With Favour the Bold, the writers begin winding down the ambitious six-episode arc that opens the sixth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Indeed, Favour the Bold plays almost like the first part of a two-parter nestled at the end of the sprawling six-episode arc that opens the sixth season. At the end of the teaser, Sisko unveils his ambitious plan to Dax, boasting, “We’re going to retake Deep Space Nine.” It is the story that very clearly moves the arc that began with Call to Arms towards its conclusion, manoeuvring the series back towards the familiar status quo in which Captain Benjamin Sisko commands a lone Federation outpost near the distant planet of Bajor.
Favour the Bold is very much about lining up everything for the climax of the arc, moving the pieces into place so that that the dominoes can begin falling as early as possible in Sacrifice of Angels. However, the episode benefits from the fact that a lot of the heavy-lifting has already been done by this point in the arc. Behind the Lines already had Odo betray Kira, Rom get arrested and Damar figure out how best to dismantle those pesky self-replicating mines. That is already a lot of the table-setting for the arc’s epic conclusion, before Favour the Bold even begins.
As such, Favour the Bold has the luxury of beginning with a lot of its work already done and ending at the point where the action truly commences. The result is a surprisingly relaxed penultimate episode for this ambitious arc, one with the freedom to indulge in smaller character-driven scenes and the space in which to breathe.
The six-episode arc that opens the sixth season was frequently changing and evolving. When the writers on Deep Space Nine kicked off the Dominion War in Call to Arms, the initial understanding was the conflict would last three episodes before the series reverted to the status quo. Those three episodes quickly became four episodes. Then those four episodes became five episodes. Finally, while trying to break the fifth and final episode, it was decided that the story was too large to be resolved within a single forty-five minute episode. So that fifth episode became a two-parter.
Of course, that would not be the end of it. Although Favour the Bold and Sacrifice of Angels end with Sisko retaking the station and Gul Dukat defeated, they do not resolve the larger conflict. The Dominion War rages across the remaining two seasons of the show, taking centre stage in episodes like Statistical Probabilities and In the Pale Moonlight, but also providing meaningful back context in episodes that are somewhat removed from the immediacy of the conflict like Far Beyond the Stars or It’s Only a Paper Moon.
In fact, the writing staff struggled quite a bit to fit everything they wanted into these six episodes. There were a number of interesting story ideas that they had building off the ending to Call to Arms that there was simply not enough storytelling real estate to properly explore. This was particularly obvious with the original subplot for Behind the Lines, as detailed by The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion:
The other storyline came to DS9 by way of a movie from the 1930s called Dawn Patrol, in which a tough commanding officer is forced to send green aerial recruits into battle. Says Echevarria, “Sisko gets promoted, but that means suddenly he’s not the guy out there flying the missions. He’s the guy who has to send them out on the missions. And they’re telling him, ‘We can’t do it, it’s crazy, we tried’, and he keeps sending them back to the same target. And it’s tearing him up inside.”
Initially, Echevarria recalls, he thought things were going swimmingly.”I had more time than usual, so I turned in a first draft a good two weeks before prep, and got the other writers’ notes and polished it. I thought I was done, and then, to my utter horror, Ira says, ‘This doesn’t work for me at all.’ I couldn’t believe it! It was the second draft! And he was telling me it didn’t work?”
The Sisko storyline, at that point representing about a quarter of the script, was too short. “It should have been a two-hour movie, not the B-story of one episode,” admits Echevarria.
“We liked the idea, but we only had six episodes to play with,” comments Behr. “If we’d had a seventh…”
Ultimately, the subplot in Behind the Lines adopts a much softer approach to the “Sisko gets promoted” subplot, shaving off a lot of the tension about whether the crew is ready and how Dax will respond to command to focus upon Sisko’s anxiety as he sits in his office and waits for news to filter back of their daring journey through the Argolis Cluster.
