that’s what got the ball rolling. From there it went to our representatives. While that was being done I had a meeting with Rick [Berman], Ira Behr and Ron Moore, just to say “look this is going on, but I want you guys to understand that I love the character and I’m very tenacious about holding onto what makes Worf who he is and the one thing I don’t want is to be standing around in the background, just to sort of give the show a boost and I don’t really do anything. That would be terrible. I really want to have episodes that concentrate on my character and I want him to open up as a character.” They assured me, they said “Yes, that’s our plan,”. After some back and forth between our representatives, that’s what happened. The two things that I–and haven’t really told Rick this, but I say it sometimes–the first thing is that I want the character to open up, but on a personal level, it was the idea that it was a challenge and I really love challenges. The challenge was basically they were coming to me saying we want to reprise your character because we want to inject some other stuff into Deep Space Nine that will help with the ratings basically.
The addition of Worf to the cast worked surprisingly well, with the writers shrewdly integrating him into the show.
Even in The Way of the Warrior, the script is careful to ensure that Worf does not smother the surrounding characters. By virtue of having been a regular on The Next Generation, Worf is probably the most recognisable and popular member of the Deep Space Nine cast by default. While The Way of the Warrior is very much a story about (and driven by) Worf, the episode never ignores the other members of the show’s impressive and expansive cast. Sisko, Kira, Dax, Bashir, Odo, Garak and Dukat all get a chance to shine.
More than that, The Way of the Warrior is careful to contextualise Worf in a way that fits with Deep Space Nine. Worf is not simply a character ported over from The Next Generation and dumped into the world of Deep Space Nine. Writers Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe are careful to integrate the character into the larger dynamics on the show. The Way of the Warrior is not so much about Deep Space Nine adapting to Worf as it is about Worf adapting to Deep Space Nine, a theme that would be further developed in Hippocratic Oath.
This care and attention to detail is apparent even in his casual interactions with the primary cast. Having served with Worf on the Enterprise, Chief O’Brien is the closest thing Worf has to a friend on the station. Given her own history with the Klingons as elaborated in Blood Oath, Dax is immediately confident and flirty with the new arrival. In his short conversation the latest regular, Odo seems a little worried that Worf might usurp his position as both security officer and grumpy outsider.
More than that, The Way of the Warrior makes a point to mirror Worf’s character arc with that of Benjamin Sisko in Emissary. As with the exchanges between Sisko and Picard in Emissary, the conversations between Worf and Sisko in The Way of the Warrior find the new arrival in the midst of an existential crisis. “I have spent most of my life among humans,” Worf reflects. “It has not always been easy for me. And since the destruction of the Enterprise, it has become even more difficult. I am no longer sure I belong in this uniform.”
It is a nice touch that reinforces the sense that The Way of the Warrior is a second pilot for the show. Sisko explicitly acknowledges the parallels in their character arcs. “Commander, I once thought about resigning from Starfleet too,” Sisko confesses. “I know if I had, I would’ve regretted it. Don’t make any quick decisions.” In many ways, Deep Space Nine is the story about a bunch of disconnected individuals who make a home (and a family) in one of the most unlikely and inhospitable environments imaginable. As such, The Way of the Warrior nicely sets up Worf’s arc.
“For me, it was a job on Earth, directing construction of orbital habitats,” Sisko explains. “I finally realised that it wasn’t Starfleet I wanted to get away from. I was trying to escape the pain I felt after my wife’s death. I thought I could take the uniform, wrap it around that pain and toss them both away. But it doesn’t work like that. Running may help for a little while, but sooner or later the pain catches up with you, and the only way to get rid of it is to stand your ground and face it.” Given the stationary nature of Deep Space Nine, that’s a nice statement of theme.
