Mark Watches ‘Deep Space Nine’: S05E26 – Call to Arms

In the twenty-sixth and final episode of the fifth season of Deep Space Nine, the station faces down an imminent invasion. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Well, Deep Space Nine just upped the ante in a big way. And the best part? I have faith that the writers will follow through on this.

Let’s discuss.

The Inevitable

It’s kinda cool to me that both finales I watched this week dealt with the inevitable. Over on Voyager, it was inevitable that the crew face Borg Space. Here, though, the finale opens with the inhabitants of DS9 watching in muted horror as hundreds of Dominion ships pour into the Alpha Quadrant, the fifth such deployment. Couple this with the opening of “In the Cards,” and it’s easy to get a sense of the dread these people were experiencing. So, season five ends by dealing with the inevitable: the Dominion War. (See? It gets a fancy title and everything!)

I’m glad that this is centered around Sisko, too, since it’s been such a treat watching him turn into a master strategist. His strategy here: to push forward the conflict by lining the wormhole with a net of self-replicating mines. It’s a bold and scary plan, one that would essentially bar all travel between the quadrants without the participation of DS9, so it’s not so surprising that the Dominion gets wind of this quickly and responds as fast as they can.

And the arms race begins.


This is a nerve-wracking episode precisely because we don’t know what’s going to happen and there seem to be a billion possibilities. Will the minefield get finished, or will the Defiant be disabled (or destroyed) before it completes its mission? What if the Dominion fleet penetrates DS9’s shields? What if there’s a traitor aboard the station? As numerous plots unfolded in “Call to Arms,” I got to watch the ramifications of the decisions that Sisko made. Rom chose to send his wife to Bajor while remaining on board the station, a decision that’s both professionally noble and personally foolish. Keiko and the kids are sent to Earth, which is safe (for now???) from the Dominion. Starfleet revealed that THEY AREN’T SENDING REINFORCEMENTS BECAUSE THEY’LL BE OCCUPIED WITH SOMETHING ELSE. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY HAVE BEEN THAT IMPORTANT?

I’ll get there. The point I’m trying to make is that the world of Deep Space 9 changes. In the span of just 45 minutes, this show manages to make everything feel different, scary, new, and massively uncomfortable. There’s an exodus from the station, and once the fighting starts? Well, Deep Space Nine becomes unlike any Star Trek show I’ve seen.

Call to Arms

I don’t watch Star Trek for massive, glitzy space battles. I really don’t! Most of my favorite episodes are subtle and don’t rely on any digital effects. I’m saying this just to point out how fucking unreal the Dominion invasion is. It is huge. Scary. The sheer scope of it is visually conveyed with some dazzling effects, and it’s yet another reminder that this episode is unique in the Star Trek canon. It helps us understand that the station was the true underdog in this battle, which means that the threat that the Dominion posed was believable. Given that this show has also been willing to toy with audience expectations in the past, I also came to readily believe that something terrible was about to happen. How could DS9 possibly hold off that many ships? How could the Defiant possibly stay safe amidst the chaos?  And when Dukat ordered the RESERVE ships to come in… NOPE. I was prepared for the worst.

I’ll Be Back

It’s astounding to me that despite that the end of season five of Deep Space Nine gave me the most distressing cliffhanger yet, I didn’t feel distressed. There’s a joy in the potential that seemed hard to describe. How could it be a good thing that Starfleet abandoned DS9, that all the characters were largely split up, that the Dominion and the Cardassians had taken control of the station? As all of this was taking place, I was slack-jawed. How was this happening? But my horror at how the Dominion War was finally starting changed to something else:


The writers achieve this through the promise of the future. A good cliffhanger doesn’t just leave you in the lurch; it gives you a glimpse of what is to come. Or, rather, I should say what might come. When it comes to television, I especially love it if a finale hints at how the next season will be completely different from the last. That’s why I opened this review as I did: I really believe that Deep Space Nine is gonna commit to what they’ve done here. I didn’t feel doom and gloom because of this finale.

Instead, I see possibilities. Jake is now a war-time reporter, and we finally get to see him use that writing ability of his. Rom is working as a Starfleet spy in Quark’s bar. Kira and Odo must work together again, despite all the awkwardness, while being under Gul Dukat. Again. And then there’s Jadzia and Worf, split up on the Defiant and the Rotarran, respectively, who promised to get married when the war was over. But the crowning achievement of “Call to Arms” is the way the writers position Sisko to be the most important character of all. After designing a way to destroy most of the important technology on the station, Sisko prepares a message of hope for the old inhabitants of DS9 that also acts as a warning to he Dominion.

This is just a temporary setback. Benjamin Sisko, who mined the entrance to the wormhole, who is the Emissary to the Prophets, who can calculate his way out of nearly any situation, is coming back. And when he does, he’s going to take DS9, too.

I cannot fucking wait for season six.

The video for “Call to Arms” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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