This very strong episode is a herald of things to come.
Memory Alpha has a summary here.
Here, we can see Hans Beimler experimenting with elements and themes that will eventually form the backbone of some of DS9's best episodes. For example:
- Beimler uses gallows humor. O'Brien threatens to transfer Muniz to waste extraction; Muniz complains about his clumsy - and ugly - nurse; Dax cracks a joke about Kilana's earring; etc., etc. - all of these moments anticipate the we're-laughing-because-otherwise-we'd-go-insane type of humor we'll see in feature episodes like Rocks and Shoals.
- Beimler trains an unusual amount of focus on a red-shirt. Thanks to the writing, we come to like Muniz by the end of the episode and are sorry to see him die. This interest in exploring the perspectives of rank-and-file soldiers will show up again in SABR Matt's favorite episode, The Siege of AR-558.
- Beimler allows the heroes to crack under pressure. Trekkie purists probably hate that O'Brien, Worf, Dax, and Sisko all shed their enlightened Starfleet veneer after enduring an aerial attack for several hours, but we who doubt that people will really be all that different in the 24th century love that scene immensely because it is realistic. And fortunately for us Roddenberry skeptics, the writers don't abandon this realism as they develop the Dominion War arc. The dominant feature of SABR Matt's aforementioned favorite episode, for instance, is its refusal to sanitize events.
- Beimler's portrayal of the ethical challenges one may encounter in the course of a war is penetrating and mature, thereby setting yet another precedent that will be followed in future episodes (including my favorite, In the Pale Moonlight). Capturing a Jem'Hadar warship is indeed a huge coup from an intelligence standpoint. It's refreshing to see the script repeatedly acknowledge this. On the other hand, it's also refreshing to see Sisko grapple with the cost of his accomplishment. Professor Somak may teach Starfleet cadets to keep their subordinates at arm's length, but like Dax, I beg to differ with that philosophy. A commander like Sisko - a commander who forms personal ties with the soldiers under his charge - is precisely the sort of commander who will make more prudent decisions on the battlefield.
Beimler does make one mistake here, however: when Sisko laments that he and Kilana could not trust each other, it feels like an attempt to shoe-horn a traditional Trek-style capital-M Message in what is otherwise a very non-traditional episode. In reality, it's ridiculous to expect Sisko to trust Kilana. As we learned last week, the Dominion is led by a group of master deceivers who think nothing of infiltrating enemy governments in order to further their own ends. There's no reason to believe that their minions will be any more honest.
Still, even with the above misstep, this episode skates along the border between "very good" and "feature-worthy."
As my rather lengthy highlights section demonstrates, there's a lot of zing in the dialogue -- and the realism Beimler injects into his story is equally noteworthy.
The performances are solid all around. I can think of no major flaws.
See the discussion above. Though that bit about the need to trust is clumsy, Sisko's pragmatic decisions elsewhere once again remind us that DS9 is not written by a group of starry-eyed utopians.
MUNIZ: It's a class five pyroclastic debris and ash. Same morphology we've seen all the way up, sir.
O'BRIEN: How many times do I have to tell you to stop calling me 'sir'. I'm not an officer.
MUNIZ: No. (A beat.) You know more than they do.
O'BRIEN: I wouldn't go that far. But I know more than you. So listen to me while I try to teach you something. This morphology is not exactly the same. These deposits are more highly eroded.
O'BRIEN: So, they're different, that's all. I just thought I'd point that out to you.
MUNIZ: I see. I thought maybe you just stopped to catch your breath.
O'BRIEN: Me, out of breath? I was climbing mountains in Ireland before you were born!
MUNIZ: You mean hills, don't you? They have gently sloping hills in Ireland. No mountains. But what do I know? After all, you're the mountain man. An old mountain man.
O'BRIEN: You know something, Muniz? You're due for a transfer. How does waste extraction sound?
O'BRIEN: 'Transporter burn.' 'I'm all right, Captain.' Always kissing up to the officers, aren't you, Muniz?
MUNIZ: Just following your example. You're my hero. (O'Brien rips Muniz's uniform.) Hey!
