Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Nor the Battle to the Strong"

****

Air date: 10/21/1996
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria
Story by Brice R. Parker
Directed by Kim Friedman

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Who cares about anomalies? People want stories about things they can relate to." — Jake, making a good point about storytelling

Nutshell: Excellent. Gripping, moving, and real. War themes unlike anything seen on Trek.

Last week's "Looking for Par'mach..." may have been a fun comedy episode, but "Nor the Battle to the Strong" is why I watch DS9—a real story, with real people, real problems, and real reactions.

This episode is what "The Ship" should've been. "Nor the Battle" is another analysis of the effects of war but it works just about everywhere that "Ship" did not. "The Ship" happened a situation upon its characters and then played it out. There were attempted negotiations and ultimately the episode's tragic consequences resulted from a mutual lack of trust and understanding. The idea was an intelligent one, but the presentation of the idea, unfortunately, was less than ideal and fell flat on an emotional level.

"Nor the Battle," on the other hand, captured my feelings much more effectively. Almost too effectively, in fact—this is one of the few episodes of Trek I can remember where I felt the barrier separating the people in the audience and the characters on the screen beginning to dissolve.

And that's a good thing. It's one of the primary goals in cinema—to capture the audience and draw them into the situation as if they were there.

Whereas the situation set up in "Ship" was random, the situation in "Battle" is not. When Bashir receives a distress call from a Federation colony requiring additional medical assistance because they're under attack by the Klingons, Jake wants to go. Bashir doesn't want to drag Jake into a potentially disastrous situation, but Jake prods him further, and both are soon on their way to what becomes, well, the front line of some ground combat warfare.

The danger here feels real. Very real. One of the reasons the show proves so involving is because it's shrouded in such a sense of impending doom. For the duration of the episode, the Klingons always seem close, within striking distance of the medical compound Jake and Doctor Bashir are assisting.

What's remarkable here is the way the sense of danger is conveyed. We hardly see any actual Klingons in this episode, yet their presence is evident in every scene. The anxiety and foreboding subtly surfaces through the characters' dialog and the way they talk and perform under pressure. Most characters handle the pressure well, as if it's just another day at the office. But a few characters—Jake in particular—find the situation quite overwhelming.

Much credit deserves to go to Kim Friedman, whose direction over this episode is complex and multifaceted; she builds a stunningly effective sense of danger through Jake's dialog and narration, but more than that—she also knows the guest characters and provides them with confidently drawn attributes other than the obvious sense of fear.

There's quite a bit to digest in this installment—themes that accompany the topic of war. Courage, loyalty, guilt, panic, trust. This is the most intelligent and multi-dimensioned war episode ever done on Trek. It's something that definitely needed to be attempted considering how little we've seen in terms of the fallout from the Klingon/Federation treaty disintegration. As a follow-up to the abrupt cease-fire negotiated in "Apocalypse Rising," this episode shows that despite the war being over, the problems are not; the Klingons and Federation have a long way to go before their trust of each other can be repaired.

Another very effective element of this story is its fresh perspective. The events unfold completely from Jake's point of view. As the episode opens and Jake displays a sort of superficial journalist's interest in the battle unfolding, we know that war is something he has never truly faced and something he has no real understanding of. But as the bodies start rolling into the medical compound and the death and suffering begins to sink into reality, Jake realizes that he is not prepared to face war's very real horrors. He assists Bashir and the rest of the medical staff as an elected orderly, and although he's willing to help and performs adequately, he's very stressed inside. As his narration indicates, the danger here seems much more "real" than on the station.

This leads up to the central event of the episode, when Jake and Bashir head back to the Runabout (which is sitting outside the compound a kilometer away) in order to retrieve a much-needed portable generator. The Klingons begin shelling the nearby area, and Jake and Bashir find themselves very close to some explosions. Jake panics and runs, abandoning Bashir, who quite possibly could've died.

Jake runs. And runs. Aimlessly. Lost. Through a field of dead Klingons. He falls and rolls down a hill. Eventually, he happens upon a wounded soldier (Danny Goldring). The soldier knows he's going to die, but he wants to die "looking at the sky," not with his face in the dirt, and he orders Jake to make sure that happens. But the soldier also wants to know why this kid is out on the battlefield in the first place. Jake explains how he ran from the explosions, abandoning the doctor. He doesn't know how to control his fear, and he's obviously looking for answers. The soldier, however, has no answers to give him. In fact, he all but condemns Jake for abandoning Bashir. Jake tries to make sense of it; he tries to convince himself that he ran for a "reason"—to find this soldier and carry him back for medical treatment. But the soldier's last words, as he dies a rather graphic death: "Sorry, kid. Life doesn't work like that." Indeed; there are no easy answers to be found here. It's a credit to Friedman and scripter Rene Echevarria how well they flesh out this soldier character (as well as the statements of the entire sequence) considering he had merely five minutes of screen time. Excellent work on this scene all around.

The remainder of the show focuses on Jake's attempts to cope with his guilt for abandoning Bashir. Miraculously, Bashir survived and was able to bring the generator back to the compound himself. But while this relieves Jake to an extent, it sure doesn't help him feel better about himself. He's convinced that he's a coward. He bottles it up inside, wishing he could reveal to everyone what he did, but he can't bring himself to disappoint Bashir and the others.

The great thing about the way the episode progresses is that every scene has a significant point that helps Jake learn. Take, for example, the soldier who is brought into the compound with a badly injured foot. He had been hit by phaser fire. But guilt causes him to confess: he shot himself in the foot to avoid more combat. He'll probably face a court-martial as a result. It's funny, he muses, how well he did in those battle simulations back in the academy days. Yet when the real explosions were going off around him, all he could think about was getting away. Jake can relate, whereas the rest of the medical staff looks at him with an angry eye.

And then there's scene where the other medical staff discusses how close the Klingons are getting to the compound—and they joke about the best way to die. Jake is not amused. He blows off some steam, voicing his thoughts of how pointless war is and how, ten years from now, no one will remember anything that happened in this little skirmish. While he may have some valid points, there's a simpler reason why war makes no sense to him: because he's completely inexperienced when it comes to it.

The beauty of Jake's character is that it's the one most people in the audience will identify with. I'm willing to presume that a majority of the people watching Deep Space Nine are not combat veterans, and I think that most people will understand Jake's problem and could see themselves acting similarly if they were in his shoes. The entire arc for Jake is wonderfully realized, exploring courage, duty, loyalty, and guilt. Lofton's performance, while not always perfect, is good enough to get the job done very nicely, and considering the depth of the material I'm sure he had his work cut out for him. This is easily the heaviest show he's had to carry.

There's also a B-story here, exploring Sisko's parental distress that his son is in danger. He decides to take the Defiant to assist the colony. This subplot isn't really fresh like the main plot is, but it is a necessary part of the story and it works just the same. It's also very true-to-life. Just because Jake is 18 doesn't mean his father is going to stop worrying about him. It's every parent's duty to worry about their children, and every one of Sisko's actions in this episode is to be expected.

