I’m no Star Trek expert but this latest DS9 episode struck me as curiously old-fashioned. It was a plain, little-adorned hard-SF story, more suited, I thought, to old-style conceptions of SF as spaceships and hardware, and after the succession of recent stories, I’m afraid I found it a little hollow.
The MacGuffin was that the Defiant, with everyone on board except Odo, was in the Gamma Quadrant for a secret trade negotiation with the Karemma, in the person of Minister Hanok. In order to avoid the Dominion wrath, the Karemma trade via Farengi intermediaries, i.e., Qusark, whose skimming and scamming isslowly bankrupting them.
That’s the set-up. The meeting is interrupted by two Jem’Hadar ships trying to destroy the Karemma vessel, the Defiant tries to protect it and everyopne ends up in the turbulent, high-velocity wind, radiation-heavy upper atmosphere on a gas giant planet. Instrumentation and electronics are badly disrupted, the Defiant crippled, and the two sides engage in a careful, slow-motion battle to see who wins.
Within the story, the cast break down into pairs, with the story cruising betwen one set and the other. On the dead Bridge, Sisko is concussed and Major Kira is trying to keep him awake by talking to him. Doctor Bashir and Jardzia Dax are sealed into a turbolift and cuddling up together to delay freezing to death. Quark and Hanok debate trade, morality and gambling in the Mess Hall before defusing an unexploded torpedo sticking through the hull. And Worf runs the ship’s defence from the Engine Room, with a little learning from Chief O’Brien about the difference between Bridge crew and Engineers.
The latter part was the only really significant part of the episode since it showed part of the process of Worf adjusting to the difference between a Starship and a Space Station (ironically whilst being on a Spaceship).
But in the end it didn’t seem to amount to much, with most of the character-beats being predictable and rather flat: Julian used to chase Jardzia but doesn’t any more (really? well I never!) Nor did much come out of Nerys’s discomfort around Sisko, over his being the Emissary, although in her disheveled, stressed state, she looked gorgeous, and the many close-ups on her face were not at all a hardship.
One real criticism I do have to make concerned Sarah Mornell, as Bridge Ensign Carson. The Ensign has quite a speaking role in the first half of the episode, until the Bridge is damaged by Jem’Hadar attack about halfway through, and Sisko is hurt. She goes to find medical assistance for him, and just vanishes from the episode without explanation, but for one, line-less appearance in the background after it’s all over.. It’s very sloppy writing, given how much screen-time she’s had so far for a traditional Star Trek red-shirt and a black mark for the story.
I don’t rate episodes, but if I did, ‘Starship Down’ would be something between a C+ and a B-, as neither having any long-term significance nor any great weight of itself. Which makes for a pretty perfunctory review, I’m sorry to say.