O'BRIEN: I have to get to the wound.
MUNIZ: But this is my best uniform. It's the only one that fits right.
O'BRIEN: Don't worry. When we get back, we'll have Garak make you a new one.
MUNIZ: How long 'til the Defiant gets here?
O'BRIEN: Two and a half days.
MUNIZ: Don't worry, jefe. I'll get you through this.
O'BRIEN: I feel better already.
O'BRIEN: (as he rips off one of his sleeves) Quique, do me a favour: please stop bleeding before I run out of clothes.
MUNIZ: I'll do the best I can.
KILANA: Your photograph doesn't do you justice. You're quite striking in person.
SISKO: Look, I'm a little busy, so let's skip the flattery.
KILANA: Weyoun's report on you was right. You are direct. I like that. So let me cut to the chase. I believe that is the correct expression. This is our ship. We want it back.
SISKO: Was your ship. Now it's mine.
KILANA: Captain, I'm a little disappointed. That's the attitude of a thief, not a Starfleet captain with a reputation for integrity. This is clearly our property. What gives you any claim to it?
SISKO: An old legal tradition. Salvage rights. We found a wrecked ship and a dead crew, and we found it first.
KILANA: A very interesting position. But I'm afraid the Dominion doesn't recognise that tradition. What may be even more to the point, we have you completely surrounded and outnumbered.
KILANA: These are q'lavas. A personal favourite. (Sisko refuses.) They're not poisonous, if that's what you're thinking.
SISKO: Not to you, anyway.
KILANA: I hope you're not teaching Jake to be this suspicious, Benjamin. Or do you prefer Ben?
SISKO: Captain will be fine.
KILANA: I'm sure it's my fault that we seem unable to establish an understanding between us, Captain. I'm sorry I'm not more experienced in these matters. This is my first mission outside the Dominion and my very first dealing with anyone from the Federation. I know you have no reason to trust me, but I hope you'll at least try to consider my offer with an open mind.
SISKO: I'm listening.
KILANA: If you'll leave our ship, I'll take you and your crew back to your space station unharmed. Our accommodations may not be lavish, but I promise you'll all be well cared for, especially your wounded.
SISKO: If you think I'm going to deliver my people into your hands without a fight, then this really must be your first mission.
(Muniz shoots an attacking Jem'Hadar, saving O'Brien's life.)
O'BRIEN: I knew it. You've been goldbricking all along.
MUNIZ: Like I said, you taught me everything I know.
MUNIZ: I'm leaking like a ruptured plasma conduit aren't I, sir?
O'BRIEN: It's not that bad.
MUNIZ: You're lying.
O'BRIEN: What makes you say that?
MUNIZ: I called you sir and you didn't even flinch. I must be dying.
O'BRIEN: Now you listen to me, Quique. You're not dying unless I say you're dying. And I say you're going to make it.
(Sisko comes over.)
SISKO: How are you doing, Muniz?
MUNIZ: We seem to be having a difference of opinion on that one, sir. But I would like to file a complaint. The nurses around here are all thumbs.
O'BRIEN: You watch it or I'll tighten this bandage like a tourniquet.
MUNIZ: And as for bedside manner, I've known nicer voles. Certainly prettier ones.
DAX: Muniz is strong. He'll make it.
WORF: No, he will not. He will not see tomorrow.
O'BRIEN: You keep that to yourself. I don't want him to hear that kind of talk.
WORF: It does no good to shield him from the truth. Let him prepare for death.
O'BRIEN: The hell I will! His only hope is to keep fighting. If he gives up, it's over.
WORF: It was over the moment he was shot by the Jem'Hadar.
O'BRIEN: Now you listen to me: that boy's life is in our hands, and I won't let anybody give up on him.
SISKO: The Vorta doesn't want the ship, she wants something aboard it.
O'BRIEN: Any idea what?
SISKO: Could be anything. Encoding device, guidance system --
DAX: Maybe she lost an earring.
O'BRIEN: Easy, Quique. There's nothing to be afraid of.
