Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"To the Death"


Air date: 5/13/1996
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"There will be a joint briefing session at 1900 hours..."
"...followed by a get-to-know-you buffet at 1930."

— Sisko and O'Brien, on the temporary alliance between the Defiant crew and the Jem'Hadar

Nutshell: Interesting, with some genuinely good moments, but the "big action" ending proves utterly inconsequential.

"To the Death" is a show that proves quite intense and absorbing in its premise for a majority of the episode, but then the creators drop the ball with a painfully routine conclusion based solely on mindless action scenes that don't have any real consequences.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The Defiant returns from defending a Bajoran colony to find DS9 damaged and with some reasonably heavy casualties. The damage is significant: Sisko calls his crew to the bridge of the Defiant to "have a look" at DS9—part of one of its upper pylons has been destroyed. By destroyed, I mean gone—kind of like an arm severed at the elbow. It's quite a surprising sight, and when Sisko finds out the Jem'Hadar are responsible, he orders an immediate re-departure of the Defiant to hunt down the attackers.

By this point, the episode had my attention. At last, we were going to have a Jem'Hadar show that would have impact on the series.

In the Gamma Quadrant, the Defiant comes across a damaged Jem'Hadar fighter floating dead in space. Sisko beams the crew aboard (under heavy security, of course). The Jem'Hadar are led by a soldier named Omet'iklan (Clarence Williams III), but they also have to obey a Vorta official named Weyoun (Jeffrey Combs) who controls their supply of white, the addictive drug that keeps the Jem'Hadar on a short leash by the rest of the Dominion.

Weyoun informs Sisko that both DS9 and the damaged Jem'Hadar fighter were victims of a group of renegade Jem'Hadar soldiers who are working on a transporter device that could make them invincible if they complete it. Weyoun believes that if they complete the "gateway," they will recruit other Jem'Hadar squadrons and could possibly take over the entire Dominion within a year. After that, there would be little to stop them; even collapsing the wormhole would not protect the Alpha Quadrant from the gateway's reach. There's no time to waste—Sisko and his crew must ally themselves with the Jem'Hadar squadron in a battle effort to stop the renegades themselves.

This is quite interesting. The threatening nature of the Dominion is intimidating enough, but the idea that the Dominion is not as stable as the Founders would like it to appear—that the Jem'Hadar could take it over under the right circumstances—is not something to be taken lightly. Also, I very much appreciated the creators' notion of bringing back Iconian technology—something from way back in TNG's second season episode, "Contagion." I found the Iconians interesting then, and the way "To the Death" reintroduces their technology into DS9 lore as part of a Jem'Hadar threat is something that really sparked my attention.

With this as a starting point, the remainder of the show mostly focuses on the pressure cooker that the Defiant becomes en route to the target due to the clash between Starfleet officers and Jem'Hadar fighters. Part of this clash is caused by the different methodologies. The Jem'Hadar are extremely hard-core soldiers, and they place very little value on their own lives. Only victory is important. They see the Federation as weak and effete because they place too much value on life, and not enough value on winning the battle.

Then there's the hatred factor. Have no doubts—Sisko's crew and the Jem'Hadar squadron do not like or trust each other, and they don't put much effort into hiding it. The "enemies turned allies" angle my not be particularly new, but "To the Death" handles this part of the show with reasonable success. The brawls between short fuses Worf and Toman'torax (Brian Thompson) certainly work well. There's also a humorous and intriguing scene between Dax and Virak'kara (Scott Haven) that proves just how emotionally impenetrable a race of all-male 24-hour soldiers who don't eat or sleep can be—yet the scene still manages to give Virak'kara personality. Through all of this is Sisko, whose commanding authority keeps the balance over a delicate situation of perpetual mistrust.

There are some good performances here, particularly from Avery Brooks and Colm Meaney. But, surprisingly, Clarence Williams III is somewhat disappointing. True, he's limited to the low-key responses of a Jem'Hadar role, but his line delivery is generally annoying; there are entirely too many unnecessary pauses between his phrases. Part of this may be due to Burton's direction—while he handles some of the show marvelously, he doesn't seem to have Williams III under control. This is too bad—I've seen Williams III deliver energetic performances in films like Deep Cover and Against the Wall. Here he just seems too restrained. (On another director's note, I didn't think the use of extreme close-up in the Odo/Weyoun scene worked very well at all. The entire scene felt redundant in any case—I find it difficult to believe that the Founders still want their rogue Changeling to come home, but that's another story.)

Despite this effective set up, the episode does nothing much with it—nothing, at least, that has any real lasting impact. The final act of the show is one of those rushed, "big-scale" action scenarios where the heroes get into stylized physical fights with the villains. I didn't find this conclusion very interesting because almost every element of it was routine. The Defiant crew beams down only to find out that their phasers don't work for contrived reasons: the gateway is generating a dampening field (darn, I hate it when that happens).

Consequently, the battle becomes a hand to hand affair with deadly blades. We've seen this done before—and better (e.g. "Way of the Warrior"). The sound effects are nicely done, and the stunts are okay, but there's no real creativity here in terms of story or action. Jay Chattaway's adventure score is completely typical of him—uninspiring except for perhaps one or two brief instances. The whole battle feels like a predetermined exercise, unlike "Way of the Warrior" which effectively produced an increased pulse rate. Sure, Sisko loses a few men—but, naturally, they're all expendable characters in gold uniforms who we've never seen before. And the destruction of the gateway strikes me as particularly underwhelming.

What's most troubling is that none of this really matters. Even Omet'iklan's threat of killing Sisko after the battle becomes a non-issue because of the all-too-obvious ending. (Omet'iklan's dialogue to Sisko, "There's been enough killing for one day, but next time we meet, we'll be enemies," is so recycled and familiar that it falls flat.) Omet'iklan's phasering of Weyoun for questioning his squadron's loyalty isn't particularly shocking either. Omet'iklan vows to stay behind on the planet and wipe out the remaining renegades. Ho-hum, the series' status quo remains painfully intact. None of this will have political ramifications in future shows, and that's depressing.

I also didn't care for the way the episode ended so abruptly. It literally ends within seconds of fight's end—taking no time for considering future consequences of the Iconian rediscovery.

It's really too bad this show is ultimately pointless. It had so much potential—the characters, the backstory, the premise, the interaction—and it chose to do nothing with the ingredients except bake up some routine, brainless fight scenes. The Dominion will not remain interesting or intimidating if the writers shove all consequences under the carpet every time they choose to use them for a story. Here's hoping the season finale (again centered around the Dominion I'm to understand) will mean something to the series.

Previous episode: For the Cause
Next episode: The Quickening

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50 comments on this review

Mon, Jan 26, 2009, 2:42pm (UTC -5)
If I remember correctly, the big fight scene at the end was the ultimate point of the episode - the point on which the rest of it was built. All the stuff on the way there was intended as stuff just to do while we got there. That it turned out better than the fight scene is one of script-writing's big ironies - last-minute stuff often comes out better than long-laid plans.
Dimitris Kiminas
Wed, May 27, 2009, 12:08pm (UTC -5)
In the review Jamahl complains that the entire Odo/Weyoun scene felt redundant. He thought it was difficult to believe that the Founders still wanted their rogue Changeling to come home... And he couldn't be more right!

