Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"By Inferno's Light"

***1/2

Air date: 2/17/1997
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Think of it—five years ago no one had ever heard of Bajor or Deep Space Nine. Now all our hopes rest here. Where the tides of fortune take us no man will know."
"Very tricky, those tides."

— Gowron and Sisko

Nutshell: Not perfect, but quite good. This show certainly shatters the status quo rather nicely.

To successfully and plausibly resolve the behemoth of a plot that was "In Purgatory's Shadow" is a tall order, to be sure. "By Inferno's Light" does it well. Not perfectly, perhaps—part one of this story is clearly stronger than this half is, both in style and character—but there are so many interesting consequences and developments to come out of "Inferno" that the show works very nicely.

If there's one thing that this episode proves, it's that major storylines on DS9 never simply go away or get resolved. Rather, they undergo metamorphoses and become twisted into labyrinthine webs of political intrigue. In a big way, I like that. It seems that anything is possible, because it's hard to know who will be on whose side from one month to the next. Still, at the same time, it's a tad frustrating to have so many threads hanging around and entangling each other with no resolution in sight. A tad frustrating, perhaps, but also very interesting.

As the Dominion enters the Alpha Quadrant, they cast a brief, intimidating stare in DS9's direction and then turn straight for Cardassia. (Note: This seems very consistent with Sisko's vision in "Rapture" of locusts that were to go to Cardassia first before "destroying Bajor unless it stands alone." Quite interesting.) The big surprise of the episode: Gul Dukat is joining them to escort them to Cardassia.

You see, Cardassia is joining the Dominion.

And I thought the revelations in part one were unpredictable.

As radical as this shocking notion is, it makes perfect sense when looking at all the past material. Dukat hates the Klingons for what they've done, he hates Cardassia's current state of paralysis, he hates the Maquis, and he fears the Dominion. With one swift stroke (after months of secret negotiation between Cardassia and the Dominion) Dukat's solution will make Cardassia strong, force the Klingons to leave, force the Maquis to abandon their colonies in Cardassian space, and make allies out of the biggest threat of all.

That, my friends, is one hell of a package deal, and it changes nearly everything on the series.

Before I continue discussing the implications of this event, I'll first discuss the plot at hand, because there are quite a few plot-based issues set up in "Purgatory" that "Inferno" obviously had to put to rest—and for the most part, the plot pulled itself together fairly well.

While Sisko & Co. is dealing with the home front, Worf, Garak, and Bashir begin devising an escape plan. They hope to use Tain's rigged communication device in the wall panel of their cell to contact the Runabout for a beam-out. I wouldn't call this plot spectacular or imaginative as these things go, but the way Behr and Wolfe's teleplay handles the details is commendable.

One notion worthy of praise is the way the different prisoners share a common interest and a common enemy. Outside a Dominion facility it seems likely that these different people—Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, humans, and Breen—would not be on the best of terms given the political situations between their respective homelands. But under the Dominion's thumb, they easily put aside their differences to accomplish a common goal. The plan is a team project that effectively displays everyone keeping composure under high pressure.

Garak in particular has to cope with the pressure. He's the only one with the technical knowledge, and even he has limited skills. He has to quietly and quickly work inside a small, dark, hot, enclosed area of space. And on top of that, he's claustrophobic.

Meanwhile, Worf is forced to fight Jem'Hadar soldiers in hand-to-hand combat "tournaments" that progress in difficulty from one match to the next. Worf's part of the story is nothing that hasn't been done before, but I'm still convinced that Michael Dorn and the writers have a firm grip on Worf as a character, and everything that happens here is in tune with that.

Naturally, the events back at DS9 are what demand more attention. With a shapeshifter roaming the station, Starfleet dispatching ships to the area, and Dukat making threats directly to Sisko (demanding Bajor and the Federation return the station to Cardassia or else the Dominion will destroy it), the plot truly feels like a countdown to Armageddon. The entire episode crescendos with increasing tension and suspense to what promises to be a final confrontation.

And the entire Alpha Quadrant seems to be involved. The Dominion promptly drives the Klingon presence out of Cardassian space, at which point the Klingons fall back to DS9. Sisko wisely takes advantage of the situation, asking Gowron to consider revitalizing the Khitomer Accords—the Klingon/Federation peace treaty. (Gowron's words aptly reveal how sweeping changes like these can come so swiftly unexpectedly: "Five years ago no one had ever heard of Bajor or Deep Space Nine. Now all our hopes rest here. Where the tides of fortune take us no man will know.")

The episode drops another surprise upon us when a group of Romulan ships decloaks, requesting to join the fleet. Again, this is an interesting example of different groups putting aside their differences to benefit the larger picture. I found myself saying aloud "United we stand, divided we fall" at this point in the show, because it fit the circumstances so well. Sure, that may sound like a bit of a cliche, but it is a compelling—and also true—ideal. The idea of the entire Alpha Quadrant making a stand against the Dominion is something that I would suppose even the Dominion might have second thoughts about. It also makes Dukat look like the lone sell-out of the lot. (Sisko even flat-out tells Dukat that he has "sold out his people to the Dominion." Dukat merely retorts that he has made Cardassia strong again.)

Dukat's actions speak for themselves. They virtually completely turn the character around from someone we could sympathize with earlier in the season (the Dukat who was fighting the Klingons in the name of Cardassia) back into an opportunist who is more interested in pure strength for Cardassia than freedom or independence. (I'm very intrigued at how exactly Cardassia will operate under Dominion rule.)

