DS9: S4E22: “To the Death”

In which Worf runs the school cafeteria, Jeff is back, and selection strategies are very influential. 

"You got your ensigns, security guys, science officers, Pareses squares jocks, Bajoran nerds, cool Bajorans..."

“You got your ensigns, security guys, science officers, Pareses squares jocks, Bajoran nerds, cool Bajorans…”

The Defiant has been out taking care of Breen privateers harassing one of Bajor’s colonies. Sisko commanding. One has to wonder whether he took the mission instead of letting Worf handle it because he wanted to blow some stuff up after the week he’s had. One also has to wonder why they needed Jadzia on board, except so she and Julian can double-team Miles on second-baby advice. Dax has had several children, and Bashir was first in his class in pediatrics. Bashir is also sitting in Worf’s seat, and gives him the briefest of hard times about it before sitting down. Just as he does, they’re called to the bridge for Red Alert, leaving everything on the table. Don’t spend too much time wondering who cleans the carpets if the ship starts getting shaken around, though, because the station is broken and on fire.

Quark actually shows a bit of concern for his brother after the surprise Jem’hadar raid 45 minutes ago. Since their trail is still warm, Sisko’s going hunting, and trading out Bashir for Odo, and Kira’s in charge of the station and calling for backup. So far, so good.

The Defiant bridge crew are not immune to nervous chatter while hunting, but soon find a damaged Jem’hadar warship. Which is odd, because the ones that attacked the station were on a civilian transport. The Scarab is even emitting a distress beacon and – rule of space, you answer distress beacons. Albiet with a security team at the ready and without re-materializing their weapons. It’s nice to have protocols. The Jem’hadar are also all about giving it a good fight anyway, but fortunately they have their Vorta with them, and he’s quite ready to be diplomatic. This ship was also attacked by the strike team, which is going to make a great excuse for our heroes to fight alongside the Jem’Hadar.

The Vorta, Weyoun, mentions to Sisko that his psych profile is required reading for every Vorta working as a field supervisor. It’s very complete, too, since they have access to all the data they were able to get from the crew they kidnapped, plus everything the Founders could pull out of the Starfleet records while infiltrating Earth. He still has to offer making Sisko the regional governor of the entire Federation, though, just in case that’s Sisko’s price. Instead, we’ll limit cooperation just to this one deployment – and they need Sisko’s help because the rogues have access to an Iconian Gateway – interplanetary transporters that allowed the Iconians to control a vast empire before an alliance bombed them to dust with mass drivers.

Come on, Sisko. How can you resist those puppy-dog eyes?

Come on, Sisko. How can you resist those puppy-dog eyes?

The rogues carried out the raid on Deep Space Nine to get repair parts so they can repair the gateways. From there, with the power to challenge their Gods, the Changelings, the rogues would gather support, effect an insurrection. The obvious question is why Sisko would want to prevent that, and the obvious answer is that Weyoun just stopped the Jem’Hadar from initiating a suicidal but devastating attack on the Defiant and that same scenario would play out only with every ship left in the new Dominion. Oh and also they’ll have the Iconian gateway. No battle lines, just massive civilian casualties across every Federation world.

The allied Jem’Hadar have not been told about the Gateway and its potential to free their people from slavery, which means it’s going to come up mid-mission and be a point of high drama. The Starfleet crew will attempt to keep the secret, of course.

Sisko has requested a face-to-face with the Jem’Hadar leader Omet’Iklan to hash out a few ground rules. One of those Alpha facedowns, which ends with ‘Sisko’s in charge until the mission is complete, after which time Omet’Iklan will probably betray them.’ But at least, during the mission briefing, they get some nice actionable intel about Jem’Hadar tactics. I hope someone is recording this. Still, it’s questionable how much help that’ll be with the strike team outnumbered something like 106 to twelve.

