4.07: “Starship Down”

Synopsis: A Dominion attack damages the Defiant, leaving crew members separated and trying to survive across the ship.

I always enjoy this episode a lot more than I expect to, and yet somehow I always completely forget what it’s about and don’t go “oh, cool, it’s the one where XYZ” until XYZ actually happens. It’s a fairly decent bottle episode, in the same vein as my eternal favorite, “Civil Defense“, or The Next Generation‘s “Disaster”, with a couple of standout scenes/character pairings. Not a particular favorite of mine, but it’s still pretty enjoyable while I’m watching it.

(Speaking of “Disaster”, Memory Alpha notes that in that one, Riker assumes that everyone on the bridge is probably dead, while O’Brien is one of the few people on the bridge who survives, while in this one, O’Brien’s down in engineering and is the one assuming that everyone on the bridge is dead. Which really suggests that Starfleet needs better bridge design, frankly. And/or, as I have mentioned before, that Starfleet ships really need some damn SEATBELTS.)

The standout senes, for me, are primarily the Quark-Hanok and Kira-Sisko stories, with the Worf-O’Brien-Engineers and Dax-Bashir ones landing pretty solidly in the realm of Okay, I Guess. Let’s look more closely!

The good

Apparently James Cromwell and Armin Shimerman went back a ways, and were delighted to be able to work together here. I’m sorry we don’t see more of Hanok now and then, because he and Quark are really fun together — there are very few actors who can make “this isn’t actually very funny but we can’t take the tension and it’s either laugh hysterically or freak out” laughter actually seem believable, but they really do, and it’s great.

(Also, the first scene, with Sisko as the mediator, has some major parent-teacher conference vibes.)

I also really love the Sisko-Kira scenes — one of the things I genuinely love about the first season, which I otherwise find a bit middling, is the development of their relationship; I miss one-on-one interactions between the two of them. The hints here that it’s not an accident that they haven’t spent much time one-on-one, that neither of them is really sure how to deal with his status in her religion, are interesting.

Also interesting is the fact that Kira — who’s typically not one to hide her feelings or put a lot of work into being diplomatic — hasn’t pushed the issue. I’ve noted before that as someone who is fairly religious, I really appreciate that Kira is as well, that she’s not shown as foolish or fanatical for her faith and her religious practice. It makes sense to me that in one of the few areaa — perhaps the only area — that’s been such a source of strength and comfort for her — her religion — her typical confidence and bravado might falter.

(I notice that while we never get explicit confirmation of Kira’s suspicions that Sisko scheduled these negotiations specifically to avoind having to get involved in the Ha’mara festival, we never get an explicit denial, either; Dax, at least, doesn’t seem shocked by the possibility, but Kira never actually asks Sisko directly.)


The okay

As for the Jadzia-Julian story, I actually liked the way it started off, and then…sigh. A direct excerpt from my notes as I was watching the episode:

Look how Julian’s grown! He and Jadzia are huddling for warmth and he isn’t making it weird!

Oh. Never mind.

I really could’ve done without Jadzia admitting that a little part of her kind of enjoyed Julian’s attention in the first couple of seasons. In my head, she mostly just said it to make him feel a bit less embarrassed now that he’s chilled out and they’ve become friends, but I’m also fully aware that’s not actually what they were going for (even if it was, I still wouldn’t love it, but I’d hate it a bit less). Just…ughhhhhhhh, to reward him with that is so gross, and undercuts what I liked about the scene up to that point, where she flat-out tells him that he came on way too strong.

The Worf-O’Brien stuff was…fine? I am enjoying that Worf is still settling in — this is a reminder that he’s not only adjusting to a new environment, but a new role, as well. There just isn’t really as much to hold my interest compared to the Sisko-Kira and Quark-Hanok scenes.

I also really like that O’Brien seems to be the person Worf has actually spent time with, socially, so far. It feels very real, emotionally — they’re such different people I wouldn’t really expect them to socialize generally, but as Worf struggles with fitting in on the station and in his new role, it makes a lot of sense that he’d tend to gravitate toward someone he knows from the Enterprise. It’s nice that O’Brien seems to recognize this, as well. Neither of these two is my favorite character, but I like them both, and it’s just something I enjoy.

A few other notes

One little detail I love: after ordering the deck sealed off — a move which, as far as he knows, has resulted in saving the rest of the ship at the cost of Dax’s life — Sisko becomes more controlled and quiet than ever. Brooks does a really great job here of showing how he’s forcing himself to compartmentalize, to put aside, for the moment, the fact that he had to give an order that resulted in the death of one of his oldest and closest friends. It’s just a really fantastic bit of work on Brooks’s part.