Like Kira said to Ziyal in part one, you can only judge a person for their actions, and Dukat's actions speak the words of a coward and an opportunist. Instead of standing against the Dominion with the rest of the Alpha Quadrant, Dukat has made a bad situation potentially worse for possibly everyone (I can't imagine that everyone on Cardassia supports being run by the Dominion). He even disowns his daughter and accepts that she will die with everyone else on DS9. He may as well have sold his soul, as far as I'm concerned.

But that's the point, isn't it? To make Dukat a bad guy again and reinstate some of the "edge" he used to have before he became more sympathetic. It certainly works. From here on (unless, of course, something equally impacting happens concerning Cardassia) I can't imagine ever seeing Dukat in a situation that's not confrontational.

By the same token, suddenly the Klingons are back on "our" side (Gowron signs the treaty), and even the Romulans look less menacing and more reasonable than before. What's so compelling about the myriad of agreements is to look back and see how intertwined different events caused different groups to take the sides they did. Everything here is connected if you trace the plot lines, and I find that fascinating. A year and a half ago the Federation condemned the Klingons because they invaded Cardassian space. Now the Klingons come back to the Federation because the Cardassians (a subset of which tried to destroy the Dominion two years ago, by the way) have joined the Dominion and threaten to destroy the Klingons.

These large-scale events are compelling, and the build up of the whole episode to a final-act event is good edge-of-seat suspense. Unfortunately, the ending of "Inferno" is less than I had hoped given the two hours of setup. It works absolutely wonderfully when you consider the long-term implications and future shows, but something about the actual events of the finale isn't quite right.

I think the problem is that it tries to compact the climax into five minutes of air time. The ending feels a bit... rushed. The whole chess game turns out to be pivoting on one Changeling infiltrator assigned to execute the Master Plan. But in order for the Changeling to be exposed, the real Bashir has to escape from the Dominion prison and warn the station. Naturally, Bashir and his party escapes at the very last second—nicely executed for a "close call" countdown, but awfully convenient if you think about it. (Why, for example, would the Runabout still be orbiting the prison facility? Are the Jem'Hadar that stupid?) Meanwhile, the colossal, imminent attack by the Dominion turns out to be a ruse to hide the Bashir-Changeling's true mission—to trigger the supernova of Bajor's star, destroying Bajor, DS9, and half the Klingon, Romulan, and Starfleet fleets. Bashir's warning comes just in the nick of time, and Kira is able to stop the Runabout before it explodes.

Bashir's escape from prison works fairly well (even if the execution was a little abrupt), because the plot had, after all, spent a good part of the hour setting it up. Likewise, the Changeling's plan stands to reason under scrutiny. It certainly makes strategic sense that the Dominion would try to take out DS9 and half the fleet, as Sisko says, "without firing a single shot."

Still, I wish more time would've been spent on revealing the Changeling saboteur than on fight scenes between Worf and Jem'Hadar soldiers. Couldn't the shapeshifter have been discovered by the crew by means more interesting than Bashir's deus ex machina warning?

Also, the disappearance of the danger was just a little too abrupt for my tastes. Going from "Stop that Changeling at all costs!" to "Armageddon will have to wait for another day" to a quiet scene between Garak and Ziyal within barely two minutes of screen time brings down the sense of urgency and doom far too quickly and easily to make it feel genuine.

Such complaints about the plot are minor when considering the great developments this episode brings to the big picture. I like to see things happen, and in "By Inferno's Light" lots of things do happen. Sure, the violent confrontation that seemed imminent a week ago and inevitable for two and a half years may have been averted, but there are so many changes in the overall storyline that the situation is more perverted than probably could've been imagined. This is what makes DS9 so riveting as a series. It's unpredictable on such a large scale. Yet what appears to be a huge political mess has rational reasons for taking place. I'm extremely interested in seeing what will happen next.

Previous episode: In Purgatory's Shadow
Next episode: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

◄ Season Index

50 comments on this review

TH
Sat, Nov 29, 2008, 6:14am (UTC -6)
One thing that always bothered me about this episode is that if a photon torpedo could disrupt the wormhole, wouldn't the supernova of the Bajoran sun, enough to destroy DS9 right next door, have some negative consequence on the wormhole too? And don't the dominion need that thing working right?
Jayson
Wed, Dec 3, 2008, 5:43pm (UTC -6)
If I remember correctly, in order to collapse the wormhole something specific was required to make it collapse. Oh yeah, besides the Changelings sabotage according to Obrien only made the wormhole more stable so I doubt a super nova would have done anything.
MP
Sat, Jun 6, 2009, 6:28pm (UTC -6)
Plus, it was "closed" when not in use. The whole torpedo thing was about the weapons being fired into it while it was open.
Jay
Fri, Sep 4, 2009, 10:35pm (UTC -6)
TH hit upon the gaping plot hole that would make this episode lose a whole star at least (pardon the pun).
Jay
Fri, Sep 4, 2009, 10:37pm (UTC -6)
The wormhole is still "there" even when it's closed. And I doubt a supernova explosion and shockwave would leave it unaffected.
J
Fri, Oct 9, 2009, 5:15am (UTC -6)
I believe the changeling's sabotage that led to reinforcement of the wormhole was part of the plan. Both closed and stabilized, it is only reasonable that the wormhole is not as vulnerable as the station or surface of the planet would be. I am also not entirely certain how much further away from the star the station is, but I get the impression from the pilot that it moved a considerable distance further away.