In a very real way, Deep Space Nine would take the character of Worf and make him their own. The differences between the portrayal of Worf on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine arguably underscore the differences between the two shows. As Michael Barba observes in Orientalism and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
Worf was always caught between his culture and the Federation culture, and as such, the series frequently privileged the Federation culture over Worf’s Klingon culture, as Captain Picard tells Worf: “I felt what was unique about you was your humanity, compassion, generosity, fairness. You took the best parts of humanity and made them part of you.” Ultimately, Vande Berg feels that, “over the course of the series […] cultural imperialism – and not multiculturalism – is the dominant discursive position affirmed in [Star Trek: The Next Generation].” And while DS9 does not move away entirely from the discourse of cultural imperialism, it does take steps to question the Federation’s superiority, especially in its portrayal of Worf, who joined the series in the fourth season. Initially, Worf joins the crew on DS9 to spy on Klingons and uncover their plan to invade Cardassia. Worf shares this information with Captain Sisko, but is then excommunicated from the Klingon Empire as a traitor. At first glance, it would appear that DS9 is following the lead of Star Trek predecessors by further separating Worf from his own culture, but this is not the case as the show gravitates constantly closer to his culture. He assists legendary Klingon Warrior Kor in a quest for the Klingon artifact, the sword of Kahless. His place of honour is reinstated when he is invited to join the respected House of Martok. He fights alongside Klingons, both on the Federation ship Defiant, as well as on the Klingon ship, I.K.S. Rotarran, against the Dominion. When he marries Jadzia Dax, a non-Klingon Federation officer, he does so in a traditional Klingon ceremony. And finally, when the war with the Dominion is over, Worf accepts a position as an ambassador to the Klingon homeworld of Qo’noS.
Broadly speaking, The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine are quite different in how they approach other cultures. In many ways, Deep Space Nine can make a credible claim to be the first truly multicultural Star Trek show. This is reflected in the way that the writers approach the characterisation of Worf.
In fact, The Way of the Warrior uses Worf as a way to comment on the differences between the two shows. Conversing with O’Brien about his crisis of conscience, Worf nostalgically recalls that things were much simpler on the Enterprise. Discussing the events of The Best of Both Worlds, Part II, Worf assures O’Brien, “I never doubted the outcome. We were like warriors from the ancient sagas. There was nothing we could not do.” O’Brien quips, “Except keep the holodecks working right.”
Then again, it is worth conceding that a lot of the ambiguity and nuance of Deep Space Nine was rooted in the later seasons of The Next Generation. In many respects, the skepticism and introspection of Deep Space Nine was a logical evolution from the healthy skepticism that had begun to develop in the final years of The Next Generation. In particular, the portrayal of both Gowron and the Klingon Empire in The Way of the Warrior is an extension of ideas that have been building since Sins of the Father and Reunion.
Upon discovering the wreckage of a Cardassian ship, Worf advises against decloaking to look for survivors. He suspects that there may be cloaked ships lurking near the debris. Bashir, the most earnest (and most Next Generation) member of the Deep Space Nine cast, is horrified. “Well that doesn’t sound very honourable to me.” Worf simply explains, “In war, there is nothing more honourable than victory.” As ever, it seems that Klingon honour is nothing more than a bedtime story that the Empire tells itself to justify its atrocities.
The Way of the Warrior touches on one of the uncomfortable truths of the Star Trek universe. As much as fans might like the Klingons, and as much as the Federation might want peace with the Klingons, the Klingon Empire is an aggressive and expansionist imperialist power. Deep Space Nine might be skeptical about the motives and mechanisms of the Federation, but the Klingons have worked hard to carve out an empire for themselves and have built a culture that glorifies violence and warfare. The Klingon Empire never stops being dangerous.
Initially, Gowron justifies the invasion of Cardassia by claiming that the Detapa Council has been infiltrated by shapeshifters. When Sisko presents Gowron with evidence that this is not the case, Gowron won’t hear about it. It doesn’t matter that subsequent revelations suggest that Sisko’s evidence is inconclusive, Gowron will not even temporarily halt his invasion to consider the possibility that the Klingon Empire has launched an unjustified invasion of Cardassian territory.
“The issue is not if there are any Founders on Cardassia,” Worf advises his fellow officers. “There are many Klingons who say we have been at peace too long, that the Empire must expand in order to survive. Fear of the Dominion has given my people an excuse to do what they were born to do. To fight and to conquer.” If the dialogue didn’t come from a Klingon, it might hew a little close to the racist rhetoric of characters like Admiral Cartwright or Lieutenant Valeris in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. However, it makes sense.
The Klingon Empire has a culture based around the glorification of warfare, where strength is judged primarily by reference to violence and brutality. It is arrogant and reckless to presume that the Federation could (or even should) attempt to impose human values on a foreign culture. As early as Heart of Glory, it is suggested that there are certain strands of Klingon culture responding to contamination of the Klingon Empire by humanist Federation values. For all the horror of war, The Way of the Warrior implies that something like this was inevitable.
Klingon honour is a lie, a fabrication used to justify these atrocities. The Way of the Warrior suggests that the Klingon invasion of Cardassia is just realpolitik. As ever, Gowron is more shrewd than honourable. In writing Crossover, Robert Hewitt Wolfe explained that he used The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as a guide in charting the collapse of the Terran Empire following the events of Mirror, Mirror. It appears that similar logic applies to the Klingon Empire in The Way of the Warrior.
