Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Ship"


Air date: 10/7/1996
Teleplay by Hans Beimler
Story by Pam Wigginton & Rick Cason
Directed by Kim Friedman

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Now I know it's hot, we're filthy, tired, and we've got ten isotons of explosives going off outside; but we will never get out of this if we don't pull it together and start to act like professionals!" — Sisko in the face of dissension

Nutshell: An interesting setup premise, but the ending, despite having some depth, is underwhelming and quite overwrought.

While Sisko and his crew scout the surface of a Gamma Quadrant planet for resources, a Jem'Hadar warship unexpectedly falls into orbit and crashes. Sisko decides to investigate. Upon entering the ship and finding the entire Jem'Hadar crew dead, Sisko claims the ship for Starfleet and sends for the Defiant to assist in the excavation of a great strategic find.

Before the Defiant can arrive, however, another Jem'Hadar crew arrives, led by a Vorta official named Kilana (Kaitlin Hopkins). They promptly blow the orbiting Runabout out of the sky, killing four of Sisko's officers, and then they demand Sisko return their ship. Sisko has no intention of simply giving it back to them. He and his crew hole up inside the downed vessel and prepare for an attack. The Jem'Hadar do not attack, however; for some reason, they cannot risk destroying what is on board the ship.

"The Ship" is a mixed bag if I've ever seen one. It has an intriguing premise and it features our heroes in a tough position where they are going to get dirty before it's all over. It even goes so far as to have dissension among Sisko's officers—something rarely seen on Star Trek. But countering the freshness of the gritty elements is a host of standard plot machinations and an overwrought ending with only marginal effectiveness.

The nature of "The Ship's" plot is conducive for repetitive scenes. For example, early in the episode, Ensign Muniz (F.J. Rio) is injured by a Jem'Hadar weapon blast. As the show progresses, there are a number of scenes between Chief O'Brien (who has sort of taken the kid under his wing) and young Muniz. There's a lot of sarcastic camaraderie here—and most of it works. But there are so many derivations of the same sequence that it begins to feel like the show runs out of things to say about its situation.

Still, another way of looking at the repetitive nature of the story is that it allows us to feel what these characters are feeling; after being trapped in this ship for so long with Jem'Hadar explosions going off outside, it's easy to see how and why tensions continuously rise. The rise in tensions parallels right alongside Muniz's deterioration, as his condition descends from fair to bad to worse (his hallucinations and sudden breaking into speaking Spanish prove to be an effective and foreboding way of conveying his condition).

One thing I really like about this episode is how the mounting tensions begin to get the best of the crew. "The Ship" is definitely not catching the DS9 crew at their best. At one point in the fourth act, emotions build up until there's irritable dissension unlike anything seen on the series. There's enough attitude in the room to cut with a phaser. Worf's hardly-helpful comments about Muniz's condition ("He will not see tomorrow") anger O'Brien to the point of throwing punches. Meanwhile, Dax's sardonic sarcasm begins to annoy everyone (Sisko: "Maybe you didn't notice Dax, but no one's laughing"). I particularly liked Sisko's response to the situation to get his officers back in line; Avery Brooks shows his usual energetic authority. A good commander knows what he has to say and when.

Another aspect that is very commendable is the production. At no point during this episode did I get the feeling that I was anywhere but trapped inside this close-quartered ship. The sets are outstanding, and Kim Friedman's lighting and photography techniques are very nicely executed.

One thing that does not work in "The Ship," however, is the Kilana character. Kaitlin Hopkins appears very uncertain in the role—seemingly miscast—and most of her negotiation scenes with Sisko (many of which do not have much of a point to begin with) are further sabotaged by her lackluster performance. She delivers far too many mid-line pauses in her dialog to be convincing, and something about her entire demeanor just...annoyed me.

