In which we examine the nature of honor, duty, and death.
Sisko is helping conduct a mineral survey of a planet in the Gamma Quadrant. In a runabout. Despite the fact that they just helped out Gowron so even if the Klingon war isn’t technically over he’s probably not pursuing it aggressively anymore. While this isn’t Dominion territory, it’s still on the wrong side of the chokepoint they’re guarding. O’Brien is teaching a goldshirt how to do surveys and not to call him sir, which isn’t a great sign for the poor kid. This is what happens to the guys we’ve never seen before when they get gently comic character moments. Everyone is finishing up the survey, and the planet appears to be a good prospect for mining, but strategically it’s a loser. It’s about now when a ship drops out of warp, leaking plasma and captured by the planet, crash-landing near the survey team. Sisko orders their team beamed to the crash site, and it turns out to be a Jem’Hadar warship.
The crew begin something between rescue and salvage operations, starting with hacking the troop drop point of the upside-down ship. Despite this being a warship full of Jem’Hadar, with a sufficient compliment to warrant an assault hatch, our heroes decide to sweep the area with no backup. They find a bunch of Jem’Hadar dangling from the ceiling, all dead of inertial damper failure and every bone in their bodies shattered. But no notable survivors. Sisko wants to haul it out with the tractor beams, but they’ll need to call back to the station for the Defiant if they’re going to salvage it.
On the station, Bashir tried to import some spiders to make medicine out of their venom to help out Kira, but he needed a permit, didn’t know that, asked Quark to help, and it became a whole thing. Quark used the opportunity to smuggle some drugs, so since Kira’s got to take the Defiant out Odo’s going to incarcerate them both for a while. You know, for funsies.
Muniz and O’Brien are working on getting the warship loose, but another warship arrives, and this one appears to be functional – the runabout is lost with all hands, and Sisko and crew are stranded until help arrives, and retreat into the derelict. Muniz is shot, but still alive – do the Jem’Hadar use rifles that wound in order to force their enemy to slow down? The crew set up operations in the command center, and Muniz insists that he’s barely wounded. He’s ‘had worse transporter burns.’ If those are real, I imagine they’re the loss of some skin tissue that was too ‘dead’ to go through, but really that raises more questions than it answers. It’s more likely it’s an idiom referring to ‘literally nothing.’
After patching up Muniz, O’Brien and Dax get the ship powered, but they don’t have a medpack and Muniz simply won’t stop bleeding. The Jem’Hadar use, basically, Google Glass for the Jem’Hadar First and the Vorta – nobody else needs to see what’s going on outside the ship. apparently. And now, the new ship’s Vorta starts negotiations. She is Kilana, and she knows exactly who Sisko is. It’s also worth noting that apparently there’s massive comms redundancy aboard Jem’Hadar ships, since the ‘reply’ button is on almost every panel. Kilana asks for a face-to-face, with one escort each.
Sisko always seems to do the Stoic thing when engaging in hostile diplomacy. It’s probably something he picked up from Curzon’s… party days, but I imagine it’s going to serve him well here. Kilana wants the ship back, Sisko is claiming salvage rights, the Dominion don’t recognize the claim, and while she keeps him busy, a Jem’Hadar warrior beams into the ship and starts going around to try to murder everyone. I will be disappointed if this was not anticipated.
Kilana is doing a pretty good job at appearing inexperienced and naive, and offers them safe passage back to the station. Ben does not buy it. Inside the derelict, apparently Jem’Hadar are not used to walking on the ceiling of crashed ships, because he makes a noise while planting a device, and also doesn’t manage to kill both O’Brien and Dax with camouflage and surprise on his side. Luckily, Muniz is taking a long time to die.
The sensor, the lone Jem’Hadar, and the fact that he was only armed with a knife suggest that the ship is terribly important and the Vorta refuses to risk destroying it. We can probably puzzle it out pretty easily – if it was data, the Jem’Hadar would have planted a USB stick to retrieve it and then blew the ship. It’s got to be something physical, too unwieldy for one guy to grab and transport out with, and not confined to a single area that they can avoid when incinerating people with charged particle weapons. What ever could fit that description and be valuable to the Dominion…
Muniz is still bleeding, lots, but still has some fight left in him. The particle weapon apparently has some kind of anti-cuagulant effect, and O’Brien has engineering tasks to do apart from taking care of Muniz. After doing their scan, Dax informs us that this ship is slightly different than most other Jem’Hadar ships, but let’s not focus on that. Worf thinks we should focus on Muniz being about to die and that he should prepare for Sto’vokor.
Sisko goes to meet Kilana again at her request, and she slips up a bit and almost reveals what it is they’re trying to retrieve. So add ‘desperately secret’ to the cargo of concern. But now she’s offering to just take the one thing they want and give Sisko the ship. Sounds like a good deal, but there’s a fundamental element of trust. Sisko offers to bring it out to them, but again… trust. With that, negotiations are over, and the Jem’Hadar start…. bombarding the surface?
The ship starts shutting down and Muniz is going into critical blood loss. The Jem’hadar are bombarding the planet but not trying to hit the ship with it’s valuable cargo, obviously, so one has to wonder what the point is. They know Sisko knows they can’t risk destroying the ship. The only thing they can do is keep trying to repair the defenses and find whatever the Vorta is looking for. And watch Muniz die slowly to the sound of the shelling. Worf found a computer, there was no power, so he ripped it out of the wall to hotwire it. The shelling is getting everyone edgy, but I don’t buy it as the main goal here.
Worf can’t stop commenting on how Muniz is going to die. I’m sure he thinks he’s helping, but given he spent his entire adult life in Starfleet, I’m not sure why he thinks this would be helping. Some racist words are exchanged on both sides, and Dax chimes in woth more annoying snark, and Sisko pulls the crew together by yelling a lot.
O’Brien has the power up and running and they’re getting ready to try to fly the ship out from under the mountain. The ship that had an inertial damper failure that killed every humanoid aboard. They try hard to shake loose, but the engine almost breaches, and she ship cracks like an egg. They have to hold out for thirty-six hours until the Defiant arrives. And while they tried, Muniz died. While Sisko wallows in his misery, a Changeling starts dripping from the ceiling, gasps its last, and starts dying. The Dominion troops seem to sense it, or maybe they hear it from the outside, and Kilana beams in without escort.
The Jem’Hadar soldiers killed themselves for failing to protect their god. She and Sisko argue and grieve over their mutual mistrust, over the corpse of the founder, and nobody’s happy about any of it. She takes some of the remains for ceremonial burial and leaves some parting shots before beaming back to her ship. An uneventful day-and-a-half later, the Dominion tows the ship back and Sisko broods about the medal Starfleet command will give him.
Dax has the luxury of assuring Sisko the deaths of his crew were worth the prize, and Sisko agrees he’d make the trade again. But that doesn’t make it hurt less. Not when you know the people who died. Dax gives him this: they knew the risks, they thought the risks were worth it, and they died fighting for their ideals. Which brings us back to Worf. Worf wanted Muniz to die an honorable death in battle, not bleeding out, but I’d like to think this episode was trying to redefine ‘battle’ and ‘things worth dying for.
O’Brien sits vigil over Muniz’ corpse, coming to grips with it and talking trivialities. The Klingons have a similar tradition, and Worf joins him, and they bond over tragedy like men of duty – in silence.