There were undoubtedly other stories that could have been told using the dramatic shift in the status quo at the end of Call to Arms. After all, Rocks and Shoals had ended with Kira forming a new resistance cell on the station… but what about life on Bajor? What about big battles that don’t involve Deep Space Nine? What about intergalactic third parties to the conflict, like the Romulans or the Gorn? Looking at the status quo established at the end of Call to Arms, there is easily enough material to sustain at least ten to thirteen episodes.
Of course, focusing on what might (or could) have been is churlish. It minimises just how dramatic this arc is in the context of the larger Star Trek franchise. Sisko spends the bulk of six episodes separated from Deep Space Nine. The series divides the cast so that Worf spends six episodes on his own ship while more than half of the characters are estranged from the series’ title location. It is hard to imagine Picard spending six episodes off the Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and impossible to imagine the same of Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager.
So, after four full episodes wallowing in a Terok Nor commanded by Gul Dukat and Sisko stranded a long way from home, it was time to wrap things up. However, given all the balls in play, that was no easy task. As The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion acknowledges, there was simply too much story for a single episode:
“When we did the break session for the arc, it was the last one,” Thompson reveals. “On the beat board, we had each of the episode titles listed, like milestones. And under Favour the Bold, it said, ‘We retake the station.’ And then suddenly it turned into, ‘We can’t get all of this done in one show.'”
So suddenly Behr and Beimler were writing one hundred twenty pages, rather than sixty – not an easy thing, by any means, particularly not in a short period of time. “It changes your life,” intones Beimler. “The physical toll is really hard… You become exhausted. It’s like writing a screenplay in three or four weeks. But it does help when you’re doing it with someone else.”
This seems like a very reasonable approach to the material at hand. After all, Deep Space Nine is a series with so many moving parts. There are well over twenty major characters involved in this ambitious story arc, from the regular cast members to veteran recurring players like Andrew Robinson or Marc Alaimo to other actors either new or stepping into their own like Barry Jenner or Casey Biggs.
However, there are also challenges. While the conclusion of the arc is too much to handle within a single forty-five minute episode of television, there is also a sense that there is not enough plot to justify two whole episodes. In fact, Favour the Bold might just be the most plot-light episode of the entire six-episode arc. The episode very obviously shoehorns its big special effects setpiece – the Defiant and the Rotarran ambushing a Jem’Hadar squadron – into the teaser. The rest of the episode is largely driven by dialogue and preparation.
In terms of story, very little actually happens over the course of Favour the Bold. All of the big developments are in play by the end of the teaser. Sisko spends the episode petitioning for support for his mission to retake Deep Space Nine as outlined before the opening credits, arguing with Admirals and the Klingon High Council for more ships. Meanwhile, Dukat begins implementing the plan that Damar concocted in Behind the Lines to disable the mines. Sisko eventually learns of this through Morn, and so finds himself racing against time.
Favour the Bold is not a plot-driven episode of television, with most of its story beats feeling like simple connective tissue between Behind the Lines and Sacrifice of Angels. However, this is not a problem. One of the defining attributes of Deep Space Nine, particularly compared to The Next Generation or Voyager, is the space that it affords to character development and simple conversations. Building on the “Piller filler” that populated teasers to The Next Generation from the third season, entire scenes allow characters to talk at length about personal matters.
Favour the Bold plays to this strength, spending time with the majority of its cast before throwing them all into one gigantic free-for-all battle for survival. It is an approach that Deep Space Nine has employed before and will use again, celebrating the calm before the storm by placing a more introspective character-focused episode before an epic game-changing finale. The fifth season placed the quirky comedy In the Cards before the sprawling Call to Arms, while the sixth season offers the introspective The Sound of Her Voice before the massive Tears of the Prophets.
To be fair, one of the advantages of serialisation is that it affords this sort of space to explore character dynamics and interactions in a way that can be hard to justify within a self-contained narrative. Serialisation encourages a more relaxed and decompressed storytelling style, instead of trying to fit every necessary plot point into a rigidly-defined single unit of story. Spacing a number of story beats over two or more episodes affords the writers more leeway to explore the space between those big moments.