At the time he couldn't have known, but something very important happened in this scene: Weyoun touched Odo and infected him with the virus that will force him to return to the Founders' homeworld after two episodes to face judgement.

Jammer understood there was something fishy going on, only he couldn't understand what! Talk about reviewer's intuition!!!
Sat, Jul 11, 2009, 2:32pm (UTC -5)
This is one of my favorite episodes. Yes, the fight at the end is a weak point, but it handles the tension between the two parties so well and is so well-paced that it makes for a very intense hour in my opinion, and fleshing out the jem'hadar is always appreciated.
Sun, Nov 15, 2009, 2:22pm (UTC -5)
This is becoming DS9's worst cliché: a Starfleet crew trains for two days and is able to defeat dozens of gentically armed soldiers, and only unknown crewmen die! I head the fight was edited by the censors for violence, but even in the edited version it's just too unbelievable that they succeed in their mission so easily with so few casualties.
I agree the ending was way too abrupt - there was no tag (a common disappointment of mine with DS9). Tags are important, they allow the characters to address the emotional impact of the events that have unfolded over the course of the episode.
Thu, Feb 18, 2010, 7:41pm (UTC -5)
Even though the fact the fighting scenes were censored could be a fair excuses, the episode maybe should have cut those out altogether. It may have been refreshing (I don't think I've ever seen a ground combat in Star Trek that was interesting) and would have allowed to put proper focus on the part that was interesting. Show some more insights into the Dominion and some more development on how Federation officers and Jem'Hadar contrast and interact.
Mon, Jun 14, 2010, 6:48pm (UTC -5)
Another comment for those who are always complain that Voyager's damage is fixed by the next episode: here Ds9 loses an ENTIRE PYLON and it's magically rebuilt by the next episode!
Sun, Dec 26, 2010, 12:21am (UTC -5)
And rebuilt in the same Cardassian architectural style no less.
Sun, Feb 6, 2011, 12:28am (UTC -5)
I love the rarely mentioned little scene in "To the Death" where Weyoun offers to make Sisko absolute ruler of the Federation, only to be declined. To me it was laying out Dukat's mid-Season 5 betrayal all the way a season early. Looking back, it lets you imagine the beginning of the Cardassia-Dominion alliance right there, as Weyoun would (successfully) play on Dukat's vanity to make him betray his people. It's right up there with introducing The Dominion in "Rules of Acquisition" in terms of using a throw away episode to plant a huge concept out there.
Fri, Feb 18, 2011, 5:31am (UTC -5)
This is a couple years old, but Dimitrius is way off the mark. Weyoun didn't infect Odo with the virus, Section 31 did.
Mon, Feb 21, 2011, 1:42pm (UTC -5)
Travis, you missed what he was saying.

The virus is the one that affected Odo a few episodes later in "Broken Link," forcing him to return to his people.

Then, when he did so, the S31 virus infected the Great Link.

The teleplay for "To the Death" specifically mentions Weyoun touching Odo's shoulder giving him a virus that would come into play in the season finale.
Mon, Feb 21, 2011, 11:40pm (UTC -5)
Interesting. I stand corrected then. I didn't even consider Weyoun got him sick in order for him to stand trial. I'll have to watch that again.
Mon, Mar 19, 2012, 2:19pm (UTC -5)
Despite its somewhat glaring faults this episode qualifies as both essential DS9 viewing and a Trek Classic, IMO.

A few things in no particular order that I liked about this episode:

The link to the TNG episode "Contagion" which introduced the idea of the ancient Iconian civilization and the Gateways.

Weyoun was all ready to school Sisko on interstellar ancient history and ended up being surprised that Sisko knew as much about the Iconians as he did. Subtly and well acted by Jeffrey Combs.

The fact that both the Dominion and Federation are in complete agreement that the gateway should be destroyed. It shows that the Founders are not fools even if they are overly paranoid.

Worf's mention of his involvement on the mission to the Iconian home world and how he didn't regret the decision to destroy the gateway. What he didn't mention is that he was ordered by Captain Piecard to destroy the tricorder he had used to scan the gateway. As I recall he grudgingly obeyed that order.

The introduction of the character of Weyoun. He wasn't intended to be a recurring character, but they liked Combs so much that they retconned Weyoun to be a clone. A running gag was also unknowingly begun as this was the first of 5 Weyoun clones to be killed.

Jeffrey Combs' portrayal as Weyoun being openly impatient with the Jem'Hadar ritual involving The White and the First's "I am dead" speech was absolutely hilarious.

Weyoun infects Odo with the virus that forced him to return to the Great Link. It is not played out on screen, but it *is* written in the script. Since Odo was indeed infected by the Founders I accept that as canon.
Sat, Dec 1, 2012, 6:05pm (UTC -5)
If that little glass the replicator produced is an "extra large" prune juice...then a small must come in a shotglass...
Thu, Aug 22, 2013, 5:15pm (UTC -5)
This episode did have some things that resounded well throughout the rest of the series. The
"Ceremony of the White", the Jem'Hadar dead speech, Weyoun, and (to me) the beginning of the intensifying of the Dominion War arc.

@Jack: I saw that tiny prune juice glass as well - I guess the propmaster couldn't figure out what a 7-11 "Big Gulp" 64-oz drive-thru cup would look like in the 24th Century.
Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 6:14pm (UTC -5)

A solid episode, although the premise of the federation working so closely with the Jem Hadar in a joint operation is a bit far-fetched.

Mon, Nov 4, 2013, 4:31pm (UTC -5)
I agree entirely - the whole episode is very well set up/constructed, acted and overall well executed, that I can forgive its somewhat rushed and slightly underwhelming conclusion.
Thu, Feb 20, 2014, 3:10am (UTC -5)
Not a perfect episode, but a very important one for the future of the series. The Jem'Hadar are used much better than the Klingons and I always learn something about them when they appear. Weyoun is very un-likable.
Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 4:01am (UTC -5)
If you're going to delve into a subject with as much mystery and potential significance as the Iconians, it would be conducive to good drama in doing something other than what was portrayed here. By all means, renegade Jem'Hadar plus the gateways equals success on paper. It makes sense that one would eventually be found and it ended up being by them. This just did not work for me the way it was made.

I also realize that I'm faulting the episode for not doing what I want it to do instead of analyzing how it works on its own terms. In that regard, despite the rushed and uninspired ending, their was a good episode here in most of the early acts. Anything that I would add, though, would be redundant to Jammers review to the point of plagiarism in this case. :p

So, yes, as a fan of the Iconian storyline and my longtime wish to see what new stuff the writers could come up with; I was left very disappointed here. As a DS9 episode involving Starfleet/Jem'Hadar teaming up, it was pretty good til the last couple acts. Ultimately it doesn't quite hold up to what I've seen in season 4 though.

