Sunday, April 22, 2012

4-1, 4-2. The Way of the Warrior.

Worf's loyalties are tested
by Gowron (Robert O'Reilly).

"Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam... There's a battle outside and it's raging. It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls. For the times they are a-changin'."
-Bob Dylan


The destruction of the Obsidian Order has destabilized the Cardassian government, leading to a civilian uprising against military rule. On its own, this might actually be considered good news for the Federation and certainly for the Bajorans. But with the revelation that the changelings have already infiltrated the Alpha Quandrant, not everyone trusts that this is a purely Cardassian matter.

A fleet of Klingons have come to Deep Space 9, ostensibly to help prepare for the inevitable Dominion invasion. But as the Klingons harrass civilians and conduct unprovoked searches of ships in neutral space, it becomes clear something more is going on. Sisko calls on Starfleet for help, in the form of Lt. Commander Worf (Michael Dorn), whose contacts are able to provide the true motive behind these deeds. The Klingons believe that the overthrow of the Cardassian government can only be the work of changelings. And they intend to respond in the most Klingon way possible: By invading and laying claim to Cardassia!


Captain Sisko: His relationship with Kasidy Yates (Penny Johnson) continues to grow, but that growth is stymied by the demands of his position and her job. She is only on the station at irregular intervals. In this episode, their time together keeps being interrupted by crises, and she tells him that she isn't sure when she'll be back again. He doesn't appear to be in any danger of losing her yet - Her final kiss and glance back at him definitely don't seem like signs of a woman giving up. But I wouldn't be surprised if things became a bit strained in the near future.

The short fuse of his early appearances appears to be a weakness he's overcome, as he never shows any sign of losing his temper. But at every confrontation with the Klingons, he refuses to back down. He also remains unafraid to bend rules. Unable to officially warn the Cardassians, he calls in Garak to give him a fitting, casually discussing the situation with his officers while Garak is in the room and leaving plain, simple Garak to do the rest.

Worf: The destruction of the Enterprise has left him at a crossroads. He has spent his life in the human world, but only ever propertly fit in on that ship. He muses to O'Brien about how they were "like warriors from the ancient sagas. There was nothing (they) could not do." But with that home ripped away, he thinks it might be time to connect with his Klingon heritage, and he has spent an extended leave at a Klingon monastery trying to decide whether to stay with Starfleet or to resign his commission.

After working so hard to reopen the doors to the Klingon world, Worf now sees those doors slammed shut again. Gowron personally offers worf the chance to go into battle with him against the Cardassians. It's an offer Worf can't honorably accept, not as a Starfleet officer, and his refusal angers Gowron and leads to a renewed expulsion. "We do not forgive - or forget!" Gowron declares at the end, his words equally directed at Sisko and at Worf.

Odo: Makes good on his offer to share breakfast with Garak, and has worked to use his shapeshifting skills to emulate dining - by adding a cup of coffee to his hand to sip from (both cup and coffee being extensions of himself). He also is conducting drills on the station to help station personnel prepare for a changeling infiltration.

Quark: The first to recognize that the Klingons must be up to something, simply because they are "too quiet" in his bar. He and Garak share a wonderful scene together in which the two commisserate over their similarities: both men who believe they deserve a greater measure of success than they have won, both not really entirely respecting the softness of the Federation, both left to hope for the Federation to rescue them from their own circumstances.

Gowron: The first impression Gowron gave, way back in TNG's Reunion, was of a near psycopath. With his wild eyes and quick temper, he may have been the lesser evil to Duras - but it was clear that he was a man of violence. This episode sees him all too eager to take the Empire into a new war. He remains cunning, and he recognizes Sisko's point at the end about a war serving the Dominion's interests. But he has no intention of pulling the Empire back to where it had been prior to this incident, and he will hold a grudge against Starfleet in general and Worf in particular for siding against him.

Gul Dukat: Dukat recognizes that the Central Command is going to fall to the civilian uprising and, ever the survivor, promptly switches sides to assist the civilian government. He might be keeping one eye on promoting his own influence, but he can't be dismissed as a coward, as he legitimately does put his life on the line. He also sneers at Garak during the battle, making barbed comments about how the tailor would doubtless prefer to meet the Klingons "in an interrogation cell," a charge Garak does not dispute.


The Way of the Warrior opens with the longest teaser Deep Space 9 has provided so far. Knowing that the much-hyped addition of Worf would bring in viewers who had drifted away in the series' early days, the first ten minutes tidily re-establishes the status quo.

We first see the Dominion threat re-established as Odo runs a "changeling drill" on the station. Also touched on is Sisko's relationship with Kasidy, including their shared enthusiasm for baseball and the way in which their respective jobs get in the way of their time together. Finally, with these pieces set up for the sake of new viewers, the Klingons arrive. As massive numbers of Klingon ships de-cloak, the dilemma for the first half is established with an eye-catching and ominous visual that all but guarantees viewers will still be there come the end of the first commercial break.

This is televised Star Trek as action movie. After the large-scale space combat scenes of The Die Is Cast worked so well, the producers appear to have decided to push even further along those lines. There is a lot of action in this episode, both ship-to-ship and hand-to-hand. It's well shot and briskly edited, and the results are genuinely exciting.

But this isn't by any means "dumb action." The script is by Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe (basically the show's best two writers), and it is an excellent piece of craftsmanship. For new viewers, all needed exposition is packaged tightly and clearly within a fast-paced, compelling narrative. For returning viewers, that exposition is kept interesting because we are being told and shown how things have changed as a result of Season Three's events, rather than simply having those events re-stated. That means for all viewers, this 2-hour piece is introducing a new normal to the series.

Worf's introduction is particularly well-handled. His entrance is delayed until the 25 minute mark, which allows Sisko's competence to be shown off as he deals with the situation. It is Sisko's decision to bring in a Klingon to deal with the Klingons, not something imposed from outside. And very quickly after Worf's introduction, he and Sisko share a very strong scene which showcases the wisdom Deep Space 9's commander has gained since the series pilot. The message to continuing fans is clear: Sisko is in no way being diminished by Worf's arrival, which forestalls potential resentment against him.

At the same time, old TNG viewers get plenty of Worf, with the next twenty minutes being solidly Worf-centric as he investigates the Klingon activity. Anyone tuning in just to see Worf gets to see plenty of him in action, interacting with O'Brien and with the Klingons. His scene with Gowron is a naturally followup to the TNG Klingon episodes, and the backstory the two characters shares gives an added dimension to the plot of this piece.

Nor is everything reset at the end. The Klingons break off their attack, but they don't cede the territory they have gained, nor do they normalize relations with the Federation. Instead, they dig into their new positions, seeming to all but dare either Starfleet or Cardassia to attack.

"The Klingons are here to stay," Kira observes. Meaning that we are left with yet another precarious balance: A new, weaker Cardassian government; a more aggressive, less friendly  Klingon government; and the ongoing threat of the Dominion, lurking in the background, its very presence a catalyst for these changes.

An outstanding season premiere, one which promises much of the year to come.

Overall Rating: 10/10.

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