There was nothing in the least bit significant about this week’s episode of DS9, either in terms of the larger background of the Dominion threat, any sociological or political attitude, or even the standalone storyline itself. It was purely and simply a ‘bottle episode’, confined to the station itself, with no guests beyond two recurring Cardassians, Gul Dukat and Garak. Which made it an entertaining, unpretentious little delight.
The story began with Chief O’Brien and Jake Sisko working in one of the lower level processing units, attempting to reclaim it, and in the meantime wiping all the now-redundant Cardassian programmes from its computer. One programme refused to be deleted: in fact, the attempt to remove it triggered it, and it was a doozy.
Because this programme was an automated defence programme, complete with pre-recorded messages from the then-Commander, Gul Dukat, warning the ‘Bajoran workers’ who have attempted to seize control that their revolt will not be allowed to succeed.
And it escalated from there. The Chief, Jake and Sisko himself found themselves trapped down there, and having to bust out to avoid a fatal dose of neurosene gas, which triggers further fail-safes affecting the Bridge, and trapping Major Kira, Jardzia and Doctor Bashir behind similar force-fields.
Not to mention trapping Odo in his office, along with his suspicious and most unwelcome visitor, Quark.
That gave us three groups operating in isolation from one another, with the tension ratchetting up every few minutes as yet another attempt to beat the system being interpreted as further success by the mythical Bajoran workers (the Major must have been so proud) requiring yet more escalated response. All the way up initiating the self-destruct of DS9 itself.
No-one’s going anywhere, no-one’s getting anywhere, and the odds are getting slimmer all the time. Garak’s personal codes let him wander through the force-fields at will, but his attempts to beat a system keyed to Dukat’s personal codes and no other’s only accelerate the process.
Then, look what happens! A cocksure Gul Dukat teleports onto a phaser-strewn Bridge in response to a distress signal from himself, near to laughing his head off with delight at just how fucked up everything is for the Federation (and Garak). Sure, he’ll use his codes to shut everything down, in return for a minor concession or two, like official permission to instal a garrison of 2,000 Cardassian troops on board.
Of course, that’s an utter no-no. Dukat thinks he has the upper hand even though Kira is fully-prepared to let everyone on board be killed by the Defence programme rather than let the Cardassians back. He’ll just teleport back to his ship, put his feet up, wait for her to change her mind when there’s, say, five minutes to go. Except that, in a gloriously and hilariously ingenious twist, the programme interprets the attempted teleportation as an act of inglorious cowardice by Station Commander Dukat, trying to flee his post, and blocks not only the teleport but all Dukat’s codes, rendering him as helpless – and doomed – as everyone else.
In the end, it’s Sisko who saves the day (you mean, you really thought the station would buy it? There’s another nineteen episodes left in this series alone) restoring everything to normal, after forty-five minutes of harmless, inconsequential fun.
It’s a text book example on how to bring in an entertaining episode of a series at absolutely minimal cost, which is what ‘bottle episodes’ are about. A splendid time was had by all. I enjoyed it.