Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Armageddon Game"


Air date: 1/31/1994. Writen by Morgan Gendel
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

O'Brien and Bashir assist a non-Federation world, the T'Lani, in destroying several reams of their terrible and now-unwanted biological weapons, the harvesters. But the two Starfleet officers find themselves on the run once the last harvester is destroyed, when an attacking group of T'Lani attempts to kill anyone with knowledge of the all-too-deadly harvesters.

"Armageddon Game" is a good episode with an action premise that quickly turns into an interesting (if unexpected) character show. The action early in the episode is reasonably executed, and the irony that the T'Lani would need to make sure anyone with knowledge of the harvesters needs to be eliminated—even those who helped destroy such knowledge—is a telling sign of the severity of such weapons.

Meanwhile, the T'Lani provide Sisko with misinformation, claiming the two officers died in an accident and providing a forged video recording of the alleged incident. The resulting scenes on DS9 are hit-and-miss, featuring some absorbing realistic reactions (Sisko's acknowledgement that "the next few days are going to be hard, but we all have jobs to do" and Quark's toast to the deceased "good customers" ring particularly true), and some less effective moments (namely, most of Keiko's scenes, which lack the emotional punch one would expect).

The O'Brien/Bashir interaction is great, redefining the two characters as the most verbally interesting pair on the series—or maybe a close second behind Garak/Bashir. Bashir's backstory comes off particularly believable this time around, supplying the character with a depth beyond what has been explored to date. O'Brien's dialog about family life is also adeptly written. Basically, this show works because it puts two actors in a room, gives them some believable things to say, and the performances deliver. Keiko's investigation that leads her to suspect the forgery is somewhat hokey and a little hard to swallow, but no matter; the surprisingly clever and understated action finale wraps things up nicely.

Previous episode: The Alternate
Next episode: Whispers

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19 comments on this review

Victor - Sat, Sep 20, 2008 - 10:53am (USA Central)
In "Armageddon Game," I don't see why so much effort was put into neutralizing the stacks of biological weapons. Why couldn't both sides just load everything onto a shuttle and then fly it into the sun or something?
Jayson - Sun, Sep 21, 2008 - 2:16pm (USA Central)
Well Victor, if they had done that then there would have be no episode. But I suppose they could have done a story where Bashire & Obrien were trapped on the ship with the WMD's headed toward the sun.
Paul York - Wed, Jun 6, 2012 - 8:57am (USA Central)
Being able to wipe memory engrams seems a common procedure in the 24th century; it makes much more sense for Bashir and OBrien to agree to do that afterwards than risk bad relations with the Federation, if found out for committing murder. But politicians who order cover-ups probably lack imagination or compassion to begin with. The evil cover-up was plausible. As Jammer notes above, the main element is the characterization. The dynamic between the two characters is a good one that plays well throughout during all the DS9s. Nothing like adversity to bring two people together.
John - Fri, Jun 29, 2012 - 11:11am (USA Central)
Good point Victor.

It's also a bit silly that they come in and shoot at everyone while the harvesters are still being neutralized, rather than kill everyone in a more clean and clinical fashion, like, say, how the forged video footage later portrays it.

But yeah, I know, it's all about the characters and the lengths to which the warring parties will go in order to establish peace.
LastDawnOfMan - Thu, Aug 9, 2012 - 6:58pm (USA Central)
I guess we're trying to avoid spoilers so all I'll say is Keiko's last line was one of the funniest in the series for me.
Jeremy - Tue, Feb 12, 2013 - 10:38pm (USA Central)
"Why not just toss the whole lot into a sun or black hole" is a large plot hole. The other thing that got me about this was it took Julian just a moment to cure O'Brien back at DS9. If the Harvesters were so easily cured, why was it such a threat that the warring races wanted all people who knew anything about it killed.

Yes the point is the development of Julian and Miles friendship and characters. It was still fun to watch, just wish that they had come up with answers for the loose threads.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 3:47pm (USA Central)

Solid episode with some important character development for Bashir and O'Brien.

Yanks - Mon, Jul 14, 2014 - 11:13am (USA Central)
Slightly above average episode.

I think it would have been a much more powerful episode had they not shown the gun fight and left their escape an unknown for as long as possible.