Also holding back the episode are the plot workings. Given the premise, the way the plot resolves itself is hardly impressive. Once Sisko realizes it's the cargo that the Jem'Hadar really want, Kilana agrees to let him keep the ship if he allows her to remove the item. Sisko doesn't trust her, and I don't blame him. He instead begins searching the ship for this mysterious cargo, but with no success. I was hoping the item would be something new, compelling, fascinating, or the like. Nope. Turns out that the item is a Changeling hiding on the ship, disguised as part of the floor. It dies (for reasons I'm still not certain of), and turns into a pile of ashes.

Once the Founder dies, the Jem'Hadar kill themselves for allowing one of their gods to die. With the damage done, Kilana beams on board and reveals everything to Sisko.

This is where the episode's Big Sweeping Message is revealed, and in a way that leaves much to be desired. While I appreciated the fact that the writers tried to make this adventure outing add up to something dramatically relevant at the end, I did not appreciate the bluntness of the lesson or the logic behind it. Sisko's statement, "The Runabout crew, your soldiers, Muniz... They'd all be alive if we had just trusted each other!" falls completely flat, and feels so spoon-fed that it borders on the pretentious. This line literally had me groaning, it's so overwrought. While the idea of a tragedy based on a lack of trust is certainly relevant material, "The Ship" does not have the depth or emotion it needs to pull it off successfully.

One glaring inconsistency in the plot is how Sisko refers to the loss of his Runabout crew as a direct result of not trusting the Jem'Hadar when the Runabout was in fact destroyed from orbit before the Jem'Hadar even beamed down to confront Sisko. It's not as if Sisko traded these officers for the strategic value of the crashed ship (as he terms it in a closing scene)—they were dead before he even saw one Jem'Hadar soldier, and there wasn't a single thing he could've done to prevent it. For that matter, even Muniz was shot in the Jem'Hadar's initial assault, long before negotiations had started. I suppose there's the possibility that he could've survived had the crew hammered out a compromise with the Jem'Hadar in enough time to get him real medical treatment, but even that is a bit of a stretch under the story's circumstances.

The big picture "The Ship" tries to get across, and not so subtly, is the analysis of death in the line of duty. This is not the first time Sisko has lost someone under him; nor will it be the last. It seems odd, then, based on the episode's events, that he would blame himself on this particular mission, especially given the extreme circumstances. A lot of Sisko's argument with Dax in the final scene seems somewhat unfounded when one considers the way the episode unfolded. This is not the first time we've seen this theme, nor was it particularly effective this time around. If the show really wanted to be about Sisko feeling guilt for losing officers under him, it might have been better if they had actually died as a result of his decisions or orders.

With a reworked ending and a more surprising "mysterious item," "The Ship" could've been much more effective. This is one time I wish the creators had pushed for a straight action show over a story with a message, because as it is the drama here is both not enough and too much.

Previous episode: Apocalypse Rising
Next episode: Looking for Par'mach in All the Wrong Places

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33 comments on this review

J - Sun, Dec 6, 2009 - 2:22pm (USA Central)
Oo... it occurs to me that something "new and compelling" that they could've found on the ship, that would've added to the depth of the episode, would've been a changeling *defector.* Some changeling that wanted to leave the Dominion for reasons of its own, but didn't trust "the Solids". (I suppose it shouldn't be a defector, which would raise questions of why it wanted to join the Solids. Perhaps just a changeling that wanted to leave the Founders but didn't like either side.)

Negotiations could be coming to a head, it would confound both the Feds and the Dominion, and then the changeling died... still a tragedy to the J'em Hadar, a tragedy for the changeling, and probably a tragedy to Sisko who no doubt would've spent time trying to convince the changeling of the advantages of joining the all-beneficient Federation.
Nic - Mon, Jan 25, 2010 - 8:36pm (USA Central)
I can't believe how out of character everyone is in this episode, especially Worf. I'm not saying Starfleet officers should never lose their temper, but in this scene it just felt totally uncalled for (not to mention Avery Brooks' overacting). Perhaps there just wasn't enough tension leading up to it.

