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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – … Nor the Battle to the Strong (Review)

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”

– Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929)

Far a field.

Far afield.

Star Trek has always had an eye for the classics. The franchise has been cribbing titles from Shakespeare dating back The Conscience of a King early in the first season. The franchise has liberally borrowed plot points and arcs from various classic sources. Moby Dick inspired The Doomsday Machine, Obsession, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek: First Contact, Bliss, Equinox, Part II, to name but a few. The Tempest influenced Is There in Truth no Beauty? and Requiem for Methuselah, among others.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is much more obsessive in its influences. This is apparent even in its relationship to the original show. When Star Trek: The Next Generation celebrated the original show on its own terms in episodes like Sarek, Unification, Part II and Relics, the writing staff on Deep Space Nine tended to take a more immersive approach with episodes like Crossover, Blood Oath and Trials and Tribble-ations. This attitude carried over to the show’s other influences as well, with the series often straight-up remaking classic stories for Star Trek.

Yes, there are going to be lots of pictures of Jake looking sad today.

Yes, there are going to be lots of pictures of Jake looking sad today.

Deep Space Nine feels very much out of time. In some ways, the show seems quite ahead of its time. Episodes like The Way of the Warrior, Homefront, Paradise Lost and Inquisition all feel more relevant now than they did on original broadcast. Deep Space Nine almost feels like the perfect Star Trek show for the War on Terror. The show’s approach to long-form storytelling and its willingness to interrogate the utopian idealism of the Star Trek universe have ensured that the show has aged well.

However, it also feels like a show firmly rooted in the past. The series repeatedly and consciously frames its terms of reference in terms tied to the middle decades of the twentieth century. Necessary Evil is essentially an attempt to do Star Trek as film noir, in terms both narrative and visual. Many of the show’s “adaptations” of classic stories are rooted in classic Hollywood, from Profit and Loss as Casablanca to Fascination as the 1934 version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In Past Tense, Part II, the guest character B.C. admits to an obsession with Errol Flynn.

There may also be some pictures of Jake crying.

There may also be some pictures of Jake crying.

This becomes increasingly apparent as Deep Space Nine marches towards war. The fourth and fifth seasons of Deep Space Nine feel very prescient in their politics, portraying a nebulous state of political instability in which war hangs over events but does not exist in clear black-and-white terms. However, when the Dominion War actually does occur, the show tends to treat it as a very conventional conflict. With the declaration of the Dominion War, the show transitions from a prescient War on Terror analogy to the Second World War… in space.

This is not a big problem. After all, it seems quite unreasonable to criticise Deep Space Nine for failing to be consistently and unerringly prescient across its full seven season run. More than that, the blending of storytelling that feels ahead of its time with a more retrograde aesthetic fits comfortably within the framework of Deep Space Nine. After all, Emissary introduced the show by suggesting that time was not a linear construct. One of the big recurring themes of the series is that time moves in arcs rather than straight lines. Past and future mingle and echo.

"This war really blue me away."

“This war really blue me away.”

All of this is to suggest that Ernest Hemingway is a major influence on the production staff working on Deep Space Nine. Given the production team’s twin fascinations with war and mid-twentieth century popular culture, Hemingway is a perfect fit for the show. After all, Hemingway is one of the great writers to explore and discuss contemporary warfare. Hemingway enlisted to serve in the Red Cross in early 1918, when he was just eighteen years old. He served as an ambulance driver in Italy, and would fictionalise his experiences in A Farewell to Arms.

Hemingway would become a major literary figures in the years that followed, but it seemed that warfare was always calling out to him. In 1937, Hemingway would agree to report on the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Hemingway would also cover the War in Europe between 1944 and 1945, being present for the Normandy Landings. Rather infamously, Hemingway led French Resistance fighters while serving as a war correspondent; he was almost charged in violation of the Geneva Convention.

Words are weapons.

Words are weapons. Weapons are also weapons.