I do think it is an interesting implication of the plot that the changeling was, it seems, going to die as part of pulling off the plan. They condemn Odo for killing another changeling, but evidently destroying the targets gathered in Bajor Sector was of enough value for them to sacrifice on of their own.
Jay
Sun, Feb 21, 2010, 1:06pm (UTC -6)
@ J...

It's possible that the changeling could somehow survive it...we did learn in Season 7's Chimera that a changeling can actually exist as fire (though admittedly I found myself skeptical of that notion).
Nic
Sat, Mar 20, 2010, 11:22pm (UTC -6)
This of course is pure sci-fi (rather than scientific) speculation, but when the wormhole was discovered it was 160 million Km from Bajor, which is only slightly farther away than the distance between Earth and its sun. That distance varies of course due to orbits (does the wormhole orbit around Bajor's sun? That's a good question), but the fact remains that the wormhole would be affected by a supernova explosion.

No episode could live up to "In Purgatory's Shadow" but I think this one comes quite close, despite its rushed ending.
MIke
Sat, Sep 17, 2011, 9:40pm (UTC -6)
There was also that episode where Odo essentially turned into light (or at least some luninescent gas) and surrounded Kira...presumably as either of those a changeling could survive the supernova.
Jack
Sat, Oct 8, 2011, 6:28pm (UTC -6)
Hmmm...I suppose that Native American colnoy in Cardassian space from TNG's "Journey's End" was among those annihilated here...
Jay
Sat, Oct 15, 2011, 10:51pm (UTC -6)
Several times it was mentioned that Garak was the only one that could do the work, but since Bashir is revealed to have been genetically enhanced in the very next episode, he probably could have stepped in, either from scratch, or with at most a crash lesson from Garak in what to do.
Snitch
Tue, May 1, 2012, 10:20pm (UTC -6)
Epic episode, the ending yeah, it little bit too positive still, 4 stars from me.

The whole prison scenes were great.
Romeo
Fri, Aug 3, 2012, 8:27pm (UTC -6)
Why would a changeling be willing to sacrifice himself? It makes no sense. The Founders have consistently placed solids on a lower level than themselves so I can't imagine this changeling would be expected to die to kill a few solids. Also, Odo was on the space station and would have been killed by the supernova - so they would also have broken their "no changeling has ever killed another" rule (so two changelings killed in this one 'attack').


Also, this would have been a relatively minor battle to win (the Federation, Klingons and Romulans would have lost a lot of ships, but presumably it was only a tiny percentage of the entire combined fleets of 3 major super powers).

Furthermore, it makes even less sense when you consider that the Founders are essentially immortal.

I love Star Trek, but illogical plot lines like this make me cringe.

Thanks!

R.
William
Wed, Nov 21, 2012, 10:03pm (UTC -6)
Fantastic two-parter. I missed this during the first run of the show back in the '90s, and it's been a blast filling in the gaps in my DS9 viewing history.

I agree the last chapter of the two-parter felt rushed, but otherwise, bull's-eye.
Nick
Thu, May 16, 2013, 6:28pm (UTC -6)
The wormhole can only be destroyed when it is open, and it can be opened when an object enters a very small, very specific area of space, and even then, only from the correct angle.

If the wormhole's aperture wasn't face towards the Bajoran sun the supernova wave wouldn't affect it, and it would not open. Therefore, it couldn't be destroyed by the wave.
ProgHead777
Tue, Jul 30, 2013, 1:30am (UTC -6)
@Jay
"The wormhole is still "there" even when it's closed. And I doubt a supernova explosion and shockwave would leave it unaffected."

This is a science fantasy television show where the laws of physics are bent, broken or completely ignored altogether whenever and wherever the plot needs them to be. You can't say "I doubt a supernova explosion and shockwave would leave it unaffected" because there are no scientific principles either in the real world (where wormholes may or may not exist, but if they do, they are NOTHING like any wormholes depicted in Star Trek) or in the background technobabble lore of the show. The wormhole would have been fine BECAUSE Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe say so, and when it comes to Trek Science, it is whatever the writers say it is. The only time you can cry foul is when the technobabble contradicts itself and, let's face it, that happens ALL THE TIME on Star Trek.
Jack
Sun, Sep 1, 2013, 1:29pm (UTC -6)
Since the events of "Destiny", the wormhole is never really closed.
Kotas
Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 9:51pm (UTC -6)

Amazing episode. This one has it all: huge story implications, great character development, worf fighting, Garak and Dukat being Garak and Dukat. I could go on. Best episode of the series so far.

10/10
Anonymous
Tue, Nov 5, 2013, 7:32pm (UTC -6)
It was a nice touch to make Garak claustrophobic. Considering how Andrew Robinson himself is actually claustrophobic which almost prevented him from playing Garak on DS9.
Jay
Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 11:05am (UTC -6)
It would have been nice to have a callback to some benevolent Cardassians we've met before who try to defect out of Cardassia after this takeover. The two female scientists from "Destiny" come to mind.
Josh
Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 6:04pm (UTC -6)
@Jay: I recently read a book called "The Never-Ending Sacrifice" (by Una McCormack) which covers most events on Cardassia from the perspective of Rugal, the Cardassian boy raised by Bajorans from the second season episode "Cardassians".

It's an excellent book, adding richness to a Trek culture already amongst the most intriguing and well developed. Through Rugal's eyes we see the aftermath of the fall of the Obsidian Order and the accession of civilian rule. And we learn that Dukat's deal with the Dominion lead to a bloody coup and purge of civilian authorities. We even see the messy aftermath of the Dominion War on both humans and Cardassians.

