Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Apocalypse Rising"

***

Air date: 9/30/1996
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by James L. Conway

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I hate prototypes." —O'Brien

Since I originally wrote this review, I've had some minor changes of opinion and now rate the episode at three stars. To see the reasons for this change, find the capsule review in the Fifth Season Recap. Below is the orignial review of the episode, which at the time I rated at 2 1/2 stars.

Nutshell: Solid entertainment and often fun, but hardly challenging. A good 60 minute diversion but not what I was hoping for.

In the wake of Odo's discovery in "Broken Link" that Gowron is a Changeling impostor, Starfleet Command orders Sisko to embark on a dangerous mission—to go undercover to the Klingon homeworld and expose Gowron as a shapeshifter. Bashir alters Sisko, Odo, and O'Brien to look like Klingons, and Worf naturally assumes the role of training them in Klingon behavior. Gul Dukat provides the transportation to Kronos in his stolen Bird of Prey.

"Apocalypse Rising" is a solidly entertaining stand-alone episode that has been skillfully assembled. It has a slick polish and it works for a 60 minute viewing. At the same time it's hardly challenging material in terms of storytelling—it doesn't have very high aspirations, and it doesn't have much in terms of sweeping changes or arc developments.

For a DS9 season premiere (and for an episode with such an imposing title), "Apocalypse Rising" sure plays it safe. This is probably the safest season premiere DS9 has ever done. When compared with "Way of the Warrior" of last year, "The Search, Part I" of the year before, or "The Homecoming" of the year before that, "Apocalypse Rising" can't come close to recapturing the fresh and daring sense that those shows had. The reason for this is that those premieres offered something new into the DS9 equation, whether it was startling Bajoran political developments, the discovery of the Founders, or the sudden movements of the Klingons.

"Apocalypse Rising," on the other hand, offers nothing new; it simply makes use of the existing elements and puts them into a relatively standard plot. That isn't inherently bad, but considering how long the Dominion and Klingon plot lines have been intertwined and how many shows they've been seeming to build up to a major event, I was expecting a major event. Well, I didn't get my major event; instead I got an acceptable plot-driven episode that had some reasonable character moments.

One interesting character point is Odo's situation. By this point, it's clear that Odo will not be changed back to a shapeshifter; the Dominion's judgment on him is obviously not going to be reversed by the writers. This is good. It adds a little extra angst to his character. Through most of the episode, Odo silently broods over what he has lost. He does find comfort in the human behaviors of eating and drinking; an early scene features a mildly intoxicated Odo who, for once, has come to Quark's to buy a drink. Unfortunately, he's doing it to drown his sorrows. I will maintain that turning Odo human is a very good thing for further character building; the creators, however, must realize that this installment is merely one of what should be many shows to explain how Odo copes with his problem and his new identity. This issue is by no means something that can go away after only one examination. There must be follow-ups—and such follow-ups I look forward to seeing.

Also characteristically, Marc Alaimo turns in another classic Gul Dukat portrayal. Scenes in which Dukat mocks Sisko's masquerading crew prove amusing. And as Sisko's ticket for safe passage through Klingon space, Dukat demonstrates a no-nonsense take-no-prisoners attitude and methodology. When he encounters another Klingon ship that inquires why he is wandering through the particular area of space, something goes wrong with his communications holo-projector. Dukat's solution: destroy the Klingons. The swiftness with which he makes his decision even prompted a double-take from me. Pretty cold... I like it.

As for the sequences where Worf attempts to "train" Sisko and the others to act like Klingons: They bordered on the obvious and were on the silly side, but I liked them anyway. (Hey, it's Klingon comedy.) There were some decent one-liners in there—O'Brien's "It's not easy being funny wearing these teeth" was among them.

Aside from the character tidbits, "Apocalypse Rising" is fundamentally plot-driven. Most of the screen time is devoted to advancing the plot or explaining how the crew intends to execute its plan. Specifically, they attend a bat'leth tournament which Gowron is to attend. The plan: to subject the Gowron Changeling to a specific radiation field that will make him revert to a liquid. Of course, to make things more interesting, the field must simultaneously emanate from four different locations in the room with four different devices that have been set up ahead of time.

The tournament is held in a hall filled with rudely lively characters. And while it's kind of fun watching drunken Klingons beat on one another and tell stories, it sure doesn't add much to the grand scheme of things. In short: We've seen all this before, so all that becomes important are the plot manipulations.

And these plot manipulations are, in fact, nicely done on the basis of this show alone. The story is structured with an even hand, having no scenes that feel out of place or distracting subplots to interrupt the main story. Conway's direction is good, and he even has a few memorable camera angles.

When General Martok (J.G. Hertzler) shows up at the tournament and recognizes Captain Sisko, he throws Sisko and his crew in a cell. Sisko attempts to reason with Martok and is successful; Martok agrees to let them out if they will kill the Gowron Changeling. Worf challenges Gowron to a battle to the death, and under details I'm not going into here, the show throws the revelation/twist on us when Odo realizes that not Gowron but Martok is the Changeling infiltrator, who is shot about 53 times after he's found out.