The episode's climax, in which the Klingons do indeed reach and storm the medical compound—opening fire on Jake and the medical personnel—is quite riveting. The reason it's so riveting, though, is because we've become so connected to Jake. When the character we've been following and exploring for an hour is suddenly right there in the line of fire, we wince. Why? Because we fear for his safety, perhaps that we fear for our own safety (at which point the aforementioned "barrier" comes crashing down). This is all accomplished by building the story and making it real (a big reason last season's "Homefront" was also so effective), and that is quite an awesome feat.

"Nor the Battle" has a good ending, too. It does exactly what it's supposed to—it refuses to cheat. Jake's fear is not miraculously rectified by the end of the show. When he picks up a phaser to defend himself from the Klingons, he does so because he has to. He's not trying to be a hero, he's just trying to stay alive. This is a big part of the show's point—the basic survival response of "fight or flight" and how it gets the best of Jake. Jake isn't really a coward (which is demonstrated by his willingness to share his tale with his father and Bashir after the rescue); he's simply naive to the horrors of war, and, hopefully, this experience has given him some insights.

"Nor the Battle to the Strong" is a fine episode. It provides a meaty role for a typically underutilized regular character. The presentation is genuine in nearly every aspect. Some nice montages and shots make a difference, too. (I really liked, for example, the brief, subtle shot of Bashir reading Jake's story and reflecting upon it.) The show has a variety of interesting and intelligently realized themes, plus a general statement that war is hell. Here lies an episode among DS9's best installments.

Previous episode: Looking for Par'mach in All the Wrong Places
Next episode: The Assignment

◄ Season Index

63 comments on this review

Robert
Fri, Apr 17, 2009, 11:43am (UTC -6)
I couldn't agree with you more about this episode. It sucked me in so much that I felt genuinely anxious for Jake by the end. This episode probably had the strongest emotional impact on me of any DS9 episode.
Destructor
Sun, Aug 16, 2009, 7:29pm (UTC -6)
When I saw this on the first broadcast I didn't like it at all, thought it was oddly constructed and not affecting, but I watched it on DVD last night and it was really very good.
Jason Keon
Fri, Nov 20, 2009, 2:02pm (UTC -6)
After I read Jammer's review of this episode, I was prepared for a great episode. After watching it though, I was greatly disappointed. It was pure garbage! For starters, the acting was extremely poor (and that's being kind!) The plot was not affecting at all. It was so bad, that I kept thinking to myself during the episode: "This is rubbish". I had to force myself to watch it, hoping it would get better. It didn't. It's the biggest try hard episode ever! Sisko and Dax talking on the Defiant. What was that scene trying to convey? It ended up looking silly. And that guy who kept saying: "The Klingons are comming, the Klingon's are going to attack the compound". If it was trying to create a sense of urgency and dread, it failed miserably. One of the worst Star Trek episodes I have ever seen. Worse than "Fascination", worse than "Threshold". I cannot at all comprehend why Jammer would give this **** stars. Deep Space Nine is by far the worst Trek incarnation ever!
Nic
Sun, Feb 21, 2010, 9:57pm (UTC -6)
I think the acting did leave a little to be desired in places, but otherwise I was very impressed. I couldn't help but think how Bashir would have reacted in this situation if it hadn't been for the lessons he leared in "The Quickening". I think that was the episode where Bashir really grew up, and that is why he is able to handle the medical crisis rationally in this episode. Kudos!
Jeff O'Connor
Sun, Oct 17, 2010, 1:39pm (UTC -6)
Deep Space Nine, 'by far the worst Trek incarnation ever'? That's... pretty hard to swallow. I can see where someone wouldn't like it, but finding its overall quality significantly lower than Voyager or Enterprise? Really?
Elliott
Sun, Dec 26, 2010, 5:30pm (UTC -6)
I'm not sure if it's worse than Enterprise, I'm not familiar enough with that series, but DS9 sucks something fierce and season 5 is really where it got to be its worst. What the hell kind of human being is that soldier? What happened to the human beings from TNG? This is rubbish. These humans are transplants from the 20th century (and not the best and brightest mind you) given phasers and tricorders. Ugh! Sisko's emotional ranting is starting to become intolerable. Jake was barely tolerable as an annoying kid, as this MTV-generation teenage-writer-wannabe, he's downright infuriating. The implication that great writing can only stem from first-hand experience and petty human emotionalism is insulting. Star Trek is mythological; it is more powerful than sitcoms or dramas or war movies because of the legendary archtypalism of its worlds and characters. The DS9 characters are petty, selfish and small so it's clear that any idealism they spout is superficial. Of course then the cracks of war reveal this inner ugliness; but this is an examination of humans as they are NOW--something which has been done, and better in other venues.

Jason Keon is right, it doesn't help that most of the acting in every episode is atrocious. A handful of regulars are the only saving grace, and they don't appear in this episode (Garak, Odo, Quark, Dukat). 1.5 stars.
jon
Thu, Jan 27, 2011, 6:57pm (UTC -6)
I dunno Elliot a scared one trapped in a horrible situation

Well you know what you say write about what you know look at Andy McNab writes SAS novels why because he was in the SAS and Roddenberry started his writing career working on shows like Dragnet because he used to be a police officer you know Elliot Wesley Crusher Roddenberry's mary sue at least Jake wasn't saving the station
Polt
Sat, Jan 29, 2011, 10:01pm (UTC -6)
I don't think DS9 is the worst trek incarncation, but otherwise, I agree with a lot of what Jason said. The acting was horrible, and was anyone surprised that Jake and Bashir were the two to go, and then get seperated? I think this episode had the best of intentions, and the theme (war is hell) go conveyed just fine. But the episdoe as a whole is lacking.
Some Dude
Sun, Apr 10, 2011, 8:09pm (UTC -6)
DS9 is very different in tone to TNG. Everybody knows that. Roddenberry's utopian vision is not central to DS9 at all. You have to look at it in a very different light. But if you do, you will realize that it has its own unique qualities that none of the other Star Trek shows have.

As for this episode, I wouldn't give it 4 stars but it is in fact an important character piece for Jake and as such, I found it enjoyable.
Some Dude
Sun, Apr 10, 2011, 8:20pm (UTC -6)
Oh, and I guess it's true that Lofton's acting wasn't particularly convincing. But try putting Wheaton in that role. Erm... no.
Greyfeld
Wed, Sep 28, 2011, 2:45am (UTC -6)
I've always felt Lofton's acting was a little stiff, but the episode overall was enthralling.

For those who are pissing about DS9, keep in mind that the Enterprise is comprised of the "best of the best" from Starfleet. They're on the front lines, discovering new races and worlds, where having the absolute cream of the proverbial crop is necessary to facilitate relations.

