Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Air date: 5/19/1997
Teleplay by Hans Beimler
Story by Bryan Fuller
Directed by Michael Vejar
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"He asked me to get a coil spanner for him. I just turned my back for a second."
"That's a shame ... and the worst part of it is this isn't a coil spanner."
— Amaro and Garak, upon the death of Boq'ta
Nutshell: A reasonable setup premise, but it goes off the rails. Too much madness and not enough insight.
I'll give "Empok Nor" one thing—it's effectively photographed, with dark lighting and ominous atmosphere. This episode looks really good. Director Michael Vejar, who also directed "The Darkness and the Light" earlier this season, has shown a talent for utilizing lighting effectively and building intensity with pure technique.
Unfortunately, Vejar does not have the story backing him up that he had in "Darkness and Light." The premise of "Empok Nor," from regular scripter Hans Beimler, built from a story by Bryan Fuller (who also had story credit on "Darkness and Light"), begins on very reasonable terms, but it becomes increasingly inane as it advances. By the last two acts everything falls apart, and not even the actors can survive the lack of decent actions and dialog.
The initial premise is simple: When O'Brien needs parts to make repairs to DS9, he and his salvage team—consisting of Nog, Pechetti (Tom Hodges), Stolzoff (Marjean Holden), Boq'ta (Andy Milder), and Amaro (Jeffrey King)—venture to the abandoned Empok Nor, a Cardassian station with a design identical to DS9's which has been deserted for more than a year. (Quick note: I find it difficult to imagine the given notion that O'Brien can't build the parts he needs because of incompatibilities with Federation technology. You'd think after being on DS9 4¸ years the crew would've come up with workarounds to these sorts of problems, but never mind—that's a trivial complaint.) The danger in O'Brien's mission is that Cardassians booby-trap their property before leaving it, so that others cannot so easily claim it. To circumvent these traps, Sisko bribes Garak into accompanying O'Brien's team as the resident expert on standard Cardassian booby-trap methods. Once upon Empok Nor, O'Brien's crew finds itself hunted by two "Third Battalion" Cardassian soldiers (their motto: "death to all") who are awakened from stasis upon the crew's entering station.
The first half of "Empok Nor" works reasonably well. The trip to the station on the Runabout is quite fascinating, teaming O'Brien and Garak for a meaty dialog scene—a character combination I don't believe we've seen before. Garak prods at O'Brien's past, asking him personal questions about his duty as a soldier during the Cardassian/Federation border wars. This is easily the best dialog in the show. It uses both Garak's personality as a strategist (who very much wants to play a Cardassian strategy game called "Kotra" against the chief) as well as scoring consistency points by bringing up O'Brien's past as a soldier fighting Cardassians. The result is a sensible scene that utilizes the dynamics of each character.
Once Garak, O'Brien, and the engineering/security team reach Empok Nor, there are effective moments of suspense. Vejar adds some very nice directing touches. I like, for example, that the external shots of Empok Nor always show the station at a canted angle. And the lighting effects and production design of the interiors are superb. Even though the sets are obviously the same sets that are used every week, it doesn't feel like the same place—it actually feels like an abandoned station far from reality.
Once the crew finds the abandoned stasis chambers sans Cardassian soldiers, Empok Nor becomes a place crawling with impending doom. I liked the unexpected scene where Nog returns to the docking pylon to find the Runabout floating away ("That's not right," indeed) just before it explodes. Vejar shoots the scene skillfully, and we realize the crew is trapped without a means of escape. (I liked the premise of being trapped, but I don't think I care for the destruction of yet another nameless Runabout—the fourth one this season. It's beginning to feel like the Voyager cliché of of the shuttle loss tally.)
Also, the deaths of Pechetti and Stolzoff when they're attacked by the Cardassian soldiers—despite the obvious inevitability of their demise—were skillfully carried out with a reasonable amount suspense. The setup of the extended quiet and darkness was a calculated attempt to make us jump when the predators attacked—and jump I did.
Garak discovers that the Cardassian soldiers are filled with some "psychotropic drug" that makes them excessively paranoid and gives them violent dispositions. Garak wants to stand and fight, but O'Brien wants to send out a distress signal first, and he needs a team effort to do it. Garak goes off on his own hunt; O'Brien and his remaining team rig the communications.
It's about here that "Empok Nor" completely derails, undermining the successes within the show's first half with an ineffective second half that bears very little scrutiny. One annoyance is the way the plot so murkily handles the reasons and purpose behind the two soldiers' existence on the station. The conjectural dialog between Garak and O'Brien hints at some specific explanations (like a military experiment "gone wrong"), but the episode doesn't seem to know any more than they do. I know, we're not supposed to care about the reasons, we're just supposed to get wrapped up in the suspense—but the way the episode stands, the explanation of the soldiers is either overwritten or it's underwritten. The writers should've said less about the Cardassians to make them more undefined and thus more intimidating, autonomous killers. Or the writers should've made things more clear, so that the reasons for the Cardassian government leaving them behind would be more interesting. As it is, the dialog is just a bit too clear-cut, yet too unfinished to be much more than a distraction.
