“Do not hug me.”
-- Lt. Commander Worf
In the old days, when I wanted to get a friend interested in DS9, I would write up a viewing guide. Most people, when faced with a series this long, will understandably give up in the doldrums of the first season. Generally speaking, I advised them to skip vast swaths of Season 1, decent chunks of Season 2, and worst episode ever “Meridian” from Season 3. After that, I would tell them, is smooth sailing.
“Tell me, do they still sing songs of the Great Tribble Hunt?”
-- Constable Odo
DS9’s fandom is often characterized by our defensiveness. It’s because our favorite corner of the Trek universe generally gets ridiculed, with it taken as a given that TOS, TNG, and in some extreme cases even Voyager, are somehow superior. While the vast majority of DS9’s run was dismissed as “that show where they never go anywhere,” one hour was recognized, even as it aired, as great. This one.
“Strange, these corporeal bodies of yours. So fragile. Burst even a tiny blood vessel in the brain and every memory, every passionate emotion, gone forever.”
-- The Pah-wraith
It’s been nearly twenty years and I still don’t know what I think of the pah-wraiths. DS9’s attempt to add demons into the mix has never quite sat comfortably with me. The hard SF fan in me wants things to make sense in a non-supernatural way. The thing is, a) what am I doing watching Star Trek then, and b) the pah-wraiths do make sense in a non-supernatural way. They have the feel of the paranormal to them, and despite that being an element of Trek from the very beginning, it always makes my skin crawl as I imagine myself defending it to a skeptic.
“The line between courage and cowardice is a lot thinner than most people believe.”
-- Jake Sisko
What is courage? Ask most people, and you’re likely to get the same answer, whether they’re five years old or fifty. It will have something to do with not being afraid in the face of danger. Sounds right, but it’s not. Courage is about facing one’s fears, whatever those might be, and doing what needs to be done anyway. Without fear, there is nothing to overcome, and thus courage could not exist. Unless one feels fear, or understands danger, they will never truly be brave.
“I am a fool.”
“You’re in love. Which I suppose is the same thing.”
-- Worf and Dax
The introduction of Worf was also intended as an introduction for a bunch of new viewers that Paramount’s brass thought would follow their favorite Klingon to our favorite space station. As such, DS9 can be approached through the Worf lens, starting your viewing experience with season four’s premiere, and skipping over the sometimes very rocky first three years when the show was still finding its voice. While this does miss out on some truly classic episodes, it would be a fun way to come to this particular hour.
“We will both keep the predators away.”
-- Lt. Commander Worf
Let’s get the review part out of the way right up front: This is an excellent hour of television. It came as something of a shock to me that the creators of the show weren’t as big fans as I was. They saw the potential for a perfect ten, and when the episode turned out to be an eight, or an eight and a half, they were disappointed. They wanted the claustrophobia heightened, the emotions deeper. It’s nearly impossible to view your own work subjectively. Like Behr, I tend to see only the flaws in my own stuff. While it’s true there are things that could have been done better, each of them would have been difficult, if not impossible, in the era of television in which DS9 existed.
“So, let me get this straight: Al we have to do is get past an enemy fleet, avoid a tachyon detection grid, beam into the middle of Klingon headquarters, and avoid the Brotherhood of the Sword long enough to set these things up and activate them in front of Gowron?”
-- Chief Miles O’Brien
Let’s get something out of the way right up front. Starfleet makes no sense as a military organization. I know, this isn’t exactly a revelation. I’m not talking about the mayfly-level lifespan of the red shirts, or their insistence at beaming down to new planets without first checking for breathable atmosphere. I’m talking about the trope that exists in nearly every show which insists the main characters do everything.
“I’ve spent most of my life bringing people to justice. Now that it’s my turn, how can I run away?”
-- Constable Odo
When viewed as a whole, season four is a definite oddball in the tapestry of DS9. The reason for this is as simple as it is dreaded: executive meddling. Stressed over poor ratings and their flagship program going off the air, the brass at Paramount made some demands of the DS9 writing staff. While Behr and company wanted to bridge seasons three and four with the story of the Dominion coming to Earth (what became the two-parter nestled in the middle of season four's “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost”), executives didn’t want a cliffhanger. They also wanted something big to “shake things up.”
“That’s who I am. That’s what I do. I’m a businessman, and more than that, I’m a Fer,engi businessman. Do you know what that means? It means that I’m not exploiting people at random. I’m doing it to a specific set of rules -- the Rules of Acquisition. And I won’t disregard them when I find them inconvenient.”
It’s difficult to know what our relationship with our bodies is going to be like in the future. As technology advances, even what we consider to be our bodies has changed. Medical implants, from simple prosthetics to replacement organs, are already considered part of us. What will change as the items go into the more fantastical? When I finally get my chainsaw shark-cannon arms, will they truly be considered me?
“I canceled my death for you. I was really looking forward to it.”
The more experienced I become in my chosen vocation, the more I appreciate the slow rehabilitation of Dr. Julian Bashir. Other than a misstep next season which the actor hated, the character has steadily progressed from an arrogant, sexually aggressive naif to arguably one of the most heroic characters in science fiction. It was a pretty steep climb, too, when you remember just how obnoxious he was in the early going, and how unbearably creepily he treated Dax. This episode, nestled here at the end of the fourth season and serving to remind us just how monstrous the Dominion can be, is arguably the most important Bashir episode, harnessing his foibles and virtues into a compelling portrait of a flawed hero.