Despite the skillful execution over these plot events, the problem is that when the show is over it doesn't really have any lasting impact. Why? Because it maintains the Trekkian Status Quo—that pesky thing that dictates situations are more likely to remain the same than to change in the process of one episode. By finding and defeating this one Changeling, the series lends itself no new impetuses for future development of this storyline. I'm not saying that this outcome means nothing to the series, but if the Changeling had been Gowron and not just some thought implanted by the Founders in Odo's mind (another cleverly subversive act of the Founders that by itself is interesting) then the show would've really mattered. Consider: the Klingon Empire's leader is killed after he turns out to be a spy. That has possibilities. Instead, they kill Martok, a relatively unimportant character whom we've seen twice.

For that matter, I would've liked to know when exactly Martok was replaced (it was presumably before "Way of the Warrior") or how he had so much direct influence over Gowron. How could Gowron not detect Martok's change in behavior when Odo could pick him out based on a few things he said? Such details are not extremely important to the plot as it stands, I suppose, but the possibilities could've lent themselves to another powerful analysis of paranoia and mistrust like "Homefront." It was not to be.

In short, "Apocalypse Rising" is a fun, nicely assembled plot that adds up to not a whole hell of a lot. For a season premiere it's surprisingly ordinary. It's a decent ride, but tomorrow you might forget it happened.

Previous episode: Broken Link
Next episode: The Ship

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25 comments on this review

Wiegraffolles - Fri, Jul 24, 2009 - 11:55am (USA Central)
It also would have been interesting if Martok was the founder, but Gowron had been killed by mistake as well, leaving the Klingons without a strong leadership and giving Worf some serious problems to think about.
Jay - Sat, Aug 8, 2009 - 5:24pm (USA Central)
Wouldn't Sisko having attended the Academy with a Benzanite contradict the comment in Coming Of Age where that Benzanite character would have been the first of his race in Starfleet?
Wilbur - Sat, Aug 22, 2009 - 7:50am (USA Central)
Ah, nice catch on the Benzanite, Jay! I noticed that, too. It is a minor issue, but I wonder how a mistake like that could have been made? We only ever had two episodes featuring Benzanites, and the writer must have been relatively familiar with those episodes. Otherwise, why make a Benzanite reference at all?
Lee Wilson - Tue, Aug 25, 2009 - 8:54pm (USA Central)
The TNG aliens were actually Benzites, not Benzenites, but it seems clear from the breathing tubes reference that the writers were thinking about Benzites when they wrote it.

Even though the first Benzite shown in TNG was supposedly the first one in the academy, each subsequent Benzite seems to have graduated earlier than the one before.
Nic - Mon, Jan 18, 2010 - 2:32pm (USA Central)
Watching this episode I realized how much I missed those season openers that would just put you right into the action from the very first scene ("The Best of Both Worlds, Part II", "Redemption II", "Scorpion, Part II", etc.). There was something envigorating about waiting all summer with excitement for the new season, and then sensing your excitement double as the episode started up right where the cliff-hanger left off. Deep Space Nine's season openers are all great episodes, but they do take a little longer to get going. Just a thought.

That being said, I knew long before I started watching DS9 that Martok was a Changeling (damn you, Memory Alpha!) and when I was watching "The Way of the Warrior" I thought it was blatantly obvious that he was the impostor. So I was surprised to find out that it was a last-minute decision made by Ron Moore to avoid upsetting TNG fans & give the episode a surprise ending.

One thing's for sure, I can't imagine watching the series at the pace they originally aried (e.g. one season per year). Though I guess that was part of its appeal. Oh well!
Elliot Wilson - Sat, Feb 6, 2010 - 12:24pm (USA Central)

Hey, you didn't comment on Sisko's fight with the Klingons! What, didn't like it? I thought it was perfect. Seeing Sisko give a full punch to the Klingon boasting about killing his friend with an excuse of "getting more bloodwine" is too good to pass up in a review!
Nic - Sun, Feb 7, 2010 - 9:28pm (USA Central)
P.S. With regard to Dax not coming along on the mission to Qu'onos, the real reason is because Terry Farrell was allergic to the Klingon make-up. Of course it would have been nice to have an on-screen explanation (simply saying Dax was recently wounded and had to recuperate would have been satisfactory), but I think it's easily forgivable.
Brandon Carrauthers - Mon, Apr 19, 2010 - 3:37pm (USA Central)
I saw this episode when I was 11 years old.
Jeff O'Connor - Sat, Oct 9, 2010 - 11:08pm (USA Central)
And I was nine. And it was glorious.
Nick M - Wed, Dec 29, 2010 - 9:47am (USA Central)
Jammer,

I am really shocked at the error you made in your review. You said the DS9 crew had to infiltrate a " bat'leth tournament" Gowron was going to be at.
No. No. No.
It was induction into the Order of the Bat'leth, the highest award for bravery a Klingon can receive!