The really big problem with this episode, however, is that Garak is exposed to this psychotropic drug, which turns him against O'Brien and the remaining crew. Garak's slow but steady personality transformation is handled okay, but once he kills the two Cardassian soldiers and reaches his full state of villainy, it's all downhill. The last two acts of the episode exercise the immortal Trekkian motif of "regular cast member goes insane," as the convenience of the plot hijacks Garak's personality to "bring out the worst in him." He stabs Amaro after phasering the Cardassian who snuffed Boq'ta, leaving behind only O'Brien and Nog.
The way the episode reduces Garak to a raving lunatic doesn't work for a number of reasons. First of all, it takes very careful handling to successfully pull off a ploy where a character changes personalities because of a plot contrivance. Unfortunately, there's nothing special about what happens here. It's pedestrian. Secondly, Garak as a character is most effective when using his pointed humor and sly wit in situations. Turning him into something as inherently superficial as "evil Garak" doesn't really suit his personality—especially the way it's conveyed here. Garak's wit is forfeited in favor of less-than-stellar Die Hard-like mind games where he and O'Brien talk over their communicators about war and killing, etc.
That brings me to the other issue at hand—the attempt by the writers to incorporate into the "battle of wits" the facets of Garak and O'Brien's personalities highlighted in the Runabout scene. I see what they were going for here, with the hints that O'Brien has to "become a soldier again" to battle another Cardassian, and Garak's desire for the "fun" of fighting the war hero in O'Brien. Unfortunately, what might've seemed okay in theory doesn't work in practice. The last two acts, for all their exposition on the violence of the distant past, end up being too shallow and rooted in lackluster plotting to really mean anything. Either you deal seriously with these types of issues, or you don't deal with them at all. What you shouldn't do is set them up for half-attempted scrutiny within such an over-the-top premise.
The rest of the show revolves around the plotting of these games between O'Brien and Garak, few of which work. Garak's kidnapping of Nog (since obviously Nog can't die) is a completely predictable action cliché. Ga. Garak's hanging the bodies of O'Brien's crew along the promenade is supposed to have shocking effects, but doesn't—it's merely glib. Then there's the goofy dialog coming from Garak, who we normally expect to deliver good lines. (Holding a phaser on O'Brien, he says, "I'll admit that I'm tempted to end this right now. But that would be depriving myself of too much enjoyment." Then the two duke it out. Please, give me a break.)
It also doesn't help the episode's cause knowing that neither Garak nor O'Brien will suffer any real consequences of their actions. (Since Garak is acting outside the range of normal behavior, he's not really responsible for anything he does. Nor is O'Brien responsible, for he's forced to defend himself.) And, of course, despite the casual killing of four people earlier in the show, we know that Garak, O'Brien, and Nog will all survive what is supposed to be the "final showdown." O'Brien renders Garak unconscious with a cleverly rigged explosion—which in any other situation would be fatal to the enemy; but here, since it's Garak, is not. It's as arbitrary as the toss of a coin. (And, naturally, once Garak is disabled, there's a cut back to DS9 and everything's fine. No mention of how or when O'Brien and the others were rescued. Blah.)
I suppose in one way, this episode does have one consequence, although it's not one I care for. This battle creates a quiet rift between these characters (as subtly shown in the concluding scene in the infirmary). I doubt O'Brien will easily get over the fact that Garak killed one of his men. Nor will knowing that O'Brien tried to kill Garak make things easier from Garak's view (even though he does understand). There's likely to be uneasy silence between these two (assuming the events here aren't forgotten by next week). Too bad. The possibilities of an open dialog between these two—as effectively demonstrated in the Runabout scene—could've been much more intriguing.
This episode should've just stuck with its original simple premise—that of hunting the enemy—instead of suddenly taking on the conjured twist of a "fighting one of your own" motif. The atmosphere could've made the simpler premise work.
Ultimately, I suppose the latter passages of the show ride on whether or not you buy Garak's psychotropic drug-induced state of dementia, and if you think it creates results that work dramatically. I don't buy any of it for a second—it merely creates weak drama based on zany, ineffective dialog exchanges.
"Empok Nor" definitely had its moments, and, as I said, I liked the look of the episode. But you can't get everywhere on looks alone.
