Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 5, Episode 24 – “Empok Nor” – A Return to a Past War

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     “Empok Nor” is a great episode and definitely one of my favorites in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” This episode has stakes, history, tension, character development and is simply a wonderful thriller episode. I’m also a bit biased in that Garak is one of my favorite characters and this episode has a lot of Garak. This is one of my favorite episodes in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and I highly recommend it.

The episode was directed by Mike Vejar with teleplay by Hans Biemler and story by Bryan Fuller.

The story involves Miles O’Brien leading a squad to the abandoned Cardassian Space Station Empok Nor in order to get supplies to repair Deep Space Nine. All is not as it appears to be as their arrival wakes up two Cardassian Soldiers who were left behind.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise of an abandoned station full of threats is really cool. You get the haunted house meets slasher vibes and the characters we follow are good. We have Garak to undo the traps, Nog who volunteered and Miles controlling the mission along with a few redshirts for good measure.

The Horror – The horror is really great in this episode. As said above we get the haunted house vibe with the slasher vibe as the Cardassians who wake up begin killing the Starfleet officers on the mission. Eventually Garak is infected by the same compound the other Cardassians are infected with that has made them killers and now it is him against Miles and Nog. It is really well handled and you feel how trapped our heroes are.

Nog – Nog is the eager cadet on this mission who ends up being the most prepared. He comes fully armed and sticks with the chief. This doesn’t stop him from being captured by Garak when Garak goes insane, but we see how committed he is to the mission and is willing to die to save Miles and complete the mission. His courage is admirable and I was grateful that he was one of the three survivors. Aron Eisenberg truly did a fantastic job.

Garak – Garak is fascinating in this episode as he kills the enemy Cardassians but finds himself infected with the same thing that they were infected by, making him psychotic. What keeps him from simply killing Nog and Miles though is his fascination of Miles being the hero of Setlik III during the Federation-Cardassian War. He has respect for the Chief and wants to face him in combat. In the end this leads to his defeat and regret as hates the fact that he killed one of the Federation Officers when he got infected. Andrew Robinson continues to give this former Obsidian Order agent so much nuance and this episode is a great example of why he is one of m favorite characters.

Miles O’Brien – This is very much a Chief O’Brien episode and Colm Meaney does a great job carrying it. In this we see the man he’s evolved into since the Cardassian-Federation War as no matter how many times Garak brings up the past, he insists he’s an engineer. We see this mindset in his problem solving with both getting help from Deep Space Nine when Terok Nor loses all communication and the enemy cardassians destroy the shuttle and in how he outsmarts Garak by using the tech. he as the create a bomb. He keeps the crew focused and even though most of them die, O’Brien does complete the mission and manages to save both Garak and Nog.

The Past Lives On – Terok Nor is an abandoned Cardassian Station with soldiers left behind the kill anyone who tries to enter. The moment they activate it is like the Cardassian-Federation War all over again. This echo of the past eventually consumes Garak as the drug that made the enemy Cardassians crazy, also does the same to him. Once more Cardassians and Federation soldiers fight and die as the past war lives on in the present and with it the wounds caused by this excursion for the needed Cardassian Technology.

Okay:

The Redshirts – The Redshirts are all given base personalities but aren’t developed beyond that. They also don’t survive the episode as they are either killed by the Cardassians left behind, or Garak when he goes mad. This was a shame as if even one of these characters had survived we could have had a redshirt giving us more of the experience of the “Dominion War.” I didn’t put them as a negative as they do have personalities, but they aren’t a pro as they weren’t developed beyond that.

“Deep Space Nine” is one of my favorite shows and that is largely due to it tackling themes of politics, war and trauma as this episode does. This episode is perfect in tone and the stakes are consistent through the entire run. We also get some amazing Garak and Miles development. I can’t wait to see how they play off each other again when I watch future episodes. This episode is a favorite and I highly recommend it to any fan of the show.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 One of my favorite “Star Trek” episodes. If the redshirts had been developed further it would have been perfect.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 1, Episode 4 – “A Man Alone” – The Isolation of the Station

       “A Man Alone” is a fun episode. It isn’t good, but it is enjoyable. This is the 4th episode of season 1 and you can tell the writers are still finding their footing. The story is following a core mystery plot that needs more development of the villain and a B plot that gives the episode more life, but doesn’t quite make it good. Early “Deep Space Nine” was still defining itself and this episode is a good example of it. It does still make for an enjoyable outing though.