MUNIZ: (delirious) I'm not afraid, Papa. It's beautiful. Precioso. Better than last year, don't you think? Los cuehetes, the fireworks of the carnival, they're terrific, aren't they?
O'BRIEN: Easy, Quique.
MUNIZ: The colours, like a thousand shooting stars. (Another shell drops outside.) That was a good one.
O'BRIEN: (realizing that Muniz's chances aren't great at this point) Yeah, that was a good one.
DAX: What is it?
WORF: It may have been the Vorta's computer console. I found it in one of the upper compartments, but the power grid is offline in that part of the ship.
DAX: (sarcastic) So you ripped it out of the wall. Very nice. So what do we do with it now? Use it for a doorstop?
WORF: That is no way for anyone to die.
O'BRIEN: I told you, he is not going to die.
WORF: It is only a matter of time.
O'BRIEN: So we might as well kill him, right?
WORF: If you truly are his friend, you would consider that option. It would be a more honorable death than the one he's enduring.
O'BRIEN: I'm not some bloodthirsty Klingon looking for an excuse to murder my friend.
SISKO: (trying to intervene) That's enough.
WORF: No. You're just another weak human afraid to face death.
(O'Brien takes a swing at Worf which is easily stopped.)
SISKO: I said that's enough! You're Starfleet officers. Now start acting like it!
DAX: (snarking) Tough guys. A little pressure and they buckle.
SISKO: Dax! Maybe you haven't noticed, but no one's laughing. Now I know it's hot, we're filthy, tired, and we've got ten isotons of explosives going off outside, but we will never get out of this if we don't pull it together and start to act like professionals.
SISKO: I told Muniz he was going to make it.
DAX: That's what a captain's supposed to say.
SISKO: I have got to get this ship back to the station, old man. Five people have died on this mission. I want to be able to tell their families why.
KILANA: Do you have any gods, Captain Sisko?
SISKO: There are things I believe in.
KILANA: Duty? Starfleet? The Federation? (A beat.) You must be pleased with yourself. You have the ship to take back to them. I hope it was worth it.
SISKO: So do I.
SISKO: Starfleet Command is waiting for my official report, but every time I try to get it started, I find myself staring at the casualty list and reading the same five names over and over again. T'Lor, Rooney, Bertram, Hoya, Muniz.
DAX: It may sound cruel, but we both know that ship out there was worth it. Those five deaths may save five thousand lives, or maybe even five million.
SISKO: And if I had to make the same trade all over again, I would. But five people are dead. Fine men and women who deserved a lot more than to die on some lonely planet fifty thousand light years away from home. When you were at the Academy, was Professor Somak teaching?
DAX: Moral and ethical issues of command.
SISKO: I remember her favourite speech. Always maintain emotional distance between yourself and those under your command.
DAX: It's good advice.
SISKO: And I try to follow it. But it's a lot more complicated outside of the classroom. Did you know that Jake and Muniz have the same birthday? That I performed the ceremony at Hoya's wedding? And Rooney, he could play the trumpet. I heard him at Quark's once, and he had the people dancing in the aisles.
DAX: I remember. And you know something else I remember about him? How proud he was to wear his uniform. And how proud he was to serve under you. The same as Hoya, T'Lor, Bertram and Muniz. They chose a life in Starfleet. They knew the risks, and they died fighting for something that they believed in.
SISKO: That doesn't make it any easier.
DAX: Maybe nothing should.
O'BRIEN: We used a phase-conjugate graviton emitter in the tractor beam. That baby came out of the rock first time. You would've loved it, Quique.
WORF: I did not mean to interrupt.
O'BRIEN: It's all right.
WORF: You are performing ak'voh for your friend.
O'BRIEN: I am?
WORF: Yes. It's an old Klingon tradition. When a warrior dies in battle, his comrades stay with the body to keep away predators. That allows the spirit to leave the body when it is ready for the long journey to Sto'Vo'Kor.
O'BRIEN: That's a fine tradition. (Worf sits.) What are you doing?
WORF: We will both keep the predators away.
O'BRIEN: I'm sure Quique would like that.