This is even true on shows that are less keenly focused on character development than Deep Space Nine. Most notably, the characters on Voyager never seem more developed than during the show’s two-parters, when there is room to broaden the focus. There are plenty of examples; Tom and Tuvok’s bogus journey and the EMH’s field trip in Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II, the conflict between Chakotay and Janeway in Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II, Tuvok and Seven’s relationship and the EMH’s guilty in Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II.
In fact, the entire six-part opening arc of the sixth season of Deep Space Nine is populated with lots of little character touches and scenes that serve to flesh out characters and provide a great deal of context for who these people are and how they relate to one another. This is particularly obvious during the scenes set on Terok Nor. During this six-episode arc, characters like Dukat and Weyoun (and Damar) are elevated from recurring guest stars to functional leads. Dukat and Weyoun receive smaller and quieter scenes, with Dukat even recording a log entry in A Time to Stand.
The characters dance around one another, offering insight into one another in the same way that any of the regulars might. Dukat’s fascination the power that ketracel white affords the Vorta over the Jem’Hadar reveals a lot about bout characters in A Time to Stand. “You enjoy that, don’t you?” Dukat inquires. “That constant reminder that you’re their master.” Weyoun skilfully deflects the question, but it is a very clever exchange. Weyoun clearly does enjoy that power, but he’d never be so crass as to admit it. Dukat is much more candid.
That exchange in A Time to Stand is bookended by a conversation in Sacrifice of Angels. When the Dominion looks to win the day, Dukat and Weyoun consider the next step in their plan to conquer the Alpha Quadrant. Weyoun fixates upon Earth. “If there’s going to be an organised resistance against us, its birthplace will be there,” he states. “Then our first step is be to eradicate its population. It’s the only way.” Dukat objects. Not because he’s a humanitarian, but because “a true victory is to make your enemy see they were wrong to oppose you in the first place.”
There is something compelling in the way that Deep Space Nine uses its character interactions and their relationships to illuminate one another. For example, all of the interactions between the Female Changeling, Dukat, Weyoun and Damar outline a very complicated set of interpersonal dynamics. Weyoun sees himself as superior to Dukat and Damar, but has to compete with Dukat in the eyes of the Female Changeling. Damar resents Weyoun, but respects Dukat. Dukat sees himself as smarter than everyone, but accepts he has to toe the party line in the Dominion.
Even the exposition between characters is revealing. “The Second Fleet has fallen back past the Kotanka System, while the Fifth Fleet has pulled out of the fighting along the Vulcan border,” Damar states in a briefing. “Both fleets have converged here, Starbase three-seven-five.” Dukat recognises the location. “Isn’t that where Captain Sisko is stationed?” It is a nice exchange that reveals just how obsessed Dukat is with Sisko, to the point of stalking him through this sprawling intergalactic war, measuring himself against that one opponent.
Dukat is one of the most compelling and intriguing characters in the Star Trek canon. There is a solid argument to be made that Dukat might just be the franchise’s best antagonist, with only Khan Noonien Singh presenting a credible alternative. Dukat has been carefully and skilfully developed over the course of the show, from his work with Sisko in The Maquis, Part I and The Maquis, Part II through to his personal life sketched in Defiant to his own personal decline and humiliation in Indiscretion and Return to Grace.
One of the most compelling aspects of Deep Space Nine is the way in which the series keeps its focus on the characters, even in the midst of sprawling war epic. It would be easy to treat the Dominion and the Cardassian as a collection of generic antagonists, abstracting their politics and culture to render them a monolithic opponent. Instead, Deep Space Nine anchors these broad ideas in specific character traits and interactions. Duakt’s attitude toward Bajor is not some vague concept, it is instead expressed in the way that he acts towards Kira.