It is possible to argue that the collapse of Rome became inevitable when the Roman Empire stopped expanding in the second century. Without foreign slaves or goods to fuel the economy, the Roman Empire quickly fell to pieces. The observation has been repeated time and again throughout history. Catherine the Great was warned that “that which ceases to grow begins to rot.” The policy of manifest destiny was justified by the rhetoric of “expand or die.” (Indeed, “expand or die” would become a Rule of Acquisition, cited in False Profits and Acquisition.)
As with a lot of Deep Space Nine, there are parts of The Way of the Warrior that seem almost prescient. The Klingons’ wholly unsubstantiated use of the Dominion threat to justify the invasion of Cardassia foreshadows the rationales used to account for the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It looks like Gowron and Martok are acting on their own “dodgy dossier”, with the idea of Changelings subtly infiltrating a now-third-rate power seeming as flimsy a justification as the infamous “forty-five minute” claim.
There is a wonderful irony to all this. In some ways, The Way of the Warrior teases the idea that the Klingons might serve as a cautionary tale for the United States. After all, The Way of the Warrior aired in the middle of the nineties. It was a decade of prosperity for the country following the end of the Cold War, but it was also a point of existential crisis. As with the Klingons in the years leading up to The Way of the Warrior, the United States found itself without a war against which it might define itself.
The invasion of Cardassia is repeatedly suggested as an epic cause that gives purpose to the warriors of the Klingon Empire. “I suppose you have the right to know,” Huraga tells Worf. “You are a Klingon warrior and it would be wrong to keep you away from battle. And it’s going to be a glorious battle!” Later, Gowran assures Worf, “We will do great deeds in the coming days. Deeds worthy of song.” It doesn’t matter that Cardassia is no match for the Klingon Empire. The invasion and annexation is presented as a cure the warrior caste’s existential ennui.
The Way of the Warrior cautions against the romantic pull of warfare, particularly in times of (relative) peace and prosperity. The Klingon Empire might be able to construct a narrative of events that justifies their intervention, but the annexation of Cardassian territory is little more than a bully flexing their muscles. Just like the recurring threat posed by the Changelings and the repeated references to terrorism, the Klingon invasion of Cardassia feels like another example of Deep Space Nine offering a prescient commentary on the War on Terror.
This commentary is beautifully bookended by Enterprise. If The Way of the Warrior features the Klingons as a cautionary tale for a future America, then Judgment pushes the idea to its logical conclusion by featuring the Klingons as a metaphorical stand-in for contemporary America. It is a nice piece of narrative symmetry, with The Way of the Warrior very astutely foreshadowing developments that were yet to come for both the franchise and for the larger world around it.
The decision to draw Worf into the show is also a very symbolic gesture. Deep Space Nine has spent quite a bit of the first three years of its run trying to escape the shadow of The Next Generation. Bashir spends a significant stretch of the show acting as a not-particularly-flattering commentary on the values and ideals of The Next Generation. The destruction of a Galaxy-class starship in The Jem’Hadar and the guest appearance from Thomas (rather than Will) Riker in Defiant were very strong gestures from a younger sibling trying to strike out on its own.
Drafting a regular character from The Next Generation into the ensemble was a pretty big deal. Worf was arguably one of the three most distinctive characters on The Next Generation, and he spends a significant portion of The Way of the Warrior wearing his classic uniform as a reminder of his origins outside this particular show. (That said, Worf did not get a uniform upgrade to the Voyager and Deep Space Nine jumpsuits like Riker or Data in Generations. Although it might have been fun to have him show up in his alternate Generations costume.)
Worf’s arrival on Deep Space Nine was a big moment for the show. In Charting New Territory, writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe is quite explicit about what the arrival of Worf meant in the context of Deep Space Nine and the larger Star Trek franchise:
The other thing that happened when we brought Worf in was… when we brought Worf in, The Next Generation was off the air, Voyager was in the Gamma Quadrant, and what Worf was kind of symbolic to us was like, “The Federation is ours, baby! We own the candy store! We can do whatever we want with the Federation!” It’s ours to play with now, because Voyager is way out there. Who knows what’s going on with them? The Federation isn’t theirs to play with, it’s ours. And we get to do fun stuff with it. Worf’s our character now and we’re going to make him our character. And we’re going to make the Federation as a whole our character too.
From the fourth season onwards, Deep Space Nine really takes ownership of the franchise status quo. Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection both have to nod towards the status quo that Deep Space Nine is driving.
