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DS9 4-01

DS9 4x01
"The Way of the Warrior"

Original airdate: 10/02/1995
Rewatch date: 2/17/2014

A Klingon war fleet under the command of General Martok comes to Deep Space Nine intent on invading Cardassia, and Captain Sisko seeks help from Lieutenant Commander Worf.

Spoiler-free notes:

At the end of "The Way of the Warrior," Sisko remarks that, though the Klingons may be here to stay, "so are we." He could easily be talking for the showrunners, who use this episode to start Season 4 with one heckuva bang. "The Way of the Warrior" almost feels like a feature-length film, not only because of its length but because of its grandiose storyline and intense action scenes. Anybody worried that DS9 didn't have enough energy to sustain itself should be silenced by this one, because it is without question the most frenetic and exciting episode of the show thus far. This episode includes friggin' war with the Klingons.

The opening hook sets the stage perfectly. It starts with the crew preparing for a Dominion invasion and reinforcing the new paranoia that Season 3 left us with, takes a very brief moment to reflect on the more personal side of DS9 with Sisko and Kasidy, and then throws a rocket out of left field in the shape of a Klingon attack fleet. From here, the episode is a rapid-fire series of escalations leading up to a climax that continues to get bigger and bigger--going further than viewers have any right to expect (it's got Klingons invading DS9 and killing people left and right while DS9 buckles under the stress of a massive attack force that simply will not stop, no matter how many ships they take out)--and the whole thing is predicated on the possibility of the Dominion infiltrating the Alpha Quadrant. This is epic storytelling, and the showrunners announcing very loudly that they are not going to let the show fall into the humdrum soap opera a lot of fans thought it would.

The fact that the whole thing is a set-up to bring Worf onto the show is really just a bonus. He comes on as the same character we know from TNG, filled with angst and conflict over his dual allegiances. He is mourning the loss of the Enterprise (as seen in Star Trek: Generations), and he is seriously considering retiring from Starfleet to do some soul-searching, something that makes his arrival nearly identical to Sisko's (and ironically demonstrating that both he and Sisko have something in common with Captain Picard, in that he too once considered running away from Starfleet in "Family"). By the end of the episode, Worf is, if anything, even more broken after having had to not only turn his back on Gowron but also kill his fellow Klingons in battle. He stays because Sisko convinces him it's the right thing to do, but he is still fairly lost, which gives his character plenty of room to grow.

And it's a stroke of genius, in my opinion, to put Worf on DS9. In the last season or two of TNG, Worf ran out of places to go, and the writers tried to force a romance between him and Troi that never fully clicked. However, in the murkier, more visceral waters of DS9--stripped of the comfortable trappings of the Enterprise--he might be able to change in some unexpected but logical ways. It also feels like the writers can't wait to play with him. Shortly after his arrival, he starts and wins a fight with a fellow Klingon, impunes the honor of the general's son, gets drunk with an old warrior, has a confrontation with Gowron, and takes his place at the weapons station of the Defiant.

But this episode doesn't ignore the other characters. Indeed, Worf is given at least one scene with each major character, and his interactions are telling in how the writers intend to use him to shake up the rest of the crew. Sisko, sporting a more hardcore, bald look, is shown as a much more confident and assertive man by contrasting him with Worf and showing him really getting into his relationship with Kasidy Yates. Garak is again given some great dialogue--I especially love his scene with Quark in which they contemplate whether the cloyingly sweet Federation can save them--and his relationship with Dukat is made even more complex. As a side note, it finally dawned on me that Garak is, in almost every way, Captain Renault from Casablanca. Odo shows off some advanced shapeshifting skills, has breakfast with Garak (as promised at the end of "The Die is Cast"), and manages to pierce Worf's hardened exterior with ease. O'Brien--the one man who knows Worf--has a meta conversation about letting go of the Enterprise and embracing change.

If there's a main theme to this one, it's in Sisko's assertion that Worf has to stand his ground in the face of adversity. The Federation stands its ground against the Klingons, Sisko stands his ground against Martok, and eventually, the station itself stands its ground against the onslaught of the Klingon fleet. This alone would be impressive enough, but the show also pushes the envelope in terms of effects and cinematography. There are some impressive dual focus shots, huge battles, a starship bridge that rips itself apart as the Defiant is attacked, and more. If DS9 needed to step it up, this episode does exactly that and then some.

Spoiler section:

It's fascinating watching this, knowing that Martok--who looks weird with both his eyes intact--is actually a Changeling. The original plan was to have Gowron be a Changeling, but it actually makes more sense for Martok, since Gowron is the one who finally backs down even as Martok protests that they continue to obliterate the station. The fact that Martok's first action is to draw his own blood to "prove" he's not a Changeling is wonderful in hindsight, because it's like the Dominion has already adapted to the trick discovered in "The Adversary."

DS9 3x26
"The Adversary"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
DS9 4x03
"The Visitor"
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