Agreed. 2.5 stars.
Thu, Mar 13, 2014, 12:42pm (UTC -5)
I did not understand the basic set-up, and spent the whole episode trying to make sense of it.

Renegade Jem-Hadar are about to gain control of an Iconian gateway on a Dominion world. The Founders respond by sending a single fighting ship with a mere 6 JH warriors aboard - not to the gateway which needs destroying, but towards the wormhole, in pursuit of the renegades. When the renegades disable the single ship sent after them, well, that's all she wrote! No one else in the entire massive Dominion army is available to stop them from taking over the universe. Good thing the Defiant moseyed along at the right moment.

So: I gather that the Founders and the Vorta are not military geniuses.

Also, was there ever a line explaining how the renegades will live without White? Maybe I missed it while pondering the other stuff.

I feel cheated because i would have liked the ep a lot, had the premise made more sense. Or any sense.
Shawn Davis
Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 4:25am (UTC -5)
It was great from the begining where the Renegade Jem'hadar attacked the station, Sisko and the crew goes to the gamma quadrant to find these group, then then join forces with the Jem'hadar and the Vorta Weyoun to stop the other renegade Jem'Hadar forces. I agree with the review about them bringing back the Iconian gateway from way back in season 2 of ST:TNG and I like the attitudes of the both the Jem'hadar and the starfleet personnel (the way that they don't hide how they feel about each other, especially Worf and one Jem'hadar constantly getting into a physical attack with each other). Of course I agree with the review and everyone else here that the violence towards the ending was a bit rushed (why didn't starfleet and use the sensors on the Defiant to detect the field that is preventing them from using their phasers). I give this episode at least 3 stars.

Also even though I responding to someone's message from years ago. To Nic: Although I agree that it's bit strange for the upper pylon to be repaired quickly like that without any explanation in the next episode, I believe that the crew of DS9 are capable of repairing it like that because they are in the area where starfleet and cardassia are and they can use their materials and other resources to repair the upper pylon quickly.

The main reason that I don't think that it makes sense for Voyager to be repaired so quickly by the next episode like that when they sustain damage from an alien attack is because they are in the Delta Quadrant about 75000 light years from Starfleet and they can gain access to materials and other resorces that easily to repair Voyager. Sure they could get some help from friendly aliens like the Talaxians, but some resorces and materials from the aliens of the Delta Quadrant may not easily compatible with the Starship Voyager.
Thu, Jul 31, 2014, 8:52am (UTC -5)
I'll part with Jammer on this one too.

Outstanding episode for many reasons.

Toraya believes the Founders/Vorta aren't military geniuses, I believe something is being missed in this episode. This was a secret mission for two reasons:

#1. They wanted to keep information about the portal as secret as possible.

#2. They wanted to keep information about dissenting Jem'Hadar as secret as possible.

This was a surgical rapid response strike team. Now had it not worked, other methods would have been employed.

About repairs... this is about as major a repair effort as we could see on DS9. Voyager repairing themselves is more believable than the herculean effort it would have taken to repair this upper pylon THAT IS MISSING. That said it happens all the time in both series so it just a matter of acceptance that we know that repairs can be made quickly in the 24th century. I forget, did the Enterprise D have to pull in for repairs after the Borg took a chunk out of her?

Now, back to the important stuff.

Contrary to Jammer I thought Omet’iklan was expertly played by Clarence Williams III. Wow, never once did I believe he was acting “tough” or as we’ve seen many times when someone is trying to ‘act Klingon’ over exaggerated. He portrayed the life blood of the Jem’Hadar perfectly. Loyalty and obedience. There was no question why he was the #1. BRAVO!! His exchanges with Sisko were tremendous. (and well written)

Sisko also was impressive in dealing with this situation and the Jem’Hadar. This was a battle of wills and he didn’t flinch. I had no problem with either party agreeing to join forces in this one. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” applies here perfectly.

We are introduced to Weyoun. I remember this part was not supposed to be a reoccurring one, but Combs was so damn good they had to invent cloning to bring him back. I agree, what an outstanding DS9 character and Mr. Combs continues to bring all his characters to life. A truly great asset to Trek. Until I read this review and comments, I was not aware that Weyoun infected Odo. Wow, now that makes sense and unveils the reason for the teary-eyed interaction between Odo and Weyoun where Weyoun was trying to get Odo to come home. Weyoun was infecting his god! Well done.

I also enjoyed the interaction between Jadzia and Virak’kara. “I stopped counting at 300” :-)

I too thought the scene where Weyoun handed out the white was hilarious.

Yes, we lost some redshirts in the fight. Since when is that a problem? They had a plan and executed it well under tough circumstances. Especially when they found out their phasers didn’t work because of the gateway. How was this episode supposed to end? …. Where the Jem’Hadar suppoed to go down there and bond with the renegades? No problem with a fight to meet their objective. Sisko also made a pretty significant point to the #1 when he took an injury protecting him in battle.

“OMET'IKLAN: I threatened to kill you, but you were still willing to sacrifice yourself to save my life.
SISKO: Looks that way.
SISKO: If you have to ask, you'll never understand.”

The same goes for the methods of discipline I’m sure. Respect was earned by Sisko here. Just because your enemies does not mean warring parties can’t and don’t respect one another. Omet’iklan expressed this by stating there had been enough killing here today sparing Sisko and his men, but he also reinforced the fact that loyalty and obedience is paramount for them as he vowed to kill every last dissenting Jem’Hadar on the planet and that he killed Weyoun for questioning his loyalty.

This is a great episode that reveals what exactly makes the Dominion tic and a great baseline for just how formidable an enemy the Jem’Hadar are. It also set the stage for a later episode where Worf is imprisoned and fights the Jem’Hadar in the ring.

Here is why I can’t give this episode a 4.0

#1. Where are the dissenting Jem’Hadar getting their white?

#2. How will taking this white that Weyoun had be of any help? They can’t access the container; if they could I’m certain there would be a bunch of dead Vorta in the Dominion :-)

3.5 stars for me.

Wed, Sep 3, 2014, 12:06am (UTC -5)
This episode was very well done -- right up to the actual assault on the base, which was laughably executed. I don't recall the details of the TNG Iconian episode, but did it dampen their phasers then too? Regardless, the broad daylight mad rush with Jem'Hadar swords was a poor choice for a climax and plays like the writer had pre-knowledge of an FX budget limit. I don't know whether phaser battles or choreographed fights are more cost intensive, or even if it works like that, but I do know the whole affair felt anti-climactic and silly.

A lot of my criticisms have already been stated in this thread, but I have one I'd like to add: Sisko taking a wound to protect the Jem'Hadar First and the exchange that followed. Did they have mere minutes to wrap up shooting or something? Talk about stilted and perfunctory.