It really transcends what we might think of as a "Star Trek" book, more closely resembling the epic sweep of a historical novel. It also illustrates the missed opportunity that was the failure to tell more stories of the aftermath of the war (instead we got Star Trek: Nemesis).

www.amazon.ca/Star-Trek-Space-Ending-Sacrifice/dp/1439109613
Paul
Mon, Feb 3, 2014, 4:08pm (UTC -6)
I watched this yesterday (before the Super Bowl) and the logical problems are just too much. The fact that the Jem Hadar left the runabout within transporter range of the prison just makes no sense. But, beyond that, why was security so lax at the prison?

There's no reason why Bashir, Garak, Marton and Worf (and the others) would have been allowed so much time to plot their escape. Other than Worf (and Martok, before Worf arrived) the Dominion doesn't do anything with the prisoners. Shouldn't they be interrogated for information?

Beyond that, the prisoners could have all been held in isolation, in stasis or, frankly, they could have been killed. If the Dominion didn't plan on interrogating them, the only prisoner with any value was Worf. At least, the Jem Hadar used him to train.

The other issue I have has to do with the logic of the last few minutes (and Jammer is right -- they were rushed):

- Bashir et. al escape
- They send a message to the station
- Sisko asks for Bashir's last known location
- He learns it was on the runabout pad

Without hesitation, Sisko then contacts Kira and tells her to destroy the runabout. But, how did Sisko know that the message from the Gamma Quadrant wasn't a fake?

Consider that Sisko tells Kira to destroy the runabout BEFORE they learn that it's on a direct course for the Bajoran sun. Now, maybe Sisko/Kira could have figured out what was happening if they saw the runabout heading toward the sun, but after?

Also, why didn't anybody notice the runabout being out of formation?
Kyle
Thu, Feb 6, 2014, 11:00pm (UTC -6)
I'm surprised the runabout was still there waiting to beam them up. Doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.
Jay
Thu, Feb 20, 2014, 4:19pm (UTC -6)
@ Josh

Thanks!. That sounds like an interesting read!
Jack
Fri, Feb 21, 2014, 9:25am (UTC -6)
O'Brien states that 4 weeks is "over a month"...a Bajoran month (and thus year) must be shorter than ours.
Vylora
Thu, Feb 27, 2014, 5:17pm (UTC -6)
The final scenes of this two-parter were a bit rushed leading them to feel near anticlimactic. The sacrifice of the changeling and the possibility of destroying the wormhole by its actions are seemingly left to interpretation and don't detract from the story.

An explanation on why the runabout was left in orbit of the internment camp would have been nice. Maybe the Dominion fleet had bigger problems to contend with - thus leaving the runabout unattended in their arrogant belief that no escape would occur.

Speculation aside, this was one of the great two-parters of ST. Everything clicked in the right place. From the dialogue to the sweeping changes in the political landscape to relevant character revelations big and small. Kudos.

4 stars each.
Dusty
Wed, Aug 6, 2014, 9:36pm (UTC -6)
A well-written and riveting two-parter that really lays out the whole arc of the later seasons. Garak and Worf are always an entertaining combination, and both of them had real challenges to overcome here, gaining a new respect for each other when it was all over. Bashir having been a changeling (apparently for weeks) was surprising, but it could have been much more effective if the reveal were executed better and the writers made something seem a little "off" about Bashir in previous episodes.

I still don't understand Gul Dukat and what makes him tick, but to me this feels like the first revolution of a psychological downward spiral.
Yanks
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 1:17pm (UTC -6)
Riveting hour of star trek entertainment!!

It's so great to have Martik back. He's a better Klingon than Worf.

So many great lines delivered with a Klingon heart...

"MARTOK: There is no greater enemy than one's own fears."

"MARTOK: Worf, honour has been satisfied. Stay down."

My only nit-pic is that I think it would have been too easy to make the sun go supernova. That would be one hell of a terrorist weapon. Also, I was a little surprised that the changeling would be sacrificed like that.

It does however reveal just how big the Founders think and that nothing is off the table WRT to the Dominion.

Best line?

"IKAT'IKA: I yield. I cannot defeat this Klingon. All I can do is kill him, and that no longer holds my interest."

But all in all 4 stars, easy.

This is my favorite 2-parter in DS9.
Robert
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 1:28pm (UTC -6)
"Also, I was a little surprised that the changeling would be sacrificed like that. "

Laas can fly through space and changelings can exist as mist and fire. Although it strikes me as unlikely that a changeling would be able to survive as a supernova... are we certain they can't exist as plasma or something and then turn into a space creature and fly away?
Yanks
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 1:46pm (UTC -6)
Well Robert, I hadn't thought of that. There has to be something these things can't emmulate...

:-)
Robert
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 1:49pm (UTC -6)
Considering the female changeling claims that getting Odo back is more important than winning the war I can't imagine they'd really use a suicide bomber. So I assume an escape route.
Yanks
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 1:52pm (UTC -6)
Robert,

I guess we have to assume that. I wish they could have shown us something though.
Grumpy
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 4:27pm (UTC -6)
Yanks: "...it would have been too easy to make the sun go supernova."

Easy, assuming Bajor's host star is at least 8 solar masses. Otherwise it's too small to become a type II supernova. If so, though, it would've exhausted its fuel within tens of millions of years. If further so, this tells us that Bajorans, and possibly all life on their planet, originated elsewhere and colonized a world too young to evolve life on its own. But how did a dead world acquire an oxygen atmosphere??