Previous episode: Blaze of Glory
Next episode: In the Cards
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81 comments on this post
Tue, Dec 11, 2007, 3:10am (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 2, 2010, 1:22pm (UTC -5)
Mon, May 3, 2010, 8:15am (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 26, 2010, 11:51pm (UTC -5)
Also, this episode actually managed to freak me out the first time I saw it! It was very low budget horror movie the way it was played out. It wasn't exactly stellar, but I thought it was entertaining enough.
And finally, I concur with all of the above statements about Garak! I love both Garak and Nog, actually.
Fri, Aug 27, 2010, 11:39pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 31, 2011, 12:54am (UTC -5)
But his attitude at that point was very antagonistic toward O'Brien, and while I know Garak is always playing mind-games when he talks about people's pasts, in this case it was way more aggressive and just plain mean than normal, and I don't think O'Brien's done anything in DS9 to make Garak hate him more than anyone else.
It really felt like he was already on the drugs before they entered the abandoned station, which of course was impossible, but the writers seemed to get Garak's personality *completely* wrong in that initial discussion.
Fri, Feb 4, 2011, 12:02pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Feb 9, 2011, 4:59am (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 5, 2011, 5:11am (UTC -5)
Sun, Oct 30, 2011, 6:01pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Nov 7, 2011, 7:11pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 15, 2012, 3:01pm (UTC -5)
As a "screw with O'Brien" episode, this is more revealing than, say, "Whispers" or even "Hard Time." That angle would've been lost if the antagonist hadn't been someone who knew the chief well, which is why Garak had to be the bad guy.
Between this and "The Ship," it's clear Beimler enjoyed showing O'Brien's interaction with regular joes. (Might've been better if the security and engineering joes had been more clearly delineated, but that's the original series' mistake of putting them both in the same color shirts.)
Thu, Sep 13, 2012, 7:49am (UTC -5)
Not great but good action entertainment.
Would have benefited from a better musical score.
Thu, Dec 6, 2012, 8:29pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 2, 2013, 5:09am (UTC -5)
Also re: Grumpy's comments about engineering and security staff wearing the same colour, that always bothered me, but it really stuck out in this episode. Science and medical I can sort of understand, the line between the two can be quite flexible. Engineering and security though is just confusing. On top of that, you've got the vague position of Operations Officer for Data and Harry Kim, a posting that seems to require both science and engineering, yet is also yellow. And another sidenote, flight controllers like Ro, Wesley and Tom Paris wear red, I suppose because it loosely falls into the "administration" side of command, as Memory Alpha points out.
None of this is inconsistent, but it's not very clear. A couple more colours would have been nice! In fact the TOS-era movie uniforms had a good array of department colours, although that patch was much less obvious.
Wed, Jan 2, 2013, 2:02pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Feb 21, 2013, 1:55pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 30, 2013, 2:01am (UTC -5)
Sat, Oct 26, 2013, 4:33pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 19, 2013, 12:45pm (UTC -5)
Under the effect of the drug, Garak's needling is morphed into seriousness. When people are whipped up into a frenzy, any excuse will do. Garak was going to start attacking non-Cardassians either way, he just clutched at whatever was the nearest excuse. There is a point where he observes that it felt good to kill the Cardassians. If he had realized at that point that he was under the influence of a drug, he might have been able to control himself.
It just seems that events are glossed over too easily. Even if Garak was not held accountable for his actions, it seems implausible that he would have been able to go on with his life on the station normally.
Thu, Dec 19, 2013, 1:46pm (UTC -5)
Now, Garak getting like six months imprisonment for *attempted genocide* in "Broken Link" is another story....
Sat, Jan 25, 2014, 7:22am (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 2, 2014, 4:22pm (UTC -5)
I suppose this was fairly entertaining enough. Andrew Robinson and Colm Meaney are always reliable in their respective characters. Of course simply enjoying a performance can't save an episode from itself. I can't help but feel the drug-induced angle to the plot could've been much better utilized in terms of overall plot. The way it's handled here leaves me with the sense that Garak was made to be evil for evils' sake.
Good potential with great directing, reliably good performances and absolutely no follow through on premise. Entertaining but ultimately disappointing.
Sun, Mar 2, 2014, 7:44pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 5:26am (UTC -5)
Sat, Jul 12, 2014, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 5, 2014, 4:06pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 1:53pm (UTC -5)
Interesting we never learned the answer to this:
"GARAK: I'm not convinced Stolzoff was right about our Cardassian friends. Why would anyone voluntarily seal themselves into a stasis tube, perhaps for years, just to guard an abandoned station? Even the Third Battalion isn't that fanatical. Something else is going on."
I'll rate higher than Jammer, I liked the second half of this episode. The Garak v O'Brien match-up was intriguing.
Of course, Robinson most aptly chews the scenery with everything he's given in this one.
3.0 stars. Probably 3.5 had there been a reason for those Cardi-cubes on Empok Nor...