Hemingway’s writing had a major impact in how modern audiences thing about warfare. Thomas Putnam discussed the cynicism and disillusionment that defined Hemingway’s reflections on these conflicts:

“The way we write about war or even think about war was affected fundamentally by Hemingway,” stated Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., another speaker at the Hemingway centennial. In the early 1920s, in reaction to their experience of world war, Hemingway and other modernists lost faith in the central institutions of Western civilization. One of those institutions was literature itself. Nineteenth-century novelists were prone to a florid and elaborate style of writing. Hemingway, using a distinctly American vernacular, created a new style of fiction “in which meaning is established through dialogue, through action, and silences—a fiction in which nothing crucial—or at least very little—is stated explicitly.”

There was a visceral and tangible quality to Hemingway’s prose, one that denied the romance of combat in favour of brutal honesty.

Other people get killed. But not Bashir. The studio already tied that.

Other people get killed. But not Bashir.
The studio already tied that.

Hemingway stripped away the idea of warfare as something proud. He had lived through it, and seen the consequences first-hand. As Hemingway would note in his introduction to Men at War, the reality was quite divorced from the popular conception of war. “When you got to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality,” he wrote. “Other people get killed; not you. It can happen to other people; but not to you.” War was not elegant. War was not dignified. War was not romantic.

Naturally, Hemingway was a major influence on the writers of Deep Space Nine when it came to figuring out how best to tell war stories within the established framework of the Star Trek franchise. After all, the fifth season finale and the episode that opens the Dominion War arc is titled Call to Arms, a direct inversion of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Of course, Hemingway’s title was itself a reference to the work of sixteenth-century British poet George Peele.

"Woah! Woah! Woah! You'll get blood on my shirt, and you know that I like to dress snazzy."

“Woah! Woah! Woah! You’ll get blood on my shirt, and you know that I like to dress snazzy.”

More than that, a lot of Hemingway’s philosophy can be found in Deep Space Nine, even outside of the Dominion War. Hemingway’s fascination with characters broken by the world, and the suggestion that these breaks served to make them stronger, heavily informs the characterisation on the show. Characters on Deep Space Nine are regularly broken by the world, particularly over the course of the fourth season; Bashir in The Quickening, Quark in Body Parts, Worf in The Way of the Warrior, Odo in Broken Link.

Indeed, … Nor the Battle to the Strong even fleetingly acknowledges this. When Odo is wounded in a fall while trying to shape-shift, Sisko expresses sympathy. Odo simply voices frustration. “Solid,” he muses. “I wonder why my people use that term. Humanoid bodies are so fragile.” This would seem to be a recurring theme of the episode, and the show itself. However, it is not merely bodies that are fragile. Deep Space Nine repeatedly suggests that abstract concepts like faith and identity are just as prone to break in the course of day to day existence.

"Plus they're all squishy on the inside."

“Plus they’re all squishy on the inside.”

Many of these characters are made stronger by that break. Over the course of the show, Sisko becomes increasingly disillusioned with Starfleet in episodes like The Maquis, Part IThe Maquis, Part IIHomefront and Paradise Lost. Sisko’s broken faith in Starfleet coincides with his decision to embrace Bajor, accepting his role as Emissary and planning to retire there, ultimately coming to share their faith in the Prophets. Worf’s growing disillusionment with Klingon culture coincides with a stronger engagement with its politics and rituals, eventually changing its course.

Given the show’s empathy for Hemingway’s world view, and the looming conflict at the end of the season, it makes sense that the production team would eventually opt to write a “Jake Sisko as Ernest Hemingway” episode. After all, in many ways, The Visitor had been the writers’ big “Jake Sisko as J.D. Salinger” episode. Given the difficulty that the production team had writing for Jake in episodes like Shattered Mirror or The Muse, it makes sense to return to the device of framing Jake as the twenty-fourth century equivalent of some classic author.

The author of all his sorrows.

The author of all his sorrows.

The willingness to focus an early fifth season story around Jake is a testament to the writers’ investment in the ensemble. Given that the last two stories to focus on Jake had been spectacular misfires, it might have made sense to shelve Jake for a while. Instead, the production team opted to give the character a rather juicy episode. In an interview with Cinefantastique, Avery Brooks seemed almost jealous that the story focused on Jake:

“Because of the large number of people in the cast, the writers obviously have to pay attention to so many things, service so many characters. For example, in the show where Dr. Bashir and [Jake] go off on this mission [‘…Nor the Battle to the Strong’] because Jake wants to write this story about how it is, in my heart of hearts, I wished it were me.”