The writers gave Bajor a 26-hour day without accounting for how every other feature of the planet must also be totally alien. It's like, in "Miri," the crew was amazed (briefly) to find an exact duplicate of Earth, but really they should be amazed any time they find a planet with anything at all in common with Earth.
Yanks
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 6:04pm (UTC -6)
Grumpy,

True. But I was referring to any device that could make a sun do that. If the Founders can create that, why all the bother with wars, etc?
Grumpy
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 8:46pm (UTC -6)
Now I see your point. Clearly the star-killer (which the Feds could also build with trilithium resin) was tossed in the same closet as Platonian kironide, Scalosian water, phase-cloaks, slingshot time travel, and other tactical game-breakers. Wouldn't be sporting, old chap.
Yanks
Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 7:12am (UTC -6)
^^ LOL!!
DLPB
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 12:03pm (UTC -6)
. The only time you can cry foul is when the technobabble contradicts itself
=========

Wrong. If Star Trek was set in some other universe, or was a fantasy, that would be okay. But a show cannot be a true science fiction if it is continually breaking the laws of physics. The more a show does that, the sloppier is it. And eventually, you are no longer able to suspend disbelief. This happens to me a lot when watching Trek. It's not a good thing - it's a symptom of poor writing.
$G
Thu, Sep 11, 2014, 4:32pm (UTC -6)
Fabulous episode. One of the best of the series and, together with In Purgatory's Shadow, the best of the three Dominion-centric two-parters. 4 stars.

Everything here worked, and Jammer's observation on the visceral impact of seeing the different races work together is why. The internment camp works on the micro level while the arrivals of the fleets at DS9 work on the macro scale. It's a great payoff at this point for anyone watching the series and is even more riveting for someone who followed TNG. The stakes are more harrowing than they've ever been in Trek up to this point - TOS, TNG, or the movies.

Plot points that work:
-Bashir the Changeling. Some people have trouble with this; I don't. The Dominion hasn't been owning the GQ for two millennia because they're sloppy at deep cover. Bashir-Changeling learned how to be a Starfleet medical officer. It's that simple.

-Blowing up the Bajoran sun. It would have been brilliant and devastating for the AQ forces. Remember, the Dominion would rather recruit than destroy (otherwise they'd take the opportunity to flatten a weakened Cardassian Empire that already attacked them). If any of the three remaining powers cracks enough to follow Cardassia's example (Romulans being the likeliest), the Dominion becomes that much stronger and the AQ that much more unstable. It's especially important since the wormhole is such a bottleneck for the Dominion (which they also took care to stabilize amidst the chaos). I wonder who the Romulan captives were, though. Senators or advisors replaced to help consolidate the fleets at DS9? Possible. I really, really like that this two-parter works on its own merits while also leaving enough implied that nerds like us can puzzle it out the gaps. It also saves wasting scenes on having characters reverse engineer explanations on What the Plan Was After All. The Breen captive couldn't just have been there for the sake of diversity, either...

-The MO of the Dominion is always, always to make their enemies defeat themselves: the consolidation and ambush of the Tal'Shiar and Obsidian Order; inciting war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire; the destabilization and panic of Federation and Starfleet; pushing Starfleet to a point of no return by tricking them into assassinating the Klingon High Chancellor; manipulating substantial resources from all three remaining AQ powers to be in one place at one time for a huge KO.

-Sisko knowing to destroy the Yukon. Simple. A message from Bashir from the GQ could be fake, but the possibility of it being real increases when a) there's a known saboteur on the station, and b) your own Bashir, who is not a combat pilot, is in a runabout that's left the station in the middle of a battle.

Plot points that don't work:

-The runabout still orbiting the asteroid. Sure, any other escape plan would need far more screen time and effects budget, but the Jem'Hadar leaving it there strains credulity.

Some character moments I like:

-Dukat. Everything he does he does because he is Dukat. He's perfectly handled here and the re-emergence of Cardassia is yet another game changer. The Cardassian Empire is my favourite race in Trek from a dramatic perspective.

-The Jem'Hadar. Bred to be warriors and nothing more, that they've developed their own code of honour is fascinating. They are the AI-becoming-sentient trope written as a warrior race.

-Martok and Worf. Worf, fighting to the death in front of his countryman, being called back by Martok is a great moment. Here in this bleak situation Martok tries to save Worf by telling him his honour has been satisfied and that no more fighting is necessary. It's a nice way to show the effects of despair on Klingon values (Martok's already half blind because of all the abuse). It also reveals some depth and quickly warms viewers up to Martok alongside the best portrayal of Worf pride as a warrior up to this point, including TNG. The Jem'Hadar First demonstrates fascinating depth as well in conceding the victory to Worf. It's not just victory the Jem'Hadar seeks, but the will to push past one's limits. I like that so many Jem'Hadar characters have such distinct personalities that show off the Jem'Hadar condition. This always means they basically have to die at the end of each episode they're featured in, but it's tragic in the best way. The J'H are a great rival race to the Klingons.

-Garak. Martok and Worf's shared admiration of his working through his claustrophobia is another interesting texture on the Klingon view of strength. As far as Garak being paired up with a main character goes, Worf-Garak here (and in "Broken Link" briefly) turns out to be just as fascinating as Odo-Garak in Improbable Cause/Die Is Cast.

