Mark Watches ‘Deep Space Nine’: S05E21 – Soldiers of the Empire

In the twenty-first episode of the fifth season of Deep Space Nine, Worf and Jadzia accompany General Martok on a complicated mission. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Trigger Warning: For brief discussion of PTSD/trauma

Well, this was a fun one! And by “fun,” I actually mean “increasingly uncomfortable.” While this is certainly not the first episode to deal with Klingon cultural identity in crisis, I appreciated that it was an interesting twist on something we’ve seen a few times across The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Here, though, the show inches closer to dealing with the trauma inflicted on people because of the Jem’Hadar. Sure, you could easily view “Soldiers of the Empire” as a story about morale in war, but this felt more complicated than that.

At the center of the conflict here is Martok’s own fears of the Jem’Hadar. Given that he was held in captivity for two years by them, he’s far more cautious than most Klingons would ever have been in this mission. In fact, that’s a prime source of friction. Martok doesn’t even go after an easy kill that poses little risk to anyone. Is taking it safe a practical option? Of course! Martok clings to his mission parameters quite well, he avoids fights with the Jem’Hadar, and he locates the missing ship, the B’Moth. Technically, he does exactly what he’s supposed to!

But that’s not really the point, is it? Along the way, the crew of the Rotarran have been dealt one horrific blow after another, and Martok’s denial of a victory feels like a personal insult to them. Who can blame them??? If anything, I understood their restlessness and their mistrust towards Martok. Part of that comes from a lack of self-esteem; part of it was due to their own fears; part of it was due to a justified sense of cynicism that surrounded them. So, credit must be given where it’s due. Jadzia was the first person to recognize the maelstrom of negative aspects hanging around the crew. She knew fairly early into this episode that this was a recipe for disaster. Worf, on the other hand, had put Martok on a pedestal and refused to examine his role critically, which only provided more fuel for this inevitable fire.

Seriously, some sort of fight was inevitable, and I’m surprised that Kornan didn’t outright kill someone. HE SURE WANTED TO. (Also, now I know where I recognized Rick Worthy: he was Simon on Battlestar Galactica! That voice is ICONIC, y’all. Wasn’t he also on Supernatural?) Like I said: Jadzia deserves a lot of the credit for keeping this sinking ship together long enough for Worf to save it in the end. JADZIA FOR PRESIDENT.

Though I gotta hand it to Worf, too. Coming up with the idea to challenge Martok and then (believably) letting him win was a brilliant way to allow him to regain his former glory, to get the rest of the crew to rally around him, and to push everyone into a more aggressive mindset. Well, aggressive with a goal in mind: rescue the Klingons and defeat the Jem’Hadar ship. Once again, Worf demonstrates his willingness to sacrifice himself or his honor to do what he finds right. It’s not just a very Klingon thing to do, given that he’s able to see a bigger picture; you can see human ethics playing a part in who he is now. I admit that “Soldiers of the Empire” made me think about the Worf I saw in the early seasons of The Next Generation, and it’s rewarding to do so. He’s changed a lot since then, and the fact that he’s now in a romantic relationship – one that we actually get to see! – is just further proof that he’s a different person. A VERY LOVING PERSON, I MIGHT ADD.

This was a solid episode. Bravo, Deep Space Nine.

The video for “Soldiers of the Empire” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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