Sat, Nov 1, 2014, 5:17am (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 11, 2014, 11:17am (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 2, 2015, 6:55pm (UTC -5)
One of the most interesting things here is seeing how the Chief's character has developed since his initial appearances in TNG. People here have compared him to his reaction to Cardassians in 'The Wounded,' which is admittedly what I think of every time I see him interacting with any Cardassians - in this case Garak. He's come a long way since the prejudiced, PTSD officer who baulks at Cardassians.
Another thing is Garak's comments on Setlik III and his constant reminders to the rest of the away crew, and in fact the rest of the DS9 members during the whole run of the show, of how race is such a huge part of our identity that it can never be completely eradicated. How far can friendships and prejudices go? I just finished watching 'For the Cause' yesterday, where Eddington makes his amazing speech to Sisko - "Everyone should want to be in the Federation." For them, if you're not with the Federation then you're against them.
Ultimately DS9 is a how about how people struggle to overcome their racial boundaries and prejudices, but realise that they can only go so far. Worf is a pretty good example - all Ferengis and Cardassians to him, for instance, are by default 'dishonourable', and the decent Ferengi or Cardassian is to him the exception rather than the rule. In 'Looking for par'Mach,' I felt a bit annoyed when he constantly belittled Quark for being a Ferengi during the first half of the episode. In 'What you leave behind,' when Bashir attempts to comfort Garak in the aftermath of the destruction of Cardassia, Garak tells him "Spare me your insufferable Federation optimism." DS9's a realistic reminder, in contrast to the kumbaya optimism of TNG and VOY, that races are and always will be that different, and that those differences can never be truly reconciled, only temporarily buried.
Sun, Jul 26, 2015, 8:29pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Sep 30, 2015, 10:18pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Dec 9, 2015, 2:29pm (UTC -5)
Empok Nor was always shown at dutch angles, even in other episode, apparently so it looked different to DS9. But wouldn't having it be a station of a different type to DS9 make more sense anyway? Terok Nor was originally an ore processing facility over Bajor, so what could Empok Nor's function have been given that it was seemingly sat in open space, or at the very least not in orbit of one of the Trivas System's planets?
Sun, Jan 10, 2016, 6:46pm (UTC -5)
Anyway I talked about this episode a bit above. I think that the metaphor of the psychotropic drug is that is has to do with how nationalism, xenophobia and bloodlust can be brought to the surface in times of conflict and war, and it makes a particular amount of sense to do this story right now, now that Cardassians are overtly enemies of the Federation again. Garak feels a certain pull toward his people which he is not even consciously aware of, and the battle cry burrows into him. The Cardassian government attempts to create a kind of mass psychosis in Cardassians to make them better soldiers, which after all is what extreme militaristic governments do. The sudden shift of allegiances, and the horror of that, actually gets at the feelings of betrayal the AQ peoples are bound to have over Cardassia's change in loyalties, while also, through Garak, suggesting the way individual Cardassians can be swept up in a kind of mass militaristic psychosis by their leaders. O'Brien has to call on his ex-soldier while also integrating it with who he is now, and unlike Garak can think clearly outside the war. ("I'm an engineer.")
Still, I can't help but think that having Garak go to the other side via drugs would have worked better if the Garak-as-villain actually paid off what Garak's actual villainy is like. Garak used to be a torturer and assassin; I don't think he was a thug who wanted badly to get into fights-to-the-death. "The Die is Cast" had Garak go through the motions of torture even though he no longer enjoyed it, but this episode could have added to the character and our understanding by showing something of what Garak may have behaved like when he was younger, more violent, and more secure in the absolute rightness of hurting and killing for Cardassia. I tend to think that Obsidian Order Interrogator Garak would be scary as hell, and I think current Garak would prefer not to think about the fact that he used to hurt and kill people but also actively enjoyed it.
I enjoyed the final scene between Garak and O'Brien, particularly Garak asking O'Brien to send his regrets and apologies to the wife of the man Garak killed. I think O'Brien mostly gets Garak here, as I said in my previous comment on the episode. Garak is suitably chastened, I think because to some degree he only brought up the Setlek III needling of O'Brien because he really did think that both their fighting days were far in the past, and had not recognized what could be brought up.
The episode is heavy on atmosphere and Vejar does some effective work. I like the way the various goldshirts are given distinctive personalities, too. And some of the ideas here are fine. But the episode doesn't end up meaning much, and the final struggles get more and more ridiculous as they go on. 2 stars sounds right.
Sun, Jan 17, 2016, 7:49am (UTC -5)
Imagine if TOS showed us dozens of identical Enterprises, all out there exploring and boldly going. It would have devalued the sense that we were watching something unique. That's what Empok Nor did for me, knowing that DS9 came off the factory line instead of something with its own architecture and history behind it.