On the other hand, you have Deep Space 9, which is a public hub of travel and trade within the quadrant. It's a completely different situation, requiring completely different methods.

And anybody who wants to preach about TNG's adherence to "the utopia" can stuff it. I love TNG, but the discovery of corrupt officials in the Federation government was a common plot hook in the series.
Jason Keon
Sat, Jan 14, 2012, 5:26am (UTC -6)
I just read my own review of this episode after 2 years. I must admit I was wrong. This is a good episode, and DS9 is NOT the worst Star Trek series (that distinction goes to Enterprise). In terms of continutity, entertainment and plotting, it is the best series.
Lucian
Thu, Jan 26, 2012, 5:32am (UTC -6)
While i nearly always somewhat agree with the star ratings for DS9, I do not in this episode.

It was poor, the story of how war is terrible and all that was already done, and would be done again, but better in all other cases.
The doctor and jake was not only badly acted but they never went on from this to share any real screen time again.....thankfully
Justin
Thu, Mar 22, 2012, 9:13pm (UTC -6)
Jake was definitely an underutilized character, however he is the main character in two of DS9's finest episodes - this one and "The Visitor," and he figures prominently in perhaps its finest hour in "Far Beyond The Stars." Jake is truly the best of all the kid characters throughout Trek's history.
duhknees
Tue, Apr 3, 2012, 10:01pm (UTC -6)
I agree with the rating on this one, especially since Lofton got to do some credible acting. Most of all I like the parallels to Red Badge of Courage. Best war story ever.
Snitch
Tue, May 1, 2012, 4:40am (UTC -6)
I hated this episode, Jake comes across as a sheltered kid that is a coward. The whole war is hell episode felt fake to me, people do not talk about death on the battlefield.

1 Star from me
RichardS
Wed, Jun 6, 2012, 5:15pm (UTC -6)
Have to say that this episode is ok but not great. Jake is an annoying character and does come across like a spoilt child here while the suggestion that experience is required to write is silly. Meanwhile Jake's cowardice is so brazen that he looks appalling. Basically he lost it for little reason. It wasn't convincing because I never felt his life was in real danger. He makes the guy who shot himself look like a hero.

What bothers me more though is that you never really feel the danger. It just doesn't feel like war ought to - and there is no real believability to it. Plus as usual the plot makes no sense so the writers can tell the story they want to tell rather than a plausible one. For example:

a) why would the Klingons leave no ships in orbit - ah so the Runabout could land without any problems
b) hell why did the Klingons land at all? They could destroy the settlements from orbit.
c) why send your most important personnel (doctor) to retrieve a generator on a dangerous mission which they aren't suited for at the best of times - ah it has to be the doctor because it needs to be a primary character.
d) why send the doctor without an escort?
e) I know what also send with him a civilian who's the son of the doctors boss!
f) Why are Klingons using mortars in the 23rd century and why is their explosive force so small?

Having said that I applaud the idea of the story and the seen with Jake and the fatally wounded officer in the foxhole is effective. I'd give this one a 3 out of 5 myself (can't abide four star ratings :) )
Jasper
Mon, Jun 18, 2012, 5:09am (UTC -6)
@RichardS

a) Well, I suppose they decided the best way to get all their troops onto the battlefield was to land. They might also not have disabled the ground to space defenses at that point.

b) Even when assuming that was an option (the planet clearly has a tunnel system), where's the honor in that?

c) Because he knew where to go.

e) Because he also knew where to go. In fact, they sent the two people who would be able to find the runabout individually. Besides, this is war, you aren't gonna get much of a special treatment because your father is important. Especially not if you volunteer for a task.

d) Because they did not have any troops to form an escort with!

f) They are not mortars. Right, they might be similar to mortars, but still. And then, you don't know enough to give a single reason why they shouldn't use weapons like this. You don't know what the Klingons are attempting to achieve with them, you don't know what the means the Klingons have at their disposal are, you don't know what federation defense systems their attacks have to penetrate, etc.
Daniel Haughton
Thu, Jul 5, 2012, 5:36am (UTC -6)
Jasper fielded most of your questions just fine, RichardS, but I think I can add a bit to your last one. Mortars in the 24th (not 23rd) century makes sense because they can do something beam weapons can't, namely, fire over cover. It's called "indirect fire" for a reason. And since you mentioned the 23rd century, I'll point out that Kirk himself broke out a mortar to defend Cestus III against the Gorn attack in the episode Arena. If they found use for them in the 23rd century when they had basically all the same weapons they're still using a century later, why would they have abandoned that specific technology?
Cail Corishev
Tue, Sep 18, 2012, 11:00am (UTC -6)
Jake is a sheltered kid. People think kids are soft nowadays, with their video game systems and cell phones -- imagine what they'll be like when they can ask the replicator for anything under the sun! We have to assume Jake's never wanted for anything, and with the exception of his mother's death, his life has been smooth sailing. That's made evident by the way he says "I'm 18!" as his claim for why he can handle dropping into a battlefield. He really has no idea.

This did bat around some anti-war tropes, but ultimately it didn't focus on those. I thought it did a good job of showing how everyone reacts differently to extreme situations, and how you really can't know how you'll react until it happens. And that courage is a virtue that you learn, not something you're born with (that would be called recklessness), so running away the first time doesn't mean you're forever a coward and can't be a hero the next time.
David
Sat, Dec 22, 2012, 6:06am (UTC -6)
As a huge fan growing up watching this show, I recently bought the DVDs and have been doing a rewatch. I always knew there were three or four episodes I had never seen...I can't believe, 15 or so years later, I got to see not only a fresh episode of DS9, but one this good. I'd missed seeing this all this time!

I saw it as an analysis of "cowardice" and how we define it. We push down people we see as not heroic so we can in turn push up our heroes, but really who wouldn't react like Jake did, as a civilian? I'm sure plenty of untrained people would rise to the occasion, and great for them, but you can't criticise people for spending their lives in bed, at work, at the bar, then drop them into a warzone and question why they don't rise to the occasion. Combat is a skill that most of us have no need for in our daily lives...I would perform as poorly as a soldier turning up to my work and trying to do my job out of the blue.

I'm open to the fact that Jake could be criticised for putting himself in that situation (in the same way I'm more understanding of criticism of the soldier who shot himself in the foot, since he did at least sign up for it), but beyond that...as someone above said negatively, Jake comes across as a "sheltered kid who is a coward", but really why wouldn't he be? And that's okay, because he's not a soldier. Combat is not the only thing you can do to contribute, (indeed it's becoming less and less useful) we need writers too. They may not save lives or protect people, but they do give us shows like DS9.

