|Deep Space 9 under attack!|
The Dominion is preparing for war.
This has been true for some time, but now it seems imminent. Convoys of Dominion warships are coming through the wormhole on a weekly basis, further reinforcing their already strong presence in Cardassian space. More and more Alpha Quadrant governments are signing non-aggression pacts with the Dominion, with the Romulans the newest addition to a growing list. If this continues, Sisko knows, the Dominion will become unstoppable. So he orders his crew to mine the wormhole; and when Odo protests that this could start a war, he acknowledges as much but points out that they are "losing the peace."
Rom comes up with a plan to create cloaked, self-replicating mines to prevent the Dominion from simply vaporizing the minefield from the mouth of the wormhole, and Dax and O'Brien are quickly able to make that idea into a reality. But the Defiant has barely begun the painstaking work of laying the mines before the Dominion learns of their plans. Weyoun comes to the station, for once devoid of grins or patter. He is there to deliver an ultimatum:
"Either you remove the mines, or we will take this station from you and remove them ourselves!"
Capt. Sisko: Lives up to his role as the Emissary by endorsing the non-aggression pact between Bajor and the Dominion. As he confessed to Kai Winn in the previous episode, and repeats to Kira in this one, the Federation cannot guarantee Bajor's safety. The only way to protect the planet and its recovery is to keep it out of the fight. Left to hold off the Dominion with limited resources, Sisko relies on tactics and surprises. He orders Martok to warn him when the Dominion but not to engage until he gives the word. He uses the station's upgraded defenses to engage the enemy while the Defiant finishes the minefield. And he prepares a final surprise to avoid anything useful being left on the station - along with a last message for Gul Dukat. Avery Brooks is superb throughout, and his expression at the end of the episode is genuinely, frighteningly fierce.
Kira/Odo: Have been avoiding each other ever since the revelations of Children of Time - which would have been nice to actually see, given that their only interaction since (in Blaze of Glory) seemed entirely friendly and comfortable. Here, the awkwardness is obvious - though much alleviated once Odo reassures her that he will make no move to change the nature of their relationship, at least not until after the crisis has past. Kira visibly relaxes, and Odo cannot help but make an ironic observation about how comforting it is to only have to deal with imminent war, rather than a (gasp) relationship crisis. They are once again firmly established as a team at the episode's close; and where things leave off, they will probably need to rely on each other quite a bit over the next season.
Rom: The episode's limited "B" plot sees Rom and Leeta finally get married... Something Rom frets over even as he works with the station's command staff to make the minefield work. A very amusing scene sees Rom switching between random wedding jitters and brilliant solutions to the problems posed by the minefield: One sentence of "Rom the Idiot," followed immediately by one sentence of "Rom the Engineering Genius," and back again. It works, thanks equally to Max Grodenchik's delivery and his co-stars' nonplussed reactions as he basically solves all of their problems as an afterthought!
Weyoun: A false and smarmy good cheer has marked Weyoun's every appearance to date - which makes it all the more effective when he arrives in this episode, still and humorless and entirely determined to get his way. The scene between Weyoun and Sisko is masterful, as each man first tries to intimidate each other, then goes through the hollow motions of a diplomacy both recognize as pointless before leaving to prepare for battle. Weyoun is equally firm with Dukat. When the Cardassian wants to attack Bajor, noting that Cardassia did not sign a non-aggression treaty, weyoun has to remind him very firmly that as a part of the Dominion, he is bound by their treaties. Weyoun jerks Dukat's leash a second time, at the end, reminding him that the Dominion's highest priority is not the station but the minefield Sisko has left to block further reinforcements.
Garak: Muses about how, when the Klingons attacked Deep Space 9, he and Gul Dukat fought side by side. "At one point, he turned his back to me - And I must to admit that, for a moment, he made a very tempting target." When Odo asks if Garak regrets not killing Dukat, he replies bluntly: "Before this day is over, everyone on this station is going to regret it."
Gul Dukat: From his perspective, the assault on Deep Space 9 is simply re-taking that which is rightly his. He wants to push on to Bajor, as well, and Weyoun has to remind him that Bajor's non-aggression pact with the Dominion is binding. This scene and others show signs that Dukat is starting to resent taking orders from Weyoun and the Dominion. I suspect he's already looking for weaknesses, since a man like Dukat isn't going to be satisfied serving under an outsider's rule for very long...
The fifth season draws to a close as the Cold War with the Dominion, which has built up over the past three seasons, finally erupts. In a big way, too. Deep Space 9 has consistently raised the bar on Trek combat sequences. The Die Is Cast was the biggest space combat scene yet seen in televised Trek (or a lot of movie Trek for that matter); The Way of the Warrior was bigger.
The combat sequence that makes up the last third of this episode makes both of those look almost small by comparison. The station is under attack by an unstoppable force, and the effects work and editing allow us to see Deep Space 9 as a small speck engulfed by a locust-like cloud of enemy ships. Jay Chattaway's excellent score, the editing, and most importantly the context built up by the carefully-constructed script all combine to make the scene as desperate and exciting as the situation demands.
What really makes the battle so effective is the groundwork laid by the first two-thirds. Stalwarts Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe take time to make sure we understand the stakes, and create a scenario where it's entirely believable that Deep Space 9 has been left to deal alone with this overwhelming force. The script also finds plenty of time for human moments: Rom's wedding jitters, and his insistence on watching out for his brother; Odo and Kira, agreeing to avoid exploring any romance until after the crisis has past; Quark, smuggling in Cardassian yamok sauce in preparation for the station's inevitable fall; Sisko reflecting on how the place he hated to be assigned to has become a home he hates to leave. This is done consistently: A big scene establishing the larger situation, a small scene showing how individuals react to it. We get to see the larger tapestry while at the same time viewing several of the individual threads.
The battle itself is splendid, but even better are the closing scenes. The last part of the episode acts as an epilogue to the combat, and it also sets the stage for next season. The characters are scattered, each becoming ready to fight his or her own part of the war that has officially begun. Some will work from behind enemy lines; some will fight on the front lines; others will stay with the main fleet to help coordinate. It's a tantalizing set-up, one which leaves me eagerly anticipating the season to come.
The final three shots could each have served as a memorable ending shot: Gul Dukat, pondering the message Sisko has left for him; Sisko, seeming to give a glare that can cut through light years to reach his nemesis; and the actual final shot, of an enormous joint Starfleet/Klingon fleet. Two nations that had been at war at the start of this season, now firmer allies than ever as they prepare to face the most formidable foe they have ever encountered.
Any one of the three shots would be a fantastic closing. But what's even more impressive is how each builds upon the one before, until the slow fade to black that leaves you desperate for the next installment.
Overall Rating: 10/10.
Previous Episode: In the Cards
Next Episode: A Time to Stand
Season Five Overview
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