By the way, Babylon 5 did this concept before and did it much better. They visited Babylon 4, the previous station to be built. It looked different, inside and outside. As a result it was a much more interesting episode and enriched the franchise's universe.
Sun, Jan 17, 2016, 11:21am (UTC -5)
I don't see what the problem is. The Enterprise D has several sister ships including the Yamato which we saw destroyed in TNG as early as season 2. The Cardassian stations probably had the same architect, but at least we know Turok Nor was built by Bajoran slave labor.
Sun, Jan 17, 2016, 1:18pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 17, 2016, 11:49pm (UTC -5)
Also, they really added some new sets for this episode and changed the lighting and atmosphere of the usual set. I'm not sure how that's lazy on a technical level.
Yes, it would be cool if they gave us a brand new station model for this single episode, but there are thin budgets for most broadcast TV shows, so we as the audience need to be reasonable.
Mon, Jan 25, 2016, 7:47am (UTC -5)
The score is also intrusive to boot. 2 stars.
Thu, May 19, 2016, 4:42am (UTC -5)
The atmosphere of this episode is phenomenal! On that alone I can't justify giving it a below-average score, because it is simply sumptuous. The lighting, the mood, the directing, the editing, everything gives the episode a true sense of unreality and dread that permeates every single second. Given that everything takes place on the exact same sets we see week in and week out, that is quite an accomplishment. Jammer is absolutely right that Empok Nor really does feel like a different station than DS9.
Unfortunately, the only other good thing about the episode is Andrew Robinson's performance. He does sell "crazy Garak" reasonably well, but given that this is the exact type of role that made him famous to begin with (as the Scorpio Killer in "Dirty Harry") it's not surprising that he could make it work. Still, even if Robinson can make something from nothing, at the end of the day we're still left with nothing. This simply isn't the way Garak should be used. He's at his best when spinning elaborate deceptions and sparring with others in a game of wits. Turning him an out-of-his-mind villain just for the sake of zany shenanigans is a real disservice to the character. And the plot really does go off the rails once Garak kills the final Cardassian. Why were the soldiers left behind? Why were they exposed to such a questionable drug? How are O'Brien, Nog and Garak rescued? Were they able to get all the parts they needed for the DS9 repairs or just the one critical part? How are the families of the crew members murdered by the soldiers responding to this? Who cares?! Garak is acting loony! Sorry, but that's just not enough, a good performance not withstanding.
Tonally it's an absolute masterpiece. Story-wise.... not so much.
Mon, Sep 26, 2016, 10:33am (UTC -5)
Plus the terrible "Ferengi love songs" still burns my memory... so this is gold!!!
Wed, Dec 7, 2016, 6:15pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 12, 2016, 12:31pm (UTC -5)
What's the downside to picking up souvenirs?
Curious what federation law is here -- can anyone really go after anything that's been abandoned, as salvage?
If I had just lost a third of my crew, I probably wouldn't be saying to those remaining, "Everything will be fine."
Why did everyone keep on turning on the flashlights on their guns? It's a pretty good way to give away your position.
It would have been a significantly better episode if the dialogue over the game at the beginning had really played out. Nog could have found a way to defeat Garak by using a defensive position, or something.
What was the goo that got on Garak's hand and infected him, and why was it just sitting around on a bannister?
Tue, Dec 27, 2016, 7:45pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 18, 2017, 6:39am (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 10:14pm (UTC -5)
Who can say there isn't some other drug or substance that can make Garak go crazy. The man is really too dangerous to be doing anything besides sweeping plasma conduits without armed supervision.
He's such an elite and uncanny operative I wouldn't trust him with my shoelaces.
Maybe on these assignments Sisko should have had him watched or I dunno put a tag on him.
Mon, Apr 17, 2017, 1:16am (UTC -5)
Mate, I usually enjoy your posts, but I seriously don't see your point here?
Tue, Jul 4, 2017, 10:46pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 6, 2017, 8:11am (UTC -5)
Heh, I just got done watching this, checked the comment stream, and here was your timely post that had me laughing out loud and my wife looking strangely at me. :)
I really didn't remember too much about this episode at all. When they were on the runabout, I thought "These aren't all redshirts, are they?". Yep, they were. That was a bit disappointing. The one (1) time the entire command staff weren't there...
Speaking of which, this station is in an, uncomfortable, area of space, where Jem Hadar ships visit from time to time (but not lately and not today). Still, if these items were that important, in a potentially hostile area, why not take the Defiant?
And I agree with those that didn't like O'Brien splitting his forces...
BOQ'TA: We're going to split up?
O'BRIEN: We have to. If we don't send out a signal, we're never going to get off this station.