A few additional things:

  • Michael Dorn’s wigs are so much better on DS9 than they are at pretty much any point on TNG.
  • The detail that the Karemma have been working with the Ferengi because the Dominion wouldn’t allow them to deal directly with the Federation is interesting — I have to assume the Dominion knows it’s just a way of dealing with the Federation indirectly, but so long as the Karemma aren’t blatant about it, they’re willing to let it go. It mgiht even have provided an opportunity for changelings to infiltrate Alpha Quadrant populations, as well, by disguising themselves as Karemma, Ferengi, or, heck, even as merchandise.

Horniness rankings

  1. Despite never being overtly sexual, Quark has a very horny energy throughout the episode.
  2. JULIAN >:(
  3. This feels like the place to mention that my roommate and I were kinda shipping Kira and Sisko by the end of this episode.

2 thoughts on “4.07: “Starship Down”

  1. Like other starship-in-peril/crew isolated stories, this episode succeeds or fails based on the strength of the pairings it provides us, and for that I think this mostly works, although most of the pairings are not innovative. (The way, say, pairing Worf with Keiko and Troi with Ro in TNG’s “Disaster” was innovative.) Worf and O’Brien is a natural combination; Dax and Bashir … uh… well, doesn’t quite work, for a variety of reasons… and Quark and Hanok – well, the pairing works, but it’s strange because Hanok isn’t a regular, he’s a one-off guest star. I think those moments still succeed because of the acting chops of the two players – on which note, it really makes clear how good Armin Shimerman is because he plays perfectly off James Cromwell. In watching the episode, I wondered if initially the writers hadn’t intended to pair Quark with Odo in these scenes; they could have had Hanok killed or injured in the attack and played the entire scene as a Quark/Odo duo, although then we would have been robbed of the immortal line after the torpedo fails to explode: “Maybe I should offer them a refund.” Hanok and Odo are similar looking and sounding characters and they have a similar energy – for a bit, I wondered if it was a substitution because Rene Auberjonois was unavailable (but then Odo appears at the end, and even has a moment with Hanok where they seem to acknowledge that they’re similar people? So I guess that wasn’t it).

    And the Kira/Sisko pairing works wonderfully, for all the reasons you point out. It’s so fascinating to think about the dynamic at play here, and to watch how Kira makes this work in her daily professional life. In the conversation with Dax, she switches effortlessly between calling Sisko “the captain” and “the emissary,” acknowledging that he has both roles but he keeps them separate deliberately – a choice she has to respect as well.

    Worf/O’Brien here may not be innovative, but they were clearly trying to advance Worf’s arc as a fish out of water on DS9 and among this crew. I liked and respected what they were trying to do with these scenes – show Worf adapting to new circumstances – but I felt like the moment would have had more impact if any of these characters had appeared before or would ever appear again. This is the kind of thing that Trek often doesn’t do well, but that shows like Battlestar Galactica did much more effectively – build a believable rapport between the principal characters and background characters, even if the background characters are only fleshed out just enough to make them more authentic. Here, I think one can kind of sense that we’re not going to get any more out of these relationships besides the lesson for Worf, and indeed we don’t. Which is a shame, because learning to lead by setting a desired end state within assumptions and constraints and letting your subordinates figure out how to accomplish it is a very powerful leadership philosophy when it’s exercised well, and is central to a lot of military and defense organizations.

    The Dax/Bashir pairing… uh, yeah. They could have ended that on a much more satisfactory note as a coda to all of Julian’s grossness in season 1. A missed opportunity.

    The hide-and-seek between the damaged Defiant and the Jem’Hadar in the planet’s atmosphere was an effective variant on standard starship combat, and strongly reminiscent of the Enterprise vs. Reliant nebula duel in The Wrath of Khan, or Kirk trying to outwit the Romulan Commander in “Balance of Terror.” Combat sequences in this show are always at their best when they invoke history – either Trek’s own history or older modes of battle. This one felt like sailing ships or old battleships hunting one another in a fogbank. Very good stuff.


    1. I liked and respected what they were trying to do with these scenes – show Worf adapting to new circumstances – but I felt like the moment would have had more impact if any of these characters had appeared before or would ever appear again.

      Yes! This is an excellent point, and I think you’re exactly right — if we’d seen more of Worf interacting with some of these people again later, it would’ve improved the scenes a lot, and made this storyline in the episode feel a bit more substantial.

      I’d had the same thought re: Hanok and Odo having similar energy (at one point my roommate, who was in the next room, even asked if it was Rene Auberjonois playing Hanok because his voice and inflections were so similar)! It was a little weird. Not bad, necessarily, just a little weird.

      In the conversation with Dax, she switches effortlessly between calling Sisko “the captain” and “the emissary,” acknowledging that he has both roles but he keeps them separate deliberately – a choice she has to respect as well.

      Oh, wow, I did not appreciate that at all, that’s a great observation. She doesn’t refer to him as “Emissary” very often (and almost never directly), actually, which for all the reasons noted here and in the episode makes sense, but I’d like to try to pay closer attention to the times when she does.


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