This speaks very much to the strengths of Deep Space Nine, to the energy that the show invests in developing its characters and entrusting its actors. On Star Trek: Voyager, it seems like the production team has already given up on characters like Chakotay or Kim. In contrast, the writing staff on Deep Space Nine seem to genuinely believe that any character can be used to tell good stories.

He's old enough to make his (Heming)way in the world.

He’s old enough to make his (Heming)way in the world.

… Nor the Battle to the Strong consciously parallels Jake with Hemingway. There is a strong emphasis on the idea of Jake as a young man seeing war for the first time. “You’re too young to die, Jake,” Bashir insists when Jake first suggests visiting the colony under siege. Jake responds, “I’m eighteen.” Not coincidentally, that was the same age that Hemingway was when he joined the Red Cross as an ambulance driver in Italy. Jake is not an ambulance driver, but he does witness the conflict from a hospital.

… Nor the Battle to the Strong is very much a conventional story of war and lost innocence. In some respects, it is a story that punishes Jake for his cynicism and his detachment. The episode’s teaser finds Jake writing a profile of Bashir, and lamenting the boredom of it all. Jake idly wishes for something more interesting to occur, fantasising about a more exciting story of a noble doctor fighting a deadly disease. He catches himself, “Listen to me, I’m actually rooting for a plague.”

"In hindsight, maybe waving a bat-leth around during a fire fight wasn't the best idea."

“In hindsight, maybe waving a bat-leth around during a fire fight wasn’t the best idea.”

Still, it is framed as a moment of hubris, and the universe immediately seeks to punish Jake by giving him exactly what he wants. Jake has barely finished fantasising about a more exciting story with a higher body count when a distress call comes in from a Federation settlement under attack from a Klingon force. It is precisely what Jake was seeking. For a writer, Jake seems to have a very weak sense of irony, and so immediately seizes upon the opportunity to have his name in print documenting a life-and-death struggle. “Surgery under fire.”

Naturally, war turns out to be different than Jake expects. Jake is horrified by the injuries inflicted by the Klingons, by the gallows humour necessary to keep moral stable. More than that, he finds his own self-image horribly shaken. In the heat of the moment, making a split second decision, Jake finds himself tested and wanted. He abandons Bashir in the middle of a barrage of artillery fire. He turns around and runs. It is a moment at which Jake seems to break, the point at which he realises that neither the world nor himself are what he thought them to be.

"By the way, when you father - my boss - gets here, downplay the part where I brought you into a warzone."

“By the way, when you father – my boss – gets here, downplay the part where I brought you into a warzone.”

In some ways, this characterisation of Jake could be read as a sly piece of commentary on The Next Generation. A lot of the storytelling decisions on Deep Space Nine can be interrogated and explored through the production’s nuanced relationship with The Next Generation, most notably in the writing staff’s clear desire to set themselves apart from their direct predecessor. The willingness to punish Jake for his hubris, to reveal that he is not the man he thought himself to be, could be seen as a criticism of Wesley, the teenage character on The Next Generation.

Like Jake, Wesley is the child of a senior parent on the command staff of the series. However, The Next Generation repeatedly reinforces the idea that Wesley is singular and special, that he is meant for great things. In episodes like The Naked Now and Datalore, Wesley even provides information and insight necessary to save the ship. He is a wunderkind, somebody the equal of any of the senior staff. Even when he screws up, as in later episodes like The First Duty and Journey’s End, the show emphasises how unique Wesley is.

"... and I'm much less annoying than Wesley."

“… and I’m much less annoying than Wesley.”

In contrast, … Nor the Battle to the Strong demonstrates just how human Jake is. Jake’s act of cowardice is a split-second decision, and one which is entirely understandable. After all, Jake is an eighteen-year-old with no military experience. The audience has some measure of sympathy from Jake, but it is a sympathy firmly rooted in a humanity that was sorely lacking in Wesley. Whereas The Next Generation seemed to be populated by characters who represented ideals, Deep Space Nine is populated by more human characters.