-The Vorta overseer. One of the more despicable Vorta characters. No pretenses of diplomacy at all. We've seen Vorta as infiltrators (Eris) and as ambassadors and COs (Weyoun and Kilana). This guy's just a prison warden. The visible tension between the Vorta and the Jem'Hadar is handled well again (see: To the Death).
MsV
Sat, Feb 14, 2015, 12:23am (UTC -6)
The runabout left orbiting that asteroid was OK. One reason is the Jem'Hadar are arrogant and believe they cannot be beaten by anyone, another reason is the asteroid has a dome and if anyone stepped outside it would be instant death. There was no reason to even think the prisoners could get off that rock. The Dominion's arrogance blinds them to the resourcefulness of the Federation, especially in season 7.
Aine
Fri, Jul 24, 2015, 12:16pm (UTC -6)
This was a GREAT storyline and I loved the twists and surprises. There were some really good, subtle notes. Things like how no one could tell it wasn't Bashir (Bashir being so easy to imitate - haha), or the Worf/Garek dynamic - for the FIRST time Worf 'works' on this series and shows some character other than sexist pig and growly dog.

I feel like this 2-part brought out the best of the DS9 series, and easily rivalling best of other series. The great characters were tied to a riveting plot and it worked well.

Things that felt off (minor I guess, but still):

1) Where was Odo? He would have spotted the changeling. He was very conspicuously absent.

2) Runabout orbiting the asteroid - hahaha, as if! It should have been blasted or salvage-junked.

Best things:

1) Worf (away from Dax and weird-idiot-manliness) had a chance to develop a little / be something audience can feel something for.

2) Dukat going back to the bad guy mode. I always thought it was pretty RIDICULOUS that they showed him as the loving-doting father etc. The real Dukat WOULD have shot his daughter - he's an imperialist military leader, pretty much the counterpart of a Hitler and parrots that kind of ideology constantly (Bajorans are like my children, did what was for their own good etc). I didnt like it at all the way the show would show these sympathetic stories - except the one about the file clerk - but the ones where these occupiers are the focus as sympathetic characters, while it's kind of a 'story told so much that we actually never hear it' about the Bajorans - to the point that Kira starts sounding like a broken record. So I was thrilled that we are back to Dukat as he really is, yay.
Matrix
Mon, Sep 14, 2015, 4:53am (UTC -6)
This episode was pretty great and I remember desperately watching a tape of it one morning before school. The resigning the Khitomer Accords was a great moment.
The only thing I've come to not like is the blowing up the star idea, I just feel like these kind of planet killer ideas should change the game a whole lot more than they do, and if they're don't they should just leave it alone. And I feel like it would be very bad press in regards to SPOILERS I GUESS that treaty they sign at the end of the year. I guess Shakaar could make a big deal about it with Weyoun but I guess there's nothing he could do about it anyway.
MartinB
Wed, Dec 9, 2015, 11:51am (UTC -6)
For all those questioning why the runabout was left right outside the internment camp, this was directly addressed by Sloan during his interogation of Bashir in "Inquisition". Sloan believed it was left there deliberately by the Dominion so Bashir, a brainwashed Dominion agent according to Sloan, could escape. Course that's only his theory and no actual reason is given, but it was nice that the writers either did it on purpose so it could cast doubt on Bashir later or they realized how silly it was and deliberatly lampshaded it.
William B
Wed, Jan 6, 2016, 11:31am (UTC -6)
I feel like I'm a bit grumpy with this show at times, but I guess I'm not that enamoured with this episode. It is mostly good: I think that the prison camp scenes are generally pretty good, but with some silly elements -- more on that in a bit. On the station, the tension does work pretty well.

Dukat making the deal he does for Cardassia to join the Dominion is absolutely believable and a great development. I want to talk about this more at some point (though not in this post). But I think that his agreeing to the plan to blow up the whole Bajoran system pushes things too far, *in particular* too far for where the character is going to go. Without getting too spoilery, the way Dukat plays out over the next half-season requires Dukat maintain some of his ambiguity and, in particular, some of his ability to think of himself as something of a champion, not just for Cardassia, but for his daughter and even/especially for Bajor. Dukat who is personally obsessed with what Sisko and Kira think of him, Dukat who (SPOILER) still wants to win his daughter back even after he gives him up here. Dukat seemed to be willing to consider killing every single Bajoran back in "The Maquis" ("oh well, it's too late for that now") so I can't describe this as completely inconceivable. But I think that it's something of a misread of Dukat to have him be on board with wiping out the Bajoran system entirely, impersonally, along with people who had just recently been his allies. I think his interest is in domination, not destruction, and destruction becomes only necessary once other means of domination are eliminated. But anyway, this version of Dukat leaves little room for him to go -- and the run-up to (SPOILER) "Waltz," which I do think is quite good (even if the post-"Waltz" stuff does not work) is seriously compromised if we take this too seriously, because Dukat jumps back to moderate villainy from cartoonish supervillainy after this episode.

Relatedly, having the Dominion nearly nova the Bajoran system, as Matrix points out above, makes the Bajoran-Dominion peace treaty pretty hard to believe. Really, if the Dominion is able and willing to nova star systems (without even a declaration of war), why do they bother to create genetic diseases to make examples of people? Having the Dominion have this level of power *and* willingness to use that power really screws up the balance of events in the next several episodes/seasons...all while, you know, also being fairly pointless. The key development in the episode is Cardassia joining the Dominion, which pays off in the opening minutes, and I get that they needed a climactic moment for the episode's end, but ultimately Changeling Bashir's gambit is forgotten as soon as it occurs, and does not significantly change the Bajoran calculus of whether they should sign a nonaggression pact with the Dominion despite the extreme lengths they had been willing to go to not that long before. If it's to show just how evil the Dominion is, well, again, this brings out a particular technique we never see them use again. So for both the Dominion and, worse, for Dukat, the nova plotline seems misjudged, an attempt to get a big effect within this particular episode at the expense of larger stories.