Nic, thanks for that info, I kept thinking, "With her insight into Kilingons, Dax should be on this mission!"
Jack - Thu, Mar 1, 2012 - 3:41pm (USA Central)
The scene of the damaged runabout coming back to DS9 here looks like the exact same shot of the damaged runabout returning to DS9 just two episodes earlier in "Body Parts".
Justin - Wed, Mar 21, 2012 - 1:12pm (USA Central)
Ah, yes. Sisko-as-Klingon - My favorite Sisko scenery chewing of all time.

"Brag all you want! But don't get between ME and the BloodWINE!!!!"
Duge Butler Jr. - Sun, Apr 1, 2012 - 5:33pm (USA Central)
I thought that this was a pretty good episode further highlighting the subversiveness of the Dominion in trying to fool the Federation into assasinating the (non-changling) head of the Klingon Empire- doing their dirty work for them. Although I'm not sure if it was a retcon or not but Martok turning out to be the changling infiltrator helps explain his urging Gowron to be more aggressive and to launch their invasion of Cardassia and attacking DS9, ending the Khitomer Accords with the Federation, etc. My only major disappointment with this episode is that revealing Martok to be a changling and eliminating him doesn't really change anything in regards to the Klingon-Cardassia-Federation conflict begun in WOTW. Gowron, while sparing the lives of the DS9 crew, makes clear that he plans to press ahead with the war against the Cardassians/Federation (or at least feigns a certain helplessness in stopping it). Thankfully, that changes a few episodes later but at the (unnecessary) expense of more lives and conflict.
Snitch - Tue, May 1, 2012 - 4:29am (USA Central)
I felt it was a very solid episode, nice twist at the end, and a good follow up later in the series. The Klingon claptrap is tolerable. Gowron and Martok were both interesting characters.
3 stars from me
Paul York - Fri, Jun 1, 2012 - 4:55pm (USA Central)
O'Brien and Odo make very poor Klingons. Sisko was a great Klingon; he lived up to the part well. I loved this episode -- Klingon and Ferengi episodes are frequently the most entertaining because both species are so over the top.
TMLS - Thu, Jun 28, 2012 - 6:17am (USA Central)
Shame to read that about Terry Farrell... had she been in typical Klingon female armour it could have been quite interesting ;)
Lurker - Tue, Oct 9, 2012 - 5:16pm (USA Central)
Solid episode, but it is extremely dumb that Sisko is recognized by Martok, but Worf is recognized by neither Martok or Gowron.
Jonathan - Thu, Feb 28, 2013 - 11:03pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed the little scene between Kira and Bashir, where she blames him for being pregnant. Hahaha...
Grumpy - Thu, Mar 21, 2013 - 8:07pm (USA Central)
Forget why Dax was excluded; why were *any* Niners given this mission? Doesn't Starfleet have a spec ops team? And why would Sisko and Dax have to personally report on the situation?Odo was the one with first-hand (dis)information.

Assuming Starfleet has no other Klingon experts, I can see why Worf and Dax might be chosen to go undercover. To accommodate Farrell's allergy, the story could show how her Trill immune system makes surgical disguise impossible.

Of course, surgical disguises have been possible since "The Enterprise Incident." We never learned how future people cope with fluid identities, a problem also sidestepped this season by "A Simple Investigation."
Latex Zebra - Sat, Sep 14, 2013 - 10:01am (USA Central)
I think a 3 is fair for this. It's an episode that has elements of fun, most Klingon episodes do, as well as getting some serious stuff and Odo development in.
I love O'Brien as a character and seeing him as a Klingon is brilliant.
Kotas - Thu, Oct 24, 2013 - 9:04pm (USA Central)

Fun story episode. One of the few episodes I remember well from when I watched this show as a kid.

7/10
Jay - Wed, Jan 1, 2014 - 1:26pm (USA Central)
Would be interesting to get a look at Lt. Vylyxpran and see what he looks like and how he performs his duties with 8-18 children in various stages of budding off of him.
Vylora - Tue, Feb 25, 2014 - 7:17pm (USA Central)
Pretty solid episode through and through. Nothing stand-out but very respectable. 3 stars here too.
Eric - Sun, Jun 8, 2014 - 12:54pm (USA Central)
Wouldn't Worf be the worst person to send on this mission? He's recognized by Klingons everywhere as a "traitor to the empire".
UnknownSample - Mon, Jul 7, 2014 - 12:42am (USA Central)
Yes, sending Worf was the biggest error of the episode. He's a famous Klingon. He's known as the starfleet klingon and the klingon who helped install Gowron as chancellor. Sometimes he had been considered a traitor and other times he was considered an honorable Klingon but he would have been noticed by everyone no matter how much blood wine they had.

I do like that Odo didn't spend too much time mourning his loss. It reminds me of when Troi lost her powers. She went insane the whole episode. Odo kept it together and got back to work pretty quick.

Avery Brooks has a problem overacting. Watch the secede when he's talking to Martok and he says "You think we're right don't you? You think gowrons a changeling TOO". Lol. I'm not sure why the directors didn't tell him stop acting like that

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