4.01 and 4.02: “The Way of the Warrior”

Holy crap, we’re up to the fourth season, y’all! Just, dang, with my attention span, I really did not anticipate getting this far when I first started this project, even before, you know, the world. I want to say, again, how grateful I am to everyone who’s joined me for this, and here’s to Season Four!

Synopsis: The Klingons believe that the Dominion is behind a regime change on Cardassia — and they’re willing to end their peace with the Federation over it. Seeking the insight of someone who knows both the Federation and the Klingons, Sisko consults Lieutenant Commander Worf.

WHEW! A lot happening here, and I enjoy…pretty much every minute of it? Even Odo’s scenes are a lot more enjoyable for me than they usually are. Just, dang, I didn’t remember liking thie episode this much — I remembered it as being a good one, but I was a lot more entertained than I had remembered being.

WORF!!!!!!

I really enjoy the way they set Worf up as a parallel to Sisko at the beginning of the show — at loose ends, feeling like there may not really be much of a place for him in Starfleet anymore. I really liked the sense that he was feeling lost in particular after the destruction of the Enterprise in Generations, that he lost not just his workplace but his friends — even though his closest friends from the ship all survived, the crew may well end up in different assignments, on different ships. (We, as viewers, know now that won’t happen just yet, since there are still a few more movies to come, but from a Watsonian standpoint, it’s understandable that he’s feeling lost.) Having to let go of a part of your life is hard, and I like that the show lets Worf wrestle with his — well, grief.

Bringing in a new character at all, let alone one from another series, was a tricky move to pull off. Of all the TNG characters, however, Worf seems like a great fit for the station — this is very much a show about characters who don’t quite fit into the places they’re supposed to. I’ve made the observation before that even Quark is a bit of a misfit — too Ferengi for the tastes of the Bajoran and Federation people who largely comprise the station’s population, but also a bit too Federation for the Ferengi. Garak, too, has been wrestling with the fact that being a “loyal” Cardassian may not mean the same thing to him that it does to most Cardassians. Odo, who just confessed in the third season finale that “the truth is, I don’t understand my people all that well,” has bonded with Garak over this very thing, and even talks to Worf about it here, telling him gently (for Odo, anyway) but firmly that he has to choose a side. Not to mention Jadzia, whose rocky path to being joined left her struggling with feelings of inadequacy and impostor syndrome, or Kira, whose faith is deeply important to her but who also locks horns with the head of her religion, and and who, after years spent fighting in a cell of a loosely-organized resistance movement, is now the chief liasion officer for her government on the station — a diplomat. In a group of people who aren’t quite sure where they belong, who struggle to find a place for themselves and often don’t find it at home, Worf, frankly, makes perfect sense.

I do wish, however, that they hadn’t effectively just written Alexander out until they finally decided to bring him in, aged up to about Jake’s age for no apparent reason. (Yes, yes, Klingons age faster than humans, blah blah blah, but let’s be real, that’s a later attempt to give a Watsonian justification for a Doylist decision.) I mean, given that Worf’s assignment to the station was initially supposed to be temporary, he didn’t need to arrive on the station alongside Worf right here, and hell, a lot of people have moved their families off the station because of fears about the Dominion; it’s not unreasonable that Worf might not be comfortable bringing his own son out to live with him. But he could send him messages now and then, at least!

Overall, the DS9 writers seem to have even less idea what to do with Alexander than the TNG writers, which is a shame, not least because, with the show having set up parallels between Worf’s position now and Sisko’s position at the beginning of the series — parallels which Sisko himself explicitly notes — not to explore that more via Worf’s relationship with his own son, which has been rather more troubled than Sisko’s with his, seems like, at best, a missed opportunity. Less generously, to have Worf basically give up on parenting and not be shown making even the most token effort to, like, send him a message now and then runs counter to his whole story in this episode, where he’s told that he can’t simply run away from change, and it undercuts a lot of his development on TNG, where he was…OK, let’s be real, not a great dad, but very clearly someone who loved his son and was genuinely working at doing better.