I agree that the five deaths could have happened differently and made more sense (in terms of Sisko's guilt). And that's too bad because I really like the second-to-last scene between Sisko and Dax. I think this is the first time the issue of real people dying under your command was brought up, and it was about time. Too often do they just mention '11 dead' and move on, which is dramatically pointless.
Jeff O'Connor - Sun, Oct 17, 2010 - 1:36pm (USA Central)
Just watched this one last night. Sorry to disagree, but I did indeed love it. I found Hopkins' performance decent if not stellar; it seemed to fit the character that she was so uncertain.

Thanks for confirming for me that there was a glaring inconsistency regarding the runabout, though. That was driving me nuts.
Jay - Sun, Nov 21, 2010 - 3:06pm (USA Central)
I'm sure it was meant to be amusing in a funny-ha-ha kind of way, but the scene with Julian getting in legal trouble over Quark was stupid. Like there was any chance that Bashir was involved in Quark's criminal enterprise. The notion that it was such that Kira actually left their doctor behind over the matter on a mission to retrieve a downed crew was simply jaw-dropping.
Matrix - Sun, Dec 5, 2010 - 6:05pm (USA Central)
I always liked this one because it put the characters through hell. I remember seeing this at my first ever convention as a kid with my dad. jadzia had that snarky bit about men or testosterone or something and sisko says that no ones laughing. sorry sisko, but the convention loved it. all the tension in the air and the character conflicts made this one really enjoyable.
David - Thu, Mar 10, 2011 - 9:33pm (USA Central)
I just watched this episode and I have to agree with Jammer's review of this episode.

Everyone seemed out of character like what Nic said. What was up with Worf acting belligerent out of nowhere? I agree in that tensions were not built up sufficiently so that everyone seemed to be acting out of character. Worf and O'Brien had been in similar if not worse situations on both DS9 and TNG!

Also, regarding Jay's comment with Kira leaving Bashir on the station with "legal problems" was a horrendous scene that made it one of the worst scenes ever. An away team found a Jem'Hadar warship and they are not taking their chief medical officer? They didn't know there was wounded but there could easily have been. It just was an absolutely horrendous scene.

Like what Jammer said with a mysterious find this episode could have been really stellar.

I must say that Terry Farrel's performance was quite fun to watch and her character is still my favorite on DS9. I wish her character was utilized more.
Trekkie89 - Tue, Dec 6, 2011 - 10:48am (USA Central)
I'm surprised the word "cleavage" hasn't been mentioned once in this review or in the comments. I was hardly able to pay attention to what was going on whenever Hopkins got on-screen.

Justin - Thu, Mar 22, 2012 - 7:44pm (USA Central)
Jammer's right - the Vorta's performance was annoying. In fact, the only decent actor playing a Vorta in the entirety of DS9 is Jeffrey Combs as Weyoun. It also says a lot that the second best performance turned in by a Vorta was Iggy Pop.
Justin - Fri, Mar 23, 2012 - 2:22pm (USA Central)
I thought the final scenes with Sisko/Dax and O'Brien/Worf were well done. It just occurred to me that the character of Muniz was seen in quite a few episodes leading up to this - since about the middle of the 4th season. Maybe it was a conscious decision by the writers to introduce a semi-regular starfleet crewman that would eventually be killed in the line of duty so his death could have more meaning to the audience.
Tom - Fri, Apr 27, 2012 - 7:47pm (USA Central)
Another great episode of DS9, I loved the interaction between the characters and Dax's sence of humor. The scene with Worf and O' Brien in the end was very touching.
Snitch - Tue, May 1, 2012 - 4:34am (USA Central)
Pretty much standard fare, the scenery and battle scenes were okay for Trek standards but hardly a cutting edge dramatization. The close relationship between O'Brien and Muniz came out of nowhere and cheapens his demise. The Vorta performance did not bother me.
2 Stars from me
jason - Sat, Jun 23, 2012 - 9:55am (USA Central)
Very good episode, the characters were the highlight of it.
Empty Shell - Fri, Oct 12, 2012 - 1:16am (USA Central)
Didn't like worf's out of nowhere "klingon tradition" of watching over a dead body.

trek has told us again and again that a dead klingon body is an empty shell and it is treated as such.

