“Call to Arms”

Two-Year Mission says: Well, that escalated quickly.

I certainly was not surprised that a season finale by the name of “Call to Arms” dramatically raised the stakes of Deep Space Nine‘s status quo, but I have to admit I didn’t expect it to go quite this far. As this 44-minute episode passed the 30-minute mark with no graceful out in sight for Our Heroes, I found myself wondering what kind of contrivance they’d come up with to drive off the combined Dominion/Cardassian assault force and allow the Federation to retain control of the space station. And the answer was… they didn’t. “Call to Arms” ended with the DS9 crew displaced, the station back in Cardassian hands, and everything suddenly going pear-shaped all around.

Although the explosion of the powder keg that was Dominion/Federation relations was bound to happen eventually, I couldn’t have predicted the outcome. And I have to say I really appreciate how organically this upheavals have happened, how carefully cultivated they’ve been by the past five seasons of the show. Consider:

  • The Nog/Leeta marriage has been brewing for a while, and taking place in the shadow of a looming war doesn’t just raise dramatic stakes. It also serves, maybe not intentionally, as a commentary on Trek‘s legacy. Remember “Balance of Terror” from the original series where a couple in the crew gets married at the outset and one of the couple is dead by episode’s end? Yeah, that doesn’t happen here. Nog and Leeta split apart for Leeta’s protection, but they’re both in fine fettle by episode’s end. That said, my having been spoiled on the eventual new host for Dax does mean her agreement to marry Worf after all of this is over sets up the obligatory wartime tragedy quota.
  • Jake staying behind on the station was set up way back in the episode “Nor the Battle to the Strong,” though I didn’t realize that at the time. It gave Jake his first field experience and forcing him to come to terms with the realities of war. Now, a couple of years later, he’s clearly come to terms with his experiences and made the choice to face his dread and uncertainty to pursue his calling as a writer even in the worst imaginable circumstances.
  • Finally, we see Gul Dukat behind the scenes with his new pals in the Dominion, and it’s not all roses and cupcakes. I hardly find it unexpected that Dukat chafes at his marriage of convenience and can barely contain his resentment for being reduced to a subservient role in the war. I have a feeling we’re going to see a new Weyoun clone called up from the vats before the war is over, and Dukat will be responsible. I also give it pretty odds that once the Federation eventually chases the Dominion away, Dukat will stick around for a bit of 24th century Shire-scouring.
  • The fact that DS9 falls into Dominion hands comes as something of a surprise due to the season four opener, “Way of the Warrior,” where the newly upgraded station holds off the Klingon fleet. That set precedent for DS9 as a self-sufficient force capable of protecting itself from the worst possible outcome… so the fact that the Klingons lost while the Dominion triumphed subverts a previous plot resolution while also showing just how dangerous this new war promises to be. (This means that Worf getting punked in order to show off how tough some other threat is, it turns out, is evidently a genetic thing.)
  • The scene with peace talks between Sisko and Weyoun breaking down does a great job of showing two very different approaches to lying through your teeth. Sisko relies on being brash and completely unreadable, while Weyoun plays it conciliatory to the point of total unctuousness. This fits their power dynamic: Sisko, in a weaker position, has to bluff; Weyoun, comfortable with the Dominion’s strength, can afford to seem sympathetic and calm.
  • “We’re losing at peace, which means a war could be our only hope.” A pragmatic view, but man, that sure does feel out of keeping for Star Trek. And the final scene of an uncountable swarm of Starfleet and Klingon ships gathering in space is a show of Federation force unlike anything ever seen before in Trek, including the Borg battle episodes. It’s all very exciting, but  it certainly does take the franchise where, uh, no Trek has gone before.

Image source: Memory Beta