That... isn't much of a reason to split up. Yes, they had to get a signal off, but taking a bit longer while making certain your people are safer is of paramount importance. Heck, O'Brien still had to do most of it himself, since the other engineers ended up dead. They weren't starving yet. Keep the remainder of the team together with two or three holding phasers while one works.
You know, I really do think there is a connection with somewhat hokey horror movies. You see the folks on screen doing something stupid and you're yelling "Don't go in the Basement! Don't hide in the Cemetery! Don't Split Up!". I got the same feeling watching this, except these folks already knew there was a danger and STILL did stupid things.
I believe that even though O'Brien outsmarted Garak at the end, the remainder of the episode was a disservice to Miles and his tactical knowledge.
Your mileage may vary, of course. :)
Thu, Jul 6, 2017, 12:19pm (UTC -5)
The same thing has crossed my mind many times when watching this episode. But you know, they point out right in the episode why O'Brien makes this mistake. He was thinking *too much* like an engineer and not enough like a soldier. From an engineering perspective, his decision to split up was the most efficient. From a tactical perspective, it made almost no sense. However, I say all this with the caveat that O'Brien did succeed because of his engineering skills.
Let's just say that the writers both wanted us to see the importance of keeping your guard up while at war but at the same time not losing yourself in it. I think and O'Brien and Garak play out those two perspectives very well.
Thu, Jul 13, 2017, 4:41am (UTC -5)
That's how I felt about this episode and unfortunately not even Andrew Robinson can save this one from being on my "do not rewatch" list.
How Jammer could rate this higher than Ferengi Love Songs is beyond me.
If you rewatch Ferengi Love Songs you get to look forward to so many great lines from Quark, Brunt & Zek before getting to the Marauder Mo toys at the end.
For Empok Nor, honestly why would you watch it again? Is it to see the 4 "red shirts" (TOS terminology for "dispensable characters" you know will be killed in the ep) killed again?
Is it to see Nog fire the awesome rifle he's been holding all throughout the ep? (He never fires it)
Is it to hear a great speech from the villain? (There isn't one - not great anyway)
Is it to see the epic fight scene between O'Brian and Garak? (It isn't)
In short, there's no reason to watch this episode again. You may fool yourself into thinking Garak said something cool when he becomes the villain but he honestly doesn't say anything of substance.
Vols were promised at the start of the episode and not one makes an appearance. Empok Nor could have been a great episode if they tried to mimic the film "Aliens" and had a space station absolutely teeming with vols that were hyper aggressive enough to warrant Nog and everyone else using their rifles. The deaths of the 4 crewman could have happened by panic falls or even friendly fire (which would have taught Nog a lot about the true horrors of war).
Instead Empok Nor had a couple of silent and pointless Cardassian hunters who get taken out by Garak who then becomes villain for the last 15mins or so.
Sad to say this but one of the worst Trek episodes ever, even "Let He Who Is Without Sin" had some redeemable qualities in its speeches and motivations - Empok Nor is basically "I know what you did last summer" with Star Trek uniforms.
Mon, Aug 14, 2017, 8:55pm (UTC -5)
This one started out with promise. The teaser featuring Nog and Obrien's budding mentor/mentee friendship and working on upgrading older systems on station was good. Then the idea of needing replacement parts and thinking of salvaging them from another abandoned space station --good. Having Garak tag along was also a fun idea and the fact he has integrated himself among the crew and is seen as a vital asset also good
Then you get to Enpok Nor and the episode still is holding my attention with the horror atmosphere created--blackened station sets, runabout destroyed, the team trapped with some force hunting them down picking them off one by one. So here I am thinking Im in for a treat with a very well done horror/mystery standalone with suspense and tension(the Cardassian suddenly crashing through the glass killing the officer made me jump) then it takes a hard turn into mediocrity with an unsatisfying reveal--the hunters are Cardassian soldiers on drugs Then they had to go make Garak into Psycho Garak thanks to exposure to the psychotropic drug and from there it was all downhill. I wasn't the least bit interested in seeing psycho Garak having some grudge, hinted at earlier in the runabout and coming out of the blue, over Obrien and Setlik III which hasn't been mentioned in years and in which they subsequently play out a tiresome game of wits with Nog as hostage
Mon, Aug 14, 2017, 8:57pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Aug 22, 2017, 12:13am (UTC -5)
I love this episode. First, it involves my favorite DS9 character: Garak, and second, I loved seeing him go crazy and taunting Nog and O'Brien. I also like that the episode started w/Garak being kind of sad that ppl are no longer leery of him as they were in the past. Well, that changed after this episode. Haha!
When I first got my series DVDs for Christmas, this was among the first episodes I sought out to watch, incl. The Wire, ITPM, Duet, and the Visitor. Any episode involving or centering around Garak is a great episode to me. LOL! This episode was no exception - IMO.