It was a forced resolution to a forced out of character conflict between obrien and worf.

not a great episode
Jay - Sat, Oct 13, 2012 - 8:35pm (USA Central)
@ Justin

I'd put Iggy Pop's Vorta at third best. Second best was Keevan.
Arachnea - Wed, Nov 21, 2012 - 11:02am (USA Central)
In the first scene between Sisko and the Vorta, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Sisko talking about an old tradition: it's called salvage, we were here first, therefore the ship is mine (or something like that). That is very un-Federation-like, that's more Ferengi-like !

I thought Sisko would ask for a medical kit as a show of good faith; at least, it wouldn't have hurt to ask. At least, I would have seen the captain with more respect. Instead, he refuses a reasonable offer with twisted arguments.

Here's an episode that could have been good. However, I'm glad that for once, we see the crew care for the lost people in the line of duty. A shame it wasn't for the good reasons (and I completely agree with Empty Shell).
Freddy - Mon, Dec 3, 2012 - 11:47pm (USA Central)
Maybe it is because i was about 15 when i first watched this episode. But still - another 15 years later - it remains one of my all time favourites of the entire series.
Brilliant direction, a good score, a great villain, superb character moments and one of the best endings of an episode of Trek. I love the changeling twist and this episode will always be remembered as the only TREK outing where the death of Red shirts is properly dealt with.
This is big drama ( especially the scenes between Colm Meaney and F.J.Rio) and i don't care whether it is out of character sometimes because i can't imagine what effect a tense situation like this would probably have on people.
Shawn Davis - Mon, Dec 17, 2012 - 4:53pm (USA Central)
Greetings Jammer. I would give this episode at least 3 stars instead of 2 1/2 stars. While I agree that it is not perfect (I agree with you about Sisko worrying about things that was not within his control to begin with like the destruction of the runabout which resulted in the death of the 4 crewmembers aboard that runabout for example. I also agree that Kaitlin Hopkins character as the vorta Kilana needs work). However, I disagree with you on everything else .
Baaradon - Sat, Apr 6, 2013 - 9:15pm (USA Central)
Has anyone noticed that when the crew first board the upside down; they enter through the bottom and then climb up instead of down. Somebody goofed.
Sean - Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - 5:11pm (USA Central)
The problem with this one is that, apart from the last five minutes, it isn't a DS9 episode. It's an ENT or VOY episode or a bad TNG episode. Or even a TOS episode. We have a bunch of redshirts that we know are obviously going to get killed for dramatic effect. Especially the redshirt we focus on for the whole episode who kind of came out of nowhere and we're supposed to care about.

And we sent our main characters on a runabout to see if this planet is suitable for mining. Dax I can understand, being the science officer. But Sisko, Worf, and O'Brien? Not a chance. They're far too important to just send off willy nilly into the Gamma Quadrant whenever a science officer gets curious. Especially Sisko, being Starfleet's main hope for maintaining relations with Bajor and, more importantly, maintaining a presence at the wormhole. If the Bajorans tell Starfleet to leave, Sisko is pretty much the only one who can convince them otherwise, being the Emissary. So he's far too important to risk on a runabout in the Gamma Quandrant on an expedition to see if a planet is suitable for mining.

These are mistakes the other Trek show would make, but not DS9. DS9 is smarter than that.
gggggggg - Fri, Oct 11, 2013 - 5:41am (USA Central)
The problem really was the "if we'd just TRUSTED one another. we are both EQUALLY at fault. we're both in the wrong EQUALLY" was completely unconvincing. kilana was the most manipulative, flattering, deceitful vorta i'd ever seen, and reminded me of how manipulative and vaguely-cunning the entire species can be. the idea of being able to trust kilana to save the others lives is a real stretch, especially when she sent the jem-hadar onto the ship, and her jem-hadar killed the runabout crew. quite frankly, it's pretty obvious who was in the wrong here, and was responsible for the founder's death, and had the real unreasonable trust deficit.
Kotas - Thu, Oct 24, 2013 - 9:06pm (USA Central)

Not a bad episode. It's fun to see characters interact under pressure.