Also Cirroc Lofton gets a lot of criticism for his acting...some of it is fair, he's very stilted at times and the way he "jokes around" is seriously awkward. But I do think there are certain things he does well, one of those is being upset. The way he cries in The Visitor, both in the medical bay when Sisko disappears and in the docking ring with Kira, really get to me. And in this episode when he crumples into a corner and cries when he's alone looks really authentic. So yes, that's probably not "enough", but credit where credit is due =) (Interestingly Avery Brooks is the same, he has some awful affectations but he does do "fatherly" and "angry" pretty effectively)
Herman
Sat, Jan 5, 2013, 11:31am (UTC -6)
What undid this episode was the direction, I think. It was in the little details. Jake bumping into this IV-thing with his crotch, him tripping and falling on a Klingon corpse... By the way, what doesn't help is that Cirroc seems to have grown like 2 feet in a few months and doesn't know what to do with his long limbs. I mean, what the heck?

There were good parts too, sometimes it really felt like a war zone, with all its raw emotions. But Cirroc doesn't seem to be able yet to carry an episode when the direction leaves much to be desired.
Jeremy
Sun, Jan 20, 2013, 7:18pm (UTC -6)
Remembering this episode, and then seeing a 4 star review gave me high hopes going into this one. Then those hopes were dashed. This episode is contrived, and clunky, and watchable only for snark-factor. (This is coming as a huge DS9 fan, too.)
I think what did it for me was the voice over narration; it can be done well and effectively, here it was neither, and ripped me out of the story every time I heard it.
The subplot with the ensign who shot himself was a particularly egregious example of the plot machine working overtime: during his and Jake's second encounter (after Jake ran and came back) all I could think was 'wow, how curiously pertinent to the themes of the episode!'
One thing I'll give this wasted hour was that it didn't cheat at the end, nor did it hit the reset button. One is given a sense that this is a single thread in the larger tapestry of DS9, and I've always appreciated that about this series.
The worst episode of DS9 (and this is far from the worst) is still light years ahead of Voyager and Enterprise.
Blake W
Fri, Apr 19, 2013, 6:55am (UTC -6)
I'm very surprised to see how many people have a problem with this episode. For instance, Jake being a sheltered kid is totally irrelevant to the fact that it's his first time in a war, and adults in that position would act the exact same way as Jake. I remember with the Aurora shooting in CO, a grown man with a family was interviewed, and by his account, he acted the same way as Jake, which is why this episode is so phenomenal: it conveys the truth and horror of war.

People who've never been in battle have no clue what war is... And then they watch this episode and they have a much better idea. I'm not saying they totally understand, I'm saying in our society, the vast majority of ppl are deluded when it comes to war and therefore, comprehending war is a VERY serious issue. Often times, the vast majority of ppl pushing for war have no idea what war is. And because this episode actually informs & educates ppl, it automatically gets a high rating. After watching the episode, I totally agree with the 4 star rating.
Nick P.
Thu, May 9, 2013, 11:55pm (UTC -6)
I don't hate this episode as some that have commented, but to give this one 4 stars is a little presumptuous, imo. First off the acting truly is terrible, I completely agree with the haters on that point. If you only compare acting in this one compared to the "the visitor", the latter would win hands down. The good doctor does pretty well, however. But one point no one has mentioned that always bothers me about this episode is how there is this feeling of laughing off cowardice and failure with the "he's just a kid line". It really bothered me here. I am not claiming I would act different, but I don't like "excusing it" the way a lot of left-leaning entertainment does. Plus, Jake is 18, that isn't that young. "It's OK you almost killed Bashir, likely did kill a couple people, and embarrased starfleet Jake, you are a kid writer!!!!" I didn't like that message at all.

Yeah, not a terrible episode, but I am not getting the love either.
Paul
Fri, May 10, 2013, 8:35am (UTC -6)
@Nick P: I haven't watched this episode in a while, but I think you're making an assumption. Does everybody just shrug off Jake's actions?

I don't think they do -- but there's also not anything they can do about them. He's not in Starfleet, so they can't court martial him or anything. His civilian status probably excuses his actions in the minds of Sisko, Bashir, et. al more than anything else.

Now, I will say that it's odd that we never hear much about this episode in future episodes. Later this season, Bashir and Jake have a scene in the infirmary (before the Dominion fleet approaches the station in "Call to Arms") and nothing's mentioned. I don't suppose it's necessary, but it is one of the few scenes the two characters have together for the rest of the series. ("I'm guessing you feel more ready for this after our encounter with the Klingons a few months ago, Jake.")

I agree that this isn't a great episode, mainly because of the cliched -- and strangely out of step, by Starfleet standard -- grizzled soldier that Jake encounters. When Star Trek does shows like this that are sort of out of the norm, the guest characters are often about as subtle as a heart attack. That applies here.

Still, I like this episode because it's one of DS9's best examples of a non-Starfleet take on things that doesn't involve Odo or Kira. Jake is the resident non-Starfleet human, and he's put to good use in that role three times in the series (here, "The Visitor" and "In the Cards"). But four stars? Eh, that's probably a bit much.
Josh
Fri, Jun 28, 2013, 8:59pm (UTC -6)
I certainly don't think anyone "excuses" Jake or "laughs off" his actions. But what are they supposed to do? Court martial him for not behaving like a Starfleet officer? How would you act in that situation? Can anyone say?

Otherwise, I really liked the way the medical team characters were written and performed. As a resident myself, I thought their casual cynical humour pretty realistic and I really identified with how they went about their work.
Frank Wallace
Tue, Jul 9, 2013, 2:32pm (UTC -6)
Why would anyone need to excuse him? The reason the episode works is because the lead in this episode ISN'T as heroic and calm under pressure as the normal TV star is. Sisko sails through this kind of situation, like any action man captain would. The whole idea that cowardice and courage are seperated by a fine line is an interesting one, and we rarely see this side of it.
Elizabeth Palladino
Sat, Jul 20, 2013, 9:51pm (UTC -6)
I agree with Josh. I'm in healthcare, too, and the staff in crisis mode was very realistic. The gallows humor may have bothered Jake, but healthcare workers do use that kind of joking to defuse tension. We wouldn't do it in front of the patients or family, of course. In terms of the rating, I'm watching DS9 in order, season by season--I've never seen it before--and I would also give this episode four stars.
Take it easy
Mon, Jul 22, 2013, 12:53am (UTC -6)
"why I watch DS9—a real story, with real people, real problems, and real reactions."

It was hilarious, I didn't know Odo, Jadxia, Worf, Quark, etc are real people (I misunderstood they were scifi characters). And problems like shape shifting race trying to attack federation using genetically engineered race are very real, aren't they?

This episode can very well be any human drama series about war and doesn't need star trek for that. If you are watching star trek for these kind of stories, I don't know what to watch for scifi stories? CSI: Miami?
Take it easy
Mon, Jul 22, 2013, 12:55am (UTC -6)
@Nick P: "It's OK you almost killed Bashir, likely did kill a couple people, and embarrased starfleet Jake, you are a kid writer!!!!"

