February 23 2024

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Retro Review: The Dogs of War

7 min read

Damar, Garak, and Kira infiltrate Cardassia, Zek names the new Grand Nagus, Sisko tells Odo that the Federation won’t cure the Founders, Dax and Bashir fall in love, and Yates discovers she’s pregnant.

Plot Summary: The USS San Paolo arrives with shields updated to withstand Breen weapons and is rechristened “Defiant.” Meanwhile, Damar, Garak, and Kira successfully infiltrate Cardassian space, but are betrayed on the surface as their ship is destroyed. Garak takes the others to the home of his father, Tain, where Tain’s housekeeper Mila agrees to shelter them. Not knowing of the crisis, Odo plans to rejoin Kira until Bashir tells him that Section 31 created the disease killing the Founders. Sisko tells Odo that because of the war, the Federation Council has decided not to cure the Founders. Elsewhere on the station, Quark receives a message from Zek telling him that the Grand Nagus intends to retire and name him as his successor. At first Quark is elated, but then he learns that Zek’s creation of taxation and social welfare programs have changed Ferenginar. Weyoun announces to the Cardassian people that Damar is dead and the resistance has been crushed, which at first demoralizes Kira and Garak until Mila points out that Damar has become a legend and proof of Damar’s survival could spark a revolution among the citizens. While Legate Broka helps the female Founder oversee a retreat to Cardassian space to regroup, Garak smuggles a bomb into a Jem’Hadar base and Damar calls upon Cardassians to perform similar acts of sabotage against the Dominion. On the station, Dax and Bashir agree to remain friends, then fall into each others arms. Quark declares that he won’t become Nagus unless he can do it on his own terms, but Zek explains that no one wants Quark to be Nagus; he had thought he was talking to Rom when he promised to turn over power. Rom accepts the job and the new social changes instituted by Zek and Ishka. When Admiral Ross reports on the Dominion withdrawal to Cardassian space, Martok urges that the alliance press its advantage before the enemy can rebuild, and Sisko and Ross reluctantly agree to an attack. Back in his quarters, Sisko learns that Yates is pregnant and fearful of the Prophets’ warning that their marriage would only bring sorrow, but the elated Emissary promises that nothing will happen to their baby.

Analysis: “The Dogs of War” is the closest thing to comic relief that we get during the concluding arc of Deep Space Nine. Though a lot of serious, scary things happen during the course of the episode, overall it fits the formula of a classical romance: some of the heroes rise to meet great challenges with rousing speeches, others find love and expand their families. And the Ferengi storyline is genuinely hilarious – poking fun at then-current politics with Zek promising “a kindler, gentler Nagus” and at then-current Star Trek with Quark parodying Picard’s “The line has to be drawn here!” speech. Some humor is greatly needed before the epic war story that we all know is coming, not to mention the resolution of the Bajoran arc which we’ve had indications all season was never going to end well for the Emissary, and the Ferengi deliver, mostly because Quark lives down to our lowest expectations of him. For a while there I worried that they were going to try to turn him into a hero and have him go along with Zek’s plans for reform on Ferenginar. His reversion to an employee-harassing, brother-baiting, welfare-slamming greedy capitalist might be seen as a failure of Federation values, but the Federation deserves reminders that it’s not the utopia it likes to pretend to be and Quark deserves to realize that the bar he built under Cardassian occupation and used for who knows how many self-serving illicit deals is exactly where he belongs, even if he briefly sells it to Rom, who kindly gives it back to him upon ascending the highest Ferengi position. It’s perfect that Rom ends up as Nagus, though he might prefer to be Ferenginar’s top engineer. He shares his mother’s concern for women and the underprivileged with Leeta’s understanding of the needs of the working class. Quark’s humorous enough when he’s keeping his bar “pure” by watering the wine and making up the weight, but he’d be a corrupt disaster as a social leader, someone who’d make Gowron look reasonable.

I’m allowed to compare Quark to Thenardier from Les Miserables because it’s impossible to watch Damar transform into a revolutionary leader chanting slogans and not expect the Cardassians to break out into “Do You Hear the People Sing?” (well, it’s impossible for me, anyway). The speed with which he turns a minor terrorist act into the spark that will ignite a revolt isn’t entirely convincing, but it’s exciting to watch in the way that a grand operatic performance can be. I’m not sure which I love more in these final episodes, watching Damar turn into the leader that Cardassia so desperately needs or watching him able to rise to the occasion only because he has Kira there to help him do so. Using Damar’s reputation as the man who couldn’t be killed may be Mila’s idea, but it’s Kira who persuades Damar that he can take this legend and use it to recruit a much larger force than the soldiers he’d originally considered to be his rebel army. Garak seems oddly passive – one would expect the secret son of Enabran Tain to have both more contacts and more ideas about how to save the planet from which he has so long been exiled, particularly now that he has the ear of the legate who was once Dukat’s right-hand man – but it’s obvious that he’s off his stride after having to turn for help to Mila, who is his mother in the Pocket Books novels and, it’s broadly hinted, in canon as well. Otherwise it’s hard to fathom why a self-declared old woman no longer concerned about politics or power would take in Tain’s long-banished son, the Dominion’s top target for assassination on Cardassia, and a Bajoran woman wearing a Starfleet uniform. Surely she knows not only that her own life will be at risk but that the kill all the friends and family of every Cardassian seen associating with this trio of renegades.

I’m not crazy about how Bashir and Dax came together, but it’s clear that the writers intended to throw fans a couple of happy endings in the midst of all the death and separation. This couple’s first kiss is as contrived as Odo’s and Kira’s was – I don’t believe in either case that after years as friends, the passion became so overwhelming that an out-of-character public display of affection was the only possible outcome – but fine, they’re both somewhat immature despite their respective enhancements, the one scientifically contrived, the other the result of inheriting several lifetimes’ worth of memories, and they appear to be determined to inject some joy into what’s sure to be a dark time for their Starfleet careers. They are both fundamentally lonely, since he’s never felt like an average human and she wasn’t raised as an average Trill; since O’Brien is so often too busy with his family for Bashir and Worf will never love Ezri the way he loved Jadzia, they might as well find solace in one another. Still, Section 31 can’t possibly be done with Bashir – nor, one would hope, he with them, since he apparently agrees with Odo more strongly than Sisko does about the atrocity of creating, deploying, and failing to treat the Founders’ disease. Why should Odo agree not to save his people after Sisko’s people systematically set out to murder them and refused to offer the cure? The issues are both moral and practical, because eventually the Klingons and Romulans are sure to find out that some Federation renegades tried to exterminate an entire race of people, and everyone in the galaxy is going to reject any sort of alliance with an organization that would do such a thing. Even the Cardassians’ treatment of the Bajorans pales in comparison. I realize that Sisko has a lot on his mind, but his telling Odo not to take matters into his own hands to reverse what they both acknowledge to be genocide is one of my least favorite moments in Sisko’s Starfleet career, a moment that makes it easier for me to accept the Prophets’ dictum that he will not find happiness with Yates.

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