Indeed, A Time to Stand explicitly compares Dukat’s behaviour towards Kira (and, by implication, towards Bajor) as sexual assault. Trapping her in his office, he smiles as he patronisingly strokes her cheek and talks softly to her about how nice he could make her time on the station. “You should have seen the arrogant, smug look on his face,” Kira later confesses to Odo. “He was in control and there was nothing that I could do about it.” This is a microcosm of how Dukat feels about Bajor, believing himself entitled to their land and their love by virtue of his power and position.
In some ways, this six-episode arc represents the epitome of Dukat’s characterisation, the point at which Dukat seems most fully developed and realised as a three-dimensional individual. Dukat is a monster, but he is a monster who seems very grounded and very real. Like the best Star Trek aliens, he is very human. There is something very Shakespearean about Dukat, as Ira Steven Behr notes in The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion:
“Anyone who could be the head of the Occupation ain’t all there,” Behr declares. “Insanity, like genius, is the ability to keep two opposing points of view in your head at once. The difference between Dukat and someone like Sisko – it’s one of the ultimate differences of this show…” He pauses thoughtfully, then starts again. “A healthy human being like Sisko knows himself. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have limitations. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t make mistakes. But he knows himself. Dukat is a totally self-deluded person. He’s a deeply, deeply screwed-up Cardassian who doesn’t understand his own motives.”
Dukat’s character would change dramatically in the episodes following Sacrifice of Angels, particularly after Waltz. In some ways, it might have made sense to kill Dukat off after Sacrifice of Angels, to accept this story as the end of his arc. Dukat becomes a much less nuanced and much less interesting character in stories like Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night or Tears of the Prophets.
Although the six episode arc fleshes out Dukat’s already developed character, it does much more substantial work on Weyoun and Damar. After all, Weyoun and Damar are both relatively recent additions to the cast at this point in the run, both having debuted in single episodes of the fourth season. Damar was effectively a background player in episodes like Return to Grace and Apocalypse Rising, while Weyoun was killed off at the end of To the Death before reappearing rather late in the fifth season with Ties of Blood and Water.
Although Weyoun appeared in a number of episodes late in the fifth season, he was primarily characterised as a slimy and manipulative toady. Weyoun was a character who would promise the world if it got him what he wanted, whether trying to get Bajor to sign a non-aggression pact in In the Cards or trying to lull Sisko into a false sense of security in Call to Arms. This definitely carries over to the sixth season, most notably in his interactions with Jake and Kira in A Time to Stand. However, these episodes suggest that there is more to Weyoun than uneasy charm.
This is hinted at as early as A Time to Stand, when Weyoun drops his guard to ask Kira about Odo. “Is he aware that I’m doing everything I can to strengthen the bond between the Dominion and the Bajoran people?” Odo inquires. The question is not an attempt at manipulation. It is clear that the answer really matters to Weyoun, that he really has a lot invested in what Odo thinks of him. It is a small moment, but one that reveals Weyoun is not as cynical as he seems. Unlike Keevan in Rocks and Shoals, Weyoun is a true believed beneath that smug grin.
There is a strange pathos to Weyoun, as he develops across the six episodes here. This is quite apparent early in Favour the Bold, when Kira petitions him about Rom. Weyoun is studying one of Ziyal’s paints from Sons and Daughters. He asks, quite candidly, “Is it any good?” He explains, “I don’t know how to judge it. You see, my people lack a sense of aesthetics.” When Kira suggests that is “too bad”, Weyoun agrees, “I sometimes think so as well. But if aesthetics were truly important, the Founders would have included it in our genetic makeup.”
It is a lovely little scene, one that suggests a sense of tragedy to the Vorta. They might be slimy and untrustworthy, but that is largely because they have been manipulated and engineered to be in service of the Founders. After all, the most likely reason to programme the Vorta without a sense of aesthetics is to make them more pragmatic negotiators unburdened by a sense of taste. This is indeed something of a recurring theme when it comes to Weyoun, with Ties of Blood and Water revealing that the Vorta are quite capable of drinking poison in service of their masters.