3 1/2 stars had the climax at all lived up to the tension that preceded it. Instead, a disappointing 2 1/2.
Sun, Nov 9, 2014, 10:26pm (UTC -5)
In the fight scene at the end when the crew and the allied Jem Hadar were conversing durign the battle was absurd. WHen Jadzia delivering bat'leth blows while saying "you'll make honored... ...elder... ...yet" my eyes were rolling out of my skull.
Mon, Nov 10, 2014, 9:12am (UTC -5)
I actually thought Jadzia's unlikely friendship with the other Jem'Hadar was a real bright point in the episode... probably my favorite thing that wasn't the introduction of Weyoun.
Fri, Feb 13, 2015, 4:38am (UTC -5)
I have a question, wasn't the gateway introduced in TOS? When Bones and Spock were supposedly stranded in the cold wasteland with Marriette Hartley, didn't they go through the Gateway. Now I know they didn't say anything about the Iconians, but wasn't it the gateway?

I also wandered, why no one but Worf disputed the Jem'Hardar when they professed how they were sure they could beat the crew. I know this was put in their genetic makeup, but the Jem'Hadar can die like anybody else and I noticed that he couldn't beat Worf.
Sat, Sep 12, 2015, 7:36pm (UTC -5)
When Worf tells Sisko that 'if the Jem Hadar kills Sisko then that Jem Hadar will not live to boast about it' I cracked up
great episode
Tue, Oct 6, 2015, 7:23pm (UTC -5)
For being purpose-bred and single-minded, spending every waking hour training or fighting, the Jem Hadar sure make shitty warriors. No wonder none of them makes it to 30. Though you gotta wonder how many die in an act of discipline.
Wed, Oct 7, 2015, 6:04am (UTC -5)
@Darnell - For what it's worth they are nearly born as teenagers. So 30 would be closer to 45 (assuming their accelerated aging completely stops at teen). How many 50 year olds with a billion war wounds can still hack it in battle?
William B
Sun, Dec 6, 2015, 3:53pm (UTC -5)
First off, I really like Elihawk's (very spoilery!) point above, which I hadn't thought about but makes total sense. I did think of the (slightly less but still spoilery) point bigpale made above. The episode's biggest asset, by a large margin, is Jeffrey Combs' performance as Weyoun; it is not a surprise that DS9 kept bringing Combs back, and Weyoun is overall a better-realized character than Brunt (though Brunt's weaknesses as a character are not Combs' fault). Weyoun shifts from scene to scene and moment to moment as erudite, pompous, cowardly, slippery, embarrassed, deferential, arrogant, condescending...the full gamut here, in what is essentially the perfect portrayal of a high-ranking functionary perfectly content with his position as being better than almost everyone he interacts with and several steps down from the next people up on the chain of command (who are his gods). I love Weyoun's disappointment that Sisko knew about the Iconians; I love his frustration and boredom while going through the Jem'Hadar rituals; I love his constant condescension to Sisko et al., which he also drops at times when he realizes that Sisko et al. are people who can be receptive to his asides about how dull and ridiculous the Jem'Hadar are. Within the episode proper, Weyoun seems to be the analogue of an upper bourgeoisie officer who makes no effort to hide his contempt for the infantrymen he commands, until eventually he gets himself fragged. And as well as being entertaining in and of himself, his inability to recognize the value in the Jem'Hadar rituals helps provide the contrast necessary to make Starfleet officers' gradual coming to respect the Jem'Hadar pop.

In general, the episode is "about" the gradual understanding and reluctant admiration formed between the Starfleet and Jem'Hadar crews, along with an expose of the difference between the Starfleet Way and the Jem'Hadar Way, with Weyoun as, oddly, the insider who is ostensibly the Jem'Hadar's boss but lacks the qualities that allow the Starfleet/Jem'Hadar bond to form. And aspects of it are done well; while I didn't enjoy him as much as Weyoun, I thought that Omet'iklan was generally fine, and the insight into Jem'Hadar rituals had its moments. I like, for example, the "I am dead, we are all dead" idea as a way of selling victory as a necessary condition to continue living. There is also something uncomfortably hilarious about Sisko's "'re confined to quarters for the rest of this mission when you're not at your job" discipline to Worf after Omet'iklan snaps his second's neck. That there are advantages both to the Jem'Hadar's total discipline uber alles and the Starfleet crew's desire to live is somewhat well presented. Still, the thing is, the Jem'Hadar's monomania about victory is not all that interesting for me as a viewer, and while I thought the Jem'Hadar here were presented somewhat well, there is only so much time I really want to spend with them.

More than that, though, I also largely felt that the portrayal of the main cast was often off. I get that Worf is A Klingon! and all, but his inability to restrain himself from attacking Jem'Hadar for insulting him, and his inability to restrain himself from attacking the Second when he put his hand on O'Brien's shoulder, make him look genuinely foolish. I feel like Worf really does largely seem more able to control his anger than he is here, even if he obviously *gets angry* easily. (The episode began this uncomfortably early, where Worf insists on having one seat permanently and does not brook other people sitting in it.) If Worf really cannot *not* get into fights to the death with guests who insult his honour, he absolutely should be off the command track immediately. It's not like we're talking about Duras killing K'Ehleyr here. It seems to me that the tone that the crewmembers take regarding Weyoun and the Jem'Hadar is all off as well; they joke around about whether Odo could make Weyoun stand on his head, ha ha, and about how it's stupid that Jem'Hadar don't have women, ha ha, in a way that seems weirdly immature but, more to the point, is skipping over the central reality that the Vorta and the Jem'Hadar were horrifically genetically engineered to have free will removed and the pleasures in life taken away from them. I get that they cannot exactly spend every moment contemplating the horror of the Vorta/Jem'Hadar existence, and I don't expect them to be super friendly with the Jem'Hadar, but their reaction feels very much like they see the Vorta and Jem'Hadar as having stupid cultural practices that they feel smugly superior to, as opposed to seeing the Vorta and the Jem'Hadar as both extremely dangerous (duh) and also slave races engineered by a species of evil mad scientist totalitarians. Not to mention the weird way O'Brien and Jadzia start laughing about how it's great to have women at parties, and shut Worf down when he says that Klingon women are valued for more than just sex, which is just weird all over.

Which brings us to the plot reason why these teams are working together at all, which is that rogue Jem'Hadar have the Iconian Gateway and might be UNSTOPPABLE!!! There is something weird in the way with all the focus on the Jem'Hadar on the Defiant, the idea of a cadre of Jem'Hadar going rogue, breaking from their programmed-in loyalty, and maybe even trying to lead a revolution against the Dominion is basically skipped over. "Hippocratic Oath" took seriously Goran'agar's desire to free himself from slavery and Bashir's desire to help him, and it also took seriously O'Brien's concern that a bunch of perfect soldiers off their leashes may be even more dangerous than perfect soldiers kept in line. This episode, I guess, uses the attack on DS9 as a way of establishing that Jem'Hadar who are able to break their programming and try to break from the Dominion are SUPER EVIL and must be killed, to the point where Omet'iklan's declaration that he and his are going to hunt the rogue Jem'Hadar down for their disloyalty mostly goes uncommented on. Under normal circumstances, shouldn't Sisko et al. actually want to know how and why these Jem'Hadar rebelled, and not just trust Weyoun's assertion that they MUST BE STOPPED? While I accept that the Iconian Gateway is bad news in their hands, and it certainly reflects badly on this set of Jem'Hadar that they attacked DS9 to steal supplies, it is by no means clear to me that they are unambiguously a worse force overall than the Dominion, and it does not seem to occur to anyone to question why this Jem'Hadar rebellion is happening or what it means. Even from the perspective of Omet'iklan, I am not even really sure why Jem'Hadar starting their own Iconian Gateway project is any *more* of a fundamental betrayal of the chain of command than shooting one's commanding Vorta; what if the Jem'Hadar just got fed up with their Vorta, and maybe a whole command network, too, but are really doing the Founders' work from their perspective just as Omet'iklan is?