The Way of the Warrior brings an end to the peace that had existed with the Klingons since the broadcast of Heart of Glory (and which was retroactively written into The Undiscovered Country). Homefront and Paradise Lost feature Sisko and Odo visiting Earth and advising the President of the Federation. In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light completely up-end the Alpha Quadrant status quo. Ultimately, A Call to Arms embroils the Alpha Quadrant in a massive war with epic repercussions.
It feels like Deep Space Nine can finally focus its attention forwards. It no longer has to worry about being the younger sibling or walking the line set by another production team. Even the ending to The Way of the Warrior makes it clear that the events of the episode will have a lasting impact. “The Klingon Empire will remember what has happened here,” Gowron warns Sisko. “You have sided against us in battle, and this we do not forgive… or forget.” O’Brien sighs, “It’s over.” Worf responds, “For now.”
There is a very clear chain of cause and effect between the events of The Way of the Warrior and the rest of the show’s run. The discovery of the Dominion in The Jem’Hadar was clearly intended as a game-changer, but the third season struggled to capitalise on the opportunity. With The Way of the Warrior, there is a much greater immediacy to the plotting. The Klingon threat even plays out in the background of The Visitor, the quiet character-driven episode that directly follows The Way of the Warrior, suggesting that there is a price to be paid for what happened.
There is even a healthy amount of foreshadowing of plot developments to come, even if the writing team have not completely settled on what those developments will be. The introductory sequence with Kasidy Yates very clearly paints her as a suspicious character who is far too curious about the workings of the station. When Kasidy asks if Sisko is after her heart, he responds, “I never could keep a secret.” She presses, “In that case, maybe you could tell me what all those maintenance crews are doing in the docking ring?”
Eventually, Sisko has to politely refocus the conversation on more personal matters. “What do you say we forget about business for a while?” he asks. The sequence between Kasidy and Sisko is very clearly intended to provide new viewers with all the exposition that they might need, but it also seems structured so as to suggest that Kasidy herself might be a Changeling trying to infiltrate the station. It would add a layer of irony to Sisko’s prevention of a Klingon search-and-seizure on her ship.
In For the Cause, the show reveals that Kasidy is not a Changeling; even though she is more than she appears to be. The episode makes a similar revelation about the character of Michael Eddington, another character who was introduced (and repeatedly suggested) as a possible Changeling infiltrator trying to sneak his way into the heart of the Federation’s defenses. Even if The Way of the Warrior does not explicitly signpost the nature of Kasidy’s allegiances, it does an excellent job of marking her as a character to watch.
Although not quite as significant as the addition of Worf or the reintroduction of the Klingons, there are a number of smaller changes that bubble through The Way of the Warrior. Most strikingly, Avery Brooks was finally allowed to shave his head. According to The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, Brooks had wanted it for a while:
“That was another one of those things that required Rick and I to have a meeting with Paramount,” says Behr, straight-faced. “Before we did it, he and I talked strategy, about how we were going to convince these guys to let us do it. How it meant a lot to Avery. We did a test tape of how Avery looked [with his head shaved]. We got ourselves all psyched up for this meeting. And they looked at it and said, ‘Fine. Okay.'”
The bald and goateed version of Sisko is perhaps the definitive iteration of the character. It is the point at which it feels like Brooks is completely comfortable in the role, the moment at which the character and the actor become completely inseparable.
Brooks’ performance style might be polarising among fans, but he brings a beautiful operatic approach to the material that works well with the epic themes of Deep Space Nine. The climax of The Way of the Warrior is visually spectacular, but the moment is heightened by the interplay between Brooks-as-Sisko and O’Reilly-as-Gowron. The two actors are gloriously munching on the scenery in a way that really sells all the explosions and shakes and effects. It is a confrontation between two actors pitched perfectly for one another.
Gowron goads his opponent, “Captain, your shields have been weakened, your station boarded, and more Klingon ships are on their way. Surrender while you can.” Sisko refuses to cede any ground, running through a checklist of why the situation is not as dire as it might appear. “I don’t think so,” he warns Gowron. “My shields are holding, your boarding parties are contained, and my reinforcements are closer than yours.” It is a beautiful moment in the middle of one of the most impressive space battles that the franchise would ever stage.
Of course, the battle itself is quite striking. This is another example of how the third season served as a valuable learning experience for the show, providing a foundation for what was to come. As Gary Hutzell explains in Hidden File 06, this was a watershed moment for special effects work on the series:
Way of the Warrior was the first episode, I think, where everybody got together – the whole visual effects department – and said, “Okay, we have to take all these other shows and rearrange them and give them to other supervisors and just pay attention to [this].” Literally the first five episodes of that season, I was just working on Way of the Warrior and nothing else. It was a huge undertaking at the time.