All of this is juxtaposed against Weyoun’s unwavering faith. When Kira suggests that the Founders simply made a mistake, Weyoun immediately responds, “Gods don’t make mistakes.” He then softens, “Though sometimes I think it would be nice to be able to carry a tune.” Weyoun is a superb villain, ranking with Dukat among the finest in the franchise. However, these six episodes afford Jeffrey Combs the opportunity to add layers to his performance and to fashion Weyoun into a truly multifaceted character.
Deep Space Nine has done an excellent job eliciting sympathy for the Jem’Hadar as a slave race controlled through drug addiction, but it is hard not to feel some measure of compassion for the Vorta as a race that have been designed to serve as diplomats and functionaries with little regard for their own personal tastes and their own desires. With the character development afforded Weyoun over the arc and the attention paid to Keevan in Rocks and Shoals, the series paves the way for later stories like Treachery, Faith and the Great River.
Speaking of character work that sets up later developments, Damar evolves into a compelling figure over the course of these six episodes. Casey Biggs was given relatively little material in his earlier appearances, but a lot the seeds of his seventh season character arc are planted across these six episodes. Most obviously, these episodes establish that Damar is a barely-functioning alcoholic. He gets so drunk that he loses an inflammatory document in Behind the Lines; he becomes so intoxicated he lets slip vital military secrets to Quark in Favour the Bold.
However, there is more to this characterisation than mere plot convenience. Even in Behind the Lines and Favour the Bold, Damar’s drinking problem is tied into a sense of disillusioned nationalism. “After a hard day at work, he deserves his glass of kanar,” Kira narrates in Behind the Lines. “Why are the Jem’Hadar always in here, he asks himself. They don’t drink, they don’t eat, they don’t gamble. All they do is take up space.” In Favour the Bold, Damar assures Quark, “You’re a credit to your race, Quark.”
There is already some slight sense that Damar regrets the Faustian bargain that Dukat struck with the Dominion in In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light, the sense that Cardassia had to surrender its sense of self in order to feel strong again. Damar is in many ways the flip side of the nationalism espoused by Gul Macet in Chain of Command, Part II, a man who believes in the strength of the Cardassian Union as a vital attribute, but has watched that strength eroded through compromise and surrender.
After identifying Quark as a credit to Ferengi everywhere, Damar continues, “Unlike your brother, you’ve chosen to back the winning side.” This would seem to suggest some support of the alliance with the Dominion. After all, the Cardassians seem to have chosen to back the winning side, in the grander scheme of things. However, there is something mournful and empty in Damar’s toast, offered as while he drinks alone to dull some faint ache inside himself. Damar already seems to be a man questioning the price he paid to back the winning side.
Even the smaller background players even seem to come into focus in these early episodes. A Time to Stand introduced Barry Jenner as Admiral Bill Ross. Admiral Ross would become a fixture of the final two seasons of Deep Space Nine, appearing in more than ten episodes across the remaining run of the show. This is quite remarkable, given that the Star Trek franchise generally doesn’t keep admirals around for very long; Ross is perhaps the most notable Starfleet Admiral since Nechayev, who only appeared in half as many episodes.
Apparently, the writing staff immediately responded to Barry Jenner’s performance. According to The Star Trek Deep Space Nine Companion, the actor’s performance in A Time to Stand encouraged them to bring him back for later episodes in the arc like Behind the Lines or Favour the Bold:
“After we did A Time to Stand,” notes Behr, “we said, ‘Hey, this guy’s okay. We should give him another shot.’ And then after we did one or two more with him, it suddenly dawned on us that Barry was a solid actor. He brings a gravitas to the role, and yet you can see there’s a man behind the uniform. I think that Barry Jenner is one of the unsung heroes of the show, one of the pieces of the puzzle that might not be readily apparent to the audience. But he’s part of the glue that makes our job easier.”