And I absolutely agree that the relatively bloodless final battle totally undermines all the episode's overblown setup; the idea that the crew could go up against huge numbers of armed Jem'Hadar *unarmed* (since their weapons beam away), who have an installation of their own, is ridiculous. I'm not personally too worried about the specifics of how plausible battle results are normally, but having a whole episode setting up for an uphill, incredible-high-stakes battle only for it to just be won by everyone managing to out-fight armed Jem'Hadar by punching, and for the Jem'Hadar forces in the compound to go from hundreds to like five or something, is really silly.

2 stars for Weyoun and some of the crew/Jem'Hadar interactions. I also like Quark's concern for Rom at the opening.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Jan 3, 2016, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
A fairly well-trodden path of opposite factions uniting for a common goal with all the attendant problems that go along with it.

There are some really nice scenes in here and some sparkling dialogue, but really this adds up to less than perhaps was possible and turns into a fairly standard actioner that rather nakedly decides to have a sword fight at the end for shits and giggles. While it adds to the picture of the Jem'Hadar and Vorta - suggesting that the Dominion is not as monolithic as might otherwise be thought - it doesn't really have a consequence. Shame. 2 stars.
Peter G.
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 3:27pm (UTC -5)
Let me try to solve for some of you (Jammer included) some of the strange elements to this episode. Here is a short list of things that don't entirely make sense or might appear to be shortcomings in the writing:

1) How do the renegade Jem'Hadar live without the white?

2) Why does the Dominion rely on Starfleet to solve a problem that could end the entire Dominion? Surely the possible 'infecting' of other Jem'Hadar with hopes of freedom is trivial compared to making sure the gateway is destroyed.

3) Why is the final battle seemingly almost anti-climactic and offering no real resolution offered to what we'd seen?

4) How do we square what Weyoun says about the control of the Jem'Hadar being overrated with what we hear from the Jem'Hadar themselves that they live to serve the founders, to the point where they'd kill their own Vorta for doubting them? Is one of them wrong? Are all Jem'Hadar not the equally controlled, despite being grown in a lab? This question also plays back into question (1).

5) Why is Worf's extra large prune juice so small?

Let's go through the basic facts to get at these questions.

-Fact: Weyoun really wanted to speak to Odo about the Founders wanting Odo back. And yet two episodes later we learn that Weyoun really infected Odo and that in fact the Founders wanted him punished.

-Fact: To accomplish this, Weyoun was chosen to infect Odo with a virus (I am taking this as a given fact, even though the episode wisely does not disclose it).

-Fact: The Jem'Hadar cannot live without the white, and apparently cannot even open the box containing the white without a Vorta.

-Fact: Weyoun and the surviving Jem'Hadar were found by Sisko adrift in a ship apparently damaged by the renegade Jem'Hadar, and if that ship had been destroyed Odo would never have been infected at all. Why entrust the virus for Odo to a Vorta on a ship being sent on a very dangerous search and destroy mission?

As I see it there is only one way to square all of these facts. There were never any renegade Jem'Hadar in the first place. The Founders ordered the Jem'Hadar to raid DS9, conveniently timed for when Sisko and Odo would be absent so there was no chance of their being killed in the attack. Knowing Sisko's profile they would know he'd personally lead a counterattack with the Defiant, and that Odo would accompany. A damaged ship was arranged to be 'chanced upon', providing the only plausible excuse to have Weyoun be in close proximity to both Odo and Sisko for an extended period of time. The mission to destroy the gateway was merely a ruse for Weyoun to carry out his mission, and perhaps for the Jem'Hadar to study Starfleet methods up close and first-hand, including getting to use Starfleet weapons. I also rather expect that Omet'iklan was ordered by the Founders to kill Weyoun after the mission's completion in order to remove the only witness to Odo's infection. The Founders would certainly not tolerate either Vorta or Jem'Hadar knowing that the Changelings have weaknesses such as to a virus and that it is sometimes permissible to infect or kill them.

Thus the mystery of how the renegade Jem'Hadar lived without the white is solved: they didn't. The mystery of why the ending feels off is explained: the mission itself was a red herring and was not meant to be a momentous win for the Federation; on the contrary, it was a defeat of sorts. The Founders only sent one ship to deal with the 'renegades' precisely because their alliance with Sisko was a set-up. The inconsistency about how loyal the Jem'Hadar really are is also solved: they are loyal, and Weyoun was lying. There never were any disloyal Jem'Hadar, but it serves the Founders for the Federation to think of them as 'people' who may want their freedom. We could see already how much this way of thinking weakened Bashir when he tried to help the Jem'Hadar overcome their addiction. Finally, there is no explanation for why Worf's prune juice was so small! For this reason I'll dock the episode a half-star and give it 3.5/4.

Bonus corollary: If the mission was a set-up and the Founders were in control the whole time, then why would they ever sacrifice an Iconian gateway, a weapon so powerful they could rule the galaxy with it? In fact, even apart from my conspiracy theory, why wouldn't the Founders have sent a fleet of ships to capture such a piece of outrageously strong technology? Answer: it never worked in the first place. All we know is that it was showing images of different places, but we never know that it actually worked. A simple holographic display could have shown the same images. I suggest that it didn't work and that the Founders knew they'd never be able to get it functional since they were either lacking Iconian parts or else it was just beyond them. Since Starfleet knew of the Iconians and how powerful the gateways were it would serve as the ultimate bait to lure in Sisko. It had to be something so crazy that Sisko would try to destroy it at all costs, and a defective gateway fit the bill nicely. The Founders at least got good use out of it this way. If you're not convinced yet, just consider how preposterous it is that a group of renegade Jem'Hadar could magically figure out how to fix the gateway with no instruction manual handy! We're talking about 200,000 year old tech way in advance of anything the Dominion had ever seen. I call BS; there's no way they could get such a thing up and running using spare parts scavenged from DS9.
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
@ Peter G.

If your analysis is correct (I can't decide whether or not I think it is), the Founders are extremely hypocritical. They're putting Odo into a firefight, infecting him with a deadly disease, and being completely ingenuous to him.