(And, really, in just a few episodes, with the introduction of Tora Ziyal, it’s going to become clear that, while Worf may not have been a fantastic parent, he still has a long way to go before he’s even close to being the worst father on the show. On which note: also a missed opportunity, once they do bring Alexander in significantly aged up for no real reason, was not at least doing so early enough that he and Ziyal could’ve interacted. There is literally an entire episode which draws parallels between the two of them!!! It is flat-out called “Sons and Daughters”!!!!!!! Never having them actually meet in person after spending a whole-ass episode dwelling on the parallels between them isn’t at the top of the list of reasons why I am 5ever mad about Ziyal’s fridging, but it’s definitely on said list. Expect more on on the subject of said list when we reach “Indiscretion” in a couple of weeks.)

WORF AND JADZIA!!!!!

I LOVE JADZIA AND WORF SO MUCH. Like, remember when I said that a lot of my favorite tropes, character types, and character relationships can probably be traced to my having watched Deep Space Nine at a formative age? Yeah, Jadzia/Worf is definitely another one of those.

And with every rewatch, I’m a little surprised all over again at how early it starts! Jadzia is into Worf basically from the get-go, and isn’t shy about making that clear, but Worf is frankly not much less into Jadzia; he’s just very much not the flirting type and is perhaps not sure whether her flirting with him is just part of her general personality or something more serious.

(I really wish they had included subtitles, because her response to his saying how honored Curzon is — “yeah, but I’m prettier than he was” — is really great, and knowing what she’s saying makes Worf’s startled-but-not-totally-opposed-to-this reaction a lot better.)

That said, barging in on someone else’s holosuite program seems pretty rude, Dax. I mean, it is her program, and I do really love the scene that follows and the way that, even though they’ve only just recently met, Dax and Worf already have some pretty significant sexual tension, but still, it’s the principle of the thing. At least people on the station seem slightly better about this than they were on the Enterprise.

CARDASSIAN POLITICS THOUGH!!!!

It’s been a while since I had time to talk about HOW MUCH I LOVE THE STORY OF THE CARDASSIAN DISSIDENT MOVEMENT, and how much I wish it had been a larger storyline of its own within the series. Like!!!! Kira seems genuinely upset at the suggestion that they might’ve been backed by the Dominion — it’s not shocking that she’d be fine with a change in government on Cardassia, but there was also a point when she would probably have just said that time the Cardassians spend fighting each other is time they aren’t spending picking on the Bajorans. Her connection to Ghemor, among other things, has made her actively sympathetic to the dissidents/civilian government, however, and it’s really interesting to see.

I’m also, frankly, a little surprised that Dukat would throw in with the civilian government — his entire deal is being completely self-serving and looking out for himself above all else, and for all that he’s short-sighted in a lot of ways, he does have a pretty strong instinct for self-preservation (see, for instance, “The Maquis, Part 2“, where he learns that Central Command has decided to use him as a scapegoat, and reacts by immediately and enthusiastically attempting to make himself essential to Sisko). Sisko explicitly calls that out in this very episode: “In other words, you saw which way the wind was blowing and decided to switch sides.” So while the potential gains he’d make in backing the coup are pretty significant, the consequences if the coup were to fail seem like they would also be pretty significant? The Klingon casus belli, that the Dominion was actually backing the dissidents, will later be revealed as, itself, a Dominion ploy, or else I’d guess that maybe he’d already started working with the Dominion. Maybe his experiences over the past couple of years, of being emphatically reminded that he’s not nearly as important or popular as he thought he was, just meant he thought his odds would be better with the new government. (Of course, he will, in a few episodes, be prepared to kill his half-Bajoran daughter because bringing her home to Cardassia would effectively end his career, so it seems he has at least an inkling that his position is not completely secure.)

In conclusion: for some reason I, a middle-class white American woman in the year 2020, just have a lot of emotions about a the story of people who’ve been raised in an imperialist society realizing that they have a duty to do better and attempting to wrest their government out of the hands of fascists. Dunno what that’s about.

MARTOK!!! ALSO OTHER NOTES!!!