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 9:17am (UTC -5)
I actually could have gone for more time in the episode devoted to Garak being full-on scary. I would have liked the sense that O'Brien was getting scared. Though, the way O'Brien acted (cool-headed) does fit with his personality and fighting experience. Truthfully, I don't care that much about O'Brien and Garak together, though I know this episode was meant to highlight them. I really wish either Bashir would have been on the station, or at least we would have had a scene between Bashir and Garak (constrained on a bio-bed) at the end, before Garak was cured. I want to see Bashir straight-up frightened of the crazy-eyed infected Garak. To sum up, I thought Garak was freaking scary, and I wanted one of the characters on the show to appear to experience the full effects and once again be reminded that Garak is just on a leash, but is still just as dangerous as ever.
Thu, Oct 5, 2017, 4:17pm (UTC -5)
Seems odd that the Cardassians would leave an entire station deserted -- would have liked to get some more background on that. So there was some experiments with psychotropic drugs that went wrong and thus the Cardassians had to abandon an entire station?
The problem for the episode for me is that it spent too much time hunting around in the dark. Slow-paced for long stretches without a good enough payoff.
Garak's falls under the influence of a psychotropic drug -- this gives Andrew Robinson a chance to bring a different aspect of the Garak character to life -- a more sadistic and cruel one. I think Robinson does this effectively. The idea of the warrior nature in each person being brought to the surface is an interesting one and it is kind of contrived up here. But it doesn't really prove anything or go anywhere special. (Nothing exceptional here).
Robinson and Meaney are both good actors and the part at the end with Garak hospitalized leads to a good conversation. I thought O'Brien would have just set the explosion to stun Garak but he admits it was meant to kill him.
2.5 stars for "Empok Nor" -- plenty of "redshirt" deaths as O'Brien's engineering team gets killed by Cardassians/Garak but of course we know O'Brien/Garak/Nog won't die, which does take the sting out of the endgame of this episode.
Thu, May 24, 2018, 4:35pm (UTC -5)
Thu, May 24, 2018, 4:39pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 24, 2018, 12:56pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 6:55pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 27, 2019, 10:27pm (UTC -5)
Entertaining. Robinson puts in a great performance, as always.
Thu, Jul 25, 2019, 8:48am (UTC -5)
This episode was ok, though in a way I wish there had been a little more of the "real Garak" in there, especially after his willingness to torture Odo at the prospect of being readmitted to the Obsidian Order. Never quite knowing if he's on 'our' side is what makes him so fascinating, and in a way this episode kind of denied us that.
Sun, Feb 16, 2020, 11:40am (UTC -5)
The setup is fairly interesting and logical; DS9 needs replacement parts, which (for the usual technobabble reasons) can't be replicated or substituted for. So a trip to an abandoned Cardassian station (handily built with the same layout as per DS9) to salvage them seems logical.
Though that does raise an interesting question: it may have been mothballed by the Cardassians, but it's still technically owned by them - and heavily booby trapped, to boot. Sending a salvage team over to it during a cold-war scenario which is just a hair-trigger away from going nuclear seems somewhat... foolhardy.
But still, it's a nice little set up for a horror-themed episode, as the woefully underprepared Engineering crew find themselves facing off against a set of psychopathic zombie-warriors[*]. Which naturally, they deal with by charging around a darkened station with bright torches in small groups. Or to put it another way, easy pickings for psychopathic zombie-warriors lurking in the shadows...
In the end, the engineering red-shirts are all eliminated, so that the episode can focus on Garak, who's been exposed to the same psychotropic drug as the zombie-warriors. And naturally, he becomes obsessed with Miles and decides to play an odd little game with him.
Truth be told, Garak is always a fascinating character, and evil-Garak is even more so. But I do wish that O'Brien's solution had been a bit more... cunning. Outsmarting Garak by having him draw a /third/ phaser would have arguably been more apt and amusing.
Sadly, all the build up is somewhat wasted by the ending, which makes liberal use of the reset button. Garak gets to go back to his shop, and the deaths of the engineering team is hand waved away. And while there's a mildly amusing callback to this episode by Nog a few episodes later, that's pretty much it for the impact his actions have on the wider story.
And that's why the sum is less than the parts...
[*] Ok, ok, they're not zombies. But this episode channels Alien and Friday the 13th in equal parts, so I'm dubbing them Jason 1, 2 and 3! And I'm going to ignore all the hand-waving that the episode does around just /why/ there's a bunch of psychopathic zombie-warriors sat in deep freeze on the station...
Tue, Feb 18, 2020, 5:43am (UTC -5)
One thing always annoyed me about this ep though.. no external communications and no shuttlecraft.. How long did it actually take for them to get off the station?