The problem with all that is, the Founders' basis for capturing Odo is that they want to judge him for harming another Changling. Aren't the Founders actively harming Odo? Weren't they at least partially if not fully culpable for putting Odo into a situation where he had no choice but to harm a Changling? That's just one weird thing about DS9; The Founders' motives are completely ridiculous.
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 3:48pm (UTC -5)
Sorry, the word I was looking for was disingenuous. Oh Jammer, I love your boards but I wish we had an edit feature.
Peter G.
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 6:21pm (UTC -5)
@ Chrome, (SPOILERS)

I think one thing consistent throughout the series is that the Founders are hypocritical, almost like wilful children. They talk a lot about being hunted, solids not trusting them, and needing to defend themselves, but in the end it sounds like rationalizing the fact that they are by nature controlling and bereft of what humans think of as morality. They care a lot about the link, but for all their caring about Changelings it seems they think of the link more as a collective than as communing individuals. When they do what's best for the link, I doubt they think of it as meaning they try to do what's best for each individual in it. Odo is very much an individual and at this point in the series I think they truly don't understand that one of them can think like this. This is indeed hypocritical since the first time we met them they claimed that shapeshifting is about becoming the thing for real, which ought to mean understanding it. But they exhibit very little understanding of humanoids (or even interest in understanding them) throughout the series other than how they strategize and how to defeat them. They can mimic a human but the individuality and the respect for others is alien to them. When they insist that no Changeling should ever harm another, I feel like there is a fascistic aspect to this whereby they also imply that no Changeling must ever go against the plans of the link. It's one thing for a child (like Odo) to be a bit naughty or stubborn; you wait for them to come around. But when a child does something truly insubordinate (like striking a parent) the ***t hits the fan and you come down hard on them.

You're completely right that they are the ones who basically forced Odo to kill a Changeling, and I'm sure they thought some combination of that he wouldn't actually turn on one of his own when it came down to it, along with the arrogant assumption that there was no way that Changeling could be stopped anyhow. Their disrespect for life seems to be tied inextricably to their sense of destiny and being superior along with unstoppable. I do kind of think that their choice to punish Odo here is something like a collective temper tantrum, since later on when they have time to think about it they realize how important he is to them. But I definitely don't put it past them to contrive a deceptive scenario to carry out their wish to punish Odo. One thing they seem never to care about is manipulating Odo or anyone else to get what they want. Whatever caring means to them, it's not the same as what it means to us.
Tue, Mar 1, 2016, 1:28pm (UTC -5)
After looking over the script of "Broken Link", I can't buy that Odo was infected in this episode. The Founders seem to know so many things that are going on at DS9 that surely some changling could've passed him the disease then.

There's also the fact that DS9 is not subtle when handling bad news, and if the writers wanted to link this episode to "Broken Link" (no pun intended), they would've given some sort of positive affirmation.

Now on to this episode itself. It's actually one of my favorites and I think Jammer was too hard on it. It's a cool idea introduced in this episode that the Jem'Hadar could be deadly to everyone including the Founders if they ran wild. I also liked the training scenes because it captures one of the best parts of DS9: unlike peoples getting past their hatreds to work hard for a common goal.

This is also a great episode in the franchise history because it introduces Weyoun, and is referenced in later classic episodes such as "Rocks and Shoals". One other small thing I like about this episode is that it gives Dax a chance to show off, and her humble friendship with the Jem'Hadar is touching in a its own way. One almost wonders if the writers wanted to go another way with the Dominion at one point in the series.

.3.5 - 4 stars. Will never skip this ep when rewatching the series.
Tue, Mar 1, 2016, 1:41pm (UTC -5)
Whoops, spoke to soon. After looking at this episode's script Weyoun did indeed infect Odo in this episode. I still don't agree that the rogue Jem'Hadar were all a ruse by the Founders (mainly because it guts this episode's plot). But also, we actually see Jem'Hadar going rogue and turning on Vorta in this very episode. None of that could've been planned by the Founders; it just doesn't add up.
Peter G.
Tue, Mar 1, 2016, 1:54pm (UTC -5)
@ Chrome,

In the straightforward reading of the episode two groups of Jem'Hadar go rogue, one group against the Founders and another against only their Vorta, while they insist they're loyal to the Founders. The makes either Weyoun's statement incorrect or else Omet'iklan's statement inaccurate. Either the Jem'Hadar are totally loyal, or they're not and Omet'iklan was only speaking for himself. I still see this as an inconsistency.

But more central to my theory is that it makes no sense at all for Weyoun to have been given the infection if his mission was a hunt-and-kill with terrible odds of success. Chances were that he'd never live to see Odo, to say nothing of the fact that Odo would never have even been involved had the station not been attacked. Recall that Weyoun's stated mission was to destroy the gateway, a mission he would have been given prior to the damage done to DS9. Had the Jem'Hadar failed to randomly attack the station Odo and Sisko would not have found the derelict ship, would likely would have gone down with all hands aboard. So much for the plan to infect Odo, huh? So it must have magically worked out with their ship being damaged *just enough* to require assistance from Starfleet, and Odo being present, and Sisko being intent on stopping the rogue JH, for Odo to have any chance of being infected. This would indeed make the Founders a bunch of blundering idiots, which I don't buy. Too many chance encounters, lucky breaks, coincidences, and opportunities for my taste. After all, why not just give the virus to a Vorta not assigned to what was basically a suicide mission?

Nothing adds up when seen at face value, hence my conclusion that it was a set up.
Peter G.
Tue, Mar 1, 2016, 2:01pm (UTC -5)
I'll just add that this wouldn't be the first time the Founders faked a scenario in order to manipulate Odo in some way. Remember Heart of Stone, where the entire event on the moon's surface was a ruse to have some time to trick Odo and get information out of him? Playing on trust in order to deceive seems like a standard Founder method, which may be why (SPOILER) Weyoun later describes the Romulans as "so predictably treacherous." It would indeed be predictable to them since the Founders are in a sense deceptive by their very nature.
Tue, Mar 1, 2016, 2:01pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

That's very true. However, your theory rests on the assumption that it was *solely* Weyoun's task to infect Odo when the Founders very likely sent out a general order to all Vorta/Changling infiltrators to infect Odo. The Dominion has spies working throughout the Alpha Quadrant at this point, so it's likely any one of them could succeed even if Weyoun failed.
Tue, Mar 1, 2016, 2:47pm (UTC -5)
Or let's put it another way. Couldn't Weyoun just have arranged for a meeting on DS9 under the false pretense he wanted to have peace talks (This happens in "In the Cards") and ask to see Odo and shake his hand?

That seems a lot simpler and safer than the gambit you're suggesting.
Peter G.
Tue, Mar 1, 2016, 3:28pm (UTC -5)
@ Chrome,

I don't think the Founders would have allowed multiple Vorta to know that they were willing to infect another Changeling. Not only would it contradict their claim that no Changeling harms another (making them sound like liars) but it would imply that a Changeling *may* be harmed if it's for a good reason, which would be an incredibly dangerous idea to plant among the Vorta. In their position I would limit exposure of such an idea to one Vorta and then eliminate him as soon as possible. The idea of deliberately doing hard to a Founder had to be maintained as absolute anathema to all Dominion servants.