Bashir's replacement with a changeling was a great shock reveal, and I'm glad that Bashir was around to interact with Garak, particularly in part 1 (more on that when I write about "IPS"). Still, having decided to do this, the writers fail to consider the implications. Assuming that the change happened before the uniform change (which is implied), the changeling is the one who operated on Sisko to remove his visions and -- most notably -- was the one to report on the young changeling's death, and thus was present when Odo regained his powers. This in addition to the fact that no one, not O'Brien or Garak or Dax or Odo or Sisko or Kira or whomever, recognized that Bashir wasn't a changeling. There's no dialogue examining the possible effects that Bashir-changeling could have had. And the only discussion of failing to identify the Bashir changeling for weeks is a jokey line by O'Brien at the end. And it seems the reason the changeling was there was to...carry out the nova mission. It's as if the nova mission really was there both to give a climax to the episode, and to justify the shock-reveal of Bashir as Founder impostor, without any big build-up.

I really liked in this episode (and the previous one) how the multi-ethnic group of prison camp inmates get along very well because of a shared experience and shared enemy; for Martok and Tain to be friendly. And I agree with Jammer and $G et al. that the microcosm of the prison camp reflects the situation in the Alpha Quadrant in a pleasing way -- people putting their differences aside to work to a common goal is definitely satisfying. The payoff to "IPS" is that Garak and Worf, despite their jokey adversarial stance in part one, come to find a new respect for each other, as the two who do the most impressive feats within this episode of the prisoners. And I support that as an idea, but Garak's claustrophobia, while plausible enough, does feel a bit of a contrivance to make "working privately on tech stuff" seem more dangerous and exciting, and I really did not get into the Rocky "stay down! stay down!" "no I'll go the distance!" stuff with Worf. (As a minor spoiler, that a future episode has Garak saying -- possibly falsely, but let's pretend for a second -- that his claustrophobia is the result of Tain locking him in a closet when he was a child retroactively adds more resonance here, because it basically means that Garak is working through his Tain issues in order to escape after having gone to rescue Tain.) That Jem'Hadar would train against strong prisoners makes some sense, though. And that Runabout in orbit really is dumb.

So the prison camp stuff was okay, most of the station stuff was okay, and the Cardassian development was *overall* quite strong, but Dukat and the Dominion's actions were taken too far given the rest of where the season/series was going with them. 2.5 stars from me.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Jan 23, 2016, 10:42am (UTC -6)
Something of a disappointment after the first part. I'll forgive the fleet leaving DS9 for Cardassia as that really came as a superb shock moment. But the fake fleet at the end? Give us some battle scenes!

What this does well is set out the sweeping top level changes - Cardassia throwing in with the Dominion and Dukat's return to enemy number one, the Klingon and Federation rapprochement, and the return of the Romulans to the front line. There's a real feeling of reshuffling the deck going forward.

The prison scenes work less well. That's not to say there aren't some great moments - Worf in the arena, Garak's claustrophobia drawing in - but the whole thing has an air of artificiality. And not least because clearly the Jem'Hadar cannot secure a prison to save their lives...

Excellent FX shot of the Defiant swooping down on the runabout though. 3 stars.
JC
Tue, Feb 23, 2016, 4:45pm (UTC -6)
Re the changeling sacrificing itself, I was just under the assumption that it'd use that convenient long range transporter tech that the vorta use at the last minute, although that doesnt quite hold up given that it didn't use it when it got caught by the tractor beam. But whatever.
JC
Tue, Feb 23, 2016, 4:51pm (UTC -6)
The biggest of hole I found here is it seems like it would be more effective but equally easy for the changelings to just blow up the earth, Klingon, and romulans suns.

I know a reason given was that they wanted to eliminate a lot of Klingon and federation warships too but why...? They already dominate the alpha quadrant with their fleet. It would be trivial for them to just destroy key solar systems and clean up the remaining fleets.

The Dominion is starting to annoy me with their classic villain plans, unnecessarily poor strategy. This just adds villains to the list of things the ds9 writers couldn't handle, along with klingons, relationships, ferengi, and everything else.

Also more and more it seems like the federation consists solely of sisko and his space station.
BZ
Wed, Apr 20, 2016, 9:31pm (UTC -6)
@JC,
I don't think the Dominion destroys whole star systems for no reason. Their goal is to subjugate the Alpha Quadrant species, not destroy them. On the other hand they'll do it if it destroys significant *military* targets.

Luke
Fri, May 13, 2016, 3:15am (UTC -6)
After the amazing cliffhanger that ended "In Purgatory's Shadow", everyone watching was probably expecting a massive battle, but that's when the writers pulled the rug out from under everyone and gave us one of their greatest twists. They did something even bigger. They completely turned the entire political landscape of the Star Trek universe on its head, turned a major character that appeared to be on the path to redemption back towards villain status and set the series on an unstoppable course toward open war. And they did it all in the teaser! To top it all off, the dreaded Trek Reset Button doesn't rear its ugly head. The rest of the episode goes to great pains to deal with the consequences of such a historic moment and huge interstellar geopolitical restructuring.

Dukat and the Cardassians joining the Dominion, while shocking at first, actually makes perfect sense. If Dukat is anything, he is two things - a delusional egotist who lusts for power and a Cardassian patriot. He has been shown to be willing to make any deal that offers him a shortcut to either his own personal glory or the short-term security and glory of Cardassia - oftentimes without bothering to consider any long-term ramifications (see "Return to Grace", when he's prepared to take his daughter off on a guerilla war, for proof). Cardassia, quite simply, is an absolutely beaten empire at this point. They can't even defend themselves from some patchwork, ragtag ex-Federation colonists in the De-Militarized Zone anymore. It makes total sense that they would gladly sign a deal with the devil in order to restore their imperial power and pride. And it makes perfect sense for Dukat to do what he does as it offers him seemingly unlimited power and prestige - something he has craved almost since his introduction on the show.