Indeed, one of the better storytelling decisions in … Nor the Battle to the Strong is the stubborn refusal to present Jake with a tidy redemptive arc. When Jake realises what he has done, he tries to impose a narrative arc on the events. He tries to craft a story to excuse his moment of weakness. Stumbling upon a wounded marine, Jake suggests that there might be a greater meaning in all of this. “That way this’ll all make sense. Maybe I ran for a reason, so I could find you and save your life.” Jake is a writer, after all.

Drafted.

Drafted.

… Nor the Battle to the Strong suggests that this is how people cope with these moments of personal failure, that they try to make sense of them by finding meaning or purpose in them. “The shelling, losing sight of Bashir, running, and I keep trying to make sense of it all, to justify what I did,” Jake confesses. The wounded officer with the self-inflicted phaser wound seems to do something similar, to justify (or bend the narrative) around his choice. “No matter what else you can say about me, you can’t say that I don’t have good aim,” insist the young officer.

Jake believes that he might find redemption if he can carry the wounded marine back to the hospital. The episode teases the audience with a trite resolution in its final act, setting up a Klingon raid on the hospital that a weaker script would use to redeem Jake. It is easy to imagine a much less satisfying resolution to the episode where Jake and the anonymous ensign with the self-inflicted phaser wound manage to hold back the Klingons. Indeed, that version of the script might even afford the ensign redemption through sacrifice, dying as a hero to save the wounded.

"Now I know why they call them the Klingons."

“Now I know why they call them the Klingons.”

It is to the credit of writer René Echevarria that … Nor the Battle to the Strong refuses to peddle in such easy answers. When the wounded marine figures out Jake’s desire to erase his own moment of weakness through a corresponding moment of heroism, he muses, “Sorry, kid. Life doesn’t work like that.” Jake manages to protect the wounded from the Klingons at the climax of the episode, but not through bravery or heroism. Jake’s actions are presented as sheer desperate self-preservation. It is not a feel good ending.

What little redemption afforded Jake comes in the final minutes, through his submission of an honest account of events in which he lays out his own failings for the world to examine. This is its own form of bravery, in its own way. “It takes courage to look inside yourself and even more courage to write it for other people to see,” Sisko offers. it is a more low key form of courage than traditional expressions of heroism, but it does afford Jake some small sense of closure in the grand scheme of things.

Courage under fire. Also, a table.

Courage under fire.
Also, a table.

Deep Space Nine is frequently accused of being overly cynical, of abandoning the humanism and idealism that define so much of Star Trek. That is not entirely fair. The closing scene of … Nor the Battle to the Strong is not entirely bleak or grim. Deep Space Nine is never nihilistic. Its characters might not always get what they want, but they tend to get just enough of what they need. There is always some sense of hope bubbling beneath the show’s exterior, with the show never as dark or relentless as Battlestar Galactica.

In fact, this is one of the more interesting aspects of the fifth season, the sense that Deep Space Nine is learning to finely balance the franchise’s optimism and idealism with the more grounded stories that the production team want to tell. … Nor the Battle to the Strong is very much a conventional war story, in much the same way that The Ship is a very conventional siege story. However, it is important that Deep Space Nine learn how to tell these sorts of stories within the framework of the Star Trek franchise.

"My career options are pretty much nil. I really shot myself in the foot here, eh?"

“My career options are pretty much nil. I really shot myself in the foot here, eh?”

There is an appealing clumsiness to … Nor the Battle to the Strong, a rough quality that makes it feel like a rehearsal for more ambitious later stories like Change of Heart or The Siege of AR-558. This is just a preliminary effort. The writing staff will hone the work that they do here, examining what works and what doesn’t in order to improve upon this foundation. In many ways, … Nor the Battle to the Strong feels almost like a dry run for elements that will come into play later. (It is, for example, the first episode to feature Starfleet ground forces.)