The screenplay was written by Michael Piller who co-wrote the story with Gerald Sanford and directed by Paul Lynch.

The story involves an old enemy who of Odo’s who turns up on the station who winds up dead behind a locked door, with Odo as the prime suspect. The secondary plot follows Keiko as she finds purpose on the station.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Commander Sisko – This episode is a good Sisko episode. It is in this episode we see him negotiate Bajoran hatred of Odo when Odo is blamed for a murder he didn’t commit. It is Sisko taking control of the situation that stops Odo from getting killed or injured when a mob of Bajorans has fallen attacked Odo’s office. Sisko is my favorite Captain, though at this point in his story he still a commander as he doesn’t have The Defiant yet.

Miles and Keiko – The B plot follows Keiko and her finding purpose on the station. I’m including Miles here because he is very much the supportive spouse. He comes up with a few ideas to help with the isolation and you can see just how much he loves her. Miles knows she chose to come here but it also meant giving up opportunities. Keiko also clearly can find her own way. We see her watch the fallout of Nog and Jake harassing civilians and realizes that the children on the station are just as isolated as she is. This inspires her to make a school. Keiko is truly an underrated character and this episode is a good example of why she is so good.

Jazdia Dax – This is a good Jazdia episode. We see her turn down the multiple advances from Dr. Bashir when he is being a creep and also learn more about the Trill. At this point in her life as Trill she’s lived many lives and is trying to get away from attachments. This changes later on the series, but right now she is trying to be the greatest being she can be. She has so much patience dealing with Dr. Bashir. We also see her friendship with Commander Sisko develop as she clearly isn’t his mentor Kurzon but that they can still relate and talk even with Jazdia’s aspirations to be the best of the Trill.

Isolation – A major theme of the story is how isolating it is for many of the characters on “Deep Space Nine.” Whether it is Keiko feeling like she has no purpose or Odo being othered by the Bajorans, countless people feel alone. It is out of this loneliness and isolation that friendships can arise though, as we see with Nog and Jake’s friendship in the episode. We also see how the idea for the school was born out of Keiko’s own isolation.

“The Other” – “The Other” is a major theme of the episode. This is Odo’s character and he illustrates it in a few ways. From him calling out he doesn’t trust Commander Sisko because they don’t know each other and also that because he served as security during the Occupation of Bajor and isn’t a Bajoran that Bajor will always see him as different. He is a changeling and isn’t a solid. This is a major defining part of what defines Odo and this episode shows why this is. He is the unknown and the fearful, stupid masses are easily turned against him when he is framed.

Okay:

Ibudan – Ibudan is the antagonist of the episode and he isn’t great. I’m not putting him as a con because the idea of killing your clone to frame someone is a brilliant idea. We never see him talk to Odo though. For a villain he isn’t given much to do in regards to interacting with the cast. This doesn’t hurt his presentation but it makes it incredibly average and forgettable.

The Cons:

Julian Bashir – Alexander Siddig is one of my favorite actors. This is a situation where I blame the writers. Julian Bashir comes off as a creep in this episode. Jazdia turns him down multiple times and he keeps trying. Bashir becomes an amazing character later, but early on he does not make himself endearing in any way. He’s over eager and a creep and he’s the head Doctor on the station.

“A Man Alone” is a solidly enjoyable mystery and exploration of the station. The strongest writing involve any time isolation is explored and the B Plot with Keiko and her formation of the school is good example of why. Where it falls flat is in Bashir’s inability to take a hint or to respect Trill culture (Jazdia tells him she’s not interested in romance) and Ibudan as a villain is only okay. He really needed more development and we should have seen him interact with Odo before the murder to put more suspicion onto Odo. For these reasons I can’t really say the episode was good. I’d still recommend it to any fan of the show though. There are some good things that happen in the episode, even if the overall quality never gets beyond enjoyable.

Final Score: 7 / 10. This was a solidly enjoyable episode.