3 stars for me. Nice character development for Bashir and Obrien.
Shawn Davis - Sun, Jul 27, 2014 - 8:19pm (USA Central)
I agree with Jammer's review. I also want to point out that it's a shame that the Defiant wasn't introduced until the beginning of season 3. Sisko and company looked ridiculous trying to battle the T'Lani ship, which is much more larger and powerful, with the small runabouts at the end of the episode (even though they were actually playing a trick on the T'Lani to escape them, but still......). With the Defiant they could had put the T'Lani in their place within minutes.
DLPB - Sat, Aug 16, 2014 - 12:52pm (USA Central)
The way they found out the video was fake was... stupid. Real stupid. Also, I don't like all these "hidden security feature" storylines. Miles O'Brien was also supposedly operating a totally alien system.

But it was a decent watch overall.
Caleb - Thu, Oct 30, 2014 - 8:16pm (USA Central)
Very worthwhile for the O'Brien and Bashir stuff, but I just never bought the motivations of the T'Lani and the Kellerens and the last act felt rushed and kind of silly. Nonetheless, the character stuff is really good, and that last little revelation about the coffee... pretty amusing.
MsV - Tue, Apr 7, 2015 - 2:55am (USA Central)
What I didn't like was, the T'lani and the Kellerans seemed to get away with attacking a Federation vessel and attempting to murder Miles and Bashir. Something should have be done about this or at least mentioned at the end. Oh well!!
SamSimon - Wed, Apr 15, 2015 - 2:24pm (USA Central)
I liked the episode a lot, but... it took Bashir less than an hour to neutralize the terrible weapon that had to be destroyed and all the people who knew about it with it. :--/
Phillip - Wed, Jun 24, 2015 - 7:19pm (USA Central)
hairstylists must be rich in both societies. I know they are aliens but even aliens should have better fashion sense.

The quark scene was funny. Keiko didn't seem too affected by the Chiefs death. The writers have known since tng that the fans didn't like Keiko and yet they didn't make her seem to care that much about his death. I wanna blame the writers and not the actress but I haven't seen her in anything else so who knows. Obrien and Bashir eventually become great friends but I always thought obrien treated Bashir badly the first few seasons for no reason. Eventually Bashir stands up to him but it takes all the way to the third episode from the last in season 7.
Nathan B. - Sun, Jul 12, 2015 - 3:20pm (USA Central)
Great review by Jammer of a really good episode! As for Keiko, I thought her reaction to the bad news very believable and understated. People don't all react to death with outward hysterics, and she never really believed it anyway. By the way, I love Keiko's scenes--they're true to life.

DLPB - Mon, Jul 13, 2015 - 2:51pm (USA Central)
You mean a battle-axe, overbearing wife who seeks to take away all your passion and love for the world? I agree. Luckily, I'll never fall for that life.
William B - Fri, Jul 31, 2015 - 10:35pm (USA Central)
In spite of the title, "Armageddon Game" is not in any particular way "about" the weapons of mass destruction, which are only the MacGuffin to start the plot going. We know this because the one interesting idea -- that having found peace, these peoples must kill anyone who knows about these weapons, including the people who disposed of them! -- is never examined or discussed; it is repeated by the villains a few times, and there's a minor wrinkle in that it initially seems to be one group planning this murder and then it turns out it's both. No one offers any counterargument, nor even particularly expresses outrage that these guys asked for Federation assistance and then planned to kill them. The end section, in which the T'Lani tells Sisko that she has no quarrel with him or the Federation but must kill Bashir & O'Brien, comes across as ridiculous -- if the T'Lani had planned to keep their murdering the heroic scientists who ended the terror of the harvesters a secret, as implied by their hastily blaming O'Brien for activating a subroutine that obliterated them, they surely couldn't just let Sisko go. The escape sequence at the end has weird, heavy-handed over-explanation ("We saw them die!" "Did we though?"), and in general the entire investigation is plodding. Bashir and O'Brien, besides not dying in the initial attack, only accomplish one thing -- to attract the T'Lani to them! -- which is a decent twist, but also means that, since they get rescued at the last minute through no action of their own, their struggle is not all that inspiring. Would Sisko not have been able to find them if they hadn't contacted the T'Lani? No explanation is actually given how the Runabout crew could identify Bashir and O'Brien immediately when the planet couldn't -- I guess superior technology, though if they were found because Sisko could find the T'Lani having beamed down that might give some sense that the endless jiggering with that comm device actually had plot importance.