This clumsiness is quite evident in the plotting, which relies on the Klingon Empire suspending a preexisting cease fire at the start of the episode and rather conveniently reinstating it at the end of the hour. When Bashir first reports the attacks, Jake muses, “So much for the cease fire.” Later, Sisko conveniently explains that the status quo has been reset, reflecting, “The cease fire has been reinstated. The Klingons are pulling out. It’s over.” It seems like the Klingon Empire and the Federation were at war just long enough to teach Jake a valuable lesson.

Klingon aggression will be brought to heal.

Klingon aggression will be brought to heal.

To be fair, this fits reasonably well with details established in earlier episodes. After all, Gowron made it quite clear in Apocalypse Rising that it would not be ease to restore peace and stability between the two galactic powers. More than that, the fifth season repeatedly suggests that war does not exist in a binary state, that it is not neatly contained within formal declarations. The Dominion War officially begins with A Call to Arms, but simmers long before there. It is suggested that the Dominion is attacking Federation vessels along the Cardassian border in In the Cards.

As such, it makes a certain amount of sense that border conflicts would rage between the Federation and the Klingon Empire even after the events of Apocalypse Rising. However, there is a sense that … Nor the Battle to the Strong is being a little too neat and tidy in how it defines these border conflicts. After all, the Klingons are not just raiding Federation settlements but destroying Starfleet ships. It seems strange that the cease fire should be reinstated so quickly and so readily after so serious a conflict.

"Jake, I think I saw your courage... somewhere over there..."

“Jake, I think I saw your courage… somewhere over there…”

Then again, this clumsiness makes a great deal of sense. The production history of … Nor the Battle to the Strong suggests that many of the episode’s strongest creative decisions were not part of the original premise. According to The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, René Echevarria’s original plans for the episode were very different and only curtailed by budgetary concerns:

“It began as an episode set in a Cardassian hospital, where the Klingons were attacking,” he recalls. “There were a lot of intercultural misunderstandings between Jake and the Cardassians, who were primarily females, since we’ve established that Cardassian women are the scientists and the doctors. But we’d learned from Apocalypse Rising that it’s cost-prohibitive to have that many extras in alien makeup. And since we were trying to save money for Trials and Tribble-ations, we decided that we didn’t really need to build a set. We could say that they’d moved out of the damaged hospital and into caves underneath the complex.”

There is no way to know how that version of the episode would have played, but it seems fair to suggest that a story about sexism in combat medicine would have been a very different story than the one presented. While the decision to focus on human characters was largely driven by economic factors, it also provided … Nor the Battle to the Strong with a very strong thematic throughline.

"Don't worry, at least I'm not quoting The Charge of the Light Brigade."

“Don’t worry, at least I’m not quoting The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

One of the central themes running through the Star Trek franchise is the idea that humanity is inherently special. It is a comforting thought, the belief that mankind is unique in its compassion and decency. At its best, this approach leads to stories like The Empath, which suggest that mankind might be able to share their empathy with other cultures. However, this belief also leads to episodes like The Last Outpost and The Neutral Zone, in which (mostly white male) Starfleet officers condescend to those whom they deem to be less advanced.

Star Trek has always been relatively vague about how exactly humanity built its utopia. This makes a certain amount of sense, from both a political and a storytelling standpoint. However, this ambiguity can reinforce the sense that the bright future of Star Trek is built upon nothing more than advances in technology like warp drive and replicators rather than any material social progress. This idea is suggested at various points in the run of the franchise, from the focus on warp drive in First Contact to the early episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise.

"Remember, Bashir is spelled with an 'i'."

“Remember, Bashir is spelled with an ‘i’.”

In some ways, this is reassuring. After all, it is comforting to think that conflict would cease to exist in a word where all material demands were met. On some level, technological determinism implies that mankind’s worst impulses are driven by environmental factors like poverty or hunger or territoriality. If those factors can be removed, then mankind will develop into something truly special and enlightened. This is a very optimistic way of looking at the world, on that suggests mankind doesn’t actually need to chance its views or its perspective on anything.