Next, we’re clearly seeing a training exercise (because the Jem’Hadar have Federation weapons and nobody’s vaporizing bodies) but even with Worf in command, I’m seeing some fatal tactical errors. When your enemy has a cloaking device and you have phasers that can do a broad sweep of a room, why wouldn’t you use that? It’s not like this is a new tactic. The purpose of the exercise was to show the Starfleet crew a) how Jem’hadar operate in battle and b) to reinforce that they should be prepared to die in the explosion rather than risk letting someone disarm their bomb. That’s a philosophy that grows very easily out of being able to vat-grow your soldiers in a week. Security personnel aside, Starfleet invests a lot of time and effort making sure their personnel stay alive.

"Don't eat, don't sleep: what DO you do?"

“Don’t eat, don’t sleep: what DO you do?”

As it turns out, Omet’Iklan and his team know all about the gateway and don’t care. They’re loyal, which has to feel good for Weyoun… if he was engineered to be able to feel good, that is. Now that the secret’s out, Sisko agrees to mixed teams so that the Jem’hadar and Starfleet personnel can learn to work together. That’s going to be its own special challenge. They don’t relax. They eat only the White. Nor do they reproduce… naturally. They were bred purely for combat, which offends Worf even more deeply than everyone else. After all, if you can’t get drunk and sing around a fire all night after a glorious victory, what was the point?

We also get to see the Ketracel White feeding ritual, and exactly how much respect they have for Weyoun. He controls the lockbox that prepares and dispenses the drug and Omet’Iklan doesn’t try to force it, but they’re clearly just going to hover over him all day until they get it. Weyoun is also super bored with this ritual. With this dynamic, it would be critical to make sure that strike teams just occasionally all die, just so that the Founders can reset and compartmentalize this institutional contempt. Oh, and also, fresh from their Ketracel high, Worf and the troublesome Jem’Hadar get into a fight. For this transgression, Omet’Iklan kills his subordinate, and Sisko confines Worf to quarters. As a demonstration of the differing values of the two teams, it works pretty well. Just think about r/K selection types.

Weyoun finally goes to Odo and begs him, on behalf of the founders, to go back to them. It hasn’t convinced Odo, but it might have put another chink in his armor.

Miles regularly records ‘goodbye, I love you’ messages for Keiko and Molly, just in case he doesn’t come back. Two a year, approximately, and Jadzia spends so much screen time telling him why he’s going to make it back that if this was a movie he’d be guaranteed to die. Meanwhile, Worf has heard that Omet’Iklan has threatened to kill Sisko and is breaking the terms of his punishment by dropping by Engineering to… uh… ‘reassure’ Sisko.

When the Defiant pulls into orbit, the Jem’Hadar get armed and immediately reset their phasers for maximum power. Tactically, that seems like a mistake to me. Not that I’d expect the Jem’Hadar to have hangups about killing, but that you could just as easily set them for a lower-power setting that’s still lethal or crippling, but you wouldn’t run the risk of your battery dying mid-firefight. They also have a pre-battle ritual – The Jem’Hadar consider themselves dead before they go into battle, and by winning, they reclaim their lives. Thus, they cannot fear death. O’Brien will have none of that nonsense.

Coming this summer: Space Pope II: Axe for Forgiveness

Coming this summer: Space Pope II: Axe for Forgiveness

On the surface, it turns out that all the weapons are dead anyway, dampened by the Gateway output, and it quickly becomes a hand-to-hand battle. Nobody brought swords, but thankfully some Jem’hadar rogues delivered a couple of battle-axes. Since the srike team has the numerical advantage at any given point of engagement, they do fairly well. Also, it seems like Starfleet hand-to-hand combat training has improved significantly over the years, and they manage to keep up with the strike team and the rogue Jem’Hadar. During the melee, Sisko gets injured saving Omet’Iklan’s life, and the mission goes off with a few casualties but otherwise without a hitch.

As soon as the weapons are functional again, everyone pulls them out and there’s a moment of tension, broken by Omet’Iklan vaporizing Weyoun for questioning his team’s loyalty, and then letting Sisko and the crew go back to their ship. Omet’Iklan and his forces stay on-planet to mop up the rogues so we don’t have to endure an awkward flight back home.

Did we miss something awesome?