But I especially love how "By Inferno's Light" shows a uniting of old foes against a common enemy. In both plotlines we have old animosities being set aside in order to resist the Dominion. In the A-plot, of course, we have the Klingons and the Federation returning to a state of alliance. But we also get the scene of the Romulan fleet decloaking at the station - showing that they are also interested in standing united against the new threat. This is quite possibly my favorite scene from the entire series - gives me goosebumps every time! (As an aside - I love that the Romulans later turn their backs on this possible alliance and sign a Non-Aggression Pact with the Dominion. It shows that in the heat of the moment, without good ground intelligence on the situation, the Romulan Empire went with it's gut instincts and sided with the Federation and Klingons. Only after "cooler heads prevailed" did they decide it would be in their best interests to stand aside.) In the B-plot, we get a much more personal version of this same story - with Human, Klingon, Romulan, Cardassian and Breen characters all working in common cause. If this doesn't represent Trek's ideal of working together in unity and common purpose, I don't know what does.

Unfortunately, there are problems with the episode. The escape from the Internment Camp was so extraordinarily convenient that it's almost laughable. The Dominion just left the runabout orbiting the prison? For an entire week?! As if that wasn't bad enough, it also appears that they purposefully brought the runabout to the prison just to leave it there, as the asteroid doesn't appear to be anywhere near the nebula where Worf and Garak were captured. While the writers would later use this error to great effect in "Inquisition", it's still a massive hole in this story that harms the episode - especially when the build-up to the actual escape was executed so well. Also, the supernova plan leaves something to be desired, to say the least. A lot of people seem to take issue with this plot thread because it either a.) would destroy the Wormhole and why would the Dominion do that, b.) means that the Founders were okay with killing Odo or c.) is never used again by the Dominion. Well, those things don't bother me. What bothers me is everyone's reaction to the situation. Let's just call a spade a spade here. Dukat and the Dominion just attempted to carry out a genocide against the Bajoran people. And aside from one line of dialogue from Kira and one from Sisko about how the supernova would destroy Bajor, everyone's primary focus is on the fact that the fleets would have been destroyed. Now, granted, destroying the three fleets would have been a massive blow to the security of the Alpha Quadrant, but these people really need to get their damn priorities in order! The destruction of those ships wouldn't even have been a drop in the bucket compared to the loss of life when the planet (and any other inhabitant areas of the system) was obliterated. Sisko doesn't even call Dukat on this attempted Crime Against Humanity (Bajoranity?) in their final confrontation. He's more concerned that Dukat was condemning Ziyal to death. WTF!

So, an excellent episode, and a very worthy conclusion to Part One, but it's got two real head-scratchers of problems.

8/10
Quarkissnyder
Wed, Oct 26, 2016, 9:28am (UTC -6)
If I were fighting a Jem Hadar, the first thing I would do is try to pull out his straw.

I really liked that Bashir and Worf did not have the engineering knowledge to deal with the McGuffin. The usual course on all of Star Trek is that anyone can do anything whether or not it makes sense for them to know how to do it.

Changeling Bashir would have notified the other changelings that DS9 had received a communication from the prison. Presumably they would have tracked down its source and destroyed it.

Now that I think of it, isn't it a little odd in the previous episode that the Jem Hadar brought Garak and Worf to the very place they were trying to go?

The order to fight Worf until he died didn't make much sense. If the point of fighting him is to study Klingons, he's a lot more useful alive than dead. They kept Martok alive for years.

Dax's shocked, "We can't go to warp inside a solar system" seemed pretty lame considering that they did go to warp inside a solar system with no consequences.

I'm happy for Worf that he will have a Klingon friend on the station.

Even if the changeling could have survived the supernova, it would have been stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no way to get anywhere.

All that said, I thought this was a great episode. The pacing was excellent, the characters stayed in character, and it was exciting throughout.
NCC-1701-Z
Fri, Nov 18, 2016, 6:37pm (UTC -6)
Possible explanation for the "runabout parked conveniently in orbit" plot hole, and this is just my personal theory, nothing to back it up:

I have the feeling that the runabout in orbit was left over from an old draft of "In Purgatory's Shadow", and by the time they finalized the screenplay for "By Inferno's Light" based on the events of the old draft, they realized their mistake but it was too late to change. Remember, at the time, season-long story arcs were in their infancy; DS9 was pushing the envelope as is, so a lot of mistakes probably happened.

Here's what I think happened: The original draft of "Purgatory" had some version of "Worf and Garak discover the Dominion fleet, warn the station, barely escape, park the runabout in orbit of Internment Camp 371, hide it from Dominion sensors with technobabble, beam down to check it out and get caught". You can see how the plot point of contacting the runabout in "Inferno" flows much better from here. After the screenplay for "Inferno" was finalized, someone went back and revised the script for "Purgatory" so Worf and Garak got captured as soon as they found the Dominion fleet, either to save time or make it more dramatic. By the time the writers realized that this revision left a big plot hole in "Inferno", it was too late to correct.

Nothing to back this up, just my personal theory. Or maybe the writers were just tired/rushed and said "yeah, we know this is a major plot hole but right now we're right up against a deadline and this is the best we can think of".

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