This is maybe a harsh assessment of an episode that is mostly about Bashir and O'Brien talking. But I do think that survival stories have a greater kick when there is some sense that what the characters do to survive actually matters. To compare for other Trek examples, "The Next Phase," "The Enemy," "Shuttlepod One," "The Ascent" and "The Galileo Seven" all had plots that ultimately did hinge on our trapped characters accomplishing something, often which reflected some major character growth, and an episode like "The Most Toys" has a kind of tragic air because Data's rescue saved him from the long-term external consequences of killing Fajo, but not from the implications of readying himself to. In this case, besides having O'Brien not die nothing Bashir and O'Brien do matters much to the eventual plot resolution, which means that anything they do besides talk is a waste of time.

Given that one of the subjects of their talk is marriage, it seemed like a neat tie-in that it is Keiko's deep, close knowledge of Miles that ends up saving him. In execution, it seemed terribly unconvincing that Miles drinking coffee in the afternoon while on some alien ship, in space, working on a major project with risky, deadly WMDs, would be the smoking gun required to let Sisko investigate it, not to mention the plot contortions required to justify this already-silly idea (my favourite is the idea that, to justify that it's coffee, the hastily-edited video recording designed to fake deaths has a *spectrographic analysis* precise enough to be able to tell the chemical composition of what's in O'Brien's cup). But accepting this on a "what they are going for" level, that Keiko could identify a small, specific detail which demonstrated the falsenes of the cover story while Jadzia could only bemoan that she never got around to reading Julian's soul-baring journals absolutely reinforces Miles' argument that marriage and intimacy are worth the headaches that come with it. And then the episode undermines it for a not-funny joke at the end -- Keiko actually has no clue about Miles drinking coffee! My girlfriend and I laughed out loud at that point, not so much because of the joke itself (not really funny) as the way the series regularly seems to undermine anything positive in the O'Briens' marriage, as well as the way the episode undercuts its own thematic point. I am not opposed to this kind of undermining, but the episode is thin enough and the coffee idea was already sketched in enough and the O'Briens' marriage already so inattentively rendered that I felt kind of sad. Nevertheless, we still can take from this the idea that Keiko made up an artificial reason to save Miles, and her refusal to give up on him did lead to his being saved, so, that is something.

I do tend to find the scenes on the station overall not quite effective, and I am not sure why. Some of it is that there hasn't been that much development of relationships between Julian and Miles and the rest of the main cast, Jadzia (and each other) excepted, and Garak does not make an appearance. Still, the crew's moderately sad reaction to their death, while realistic, doesn't quite give me much sense of them as individuals. The big scene regarding Julian's death is the Kira/Dax conversation in Quark's, which overall works pretty well; I don't quite find Farrell convincing here, but putting that aside I think that there is something of the right way of conveying the mixture of grief, loss and guilt of someone who knows that a person with an unrequited thing for them has died. There is something both sweet and pathetic about Julian giving Jadzia his medical journals, consisting of his "innermost thoughts," much of which were about his struggle to be the best in his class and his fear of failure, as a way for her to "understand him," like any other young nerdy male desperately giving out his livejournal account in the hopes that only THEN will she see how truly deep he is; and, well, it's a kind of sweet and pathetic I can relate to, while also sympathizing with the mixed feelings that this inspires in Jadzia. Capped by Quark's "good customers" line, it's a melancholy thought that reminds us exactly how lonely and alone this guy is, and Jadzia, by realizing that she probably *is* the most important person in Julian's life right now, gets some sense of what that means for him. The scene of Sisko telling Keiko I did feel was ineffective; I don't think that Keiko reacting with something like shock and not having any emotional outbursts is believable, but there's a certain something missing from the performance or the direction to give a real sense of what she's feeling underneath, at least for me.