However, there is a catch. Deep Space Nine seems to recognise this catch. If humanity’s utopia is built upon comfort and technology, then the security of that futuristic paradise can only ever be as secure as that comfort and technology. Strip away that comfort, take away that technology, and what happens? Does mankind revert back to its most base impulses? Or does humanity retain its optimism and its idealism? It is a question that Deep Space Nine has broached (and will continue to broach) over the course of its seven seasons.

Trying for triage.

Trying for triage.

It informed Past Tense, Part I and Part Tense, Part II. It lurked in the background of Homefront and Paradise Lost. Quark offered some preliminary meditations upon this theme in The Jem’Hadar, and he will bookend that theme in The Siege of AR-558. In many ways, Deep Space Nine presents itself as the crucible of the Star Trek universe, accepting that mankind have elevated themselves through technology, but asking what that really means. Characters find themselves tested and broken, forced to question what they truly know about themselves and the universe.

… Nor the Battle to the Strong hits on these ideas in a way more effective for using human characters instead of Cardassians. The aliens on Star Trek have always worked best as allegories and reflections, as ways to comment upon the human condition. However, using Cardassian characters to tell this kind of story would dull the themes. The Federation have historically and consistently been portrayed as the heroes of the Star Trek universe, an extension of idealised liberal American values into the future. Interrogating that is always worthwhile.

Bashful Bashir.

Bashful Bashir.

Similarly, two of the episode’s best sequences were added into the story at the last minute, representing a substantial departure from the arc that René Echevarria had originally plotted. As Keith DeCandido notes:

Originally, Rene Echevarria had Jake fall into the ridge with a blind Klingon, but Ira Steven Behr had him change it to a human, as having a sympathetic Klingon dulled the impact of the story. Also, the episode ran short, so Echevarria wrote the second scene with the ensign who shot himself in the foot, which everyone agreed wound up being a critical scene to the theme of the story.

These changes enrich and enhance … Nor the Battle to the Strong, but also suggest how much of the episode was a happy accident. However, like a lot of the fifth season, it would prove to be formative for a show in transition.

"Well, this is still better than the time you dragged me to the mirror universe."

“Well, this is still better than the time you dragged me to the mirror universe.”

The fifth season of Deep Space Nine is very much a work in progress and an on-going reinvention, which only makes it more exciting. There is a sense that the production team are figuring this out as they go, experimenting and tweaking as the season moves along. In fact, there are several sequences in … Nor the Battle to the Strong that serve as a nice commentary (and even criticism) of earlier episodes, as if to demonstrate that the writers are paying attention to the show and willing to acknowledge issues along the way.

Notably, one early scene in … Nor the Battle to the Strong plays as a criticism of the sit-com excess that drove the “other O’Briens” plot thread in Looking for Par’Mach in all the Wrong Places. The characters acknowledge that Chief O’Brien’s attitude towards Kira is rather awkward. “You’re being ridiculous,” Dax admonishes O’Brien. “Why does pregnancy always make men hysterical?” O’Brien responds, “Excuse me, this is not the first baby I’ve had.” Kira is having none of it. “Excuse me. Keiko had Molly.”

"Oh, hey. We're all in this episode too!"

“Oh, hey. We’re all in this episode too!”

It is a very nice way of acknowledging the rather creepy undertones bubbling beneath O’Brien’s behaviour in Looking for Par’Mach in all the Wrong Places. The episode was very much framed as a goofy comedy, with O’Brien’s behaviour played as excessive and controlling in the context of the script, but it is still worth having the characters explicitly call out O’Brien’s behaviour. The only characters who agree with O’Brien are Worf and Quark, perhaps the two most regressive regular characters in the franchise.

It is a testament to writer René Echevarria that even the lighter obligatory “let’s actually use the cast!” sequences on Deep Space Nine still serve a larger purpose in the context of the show. There is even some nice foreshadowing in a later conversation between Sisko and Odo. Recalling his pursuit of two Yridians, Odo confesses, “I was planning to change form in mid-air and become a Tarkalean condor.” When Sisko explains the challenges of raising a child, Odo admits, “I have to say, I don’t think it’s for me.” Sisko responds, “You don’t know what you’re missing.”