I spoke a lot about Worf in this post, and not without reason, since he’s now a regular, but there’s another new character I want to mention: MARTOK!!!!! Martok is one of those characters who fits so well into the show, who’s so very clearly-defined, whose actor is so immediately comfortable in the role, that it’s genuinely hard for me to remember that this is actually the first time we’ve ever seen him, that he wasn’t already a recurring character either here or on TNG.

(I mean, technically, we still haven’t met Martok yet, since it will later be revealed that he’s already been replaced by a changeling at this point, but I think what I said still applies.)

Honestly, there are just so many little moments in this episode that I absolutely adore. A small selection:

  • The fact that Dax and Sisko make a bet about how much of a dick Dukat is going to be, and then cheerfully tell him about it.
  • I absolutely adore Sisko coming up with a way to pass intel to the Cardassians while maintaining plausible deniability?
  • Every scene where Garak and Dukat interact, honestly; as with Sisko and Winn, I could watch their verbal sparring for hours. (Also, their initial discussion is interesting for confirming the chaos on Cardassia: Garak says early on that his contacts have gone silent; that he eventually has to turn to Dukat, a guy who despises Garak at least as much as Garak despises him, in order to get his intel to someone who can do something about it, is a testament to just how desperate he is. It’s also interesting that Dukat believes the information, despite the source. And kind of hilarious that his reaction is basically “OK but you can get Sisko to fix it, right?”)
  • That Odo and Garak are, as discussed at the end of “The Die is Cast”, having breakfast together.
  • The entire bit with Quark’s disruptor is Great Art.
  • “Chief, do you remember the time we rescued Captain Picard from the Borg?” I…you know, Worf, I think he just might.
  • Bashir briefing his staff was really interesting — it felt very much like a Sisko thing to do, and I like the suggestion that Sisko is a role model for him. (An interesting little reminder of “Distant Voices“, where Sisko represents his professionalism and his sense of duty.)

Horniness rankings

  1. WOW, Jadzia and Worf are extremely into each other pretty much right off the bat, aren’t they? Jadzia’s more blatant about it — like, horny enough that despite Dukat being in this episode, someone else is at the top of the Horniness Rankings, which is saying something!. And the way Worf gets kinda flustered when she flirts? He is 100% horny for her, too.
  2. Dukat remains extremely horny for Sisko, and frankly Sisko is…not not flirting with him? Also Jadzia seems to be encouraging it, because, like me, she loves drama.
  3. Garak and Bashir are. Ridiculous? The fond smile on Julian’s face when he says that this isn’t funny??? Like. Y’all need to please chill.
  4. Garak: still kinda horny for Sisko, IMO.
  5. Dang, Sisko and Kasidy! When she kissed him and then he kissed her hand??? Goodness.
  6. Honestly, this is definitely an “everyone is horny” episode, because there are definitely multiple scenes where I’m saying things to myself along the lines of “wait, I think Kira might be kind of into Worf” or “uhhhh were Bashir and Odo flirting”.

3 thoughts on “4.01 and 4.02: “The Way of the Warrior”

  1. Great, and better than I remembered it, this felt epic and innovative for Star Trek, with a lot of new and impressive battle shots involving both the Defiant and the station. The creators probably had a moment of wondering how you portray a space battle with one of the belligerents being a space station that isn’t moving, but the results were great. They effectively did one of the first fortress defense sequences in Star Trek, and even the hand-to-hand combat and phaser battles (most of which look pretty stale by today’s standards) were effective.

    That the geopolitical stakes were so high helped give the story a lot of momentum (partially making up for the fact that besides the Defiant mission and the defense sequence at the end, this is actually much more of a quiet, meditative character-centric episode than one might imagine). I love that the plot is driven entirely by Klingon paranoia about the Dominion, which has given them an excuse to indulge long-simmering expansionist proclivities that TNG hinted at but never fully fleshed out. It’s a great way of keeping the Dominion in the background – still, even by season 4, not fully or overtly engaging anyone – and showing how just the existence of this threat is enough to spur leaders to make lousy decisions that the Dominion could later exploit.