How did he almost kill Bashir? How did he (likely) kill a couple people? How did he embarass starfleet?

Sean
Fri, Jul 26, 2013, 4:54pm (UTC -6)
I always find it funny whenever I see people in the comments of these reviews trying to tear apart beloved episodes by nitpicking it into oblivion. If you nitpick the entire thing you'll miss the point.

Also, DS9 the weakest Trek? Seriously? You'd be pretty hard pressed to be weaker than ENT, VOY, and TOS. TNG is strong as well, but DS9 has the strongest overall story and setting and characters. I think people are jealous of how good DS9 actually is. Either that or they don't like the darker tone and themes and realism of the show.
Elliott
Fri, Jul 26, 2013, 5:31pm (UTC -6)
You see, this is exactly what I'm always talking about...

"DS9 was so dark and cool! You're all just jealous!"

Cry me a river. Dark /= Good.
Sean
Fri, Jul 26, 2013, 7:54pm (UTC -6)
"Dark /= Good."

True, but in this case it does. DS9 is like the refreshing blast of air into the stale and predictable Star Trek universe.
BFS
Sun, Aug 4, 2013, 6:00am (UTC -6)
Wow, so many people seem to be missing the point of the episode.

DS9 isn't good because it's darker or grittier, it's good because it's mature and nuanced.

The problem with TNG, especially the early seasons, is that it treated future humans like they're just biologically better than people today, like they have some kind of morality gene or an extra lobe in their brain that makes them more ethical and moral.

DS9 on the other hand, puts forth the crazy notion that people in the future are better because society and culture have become better. People are raised to be more moral and ethical and they've learned to be better.

That's a major point of this episode. Jake acknowledges the fact that he has flaws and vulnerabilities, that recognition allows him to learn to become a better person.
Paul
Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 1:40pm (UTC -6)
Watched this again last night. It's a strong episode. But there's something that's always bugged me about the way Star Trek handles the issue of ground troops.

Why, exactly, would the Klingons use ground troops here? The only reason would be to a) take prisoners or b) capture facilities. The only facility we see on the planet is the hospital, and I can't imagine the Klingons would care about that. So, were they trying to take prisoners? Sure doesn't seem like they were.

Now, in some cases, ground troops would be necessary -- like in the seventh-season episode with the Dominion communication array. Starfleet wanted to unlock its secrets and the Dominion wanted to recapture it.

But here, wouldn't the Klingons have been better served by simply attacking the Federation colony from orbit and destroying it? If they really were set on capturing the planet, I'm sure they could have built new facilities elsewhere (i.e. not where the destroyed Federation settlement would have been).

I know Klingons like fighting hand to hand and all that and I could see someone making the argument about an orbital bombardment being dishonorable. But they're attacking civilians here, so I'm not sure there's that much of a difference. And even if Klingons are traditional, they don't seem particularly stupid about how they use their resources.

Again, I see why ground troops would be necessary in some ways in the Star Trek universe. But not in this episode.
Niall
Fri, Sep 20, 2013, 6:05am (UTC -6)
For all its strengths, elements of this episode are too dramatically dishonest. Firstly, the show takes the easy way out by having Jake ultimately be the hero of the hour and save everyone by staying behind and inadvertently causing the cave-in by blindly firing his phaser over his shoulder. Why didn't anyone else think of blocking the entrance in some way? It should have been obvious. Given Jake's established propensity to run, there's no dramatic reason for him to stay behind cowering under a desk when he should have been escaping with the others, and on the basis of his earlier behavior would have been.

Secondly, far too many cliches are employed during Jake's abandonment of Bashir. The runabout was less than a kilometre from the settlement - in other words, within sight - so there should have been no way for him to get lost, which he only does for dramatic reasons. Him stumbling over an embankment and landing directly on top of a dead Klingon in a rather stagy manner was the first cliche, about as subtle as a sledgehammer, but relatively forgiveable in isolation. Then Jake stumbles over another embankment and just happens to find an embittered Federation soldier in the process of melodramatically dying while spouting war movie cliches. That scene didn't ring true for me at all.

It's a shame, because all of the rest of the episode - Jake's narration, the events in the settlement, his interactions with the guy who shot his own leg, his unease at the medical humour, his understanding of the pointlessness of the conflict and his writing-up of the story and showing it to his father - work very well. If dramatically contrived elements of the plot like the cave-in and the dying soldier had been avoided or handled differently, it'd have really worked in the episode's favour.
Kotas
Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 9:15pm (UTC -6)

I agree with the poster above. This was a decent episode but I wasn't feeling the acting and the events were not very believable.

5/10
Elliott
Fri, Jan 17, 2014, 5:01pm (UTC -6)
Jammer writes :

"The beauty of Jake's character is that it's the one most people in the audience will identify with."

I think this sentiment says something very true about this series, Star Trek and television in general. Many are fond of calling classic Trek "preachy" and aloof. People are made uncomfortable by the idea of humans more evolved than ourselves populating the screen, telling us that we could be better than we are. At the same time, many are comforted by the presence of a "relatable" character like Jake whose psychology, intelligence and emotionalism are indistinguishable from most of our own, that our faults are excusable because they are common.

In spite of this being another bullet point on the laundry list that is the insult catalogue DS9 became to the Star Trek franchise, the general ideas of this episode were okay; unlike "The Siege of ARR90201...whatever", the hospital situation is more or less a reasonable use of the war scenario with the Klingons. Conversely, the payoff of 2 Klingons stupidly being crushed to death by foam boulders pales in visual execution next to the aforementioned episode's cinematography. I would consider the fact that Jake did actually kill two people to be at least a little relevant to the issue of his dealing with war and death. I mean, seeing people mutilated causes him to vomit, but killing people doesn't get a line of dialogue? Not an horrendous oversight, but shouldn't something like this warrant a less-than-perfect score here? As usual, I find Lofton's acting to be sub-par, but at least I'm used to it now.
Nissa
Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 5:49pm (UTC -6)
Would someone be offended if I said the episode was really, really boring? The themes were too obvious, and the acting was just meh. I will say, however, that the medical staff were pretty excellent in how they handled their situation.
Jons
Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 12:09am (UTC -6)
I love how judging by the comments here you'd think everyone's a veterant soldier. "Omg hes like totally a coward!!" - I almost feel like I'm on world net daily...

I liked that episode, even if the themes were a bit obvious, the execution was great. In particular: the fact Jake didn't pick up a gun to kill Klingons but just shot in the dark, out of despair - that felt real (and took courage for the writers, since lots of viewers prefer to identify with manly action men and heroes). I like also how you get a better appreciation for other ST characters: by seeing it all from Jake's point of view, we do finally see others like Bashir and Sisko as adults... And as soldiers. They're not civilians, they face these situations all the time, and Jake realises that it's not like being a civilian on a ship or station.

