In which the situation is depressingly familiar, many minutia are established, and very little is neatly wrapped up.
Recap: The armed, historically victimized, and deeply religious local population is doing everything it can to alienate the large and well-resourced organization which is only there to make themselves feel good about helping Those Less Fortunate. A religious leader has teamed up with a raving political lunatic. Plus, I’m about to remind you about the last Deep Space Nine episodes!
All of that stuff I just said, plus Space-ISIS has ships and is coming to take DS9. Fortunately, Odo has proof of Cardassian involvement. How will Sisko delay their evacuation long enough to restore order?
We open with what we left with last time – the individual cost of all this shifting diplomacy. Sisko is taking the late bus out, and so is everyone else. That’s dedication, though not to the Prime Directive, which we’re told applies. The argument could be made that the Federation leaving is not in Bajor’s best interests, and there’s solid merit to that. But the point of the Prime Directive is to absolve Starfleet from the responsibility of having leaders forced to make that choice. Sisko may believe himself to be a special case, and in a way he is because the gods of Bajor have literally picked him as their Chosen One, but we should be sure not to gloss over the fact that he’s making the choice.
Meanwhile, Quark smells profit. There are a lot of people to evacuate and Deep Space Nine does not have the vehicle-power to do it in a timely fashion. There are hundreds of people trying to escape a force that has stated that “no non-Bajoran is safe” and they have three low-warp shuttle-vans to achieve this. Something about the lessons of the Titanic, and it seems like Quark is going to try to sell seats, probably seats he has no way to actually claim. And it seems like, from Nog and Jake’s conversations, the one-way runabout trip will take days to reach safe harbor. So that five-hour deadline is looking worse and worse.
Glossing right past the redundant pathos of Keiko and Molly O’Brien begging Miles to go with them, we move right on to further failed attempts to get communications to Bajor up and running. Kira and Dax will attempt to run the defense blockade with a ten-year-old raider ship on a base that was decommissioned during the Occupation. One of the former Dax hosts knows a thing or two about simple sublight craft. Take note – this is the first time we hear about any kind of ship designed for a combat role more complex than ‘hope your shields and weapons last longer than the other guy.’ Not counting the fighter-type ships used in training during “The First Duty” all we ever see of starship combat (from the priveleged vantage point of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D) is the doctrine of Outing: Outlast, Outgun, and if outmatched, outthink or outrun. Precision targeting and light-speed weaponry seem to solidly remove the advantages of smaller, more maneuverable ships with commensurately smaller shield and weapons outputs, so these have fallen out of favor among the more established Alpha and Beta quadrant powers. Basically, there’s no point in having a Nimitz-class supercarrier when you can have a battleship the size of a Nimitz-class supercarrier with energy shields to match.
Quark has brokered some seats and overbooked. Remember, no matter what anyone says, the Ferengi are an allegory of contemporary capitalism. This is literally how airlines operate. Nobody even has the cajones to make Quark give up his own seat. Sisko tries to restore order, but the Bajoran war hero, whose name I have just learned is actually spelled Li Nalas (No, I won’t go back and change anything) manages it. Now that he’s established himself as a badass good guy solidly working with Starfleet it’s obvious he won’t last the season. He probably won’t survive the episode, but he ought to at least rate a dramatic death in the service of a greater good. Justice is, in fact, served, however. Rom sold Quark’s seat to a dabo girl. How you say, womp womp.
Shortly thereafter, a Bajoran strike force shows up to take the station, which looks remarkably silly in grey jumpsuits and no resistance. And you can practically taste the smug coming off the strike force commander. He’s like Tarkin without the gravitas.
Bajor’s moon has dog-sized spiders. Apparently Joined Trill have to be especially wary of insect bites, lest the delicate biochemical balance between the two symbionts be disrupted. Note again in the Bajoran fighter craft the instrumentation – overlapping circles wherever possible, even in the rather utilitarian structure of a figher craft. Props once again to the… uh… prop department.
The strike force leader is at least earning his smugness by thinking through the disabled internal sensors and the missing Odo, Kira, and Nalas. The man may have a ridiculously punchable face, but he’s got more business leading that strike force than Tasha Yar had being head of security. (grumblebeamingdownwithoutyourphaserdrawngrumble)
Now, what’s really nifty to notice is that Sisko left his baseball in his office. Keep this in mind. There will be a test. Sisko, O’Brien, and Nalas are hiding in the maintenance tunnels, and it turns out that O’Brien actually enjoys combat rations. Starfleet combat rations appear to be superscience lembas-bread. If Miles is to be believed, you can eat one every three days and it will just sit in your system doling out nutrients and calories at a steady and optimal pace. Bashir is something of a critic – he had a project in med school which was to make combat rations, but in candy bar form. But the time for lighthearted bickering is over – Bashir’s team gets to ambush a five-man security team and take them prisoner in what may be his first smooth moment ever. And yes, I remember that time he tried to rescue Jadzia. It didn’t work, remember?
Kira and Dax have been engaged by the defense force, whose ships are newer and in better repair. The solution is to take the ship into atmosphere, where they can’t use impulse. Impulse power, it seems, can’t be used in atmosphere, or possibly that close to a gravity well or solid mass. Recall that Starfleet regulations prohibit the use of impulse power in spacedock. I’m not sure we’ve been given a reason why – it might make use of the warp field effect to get around relativity, or it might just allow a ship to go so fast it could immolate from air friction or crash into a wall. Either way, it’s a fun limit.
It’s also fun to note that all the Starfleet personnel are in civvies. Whether this is to avoid somehow antagonizing the Bajoran government even more than they already are, or to maintain plausible deniability with the Federation is also unclear.
Dax and Kira definitely just killed a Bajoran defense fighter before crashing into the forest themselves. Sisko and his crew are using various guerrilla tactics to incapacitate the strike force long enough to deliver the message about the Cardassians, but the script is starting to feel a little rushed for time. Either the Bajoran who was just beamed back to Ops is lying to his commander for some hard-to-fathom reason, or we completely skipped over his entire meeting with Sisko. Either way, the Bajorans are about to start fighting back by filling the maintenance ducts with knockout gas.
Nerys and Jadzia crash-landed in the jungle and were rescued by monks from Bariel’s order. He’s dressed them up in religious garb, too, because only members of religious orders can go around in the streets without fear of being attacked.
It seems like in the future, Yo Mama jokes are still in use, and their offensiveness crosses cultural divides. After the gas offensive, Sisko has ordered an attack, but we hear from the boots on the ground (without seeing the fight) that they’ve surrendered. This was a ruse (idiot!) designed to get the general to surrender, just in time to sync up with Kira’s address to the council of ministers with proof of Cardassian involvement in arming the Circle. Poor minister Jaro… the instant his blood is in the water, Vedek Winn turns on him to solidify her standing, and the strike force commander at least has the good grace to know when he’s beat. His overly-zealous underling doesn’t, and as predicted, Li Nalas gets a noble and heroic martyrdom saving Sisko from a misguided phaser blast, and doesn’t have to lead Bajor after all. He just gets to be remembered as the hero he never wanted to be.