As for why Weyoun couldn't come to the station, I think Weyoun wanted close quarters and privacy. A request for a peaceful meeting on the station would have been met with extreme caution on the part of Starfleet, especially since the Dominion had previously made it quite clear that the only peace would be through submission to the Dominion. If a peaceful meeting were to be arranged, I imagine Starfleet might even insist on sending ambassadors or even Admirals to conduct the negotiation, and certainly Sisko would never be alone in room with Weyoun, let alone Odo. Security would be everywhere. Weyoun would also likely be thoroughly scanned while beaming aboard for weapons and contaminants, which the virus might not pass. Contrast with an emergency beam-out prior to a ship exploding, where there's no time for careful decontamination procedures. The best they could afford was the basic biofilter and removing the Jem'Hadar weapons. Frankly the plan could have failed utterly if done on the station, and if scuttled could have also cemented the Federation as opponents to the Dominion.

At this point in time I feel like the Dominion is still testing the waters in the Alpha Quadrant to find who will make for the best alliance with them. As Elihawk above mentioned, I think Weyoun's question about making Sisko supreme ruler was not at all a joke but was quite serious. He expected Sisko would say no, but he wanted to gauge the exact reaction all the same. Also note that if the Dominion was still considering whether the Federation might be an ally for them, they'd want to know how Starfleet personnel work alongside Jem'Hadar. Think of it like a test run for a real alliance. I think both the interview with Sisko and the group training both showed that the Federation is a very poor fit for working alongside the Dominion. Even Worf serves as a quite good demonstration to them of how it would be utterly impossible to ever get Klingons to work with Jem'Hadar.
Tue, Mar 1, 2016, 3:33pm (UTC -5)
@ Peter G.
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 3:27pm (UTC -6)

Wow!! Bravo! That all makes sense!

Thank you so much. It makes perfect sense they put "Odo in harms way" because he was never really in harms way.

I'm gonna forgive the size of the prune juice and up my score to 4 stars! :-)
Tue, Mar 1, 2016, 3:55pm (UTC -5)
Hey, I can at least grant that the writer's left the subtext of this episode up to interpretation. Another reason to like this episode, anyway. :)
Wed, Mar 2, 2016, 9:35pm (UTC -5)
Wow, I like Peter G's hypothesis. Not saying I'm 100% in agreement with it, but it's a pretty impressive speculation. That said, I do disagree with your assessment that the Founders absolutely would not want it to leak out that they were deliberately infecting Odo. That belief of yours rests on three assumptions, and any one of which being incorrect breaks the premise that Weyoun's knowledge was too dangerous to let him live:

1) That the virus would have killed Odo. I confess that I don't remember Broken Link well enough to know if this was stated or not. But even if it was, it's possible Bashir would have been wrong on that account. The Founders still considered him a Changeling, and wanted to mete out his punishment themselves, not let him die without ever knowing why. Isn't it more likely that the virus just would have prevented him from solidifying, so that he would end up alive but perpetually stuck in a bucket until brought to the Founders? That seems more realistic of a virus to me.

2) That the Vorta would sense something wrong in a Founder vs Founder plot. The later Weyouns never had a problem with their devotion to the Founders despite seeing Odo in conflict with them. He was in adoration around Odo, but even so probably would not have disobeyed the female Changeling just to obey Odo. I'm sure he could adjust his religious adoration to accept that Odo was a god who had not entirely found his way yet. As such, he and the other Vorta would not have had a crisis of faith in order to trick Odo into returning to the Founders.

3) That the Vorta knew what the virus was. Why would the Founders explain their plan to the Vorta for an internal Founder affair? Just tell the Vorta that, if any of them get a chance to meet Odo, to touch them in such a way as to impart this divine blessing on him, which would miraculously lead to him returning to the Founders. And strict instructions not to tell anyone about it. Voila, no crisis of faith on the part of the Vorta, no fear that knowledge of harm towards the Founders could spread, no problem.

So there is still a possibility that there was a standing order to all the Vorta operating at or near the Alpha Quadrant to infect Odo when given the chance, and the Founders had no real timetable to when it would happen. After all, we know they are patient. They fully intended to exterminate the Cardassians (as the Founder told Garak), yet allied with them first. Who's to say they wouldn't wait years for the chance to infect Odo? Thus, I'd say there still is not enough compelling evidence that this episode's premise is not legit.

Peter G.
Thu, Mar 3, 2016, 9:59am (UTC -5)
@ Skeptical, (SPOILERS)

I'll do my best to address these points:

1) I agree that they didn't want Odo dead. We can't know the exact details of the virus, except that it did make him suffer. I think even the knowledge that a Founder can be made to suffer 'if they deserve it' would be unacceptable knowledge for the Vorta to have. It's my observation that the Founders are ridiculously paranoid and won't brook any possibility of upheaval. Maybe they think that by turning him human he'd realize how bad being a solid is and ask to come back. That is, after all, their endgame, no? As I see it they probably viewed his wanting to be among solids as feeling like one of them, so by showing him what that's like they could make him realize how wrong he was. So no, I don't think his death was the plan.

2) You anticipated the answer to this with (3).

3) You're right, the Founders would surely have lied about what it was. But as we know at least some of the Vorta are experts in genetics and the more of them that knew about it the higher the odds they'd figure out what it was. Then they'd not only know a god can be harmed but they'd also know the Founders lied to them about it. The Vorta are loyal but also shifty and as we saw from Weyoun's defection later on in the series they do not just mindlessly obey the Founders without thinking for themselves. They were designed to be conniving and suspicious and that's not the sort of group you want multiple members of to be in on a dangerous secret. Even Weyoun himself might have figured it out without assistance, but if they gave it to him right before a dangerous mission he wouldn't have had time to analyse it. Being killed right after transmission, there's no chance anyone would know what had happened. Also think about how dangerous it would be to have all of the Vorta running around with a virus harmful to the Founders! Until Odo was infected the Founders would have to keep a wide berth from the Vorta so as not to be infected themselves. Seems needlessly risky to me when making a plan to have just one Vorta deliver it would work well enough. If that failed they could also send one more, but having them all carry it...well, if I was paranoid I wouldn't like the sound of that very much.

For the Founders to be opposed to Odo is one thing; for a Vorta to infect a changeling is another. That would be a big difference to them. At this point in the series the Founders may still be hoping to avoid being on opposite sides of a war with Odo. With the stakes being at the level they currently are, infecting Odo is the most aggressive thing they’ve ever done to another changeling. I’d say they’d want to keep that secret. But it's still doing harm to a Changeling, and I guess it's just my opinion that it would be sacrilege for members of the Dominion to think that's ok.
Thu, Mar 3, 2016, 12:45pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

You keep bringing up this "Vorta upheaval" the Founders would fear, but nearly every single depiction of them indicates that they're blindly loyal to the Founders. The only counter-examples I can think of are "Faith, Treachery..." where the Vorta had a birth defect. You might also argue that "Rocks and Shoals" had a Vorta who cared more about himself than serving the founders. But even that Vorta probably felt he was serving the founders in his own way by preventing Jem'Hadar from going renegade.