Anyway, an effective episode. Sorry the world net daily commenters feel it's too anti-war: apparently watching a show that promotes peace is ok as long as it doesn't say why.
Kyle
Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 8:19pm (UTC -6)
@Jons, spot on. World Net Daily.

It is insanely baffling that anyone would be offended by "anti-war" sentiment.

DS9 is by far the most coherent and nuanced Trek. I love TNG, and like the others, but none are remotely as ambitious in its risk taking. As far as the soldier not being Starfleet material, what you see on those ships are likely the best of the best. Here we are shown that the dirty work still has to be done in times of war by somebody. Is a front line soldier that is dying after fighting a vicious enemy supposed to be altruistic and philosophical in his last minutes. Give me a break. Just silly.
Vylora
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 12:54am (UTC -6)
Their was nothing to indicate that Jake knew he killed those two Klingons. Sure he knew they were there. But at the end he was firing wildly and inadvertently caused a cave-in. Seems reasonable to assume that to his knowledge the Klingons escaped back the way they came. In that case, I don't see that particular point worth bringing up in the episode. However, I do agree it would have been an interesting idea to delve into though had the scene been tweaked a bit. Hypothetically it could have brought up some great plotting.

This is one of those episodes, for me anyway, that, while great, seemed a little off execution-wise. Perhaps this is one of those that could have been better suited as a two-parter with many of the aspects given more time and a chance to breathe.

There's a wonderful story here, though. War is hell and it affects people differently based on their own lives. It's great to see this within the context of the Star Trek universe, especially. At least, if nothing else, for the fact that it can change you deeply. No matter how far you've come as a person. No matter your circumstances. Whether Federation civilian, Starfleet officer, wounded and dying captain, or a fresh faced soldier. This shit sucks.

I read a comment above regarding Star Trek doing a war story as akin to CSI doing a sci-fi story. That no one watches Star Trek for that. Star Trek and many other sci-fi stories like it include various aspects of life whether it be exploration, legal issues, religion, politics, sex, discrimination, war, romance, etc etc. CSI is specific unto itself as an investigative police procedural. The analogy is incorrect, though I think I see where you're coming from.

I'm assuming here the issue stems from this particular story being told is not one that's wanted within the context of Star Trek. I don't find fault in that whatsoever. As a fellow fan I, of course, would hope that you would like it. But if it's a turn-off then its a turn-off and not everyone likes the same thing.

I'm happy there's a huge playground to play in in the ST universe. All of it ties in together. Some want the more outside-looking-in aspects of the other series and some want the more internal aspects of this one. I happen to enjoy them all. I found a lot of great stories in every ST series. DS9 happens to be a personal favorite because of what I have found to be an overall better consistency in quality of episodes.

This particular ep though is a stand-out albeit a shaky one execution-wise. Just barely enough so to make it miss being a classic in my mind.

3.5 stars
Alex
Sat, Mar 29, 2014, 8:00pm (UTC -6)
Great ep. 4 Stars all the way. But I just wanted to mention 2 moments that seemed to be forgotten.

The scene where Dax is telling Sisko about one of her past host children being ill was very affecting. Great acting job by Terry.

The scene where Quark tells Kira and Dax that pregnancy is considered a rental back on his homeworld has to be one of the most random LOL moments I've ever seen on any show.
Buck
Mon, Mar 31, 2014, 1:05am (UTC -6)
It's essentially Corporal Fife's story from James Jones' "The Thin Red Line." Not a bad take at all, other than the somewhat wooden script and action for the background characters. You can't improve on great material, you can just hope to do it justice.
UnknownSample
Mon, Jul 7, 2014, 12:52am (UTC -6)
Alex I like that you mentioned the Quark comment about pregnancy being a rental. Lol

The problem with this episode is Jake. Now I know why they didn't send him to starfleet. The kid can't act and he comes off as such a coward in this episode. He thinks everything is a story and then is surprised when things get real. I absolutely love Bashir's expression at the end when he is reading jakes story. You would think the writers would make him react like Sisko did all proud of jake. But Bashir looks up from the pad, thinks about it and realizes jake left him there to die and his expression says WTF?? Lol. Watch that last scene again if you don't know what I'm talking about
Matt
Mon, Jul 21, 2014, 7:23pm (UTC -6)
What bothered me was that he hid under a table instead of helping evacuate. I was not expecting him to fight, only help everybody else carry the wounded, something he had shown he was capable of earlier. instead he hid under a table while waiting for the Klingons to arrive. While I can't vouch at all for a combat experience, I know that when I am nervous or scared, actively doing something helps relieve those feelings.
Yanks
Thu, Aug 7, 2014, 2:31pm (UTC -6)
@ Snitch

"Jake comes across as a sheltered kid that is a coward"

Well... he's sure as hell sheltered and this episode pretty much proved he is a coward.

If the shoe fits...

I didn't think the acting from Bashir and Jake was all that god-awful in this one. It was the happy-go-lucky "other" that don't seem to react to the war going on around them. Ensign 'shoot myself in the foot' was annoying and Burke was a little over the top. Jake does a pretty good "scared shitless" :-)

"JAKE: You put yourself into dangerous situations all the time.
BASHIR: Maybe, but that's not the same as putting you into one."

**** The End **** (or it should have been)

I can't believe Sisko didn't string Bashir up for this one. This was a choice to put his son in harms way. Then Sisko himself runs after him? 2 wrongs make a right?

Kira: ADM (whoever), Captain Sisko was killed today sir.
ADM: What? How?
Kira: He was killed by the Klingons on Ajilon Prime.
ADM: I didn't send him there, what the hell...
Kira: He went after his son Jake sir.
ADM: What the hell was Jake doing in a war zone?
Kira: LT Bashir took him there sir...
ADM: Why the frak was HE .... That genetically.... (grumble) ... never mind...

I viewed this episode as a justification episode for Jake not wanting to enter Star Fleet.

Not as bad as some grade here, but not a 4 star episode by any stretch.