Wed, Jun 10, 2020, 4:52pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 10, 2020, 8:31pm (UTC -5)
While it is true that shorter seasons *could* have the effect of more focused writing and tighter story arcs, this isn't what we got in reality.
Tue, Nov 17, 2020, 3:33pm (UTC -5)
And so much of this episode plays like a rehash of TNG's "Starship Mine", only here we have two highly trained warriors using guerilla tactics to best each other. It should be tense and thrilling, but the effect is mostly sleazy; the episode delights in rubbing its nose in human baseness and barbarity. After all, the episode says, this is what happens when you put animals on a different station, a different cage, and pump them full of the right biochemical cocktails. Savagery! Barbarism! Murder!
But the episode doesn't earn that lesson. Everything feels contrived to get you to Empok Nor and then to get you to a one-on-one battle between Miles and Garak. That an advanced civilization like the Federation can't fix a technical problem on DS9 without raiding Empok Nor for parts seems silly. That a group of Federation personnel can't use their brains and their wits to outsmart some deranged Cardassians seems sillier. That Miles can't figure out a way to technobabble Garak into a jail cell likewise.
Still, there's some good stuff here. While the episode mostly moves from one action cliche to the next, almost everything with Nog is good, and its fun seeing him develop as a character across the season. It's also nice getting a glimpse of Garak-the-killer, though I'd preferred he not be subjected to the mind-altering drugs. More effective, IMO, to keep him working with the Federation, and simply focus on his cold and methodical dispatching of the enemy Cardassians, his cheerful, affable veneer juxtaposed against the highly trained, highly skilled agent underneath.
One neat detail: when in the runabout, and still docked inside DS9, you can see the walls of the hangar outside the runabout's windows. I never noticed that little detail before (aren't the windows usually just blacked out?). Some of the "off-kilter" shots of Empok Nor also look neat, though such tilting and "listing" doesn't make much sense.
Wed, Nov 18, 2020, 10:40pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Oct 16, 2021, 3:20pm (UTC -5)
I liked the characters involved because they make sense. A squad of engineers suddenly turned into shaky soldiers. Nog, a cadet in need to show his value in a real life combat situation. O'Brien, a veteran who is forced into a situation which brings memories he'd like to forget. On the other side, Garak, a shady former assassin who shows here his darkest Cardassian side. And Cardassians work amazingly as villains.
Not consequential, but very entertaining.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 6:51pm (UTC -5)
If "production values" means lots of CGI and unusual camera angles, those to me are no improvement at all, in fact they're distractions.
Tue, Feb 1, 2022, 5:28pm (UTC -5)
From the beginning, with all these minor new characters' chummy banter, it was obvious they would either all die or this would be some Lower Decks kind of story.
Aside from the story weakness, it struck me that Garak getting onto O'Brien about O'Brien's Cardassian war experience just seemed out of character. That made it look like Garak was unhinged BEFORE arriving at the station. Those lines should have come later while on the station as the first hint there's a problem.
Fri, Feb 11, 2022, 9:48am (UTC -5)
Fri, May 20, 2022, 12:43am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 5, 2022, 6:33pm (UTC -5)
Although I agree with SF Debris comment on Stolzoff's careless handling of her rifle. One of the dumbest moments in Trek history. One doesn't need to be a gun expert to know why that is reckless behavior
Wed, Jul 27, 2022, 9:37pm (UTC -5)
I doubt that she got royalties for inspiring the episode.
Thu, Sep 15, 2022, 2:16pm (UTC -5)
So, you know there are two highly skilled, stealthy warriors on the loose, just itching to rub you out.
1. If you're paired with somebody, you do NOT say "Hey, let me go upstairs to check out that sound." Man, that was the worst idea in the history of bad ideas, maybe in the history of ideas period. Shocking someone as hot as that chica could do something so moronic. Then again, her rifle skills were reprehensible so maybe I shouldn't surprised.
2. When you find two of your crewmen killed and you're down to four, you do NOT split up the four into pairs and send them off on different missions, Smiley, you absolutely [email protected] IDIOT! You stick together, with two people, maybe even just one, doing the work and the rest standing guard, shooting first and asking questions later.
Let me guess: The blueface and the baldy will get killed, too, and then... - I don't know. Exasperating.
Loving the rest though!
Thu, Sep 15, 2022, 2:54pm (UTC -5)
As far as there was "not enough insight," puh-lease. Sometimes you need a good action-packed eppy that keeps you on the edge of your seat and have you screaming at the T.V. This one sure does that!
Tue, Nov 1, 2022, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 6, 2022, 12:13pm (UTC -5)
Yeah, I know, a rescue party probably went out after not being able to communicate with them, but still--those damn Trek 5-minute wrap-up endings always irritate me ;)
Tue, Jan 3, 2023, 9:10am (UTC -5)
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