As for the Bashir/O'Brien scenes, in a weird way they serve a similar purpose to Jadzia talking about Julian's medical journals. Bashir already likes O'Brien and wants his trust, so even though it's Miles who is closer to death the story is much more focused on O'Brien coming to see Bashir as his own person and coming to care about him than the reverse. As the older and more experienced man, O'Brien's gradually slipping away into disease, and just missing death, with Bashir slowly taking more and more charge of the situation, has a bit of a Circle of Life vibe, a short version of the inevitable fate of people to watch the next generation come into prominence as they themselves go into decline. The age difference isn't so great, but it seems artificially greater because O'Brien has "lived" more than Bashir in many respects, having fought in a war and served multiple Starfleet jobs and having a wife and child. I like how Bashir's backstory, involving a ballerina who is the daughter of a doctor, ties together the interests in medicine and physical fitness that we have seen from him recently. O'Brien's impassioned defense of marriage, while weakened both by the show's need to undermine Miles/Keiko regularly and by the lack of specificity in the details ("oh yeah we fight, she doesn't want to be on the station, but it is worth it! for... reasons"), is touching, and is the most important lesson that he imparts onto Bashir; and when O'Brien imparts this wisdom, there is the sense in which he now recognizes that Bashir's skirt-chasing and immaturity is the sign of his youth, inexperience, and insecurity rather than just a personality type Miles can't really stand.

Overall, the plot of this episode is very weak and the character material is...good but not great, making this a prime example for what Jammer termed the Split Personality Syndrome of the season. 2.5 stars from me.
MsV - Tue, Sep 15, 2015 - 4:40am (USA Central)
Again William B a very good commentary. You mentioned how Miles realized Bashir's skirt-chasing and immaturity is the sign of his youth and it was one of the reasons I didn't like him in the beginning. I have often wondered how Bashir could not understand why Jadzia never took him seriously. She wasn;t going to let him treat her like he treated all of his bimbos. One night stands, dinner and a holosuite was not her style. After season 2 Julian became a favorite.
JLB8 - Fri, Sep 18, 2015 - 8:12am (USA Central)
The episode suffers from several contrived plot items:

It's not believable that two advanced races need outside help to just destroy some bioweapons. It's even less believable that Bashir and O'Brien are sent. An organization like the Federation has special people for that, they don't just sent stationed personnel from some station.
As civilization progresses, people need to specialize further and further, yet O'Brien is both a software and hardware genius, while Bashir seems to be an accomplished researcher in addition to being DS9's only real physician.

The deadliness of the virus seems implausible. It took a couple of days to kill O'Brien, it took more than one day to actually incapacitate him. And Bashir could cure it within hours. Clearly, the 24th century has more advanced and deadly weapons than this, so why try to kill anybody with knowledge of it.
It's like us killing anybody with knowledge of how to create Sarin.
Also, there is no way to be sure that no copies of such knowledge exist anywhere. Networked computers, physical backups. It's basically IMPOSSIBLE to put the genie back into the bottle.

The assumption that if the aliens interfere with the runabout's communication, it must interfere with their short range sensors. They would probably have, just for backup and such in a situation like this, optical sensors.
And if the runabout's short range sensor's are useless, how do they beam to the other runabout? Clearly you must be able to direct the transporter beam somewhere.

The forged surveillance video has an Earth-like timecode, a.k.a. 15:38 was afternoon. And it has a spectral analysis attached. Sure.
But I really like the gag at the end, the sort of lamp-shading of the ridiculousness of the "Miles doesn't drink coffee late in the day" - "Okay then, let's go!"


Still, despite all it's flaws, I like the episode.
It's just that it would have been able to execute without all this nonsense.

There's a number of dilemmas induced by the setup:
- the impossible purging of dangerous knowledge
- the burden of creating doomsday devices and then having to get rid of them
- the destruction said devices bring upon a civilization - was completely ignored
- the risking of interplanetary warfare by killing outsiders for internal reasons

Not of them were explored.
The episode is basically just Bashir and O'Brien bonding in a dangerous situation.

My suspicion is that the writers had the idea for a grant, true Sci-Fi story about the dilemmas I mentioned, but couldn't make an episode about. So they decided to just recycle the idea as a cheap setup for a Locked In A Room kind of episode.

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