2.5 stars (average episode)
wanderer2575
Wed, Feb 4, 2015, 7:23am (UTC -6)
Saw this on DVD yesterday. What I found disappointing is that Jake never opened up and spewed out what he was feeling. There was an opportunity there for some really emotional and powerful dialogue (well, at least to whatever extent Cirroc Lofton could take it), but instead he blows off Bashir completely and the only indication that he expressed his thoughts to his father was the line that Sisko had read what Jake wrote. The voiceovers were a joke -- cliches from the First-Year Creative Writing Student's Handbook delivered as though they were being read off a cue card. I wonder whether it's that the writer's couldn't come up with adequate dialogue, just didn't want to go there, or thought it would be wasted with Lofton's delivery, but it was an opportunity lost.
Icarus32Soar
Fri, Mar 13, 2015, 6:06pm (UTC -6)
Seems most of the critics on this thread were never teenagers scared to death of growing up. That's what happens here Jake gets to grow up. It's a great nuanced and gritty episode, not the sanitised sterile TNG all's well BS. Sometimes I feel DS9 is wasted on literal minded Trekkies.
Wilddinggoes
Mon, Mar 16, 2015, 5:28am (UTC -6)
People who criticize Jake for running and being scared have never been even close to a war-zone, let alone a firefight. The idea that YOU would never have run, then felt ashamed about it after is ridiculous. It takes prolonged, intensive training to prepare anybody for that sort of situation, to install discipline
(soldiers, medics and the like).
Robrow
Thu, Apr 23, 2015, 5:26am (UTC -6)
Sorry, but it was too manipulative for my taste. If Bashir had died Jake's self-disgust would have carried more weight. Or if he had known about Jake's actions (and naturally forgiven him), it would have given their scene an interesting edge. As it was Lofton's meltdown in front of the nurses seemed closer to a teenage strop than PTSD. The trite benediction at the end, and Lofton's cheesy smile, just seemed to chrystalise my dislike. Ahh poor Jake, now everything will be fine. Not in the same league as Duet and the Wire. There I really sense emotional depth.
dsFine
Wed, Oct 7, 2015, 4:47pm (UTC -6)
Jeez, are these comments made by 15-year-olds?

YES, Jake is a spoiled child. YES, he's a coward. That is the FUCKING POINT of this episode. And one it's not that subtly bringing across. Jake wanted to experience drama because in his spoiled little mind he thought that's what would make him a writer. He is naive. And he got what he wished for.

If you can't handle a protagonist not acting the way you (think/dream/wish) you would act, you have some growing up to do.
Good stories aren't about Mary Sues, they are about real people acting in a real way. And human behavior has quite a spectrum to it. Just because Jake's dad is Mr. Fantastic - diplomat, war strategist, ship combat tactician, spec ops, Bajoran lightship builder, tinkerer of the Defiant's systems - doesn't mean Jake has to be all that.
Even in the 24th century and even in Gene Roddenberry's "vision" humans must be sub-fantastic sometimes.
JMT
Sun, Nov 8, 2015, 9:02pm (UTC -6)
I don't think it's fair to penalize DS9 for daring to be more than just a copy of TNG. It's a different show with a different tone, and it does stand on its own.

That said, I have no problems with this episode thematically, but the acting simply didn't carry the script. I found myself relating to Jake when he was gripped by fear and attempting to run away. I did end up laughing at the Klingon's overacting when being hit by the rocks it looked so ridiculous (Ie. it was bad to the point I felt jolted out of the story). Also, that final shot of Jake smiling was just plain awkward.
methane
Thu, Dec 17, 2015, 7:46pm (UTC -6)
When I first saw this episode I thought it took courage for the writers to show one of their regular characters falling short of the superhuman ideal. Many of the comments here show that the writers were indeed brave; many of you over-estimate the courage you would show in such a situation.

I think I'd give the episode 3 stars, maybe 3.5. The regular actors did very well, but some of the guest actors gave large, theatrical performances when the show required more intimate, naturalistic acting choices. I also think the dialogue could have been tightened or re-worked in some places.

Still, a strong episode. DS9 was the Star Trek that had the most war, but it does a good job of showing many of the negative consequences of war. It's interesting that DS9 the series starts off showing us the problems that follow a war (rebuilding a society, war-orphans, etc.) before getting around to showing problems that occur while a war is being fought.
William B
Sat, Jan 2, 2016, 4:48pm (UTC -6)
Jake Sisko, a young untested writing talent, is given the chance to write a profile on one of the foremost doctors of his generation, the youngest Carrington nominee of all time. However, he quickly runs into the problem that he finds science, medicine, and Bashir personally totally boring. People don't care about those things -- they care about life and death! Things they can relate to, like fighting in a war zone is something that Jake can relate to. Like many young aspiring journalists and novelists, Jake sees the opportunity to become Hemingway: he can live through the gritty reality and make beautiful art that will touch people's lives. Underpinning his initial position here are a number of assumptions, which the episode does knock down one by one:

1. He assumes that because he finds Bashir's prattling boring, that there is nothing interesting for him to write about. One of the key problems with popular science writing is failing to recognize that it actually takes work to translate very interesting ideas, to de-jargonize them while maintaining the essential. We are sympathetic here, because Bashir can be obnoxious and dull, but we also know that Bashir has some stories of real drama to tell ("The Quickening," if nothing else). I think the issue here is that Jake is unwilling to try to be interested in the subject, but wants the story to grab him.
2. You can only write about things that are "real," and that "really happen" to you, as if fiction or mythology or imagination have no role. The only way to engage the reader is to experience horrific events and then transcribe them.
3. Because it is exciting to read about difficult, life-and-death situations, and because those are immediately engaging and relatable to read about, Jake believes that actually being in a difficult, life-or-death situation will be exciting (in the positive senses only), engaging and, indeed, as easy to deal with emotionally on the battlefield as it is as a reader.
4. Because he plans to write a story about his experiences in the battle, he assumes that he will naturally discover narrative order in the events themselves. This is the big one -- throughout the episode, Jake narrates on what is happening right now, and presents it in a way that makes the war in general and his actions in particular comprehensible as an emotionally engaging series of events, with a "point." 1-3 are in some ways all part of the problem, but this one is I think the big lesson: Jake imagines that because he is a storyteller, the world is a story, and if he can only find his "in" to the narrative he will be able to make sense of the situation he is in, and ultimately his own cowardice.

Lest it seems like I'm being harsh on Jake, these are pretty common issues for teenagers to have. The biblical allusion in the episode's title, in this case, is another attack on the idea that there is a fundamental order to the universe, wherein virtue, and only virtue, is rewarded: "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." (Ecc. 9:11, KJV.) To some extent, I feel like Jake should have had some recognition of the precariousness of his life, some idea of his mortality, more than most teenagers; he makes reference in the episode to feeling like his father was always there to protect him, which does make some sense, but, you know, his mother died, when Jake was not all *that* young. Anyway. I don't think that Lofton is all that great in this episode, but I think that the somewhat flat, often funny and usually off-putting voice-overs are both a weakness and a strength. Jake's constantly existing at a step removed from the action comes across in Lofton's not-that-convincing delivery, which ends up reinforcing the idea that Jake is not just in over his head in a generic way, but in over his head in attempting to find the storytelling narrative of his experiences, and failing because not only is war hell but it's also filled with events that are senseless. That is part of why I also don't mind the basic idea that Jake "saves the day" accidentally, and thus is in some senses let off the hook. What Jake really wanted was the opportunity to prove himself heroic as a direct consequence of his running away, as if he was "meant to" find Burke. Jake actually is given an out, then -- he has a perfect opportunity to spin the narrative as being a series of events leading to his saving the day, but he chooses to be honest with himself instead, which (hopefully) finds a greater virtue. Jake is a coward in battle, but he can be brave enough to be an honest storyteller.

