Nutshell: Spectacular entertainment. An ambitious, all-out action outing that brings about new changes to the series and still manages to make a great deal of sense.
Deep Space Nine kicks off its fourth season with a terrific two-hour premiere—an ambitious movie outing that seems to want to reinvent the series yet again.
Face it. The Klingons returning to an adversarial position against the Federation. The addition of Worf to the cast. Threats of war. Major political changes. Big, bold action sequences. This is a lot of hoopla which makes for a great ratings ploy. All those TNG fans who have still yet to tune into DS9 (despite how good a series it is) may find themselves interested in how things in the Alpha Quadrant will play out.
The question I would have with "The Way of the Warrior" is can the producers pull all of this off successfully, and without alienating the "true," if you must, fans of Deep Space Nine? After viewing this episode, I'm pleased to report that the answer is an enthusiastic yes. "Way of the Warrior" is an exciting piece of work with a lot of stuff happening, and even if the series seems to be undergoing something of a metamorphosis, it's still true DS9.
With the Dominion making them paranoid, the Klingons send a fleet to DS9 where Sisko briefs them on Dominion activity. But the Klingons seem to have another reason to be here, and they aren't enlightening Sisko on that. This prompts the Captain to send for Starfleet's sole Klingon: Lt. Commander Worf. His presence might be helpful because, as Curzon once put it, "The only people who can really handle the Klingons are Klingons."
Worf comes aboard the station. He's basically been on sabbatical since the destruction of the Enterprise a year ago. Sisko gives him the job of looking around and finding out what's going on with the Klingons.
The core of the episode's first half deals with Worf's investigation of the matter. He is able to persuade one of his late father's old friends to tell him the truth, which puts Worf at the center of another loyalty dilemma. Klingon leader Gowron (Robert O'Reilly) asks Worf to abandon Starfleet and join him in this mission. Worf refuses, which pits him against his own people, and informs Sisko of the Klingons' threatening intentions: They intend to invade Cardassia because they believe it has been infiltrated by the Founders.
Meanwhile, we learn that Cardassia has been having enough problems as it is. With the destruction of the Obsidian Order and the ongoing Dominion threat, the Cardassians have sealed their borders. On top of that, their civilian population has attempted to overthrow the military rule.
Whew, talk about some hefty political changes. Quick recap: The Dominion scares the Cardassians, who, as a result, seal their borders, which makes the Klingons suspect a Dominion conspiracy, which cause them to plan an attack on the Cardassians, which in turn makes the Federation uneasy. Got it?
That's a lot for one hour (or rather, one half of a two-hour episode). In fact, it may be a bit too much. My biggest complaint about this episode is how it brings so much change so abruptly. But then again, it's fast-paced even if a bit implausible, and shows what happens when people begin to get paranoid—which they are getting with the Dominion's ominous foreboding.
Sisko can't let the Klingons start causing trouble in the area. This leads him through a convoluted attempt to warn the Cardassians of the impending attack. Since Sisko can't do this directly without showing that he's willfully siding against the Klingons, he brings Garak into the picture in a hilarious scene where he "accidentally" discusses the situation with his crew while being measured for a suit. Garak, in turn, warns his Cardassian contacts.
Eventually, the Federation Council formally condemns the Klingons' attack on the Cardassians. In response, the Klingons cut off diplomatic relations with the Federation and end the peace treaty between them.
From here, the episode's second half delves into a series of action scenes and pyrotechnic numbers as Sisko must take the Defiant to meet Dukat and rescue Cardassian council members before the Klingons capture them. Then Gowron directly confronts DS9, threatening to attack the station unless Sisko agrees to surrender the council members. Sisko refuses, assuring Gowron that the Cardassians have not been taken over by the Dominion. Gowron does not care. He wants total control of the situation.
This is the other quibble I have with this episode, which is that Gowron comes across as too stubborn and unreasonable. It's as if the writers made him more cardboard just so they could force elements of the confrontation. For that matter, would all the Klingons really follow Gowron's lead into conflict with the Federation—especially as unstable as their government always was in TNG? I kind of doubt it. I would've expected this highly politically-endowed series to throw in the fact that not everybody in the Klingon Empire would really be all for this. In all fairness, that would probably just complicate the action in the episode.
The battle scene is quite intense. It's a spectacle not to be missed. Gowron sends dozens of ships at the station. DS9's impressive new defense system is able to fend off the attack, but not before several Klingon boarding parties beam onto the station. This leads to some pulse-pounding hand-to-hand combat with a healthy dose of stylized violence. Like in "The Die Is Cast," the action here conveys a sense of sincere urgency and disorder. It really feels like all hell is breaking loose.
With the Klingons' attack foiled, Gowron stands down and retreats, but not without leaving behind some troops; he seizes a number of nearby colonies and establishes a permanent presence in the area.
Behr and Wolfe's teleplay manages to work the character dynamics almost perfectly while simultaneously throwing us all this plot and action. The character core focuses on Worf, showing a man who has lost direction and purpose since the destruction of the Enterprise. He has even considered resigning from Starfleet, which echoes back to the beginning of the series, where Sisko's loss nearly caused him to toss away his career.
Worf's integration into the crew is plausible and brings up all sorts of new character possibilities. Obviously, he has similarities to Sisko and Dax and already knows O'Brien from the days on the Enterprise. But there's friction with Quark, who complains that Klingons make his customers uneasy. Odo also has some doubts about Worf's loyalties (and I thought that Odo's flinch of surprise when Worf tells him that he's read his security file was a very nice touch; it's details like that which makes this episode so professional).
Director James Conway's pacing is dead-on center, and the entire cast is terrific. The subplots, such as Sisko's intimate discussions with Kasidy Yates (Penny Johnson, whose performance seemed a bit off this week), and Kira's humorous attempts to "develop her imagination" make good background material with appropriate screen time.
Overall, "The Way of the Warrior" is a great installment. It has a fairly earth-shattering plot, exciting special effects and action, good character moments, and a smooth integration of Worf and the Klingon presence. Most importantly, this episode has the sense that it's genuinely continuing the DS9 story with these changes, and not just bringing these changes for the sake of a ratings ploy.