And without a pause we roll on into season 4 of the great DS9 rewatch, the midpoint of the show’s run, and it’s all change. Captain Sisko’s shaved his head, there’s a new and slightly fussier credit sequence, Siddig el Fadil is now going by the name Alexander Siddig, which puts him back in the credits so he’s now next to Nana Visitor, his missus (aww!). And, oh yes, enter as Strategic Operations Officer: Lieutenant Commander Worf, played again by Michael Dorn, after a year of inactivity since the end of Next Generation. All change. And a pretty bloody good double-episode of high seriousness, drama and consequence to kick us off with a perfect demonstration of what Deep Space Nine should be like, week-in, week-out.
The open started with what I initially thought was a flashback to last season’s final episode and the station-wide hunt for the Changeling, though the object of the hunt turned out to be Odo, and the whole thing a training exercise. It was an effective re-orientation for viewers after a summer off, but had no relation to the story which suddenly developed. A Klingon ship decloaks off the station, and its Commander, General Martok, requests shore leave for his crew. The Captain readily agrees. Then the rest of the Klingon Fleet decloaks…
There’s something going on. Sisko doesn’t really believe Martok’s claim that they’re only here to defend the Alpha Quadrant against the Dominion, there’s no discernible evidence of any activity at present. Martok’s hiding something so Sisko decides to seek outside help. Enter Worf.
This season was set after the Star Trek: Generations film (the only one I saw in the cinema, and the request of an old friend who didn’t want to go on her own), in which the TNG Enterprise had been destroyed. Worf has been on retreat until summoned to duty: he is seriously considering resigning his commission, in conflict between his natural Klingon beliefs and temperament and his duties – and his honour – as a Starfleet officer.
This is a very Worf-oriented episode, as was only to be expected. The heavily serious, yet uncharacteristically doubting Klingon is the fulcrum through which almost everything moves, with the lighter scenes being used as relief from the wholly serious plot. Into this category comes a scene in which Dax tries to get Kira into a holosuite programme with toyboy Trills giving great massages (I bet they do, I bet they do! Say no more!) which is mainly notable for getting both ladies out of uniform and flashing a bit of flesh: shoulders mainly, and some leg.
For once though, the balance is well-maintained, and even the Quark bits are decently portrayed, and at least in character.
But we are starting off the season with a major geo-political shift that will direct the overall flow of the show throughout the next twenty-six episodes and beyond: the downfall of the Obsidian Order on Cardassia (in s03 e21) has led to the overthrow of the Central Command and the establishment of a Civilian Government (with Gul Dukat as Chief Military Advisor, naturally), and rumours of civil war and uprising.
The Klingon Empire cannot believe that a civil uprising can, on its own, overthrow a military government. It is obvious, to them, that this is a move by the Dominion, that the civil government is led by Changelings. Their plan is simple: to invade, and take over the Cardassian Empire.
The Federation intends, at first, to stand by and not get involved, and that extends to DS9. Sisko cannot stand by: he takes the Defiant, including Worf on its bridge, to rescue Dukat and the Civilian Council. This involves battle with a number of Klingon vessels.
It also involves the threat of war. Martok’s fleet, joined by Chancellor Gowron, demands the Council be handed over. Sisko refuses. In the past year, DS9 has upgraded its defences immensely. There’s a brilliant sequence of preparation for attack, full of the calm black humour of those facing a deadly situation. Worf has burned his bridges with his people, but he has retained his Honour. The battle is intense, including hand-to-hand combat on the Bridge.
It is all what the Dominion wants. Three of the powers of the Alpha Quadrant turning on each other, weakening each other, making the path to conquest so much easier for the Founders (we can leave the Vulcans and the Romulans out of this, apparently).
In the end, DS9’s resilience, and the imminent arrival of their reinforcement first, forces Gowron to withdraw. But the damage is done. Though they remain mutual enemies to the Dominion, the peace between the Federation and the Klingons is broken. And the Klingons are retaining several of the Cardassian colonies they overran. Like it or not, they are now a factor in the vicinity of the Wormhole.
As for Worf, he still plans to resign, until Sisko’s empathy over the fundamental reasons – the loss of the Enterprise and that crew – persuades him otherwise. Worf transfers from a gold shirt to a red, sets his foot upon the path of command, reorients the dynamic of the cast.
I’m looking forward to season 4.