The execution of the cave-in with the Klingons is extremely silly, as are a number of other events in the episode. The way Jake just stumbles onto a bunch of one-scene characters before getting back to Bashir feels very staged. Many of the one-episode players also seem like phony types out of central casting -- Burke the hardened ARGHGGH soldier, the ensign who shot his own foot who immediately broke into confessions with Jake. The M*A*S*H-style medics were okay, but I didn't love them, either. All of which is to say that I was kicked out of the episode on the basis of execution at a few points, though I generally thought the ideas were fine. As an episode about Jake's coming of age, I think it's not actually exceptional, but is decent and touching. A solid 3 stars from me.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Jan 17, 2016, 3:11pm (UTC -6)
The bleakest outlook of any Trek episode yet? When the medics indulge in the blackest of black humour in discussing whether it's better to be killed by a Klingon disruptor ("like being burned alive") or decapitated ("the last thing you see is your headless corpse") you know this isn't standard fare.

What this does well is toss aside the normal stories of duty, courage and self sacrifice that we see all the characters exhibiting every week and expose the underbelly of fear that at least one character is feeling. I've always felt that this was a ballsy move, and yet totally in keeping with Jake's character development.

What it does less well is in throwing open again the Big Book of War Cliches in reaching these conclusions. And the ending comes perilously close to throwing away all the good work earlier by making Jake a (albeit accidental) hero. At least the script recognises that he was just doing what he needed to survive. But one wonders if that element was needed to rehabilitate Jake just a bit in the eyes of the audience. 3 stars.
Greattrekker
Sat, Mar 12, 2016, 7:41pm (UTC -6)
War is hell, there is no way to make it nice and "peaceful".

DS9 did its best rendition of Apocalypse Now, and in my view this is one of the best Star Trek episodes ever made. Some may think of it as manipulative or hate how cowardly Jake was, but it gave us realistic expectations of war without apology or moralizing on which side is better. This was Star Trek's War Movie moment before the Dominion War.

4 Stars is not enough for a classic
Luke
Thu, Apr 28, 2016, 1:51am (UTC -6)
Wow! I remember thinking that this episode was strong, but not this strong. "...Nor the Battle to the Strong" is indeed one of "Deep Space Nine's" finest hours. As a show focused on the theme of "war is hell", it is (I'm just going to say it) much better than the much beloved "The Siege of AR-558" from Season Seven. While both episodes rely heavily on "war is hell" cliches (notably the stereotypical "ARRRGGG" solider Jake stumbles upon and the M*A*S*H style medics), this episode downplays them much more than the later one.

I suppose I could write paragraph after paragraph on what is so good about the episode, but I'll stick with just the top two things that stand out for me. 1.) Combat is not glorified in any way, shape or form. Star Trek has always focused on the "heroes" doing rather heroic things. Whenever they get into combat it's not exactly glorified but it's not exactly shown as the barbaric act it truly is. Violence on Trek is always fairly stylized. There's nothing wrong with stylized violence in media per se - I love a good late-80s/early-90s stylized action movie as much as the next guy. But when trying to show combat in a more realistic way, Trek often falls short. Not so here! Here we get the absolutely crucial message that war and direct combat is not some fun little pursuit, it's not some proving ground for heroes, it's not something that can and should be used to separate the weak from the strong. It's brutal, it's unforgiving, it's messy and it's simply downright terrible (for everyone involved). There may be "necessary" wars. But there are never any "good" ones. The episode also takes two people (Jake and the solider who shot his own foot) who aren't traditionally "heroic" and presents them as deserving of compassion, sympathy and understanding. Nicely done! 2.) "...Nor the Battle to the Strong" takes the one main cast member who has been given the least amount of development and actually uses him in an extremely effective way that is fully in keeping with his character. Compare the use of Jake "as a writer" here to how that concept was utilized in "The Muse" and the differences are stark. By putting Jake is an Ernest Hemingway style war story it not only allows him to have some magnificent character growth but takes his occupation as a journalist/writer seriously (instead of having an absurd space vampire suck out his writing abilities).

If I wanted to nitpick the episode I suppose I could bring the score down somewhat. Things like the Klingons breaking the ceasefire seemingly for no reason only to then suddenly reinstate it also for no apparent reason, the cliched guest characters and the silliness of Jake somehow surviving a cave he causes himself are all weaknesses. But, the good vastly outweighs the bad. Jammer said it best - this episode is "a real story, with real people, real problems, and real reactions." And real consequences - it would have been so easy to just hit the reset button hard once Sisko and Bashir find Jake alive in the rubble, but the episode refuses to do that and instead has the wonderful coda of Bashir and Sisko learning the truth about what Jake did. Bravo!

10/10
Quarkissnyder
Tue, Jul 12, 2016, 4:47pm (UTC -6)
As the episode began I had serious concerns. It seemed like a really poor episode of M*A*S*H. But as it continued there was a tremendously logical coherence to the story itself that is rare in DS9.

Unlike others, though, I did dislike the ending and I thought it did cheat -- maybe because of Cirroc Lofton's inability to act. His grin because his daddy liked his story was completely wrong. A more realistic ending would have been that Sisko read his story, liked it, told Jake he was brave for writing it -- and then the camera pans to Jake's face and you see that he feels that Sisko has missed the point of the story, which is that he is NOT brave and that the courage to write honestly about himself does not undo his cowardice in leaving Bashir behind to die. To say otherwise misses the point and is insulting to him as a writer.
Robert
Tue, Jul 12, 2016, 9:21pm (UTC -6)
@Quark - I kind of took his smile differently. Relief that his father wasn't disgusted with him.
Peter G.
Tue, Jul 12, 2016, 10:24pm (UTC -6)
Yeah. I think the moral is that bravery =/= valor. You can be scared, and even cowardly, and yet own up to that and be who you are without being ashamed.

DS9 seems to me a repeated effort in showing imperfect characters who come to grips with their imperfection and are ok with it. They realize they don't need to pretend to be perfect to still be worthy. We see it with pretty much the entire cast, sooner or later, and the 'villains' of the series are the ones who cannot own up to their imperfections. It's not that they have them, but that they are self-deluded about them. I think most of the audience would have been willing to forgive even Kai Winn, for instance, in her scene of contrition with Kira, if she had the guts to stick with what she admitted.

Sisko is at the forefront of this, being someone who has terrible anger, and difficulty with forgiveness (Picard in Emissary, Eddington), and a penchant for obsession, would be the one to understand when Jake comes to him with an admission of being a flawed person. Welcome to the club, would be the thought. This is one reason, among others, I don't see him as a messianic figure at all but rather as someone down in the muck with everyone else, struggling.
David Pirte
Sat, Nov 19, 2016, 1:36pm (UTC -6)
Christ this was grim. Saving Private Ryan meets The Red Badge of Courage.

But it was darn good TV.

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