Mark Watches ‘Deep Space Nine’: S04E23 – To the Death

In the twenty-third episode of the fourth season of Deep Space Nine, Sisko must team up with the Jem’Hadar to take on… the Jem’Hadar. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Oh, I do love a good culture clash episode on Star Trek. Combine that with another of my favorite tropes  enemies forced to work together against a common enemy! – and you’ve got a Deep Space Nine episode that’s ripe for commentary. Indeed, this episode is the right amount of awkward and thrilling and insightful, and I love that we get a bigger glimpse into the Jem’Hadar and the Dominion.

Because as it turns out, the Dominion is not as unified as it would like to portray itself. We learn about this from Weyoun, a Vorta who is… the leader? I’ll assume he’s the leader/master of the Jem’Hadar in this episode, since he controls the supply of White that they need. The setup here is complicated in theory, but it’s ultimately a heist scenario. The splintering of the Jem’Hadar is where the complexity comes. At this point, there are at least three distinct Jem’Hadar groups… sort of? I don’t know whether we should count those Jem’Hadar we saw earlier in the show’s run that were considering breaking from the Dominion. Maybe they’re part of this group, but without confirmation, I can only speculate. I admit that it’s exciting to see the Jem’Hadar finding ways to break from the Dominion because it adds depth to them as an antagonist.

Part of that also comes from the interactions between Sisko, Weyoun, Jadzia, Omet’iklan, and Virak’kara. It’s hard to see the Jem’Hadar as a singular force when we get a chance to witness their varying personalities and opinions. The contrast we witness helps us to understand their culture, too! We get to watch how the Jem’Hadar even walk around the ship as a unified group, how they have no need for anything recreational, how they judge all other military forces as inferior because they weren’t designed to be efficient. Which isn’t to say that the Federation group is useless here, and I think Sisko more than proves himself as a strategist and a fighter. (Well, so do Jadzia and Worf!) But the awkward alliance at the center of “To the Death” highlights just how unmatched the two groups are.

Oh god, THE DRILLS. There’s no better demonstration of the contempt that Omet’iklan has for these people than the drill we get to see. He gives them information that is untrue and then scolds them for acting on it, claiming that everything is “unknown” on the battlefield. Now, it’s true that the Jem’Hadar seek victory above all else, and it’s true that things can always go wrong during a mission. But I got a sense that Omet’iklan just wanted to spite these people, even if they were allied, because he still views them as an enemy. Which is funny because Dax and Virak’kara actually get along! And learn things about each other! WHICH I LOVE.

But he’s the only Jem’Hadar who expresses any sort of solidarity until the end of the episode. Toman’torax tries to harm Worf, and he’s executed for it. Which is followed by Omet’iklan threatening to kill Sisko as soon as the mission is over. WHICH IS A TACTICAL ERROR AS FAR AS I’M CONCERNED. If you need someone to be at their best on a mission, why the fuck would you say this to them at any point in time?

It takes a successful mission for Omet’iklan to change his mind, albeit temporarily. Look, the guy literally can’t understand why Sisko would save his life. That is how different they are from one another! But he does offer Sisko the chance to leave the planet as an ally instead of an enemy. It seems like such a small concession, but I thought it was huge. It’s a big moment for a character who was largely static and immutable throughout “To the Death.” I don’t know if we’ll ever see more of these characters (certainly not Weyoun, which sucks because Jeffrey Combs is such a rad character actor), but I was quite satisfied with this story. Anything that makes the Dominion seem more complex is good with me.

The video for “To the Death” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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