Vylora - Tue, Feb 25, 2014 - 9:08pm (USA Central)
I guess I'm part of the crowd that loved this one. The characters interactions within the tense situation were very well-realized throughout the entire episode. The O'brien/Munez thread was nicely handled. No I don't know the character as he's only been a bit part in a few other eps. But that doesn't mean O'brien in the show is only allowed to be close friends with the regulars. Within the context of this episode it wasn't meant as let's force us to care about someone unknown. It was just part of the overall drama playing out. Maybe they could've had a different element to add to the drama in place of Munez? Sure, but what was here doesn't detract for me in the least.

The discussion between Dax and Sisko near the end was a tad much. However it was nice to see at least SOME sort of dialogue concerning the random death of "redshirts" as it were. The line involving how these people died for the crashed ship was just an oversimplification of saying how the events leading up to the shows end ultimately resulted in the deaths; and that being in command, Sisko, is ultimately accountable. A small rewrite there wouldn't have hurt.

The ending scene was about as poignant as it could get.

Overall, I saw a winner here. It was a step up from the solid premiere. The pacing was adeptly handled, the plot was good, characterizations were spot-on. Methinks I liked this more than Jammer. :p

3.5 stars.

Yanks - Wed, Aug 6, 2014 - 1:45pm (USA Central)
Ah, the "Vorta w/boobs" episode. :-)

The first time I saw this I knew that a founder was in the ship as soon as they started talking about the construction of the thing. Is there ANY other reason the Jem'Hadar don't storm the ship?

Come on, this really makes our heroes look pretty naive.

Muniz - at least we have somewhat of a meaningful death. This wasn't just some "red-shirt". (they were all on the run-a-bout) We've known him for at least one prior episode. (maybe 2) I enjoyed Muniz. Sorry to see the character die.

Avery's acting here is just horrible.

"Muniz, the runabout crew, your soldiers, they'd all still be alive if we had trusted each other."

Not much better when he's talking to Jadzia about lost shipmates but the content of the conversation was good and needed IMO.

2.5 stars.
Ian - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 3:18pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed the tension of the characters being trapped and surrounded and it never seemed forced to me. While it was nice idea to explore losing people under your command in a personal way beyond random red shirts getting shot or killed by exploding consoles, the Muniz scenes got a bit melodramatic and repetitive. All of the characters were constantly stopping to reflect on his condition and I felt like the script was grabbing me and saying "THIS IS SAD!"
Jack - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 8:49pm (USA Central)
I'm with Jay, Jeffrey Combs' Wayoun is definitely the best Vorta ever, but Chris Shea's Keevan from "Rocks And Shoals" and "The Magnificent Ferengi" is definitely runner up.
Yanks - Thu, Aug 28, 2014 - 11:43am (USA Central)

I agree. Check out my review over there.
LongKahn - Mon, Sep 1, 2014 - 11:40pm (USA Central)
Muniz - "I can't feel my legs"

Dax - "Don't worry. They're there"

Lol. That is the one line from Dax that made me laugh and it wasn't even meant to be funny.

This episode is just hard to watch. I cringe every time is hear O'brien say "Easy, Quique" and Muniz replies "ok papa"
$G - Mon, Sep 8, 2014 - 12:21pm (USA Central)
I like this episode, though its brand of pinned-down panic is done better in BSG's second season with part of the crew trapped on Kobol. Of course, it's unfair to judge "The Ship" by the standards of an episode of another series that aired eight years later. But there IS something to be said for letting a situation stew. Maybe a two-parter is too much time for an episode like this, but the 20 minutes it takes for the crew to start cracking is a bit of a short cut. I realize more time has passed in-episode, but what matters is how it's presented.