The sequences in The Way of the Warrior are very clearly inspired by the success of similar sequences in The Die is Cast. The late third season two-parter had demonstrated that the show could do epic space battles on a scale beyond anything seen on The Next Generation. The climax of The Way of the Warrior just pushes that to the extreme.
Of course, CGI would change the way in which the show operated. It would make it easier to stage all manner of special effects and space battles. Without these leaps forward, the Dominion War would look a lot different than it eventually did. The battle sequences in The Way of the Warrior were jaw-dropping at the time of broadcast, but they would be surpassed by the effects work in The Sacrifice of Angels just over two years later. Special effects technology was advancing, and it seemed that Star Trek was advancing right alongside it.
Even the opening credits of the fourth season benefit from advances in special effects technology. Perhaps in keeping with efforts to retool the fourth season of the show, the changes to the opening credits were much greater than the addition of “Michael Dorn” or the changing of “Siddig El Fadil” to “Alexander Siddig.” Dennis McCarthy’s Emmy-nominated theme music was reworked for the fourth season credit sequence, and a number of alterations were made to the sequence itself.
The original opening credits sequence quite effectively set a mood for the first three seasons of the show. The opening shot of the grey comet slowly tumbling through space established a sense of isolation and remoteness. This large grey rock was a marked contrast with the comet featured in the introduction to The Next Generation. That comet went flying past on its way to explore the stellar majesty of deep space. The attention of The Next Generation seemed to wander. There was so much beauty in the universe that it was hard to stay focused.
In contrast, the opening credits of Deep Space Nine track that single comet for more than ten seconds, panning across the empty gulf of space before finding the eponymous outpost. Deep Space Nine initially appears rather small to the audience, fitting comfortably under the title card. Whereas the Enterprise spends most of the opening credits of The Next Generation warping towards or away from the audience – in a constant state of movement – the opening credits of Deep Space Nine have to transition to that space station via cut.
Once the opening credits focused on Deep Space Nine, the audience is treated to six luxurious panning shots around the station, following the architecture and design of what had been Terok Nor. Some of the majesty and power of The Next Generation feeds into the opening credits sequence, but there is also a sense of remoteness and isolation. The opening credits are always conscious of the fact that the camera is moving rather than the station, and that the station sits alone in a rather quiet section of space.
In contrast, the fourth season credits emphasis the idea that Deep Space Nine is no longer an isolated frontier outpost. This is apparent almost immediately. For one thing, a runabout punctures what had been the long slow pan through space from the comet to the station. Another extra runabout appears flying away from the station before the one that signals the cut; there are now three runabouts where there had only been one before. Similarly, the show retains the basic structure of six shots of the station, but the emphasis has changed dramatically.
Whereas the credits for the first three seasons tended to emphasise the isolation of the station, the credits for the final four season really sell the idea of Deep Space Nine as a vital piece of real estate. There is a lot of dynamism and movement. A Federation ship is docked at an upper pylon; a freighter is connected at the docking ring. A “worker bee” module goes flying by. What had been a pan up a pylon becomes a pan down to catch a bunch of workers in environmental suits trying to keep the station ticking over.
The Defiant is placed very much at the centre of the show. It appears in the last three panning shots of the station, very consciously and very clearly stealing focus. The first pans down a pylon to watch the Defiant undock; the second pans around the pylon to watch the Defiant depart; the third features the Defiant flying through the wormhole. The fourth season credits really sell the idea of Deep Space Nine as a galactic hub. It is no longer an outpost at the edge of civilisation; it is a vital nexus for the whole of the Star Trek universe.
These individual changes to the show really add up, cementing the impression that Deep Space Nine was no longer the same show it had been during the first three season. Deep Space Nine had emerged from its chrysalis. The show could begin here.
- The Way of the Warrior
- The Visitor
- Hippocratic Oath
- Starship Down
- Little Green Men
- The Sword of Kahless
- Our Man Bashir
- Paradise Lost
- Return to Grace
- Sons of Mogh
- Bar Association
- Rules of Engagement
- Hard Time
- Shattered Mirror
- The Muse
- For the Cause
- To the Death
- The Quickening
- Body Parts
- Broken Link
Filed under: Deep Space Nine | Tagged: alexander siddig, deep space nine, ds9, Ira Steven Behr, klingons, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, serialisation, Sisko, star trek, star trek: deep space nine, Television, the way of the warrior, war, war on terror, Worf |