And you might also remember that Vorta are willing to consider Odo a "lesser founder" in "Faith, Treachery..." and wouldn't question orders to punish him coming from the senior Founders.
Peter G.
Thu, Mar 3, 2016, 1:57pm (UTC -5)
@ Chrome,

I tend to agree that there may not have been a real upheaval if the Vorta learned of what happened, but when I argue this point I'm trying to see it from the viewpoint of paranoid Changelings who assume everyone is out to get them. They think with a long-term mentality; not years, but decades or centuries (as Jack points out). They have to worry about what a small thing now could produce far in the future.

Anyhow it's all just my speculation and I certainly can't claim to know any of this for sure. But thanks for the back and forth on it. :)
Tue, Apr 19, 2016, 10:05pm (UTC -5)
Ladies and gentlemen, Star Trek has a problem. An awfully big problem. On one hand it wants iconic, threatening villains that the heroes have to struggle against and who offer true challenge and menace. On the other hand it wants to humanize those villains so that we can better understand them, thereby leaving the door open for peaceful coexistence with them in the future. That is one truly difficult balancing act to pull off. It's a very noble goal, don't get me wrong, but a very tricky one. Sometimes it works - the Romulans, the Klingons, the Cardassians. Sometimes it doesn't. I'm not going to include the Ferengi in this because aside from Quark, Rom and Nog (and even then not all the time) they're consistently treated with contempt by the writers. I'm not even referring to what a lot people consider the de-fanging of the Borg on VOY. No, I'm looking squarely at Species 8472. They're quite possibly the most powerful "villain" race in the entire franchise, capable of not only fighting the entire Borg Collective to the brink of utter defeat but also of destroying entire planets (Death Star style) with only a handful of ships. They're the greatest threat the entire Milky Way Galaxy has ever encountered. And yet, they end up being won over by Chakotay's charm (HA!) and are led by a kindly, old curmudgeon who ends up giving Janeway a flower. Talk about destroying a villain!

That's the main problem with "To the Death". It's not a crippling problem this time, but it's there. The Jem'Hadar have been established as the series' preeminent threat, the Big Bad of Big Bads. And yet, this is the second time this season we've been asked to see them as more than the willing slaves they're meant to be. Still, that being said, it's better than "Hippocratic Oath" for one simple reason - it might be trying to humanize the Jem'Hadar somewhat, but it still sends a very strong message that cultural relativism simply does not work. The Dominion's culture is clearly inferior to the Federation's, with it's love of death, demands for abject loyalty, total control of everything in life and insistence that the needs of the group vastly outweigh the needs of the individual. The viewer is clearly asked to reject the Dominion's "culture" or society without question. It's very similar to how cultures interact here in the real world. We in the West obviously reject Sharia Law and prefer our own system of justice. Well, apparently expect in Europe, where many people seem to be of the opinion that if they just plug their ears and ignore the problem of radical Islamists, then everything will be fine and the problem with just go away. There's even one scene where O'Brien very publicly denounces the Jem'Hadar's battle preparations and insists that his way is better, which all the Starfleet people agree with. Let's get political here for a second. A lot of people have directly told me how they can't understand how I can be a Star Trek fan and be conservative when Trek is so fundamentally left-leaning. Well, I don't understand how leftist fans can watch an episode like this, agree with everything the heroes say and still have that attitude towards people like me.

The episode also has some nice world-building to offer - the re-introduction of the Vorta after a fairly lengthy absence, the introduction of the always enjoyable Weyoun, and a return of the Iconian Gateways (definitely an odd choice for continuity porn, but I'll take it). In fact, I wish Trek in general had much more little call-backs like this. But, of course, Jeffrey Combs is the real highlight of the episode. He is so good as Weyoun that the writers were later willing to completely retcon the entire concept of the Vorta just so he could come back. And he's got a firm grip on the character right from the start. There's no fumbling around trying to figure out just who the character is and what makes him tick, like with Damar (at first just a glorified goon) or Garak (with his odd, and fairly undefined, pan-sexuality in his first appearance).

Finally, while watching the episode this time around, something struck me that I've never considered before. Was this all a set-up? We know from later episodes that the Founders deliberately infected Odo with a virus that makes him return to the Great Link in order to face punishment for his actions in "The Adversary". The producers have also made it very clear that Weyoun infects him in this episode - in the scene where he asks Odo if he wants to return to the Link (it's a shame they shot it in close-ups as it means we don't see Weyoun touch Odo's shoulder, thereby infecting him). My question is this - did the Founders plan this whole thing? Did they have the rogue Jem'Hadar attack the station hoping it would lure the Defiant, and Odo, into the Gamma Quadrant so that Weyoun could slip him the virus? We know the extent the Founders will go to in order to carry out their plans. They sacrificed centuries of carefully laid Dominion security all for Odo's benefit in "The Search, Part II". They carried a truly elaborate plan to destroy the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order. I honestly think it's possible that the whole "renegade Jem'Hadar seize a Gateway so we need the Federation's help" was just a ruse, carefully orchestrated by the Changelings. Of course, we never get any confirmation of this in later episodes, but it does make a certain amount of sense.

Mon, Jul 4, 2016, 10:35am (UTC -5)
Seeing an episode like "To The Death" makes me seriously question the strategic thinking of the UFP:

1) They should have mined or gated the wormhole years ago (something like the Iris in Stargate SG-1 — by the way, Jammer, when are the SG-1 reviews coming?) Ostensibly DS9 is sitting next to the wormhole to guard it, but with only one little ship ("Little?!") there isn't much they can do to control, say, huge fleets of Cardassians, Romulans, or Dominion from passing through.

2) Is Starfleet really so busy cataloguing gaseous anomalies that it can't spare a few more ships of the line to be permanently deployed and docked at DS9? Like about 20 or so? Because the Klingons and the Cardies don't mind swinging by once in a while with immense fleets. DS9 is armed to the teeth now, but it can't maneuver worth a damn. To paraphrase Word, adopting a siege attitude is ultimately self-defeating.

3) It's a trap! @Luke, I strongly concur that this is a ruse. What else would it be? Why the hell would the renegade Jem'Hadar attack DS9 hours before they get the Iconian gateway back online?! If Weyoun wasn't in on it, the Founders surely set it all up. I also would not have taken the Defiant away from the station so quickly. It was decisive and bold, and Sisko was ultimately not wrong to abandon DS9, but it still strikes me as odd. "Good luck, Major! Hopefully some more starships arrive to help soon just in case."

Truly, given the strategic importance of DS9, there should be permanently deployed to the Bajoran sector the equivalent of a carrier battle group with a fleet admiral in command, not a junior O-6 who was a mere commander when stuff started hitting the fan a year ago.

Things I liked:
-Sisko gesturing the deadly phaser rifle at Weyoun; subtle threat!
-O'Brien's droll line, "Followed by a get to know you buffet at 1930," which I can tell you as a military officer rings true! Haha.

Nitpick: Dax calls it a "dampening field," but unless she means it disabled their weapons by getting them *wet*, she meant "damping field," like inertial dampers. "To damp" means "to inhibit."
Thu, Aug 11, 2016, 5:02pm (UTC -5) far as I'm concerned, on this mission, I'm the first -
Sisko to a Jem'Hadar

Sisko drop the mic moment! The man is the best captain ever!

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