"Can you imagine if Voyager tried to do this?"

“Can you imagine if Voyager tried to do this?”

This short scene serves to effectively foreshadow Echevarria’s work on The Begotten. In that episode, Odo becomes a parent to a young wounded changeling and proves quite adept at it. In that same episode, Odo regains his ability to change shape and the first shape he assumes is that of a bird that the script identifies as a “Tarkalean hawk.” It is a beautiful piece of set-up and pay-off, even outside of the evocative imagery of Odo using his abilities to literally take flight. It is an effective demonstration of just how well Deep Space Nine handles character continuity.

… Nor the Battle to the Strong is in many ways a conventional war story. This makes it an unconventional Star Trek episode. Deep Space Nine is very clearly pushing further and further outside of its comfort zone. That is exhilarating.

You might be interested in our reviews of the fifth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:

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15 Responses

  1. ” Many of the show’s “adaptations” of classic stories are rooted in classic Hollywood, from Profit and Loss as Casablanca to Fascination as the 1934 version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In Past Tense, Part II, the guest character B.C. admits to an obsession with Errol Flynn.” Also, the much maligned Profit and Lace could be seen as a reworking of Some Like it Hot.
    This is an incredibly underrated episode. I think people tend to forget about it because of the probably superior Siege of AR-558, but I think this episode is also good, and is the last good Jake story that does not involve Nog. I do think this episode should have had some following up on though. Maybe, during the opening six episode arc of the sixth season, Jake could be acting in a seemingly cowardly way, but then it is revealed that he is just terrified of going through another set of traumatic incidents due to the after-effects of this episode.

    • There was a minor callback to this episode in “Call to Arms” when Jake helps Bashir prepare the infirmary for casualties and Bashir wonders if Jake is truly prepared for what’s about to happen.

    • That’s an issue with a surprising among of DS9 episodes, despite the show’s (relatively) early experiments with serialisation. But I don’t know that this needs a major follow-up, but this may just be my own old-school television preferences acting up; I like a finer balance between the episode and the arc than a lot of modern television provides. (You have no idea how hard I find it to review Netflix shows episode-by-episode.) Although, as Michael points out below, there is a nod to it in A Call to Arms.

      • I normally wouldn’t mind it, but Jake has so little to do in the sixth and seventh season I think that it would have helped his character. Especially in It’s only a Paper Moon in which they could have something interesting in comparing Nog’s trauma to Jake’s. Maybe, the reason Jake gets so annoyed with Nog because it reminds him of what happened here. That being said I had forgotten about the call back in Call to Arms which just adds to the reasons why it is one of my favorite DS9 episodes.
        Also, I agree with you about preferring the fine balance between the episode and arc. I mean I love Breaking Bad and Mad Men but there is little to no way I can just rewatch an individual episode and enjoy it in the same way I can just watch any DS9 episode.

      • Yep. There are maybe five episodes of The Sopranos I could rewatch. I can’t think of a single episode of The Wire or Deadwood. Although I might pick particular scenes.

  2. Interesting review.

    To be honest I think that while the War on Terror is significant I think we are in danger of focusing on it so much that we forget ‘traditional’ war and military projection is still very much a thing and arguably more important in global terms even if they grab fewer headlines – the Chinese and American sabre rattling in the South China Seas, Russia armed interventions in Georgia and Ukraine, the maoist revolution in Nepal, the (failed) military coup in Turkey… the old order is far from gone.

    In fact I’d argue the current ‘new’ cold war between Putin and the West has much more of a feel for these seasons of Deep Space Nine with their complicated Great Power diplomacy and system of client states (as Bajor is for the Federation and Cardassia will become for the Dominion.)

    • That’s a very fair point actually. I think, as you pointed out in discussing Apocalypse Rising, a lot of why DS9 has aged so well is because it looks back beyond the nineties and so isn’t anchored to a moment in time that increasingly appears to be an aberration. (Or, at the very least, a very short part of a larger cycle.)