This is quite remarkable. After all, Admiral Ross is hardly the most showy of characters. He does not leap off the screen like Dukat or Weyoun. He very clearly serves a storytelling purpose, but there is little gripping about him as a character in his early appearances.
This might be the point. After all, the Star Trek franchise has a long history of focusing on “bad admirals.” Whenever senior Federation and Starfleet figures appear, they tend to be some combination of corrupt or inept, standing between our heroes and their mission. This dates back to the earliest days of the franchise, most notably Commissioner Farris in The Galileo Seven or Ambassador Robert Fox in A Taste of Armageddon. However, this trend continued long into the Rick Berman era.
Admiral Haftel attempted to separate Data from his daughter in The Offspring. Rear Admiral Satie staged a witch hunt on the Enterprise in The Drumhead. Admiral Kennelly conspired with the Cardassians in Ensign Ro. Whenever Admiral Alyanna Nechayev showed up, it was with bad news. Even Admiral Leyton attempted to stage a military coup in Homefront and Paradise Lost. This trend even spilled over into the film franchise, with Admiral Cartwright in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Admiral Dougherty in Star Trek: Insurrection.
With all of those “bad admirals”, it is somewhat refreshing to have a well-intentioned senior character who feels worthy of the trust invested in him. For his part, Barry Jenner constructed an elaborate back story for his character that informed his performance. As the actor explained in The Fifty Year Mission:
I’m a reserve police officer, and when you go through the police academy in L.A., they talk to you about command presence. Not unpleasantness, but to be sure to let them know in situations like that that you’re in charge. As friendly as you can be, but here’s what’s going on, here’s what we’re going to do, I’m sorry but we have to do it this way. That’s the attitude I adopted in my audition for Ross and I got the job.
As an actor, I always try to create a backstory: something that isn’t in the show, but that gives me some human history. The history that I created involved having a daughter who was a Starfleet officer who had been killed in this war, so I would do anything to bring about the peace. I wouldn’t want anyone else to lose their loved ones. Somehow Ira and the writers picked up on what I was doing, because in subtle ways you felt it being incorporated into the character.
This is a great example of how skilfully and carefully the writers on Deep Space Nine engaged with (and listened to) the cast. While the writers on Voyager often seemed at a loss about what to do with some of their regulars, the writers on Deep Space Nine always seemed to trust their actors. It pays off.
It is telling that Favour the Bold chooses to place the entire fate of the Alpha Quadrant in the hands of Morn. Morn is one of the most unlikely breakout characters on Deep Space Nine, a background extra who has been a fixture dating back to Emissary and who even crossed over to the other two twenty-fourth century Star Trek shows with silent appearances in Birthright, Part I and Caretaker. However, Morn has not had a single line of dialogue. He will not utter a single word over the entire seven-season run, despite appearing in almost one hundred episodes.
Morn is something of a joke character, with the rest of the cast frequently joking about how talkative he is. However, he still develops into memorable member of the series’ extended cast. In fact, he anchors Who Mourns for Morn? later in the sixth season. Despite the fact that the closest Morn comes to talking is a laugh in The Nagus, he is still such an integral part of Deep Space Nine that Favour the Bold feels comfortable using his as a mule to ferry vital information between Kira and Sisko, making him essential to the survival of the Alpha Quadrant itself.
This is a testament to the skill and care with which Deep Space Nine populates its world, to the point that even a silent background character feels very much part of this larger interconnected chain of events. It could be argued that Morn is imbued with a greater sense of personality and character, and perhaps (ironically, given his status as the station’s barfly) agency, than several regular characters on the later Star Trek shows. Is Mayweather any better developed than Morn? Is Harry Kim more fully rounded?
Favour the Bold might not be the most plot-driven episode of Deep Space Nine, but it is clever in the way that it spends this calm before the proverbial storm with the characters who understand the stakes of what is about to happen. Favour the Bold feels very much like a deep breath before a deep plunge, and is all the more effective for the time that it invests in the characters who will be taking that largest of leaps.