Deep Space Nine: s04 e23 – To The Death


Bad guys

An unusual episode as we close in on the end of season 4. Superficially, it was a simple, indeed almost simplistic story with no long-lasting effects or implications: Sisko and Co have to work together with a team of Jem’Hadar to take out a bunch of rogue Jem’Hadar in possession of an Iconian Gateway. Apart from the unusual sight of Federation and Jem’Hadar cooperating, that was more or less it.

But the simplicity of the premise gave the writers an opportunity to expand the story by expanding the characters, and to show them acting and reacting in the face of a vital, yet dangerous mission, that might claim their lives.

Most particularly, the episode took the opportunity to give an insight into Jem’Hadar life: their loyalties, their beliefs, their complete dedication to the fight. In the person of their First, Omet’iklan (a wonderfully poised and quiet performance by Clarence Williams III), we saw them as something other than crazy badass killers: his speech when they were armed, beginning with the encouraging words, “We are dead,” and ending with “We go to reclaim our lives,” was a masterpiece of taut, concise writing that opened up an infinity of cultural perception.

In contrast, on the DS9 side of the scales, the most effective scene featured O’Brien and Dax, prefacing the commencement of the engagement. O’Brien brings his latest goodbye message to Keiko and Molly to Dax, ruefully reflecting that it’s the eleventh time he’s recorded such a message, and how each time he goes through the emotional churn of expecting this one to be the one they will finally get to hear. Dax is reassuring about her belief that he will die in bed at the age of 140, but reveals that she records a similar message to her mother: everyone does.

It was things like this, an unexpectedly rounded consideration of what it is really like to be in such a situation, that gave depth to, and greatly expanded an episode whose premise was perfunctory.

It was also needed in view of the story’s rather weak start. The rogue Jem’Hadar attack Deep Space Nine, destroy part of a pylon, and make off with power equipment that they intend to use to boot up the Gateway and enable themselves to teleport instantly across galaxies. Sisko takes the Defiant to chase them, and comes across a disabled Jem’Hadar warship, pursuing the rebels, who have crippled it, this bringing the two sets of enemy together in joint pursuit of a common danger.

That’s fairly contrived to begin with, but contrives to undermine itself by apparently having DS9 be attacked, part destroyed, eighteen dead, over a hundred injured, and all this happen forty-five minutes before the rest of the station notices.

There was also a very weak piece of scripting midway. Omet’iklan’s team were under the command of Weyoun (or rather the first of his clones, not that this is anywhere spelled out or so much as hinted at) and were supposed not to know anything of the Gateway in case they went over to the Rogues. But Omet’iklan and his band know all about it. “How do you know?” asks Weyoun in consternation. “That is not important,” replies Omet’iklan, immediately revealing that the scriptwriter hasn’t got a clue about how the Jem’Hadar know and is settling for springing it out of thin air because it suits his plot.

But these are mere cavils. Overall, the writing was very good and very effective, and the episode deserves a high rating.

We’re now only three episode from the end of season 4. And I’ve still not yet caught up to the first episode I ever watched. I’m pretty certain I know which it is, and it’s not that deep into season 5…

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2 thoughts on “Deep Space Nine: s04 e23 – To The Death

  1. I’m with Jammer and his thoughts, that this was more of an average episode. While some decent moments, and as you allude to a lot of contrived situations and set ups, enemies have to work together to accomplish task/defeat mutual enemy.
    Despite trying to give them personality, I think the Jem’ Hadar after accomplishing the first task of defeating the rebel Jem’ Hadar wouldn’t blink about going after Sisko and crew. It’s what they’re bred for. And I think knowing the Dominion’s previous tactics and actions, Sisko would be a lot more leery of trusting what damaged Jem Hadar crew…

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