  3. Good episode, which you’ll find me saying to most DS9 episodes.

    I know this isn’t related at all, but since you know a shitload about Trek, I’m curious, do you know if there ever was a DS9 or Voyager feature film considered, and if so, why it was never made? I find that very odd, given both series were popular and there’s a lot of potential for a film regarding either, or both. I’m aware that there was a sequel to Nemesis, planned as the true finale TNG film, that would have featured Voyager and DS9 characters, in fact I think it would have featured DS9 itself, but I mean actually films for either crew.

    Just curious.

    • I don’t believe that DS9 or Voyager were ever seriously considered for film adaptations, because they were simply not successful enough. The ratings were solid, but they were never as good as TNG. Whereas TNG steadily grew its audience over its run (with a few exceptions), DS9 and Voyager steadily lost their audiences. DS9 is not so bad, because it was happening roughly in line with a larger decline of television viewership in the late nineties. However, because Voyager and Enterprise ran longer, it became more pronounced. (After all, adding Worf to DS9 and Seven to Voyager were transparent ratings grabs, signs that the shows were not performing to expectation. After all, Paramount did not replace DS9 after it wrapped, suggesting the market could not support a second Star Trek series.)

      Still, the understanding was that nobody was clamouring for a DS9 or Voyager film. Which is not a bad thing. After all, both shows had an organic end point. DS9 wrapped itself up gracefully. Voyager… well, it got home.

      Now, I know that the Enterprise cast believed that they would be the next feature film iteration after TNG, but I’m not sure how serious the production team were about that. But it was pretty quickly a moot point. While Generations did okay financially and First Contact exceeded expectations, I believe Insurrection underperformed and Nemesis outright bombed.

      Again, all of this is just a rough outline. I’ll probably be doing a bit more research on that as my coverage reaches that point.

      • Very interesting, and good point on how DS9 and Voyager didn’t attract the same mainstream appeal, even if DS9 is not only a better show, but def. more in line with what people nowadays expect from a TV Show 😛 Oh well.

        I actually do know some about Enterprise and its movie plans. While Scott Bakula and others were confident at first they’d get their own films, I don’t think (or don’t know of) any serious movie plans directly involving his crew (afaik TNG didn’t get serious film plans until 1992/1993, after the series had already become a smash hit), however there was a serious plan to make a film in the Enterprise era, that was to feature Shran and other Enterprise characters called “Star Trek: The Beginning”. If that were finished and successful, I bet Archer and co would make cameo appearances in sequels.

        Side note: Seven of Nine was seriously considered as a character in Nemesis, on the bridge of the Enterprise-E and I believe Janeway was originally to have more than a cameo role, so in that case, Voyager almost did get a film, outside the Nemesis sequel than never reached beyond an outline.

      • I do wonder, regardless of the reality, was there ever any serious ptiches for a DS9 or Voyager film from writers, actors, producers, etc?

  4. Jake does have a survival instinct (or a cowardly streak?) which we’ll see again in Valiant where he freely admits to Nog that he’s more concerned with saving his own life rather then embarking on some kamikazee mission to destroy a Dominion battleship. It always makes me think of Sisko and Quark’s conversation in The Jem’Hadar where Sisko is sure that Jake wouldn’t follow Nog’s example of finding the deepest, darkest hole to hide in and wait for trouble to blow over. But in Nor the Battle to the Strong, Jake’s behaviour shatters Sisko’s assertions. Once, Sisko felt his son had the makings of a Starfleet officer, and that Nog would never amount to anything but Nog did go on to become one and lost a leg all in the line of duty while Jake flees at the first sign of danger. Sisko doesn’t know his son as well as he thinks he does.

    “A noble doctor fighting a deadly disease”; that sounds just like the plot of The Quickening. Was it Sisko who brought up the Dominion attacking Starfleet ships along the Cardassian border in In the Cards? I thought it was O’Brien which made Bashir say “we’re gonna run out of ships at this rate.”

    • Yep, there’s a lot to be said for the development of Jake and the recurring suggestion that the valour and heroism (and self-sacrifice) that we see from Starfleet officers are not default for humanity in the Star Trek unvierse. After all, that would sort of devalue the heroism that we do see, and undercut any of the drama.

      Thanks for the correction!

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