    It also was interesting – especially in light of the Federation’s decision to let Tain’s attack on the Founders proceed in “The Die Is Cast” – that the Federation explicitly decided not to warn the Cardassians that the Klingons were on their way to invade. You could read that two ways. One would be the woolly-thinking Federation mentality that diplomacy will prevail and, anyway, we can’t sell out the Klingons becuase they’re our allies (even if they’re taking a policy line that is 180 off from what the Federation wants), and the show has given us this portrayal before, mostly back in season 2. The other interpretation would be much more cynical – the Federation would prefer the Klingons to neutralize the Cardassians for good at a moment when the Cardassians are weakened and destabilized by the overthrow of the Central Command and the destruction of the Obsidian Order. I… don’t actually know which interpretation I think the episode wanted us to take, assuming they had these in mind. Given that we saw a Federation starting to get spooked into some pretty hard-edged decisions earlier in the series, I think it might be the second explanation. (That would suggest that Federation decsionmakers did not think the Klingons would move on to take Bajor and DS9 in order to control the wormhole, or assumed they could make a deal with Gowron to avoid it.)

    Speaking of Gowron, I have come to the decision that I could watch Robert O’Reilly as Gowron do basically anything and it would be amazing. He’s one of the most operatic of the Klingons, all the more so, I think, because he’s much more political and scheming than a typical Klingon – a theme the show has fun with from time to time. Here, his contrast with Martok – a pure warrior who wants to continue the attack at the end – is an effective way of getting multiple Klingon voices into a conversation in a way that Star Trek often didn’t do very well. (Might not happen again until Discovery. It’s also a great thing to have the Klingons as an antagonist at a time when we have had some cultural development that helps us see the Klingons as real characters, not just the cartoonish swarthy bad guys from TOS or the snarling thugs from the movies.)

    Also, was Martok actually a changeling already at this point? I know he is later and I can’t remember if they ever tell us specifically when the switch occurred, but in this episode, at least in his first scene, he passes a blood test (although I suppose the changelings could have already figured out a way to beat that; I don’t remember if the series makes that more clear later). I think it’s more interesting to think about the episode if you assume he isn’t; that makes his later character development more compelling. If he is, though, big ups to the changeling impersonating him; he hits all the right Klingon notes, down to knowing that he needs to confront Worf over a challenge to his son’s honor and going the extra mile of having Kabok executed for disobeying orders.

    Worf! Worf was easily the best choice from the TNG cast to import over into DS9. He fits in almost effortlessly and I love that although they pair him with O’Brien initially (and later in the episode), he gets great scenes with Sisko, Odo, Dax, and even Kira (“nice hat”) that slide him neatly into the narrative and help show off Michael Dorn’s dramatic and deadpan comedic acting. The glaring omission of more dialogue about Alexander aside (which I agree was a bad loss), you really do get the sense that Worf is dealing with some crap and has taken the Enterprise’s destruction hard. “There was nothing we could not do.” TNG vs. DS9 in a nutshell. (It really grates on me how tone deaf O’Brien is in this scene; “I’m sure they’ll be building a new one soon!”.)

    Also, I love how Odo, in his one scene with Worf, cheerily admits he’s been monitoring all of Worf’s communications, which no one seems to care about. (Yes, it’s probably a fine scene for how it sets up Worf and Odo as mutual outsiders who don’t know where or how they fit in with their own people anymore, but also Odo is straight up the NSA.)

    Maybe my only criticism is that the pacing in the setup to the final battle sequence seemed a bit off. Not quite as bad as some of the pacing issues in Discovery (we have to leave in 10 minutes! Oh cool, I have time for 30 minutes’ worth of farewell dialogue with my parents who have conveniently shown up at this moment) – but after the Defiant returns the episode takes its time building up to the assault, which you might have assumed would happen immediately since the Klingons presumably knew Starfleet reinforcements were on the way. I don’t mind the scenes they used to build this part of the episode (although the Odo/Bashir dialogue was superfluous, the scene showing him briefing his staff was good and had the right gravity), but it surprised me and held up the momentum of the story a bit.

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