Anyway - I DO like how the situation was very badly mishandled by the Vorta. Not only did she lose the Changeling, but she lost the ship and her platoon as well. Her tactics started out as a full-on attack (bad decision, considering the 100% likelihood of their targets holing up in the ship and finding the Changeling), a poor attempt at diplomacy, and espionage. Sisko reacted exactly as she SHOULD HAVE expected, and she was unable to think outside the box to get the job done. Though, that snack she offers Sisko may have her attempt to garner some trust, she should have realized beforehand how suspicious she'd be coming off (it's not clear if the snack is poisoned, but Sisko's reaction immediately makes the whole attempt a failure in either case).

I liked Sisko's line about trust - delivered well, I think. The Vorta should have known how to handle this situation. She should have known that telling Sisko about the Changeling would have given her team a higher chance of recovering it. She presumably knows all about Sisko - she does ask him about Jake - so should have used that to her advantage that he's a bit of a humanitarian. More trust would have been required on Sisko's part, who isn't privvy to any psych reports on Kilana. Even a trade would have worked: working Dominion technology for the Changeling, straight up. She should have known that.
$G - Mon, Sep 8, 2014 - 12:29pm (USA Central)
One more thing to add:

Her outfit, which I hesitate to comment on - but was it part of her failed negotiation? No other Vorta so far has dressed like her, so her revealing top may have been another misguided attempt to soften Sisko's stance. Given the outcome of the episode, Kilana's actions look more and more desperate. It might have been neat to hear a Jem'Hadar perspective on the situation, too, though I think the writers wanted to avoid making Jem'Hadar-Vorta episodes boil down to dissent every time.

Anyway, a clean 3-star episode for me. Well written, pretty well performed, and adds some nice texture to the series without trying to be a game-changer. Worth watching.
$G - Mon, Sep 8, 2014 - 12:37pm (USA Central)
One last comment, I SWEAR:

For anyone who likes Muniz, he also had a pretty substantial role in Seasons 6 and 7 of the police drama The Shield.

As an aside, The Shield is an excellent, excellent show that I don't hear talked about in hindsight such as The Wire, The Sopranos, and, very likely in the coming years, Breaking Bad. I know four other people who have watched it, and all were introduced to it by me - though it doesn't help that in Toronto it was very difficult to catch first-run episodes on their release without using... other methods.
Dave in NC - Mon, Sep 8, 2014 - 2:18pm (USA Central)
@ $G

Lol, every time I watch "The Shield", I flash back to "The Commish", haha.
Impulse - Sat, Nov 29, 2014 - 1:50pm (USA Central)
Enjoyable episode (loved the Vorta). Don't usually see the crew in contentious discussions which I found both refreshing and out of character (been in much worst before for longer periods).

The whole tension falls flat for me however. I couldn't accept the stand off and felt the Jem Hadar were being portrayed as weaker than previously, once again like star trek does with other great villians such as the borg and klingons.

After the Vorta negotiation they know they are dealing with a small band of surveyors and a few warriors who are in an unfamiliar ship with a secret assett they can't find. The Jem Hadar are warriors born, can cloak, can beam into the ship anythime and they don't try it?!? Why? How about the Jem Hadar who entered the ship undetected and planted a device? He could have beamed in invisible, planted a sleeping gas device and waited till all the crew fell asleep. Then Jem Hadar storm the ship and do as they please.

I welcome any comments on flaws in my logic as not seen this show to the end yet, but overall enjoying the experience.
MsV - Mon, Mar 2, 2015 - 7:18pm (USA Central)
To the fool who said Avery was overacting. He played those scenes superbly. These were emotion driven scenes and he did not overact. Maybe some people think everyone should be bland and passive and if they laughed out loud it is an overreaction. I am glad none of you are paid film critics.

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