Top 10 Episodes of Star Trek DS9 #6: To the Death
See the full episode here.
After a group of Jem'Hadar in a stolen freighter attack Deep Space Nine, Sisko pursues the vessel into the Gamma Quadrant aboard the Defiant with Worf, Dax, Odo, and O'Brien. The crew comes upon a disabled Jem'Hadar warship which is transmitting a distress signal. The Defiant then transports aboard the survivors, six Jem'Hadar and Weyoun, their Vorta master. Weyoun reveals that they were attacked by the same Jem'Hadar who surprised Deep Space Nine. He then tells Sisko privately that the attackers are Jem'Hadar renegades who have turned against the Dominion and are trying to restore an ancient Iconian Gateway - a sophisticated Transporter that would give them the power to go anywhere instantaneously. This could give them the potential to take over the Gamma Quadrant and the Federation. Sisko agrees to join Weyoun and destroy the Gateway, which is located on the surface of a remote planet. Weyoun also offers Sisko the position as the leader of the Alpha Quadrant, as Weyoun believes the Federation will soon fall to the Dominion. Sisko declines Weyoun and tells him not to be so certain that the Federation will fall. Nevertheless, Sisko agrees they have a more dangerous opponent.
The Defiant crew then learns that they will be working with Weyoun and the six Jem'Hadar, and they learn that the Jem'Hadar don't know about the Gateway. They think they are only out to stop the disloyal renegades. Later, Sisko establishes order by insisting that the Jem'Hadar First, Omet'iklan, follow his command and hints that things will change after their assignment is completed, and they form an uneasy alliance.
Omet'iklan tells Sisko that the only way his troops will respect Sisko's crew is to fight alongside them on the planet, then suggests they work in mixed teams, only Weyoun refuses. But when Omet'iklan reveals that his men already know about the Gateway's existence, Sisko agrees, and the Jem'Hadar and Defiant crews begin working together. The Jem'Hadar and the Defiant crews both drill aboard the Defiant. Omet'iklan again shows displeasure with how the Defiant crew performs and insists that things be done the Jem'Hadar way. This leads to tension between both crews, especially between Worf and Toman'torax. However Jadzia gets along with Virak'kara, the Jem'Hadar assigned to her, and they even have a conversation which depicts the differences between the two. Jadzia is surprised that the Jem'Hadar rarely live longer than 15 years due to their constant involvement in combat. In fact, they are ready to fight when they are only 3 days old. Virak'kara tells her that he would be honored to reach the age of twenty, and is astonished when Jadzia admits she herself is over 300 years old.
The Jem'Hadar and the Defiant crews both drill aboard the Defiant.
Their alliance is tested when Toman'torax attacks Worf. After breaking up the fight, Sisko and Omet'iklan demand an explanation. Toman'torax and Worf both admit they started the fight, Toman'torax states that he must be punished for disobeying orders. Omet'iklan then kills Toman'torax in the fashion of Jem'Hadar discipline. Omet'iklan then expects Sisko to kill Worf, however Sisko refuses. As a display of Starfleet discipline, Sisko confines Worf to quarters when he is off duty. Omet'iklan is disgusted and informs Sisko he will kill him when the mission is over.
Dax lets Worf know of Omet'iklan's threat and warns the captain against joining the away mission on the planet. Worf also tells Sisko that if Omet'iklan does make good on his threat, he will not live to boast about it. Sisko insists on going anyway, but assures Worf that he will watch his back. The Defiant soon arrives at the planet. When the teams transport to the surface, however, they learn that their phasers and combadges have been rendered unusable by the energy from the Gateway just as a team of renegade Jem'Hadar materializes before them and attacks.
A short but vicious battle then ensues, and all the key players on Sisko's team manage to survive this initial confrontation. The group makes its way to the Gateway chamber, engaging in hand-to-hand combat all the way. At the Gateway, a renegade Jem'Hadar attacks by surprise and Sisko saves Omet'iklan's life while risking his own. Omet'iklan wants to know why Sisko would save his life. Sisko tells him, "If you have to ask, you'll never understand." The entire group then escapes the building moments before O'Brien's explosive device destroys the Gateway, allowing their weapons to function again. Omet'iklan then kills Weyoun with his phaser, for questioning his loyalty and that of his soldiers. He compliments Sisko for the way they fought together, but reminds him that the next time they meet, they will be enemies again. Omet'iklan and his soldiers stay behind to hunt down the remaining Jem'Hadar for their disloyalty to the Founders.
The Iconian gateway.
(Plot Synopsis Courtesy of Wikipedia, copied without permission)
Why it Made This List
There's so much to love about To the Death, I don't know where to start. So I'll just go in the order that I wrote it down in my notes when I watched the episode.
First of all, I loved the idea of the fragile Dominion-Federation alliance in which we got to meet the Jem'Hadar. The episode set up the Jem'Hadar as more scary and intimidating than the Borg, in my opinion. Unlike the Borg, the Jem'Hadar were bred to fight, and encountering one face-to-face meant death. Unlike the Borg, the Jem'Hadar don't care about taking their enemy's technology as is the main goal of the Borg; they only care about serving the Founders, i.e. killing as many people as possible.
Anyway, with that aside, there was also the contrast between the Federation and the Jem'Hadar which was so evident in this episode. During the battle drills to prepare, Ometiklan mentions that if the room is not secure, they should just detonate the charges without leaving the room, i.e. suicide bombing. Of course, they object to this. This shows how the Dominion could be a formidable enemy, and highlighted the difference between the Dominion and Federation in terms of the relative importance of the life of soldiers and victory.
Later, when a fight breaks out in the mess hall between Worf and the Jem'Hadar Second, First Ometiklan kills the Second. He sees Sisko as weak for not doing the same to Worf. This highlights another major difference, and that is discipline.
These sharp contrasts which I have outlined were what I found so great about the episode. There was also the entertainment caused by seeing these two opposites try to work together, succeed in doing so, and earn mutual respect for each other despite their differences. This is a classic Star Trek theme, and it works well in this instance.
Besides the contrast between the Dominion and Federation, I found that I really enjoyed the characters: both how they were written in the script, and the excellent casting. I'm going to talk about the two best, Ometiklan and Weyoun.
Ometiklan was a great character. Clarence Williams III did a great job portraying Ometiklan as a strict commander who deserved his position. He also demonstrated a perfect attitude towards the Starfleet people. Ometiklan was condesending and arrogant, exactly the right mix to make a good adversary.
Weyoun: "Omet'iklan, control your men. These people saved our lives."
Ometiklan: "And for that we shall take advantage of their mistake."
While Ometiklan sure was good, Weyoun was even better. Jeffrey Combs was perfectly cast for a role which would go on to become such a great character. But what made him such an outstanding character? I quote from Memory Alpha:
"Combs claims he based the performance on a scene in Stanley Kubrick's 1975 film Barry Lyndon where two characters are being really formal and nice to one another, showing perfect etiquette, but under the surface, it is obvious they despise each other."
This is what makes him such a great villain. They are from two very different worlds which are bitter enemies, yet Weyoun always treats Sisko with (what appears to be) the utmost respect and dignity. His acting is simply indescribable, because I've never seen anyone else do that great mix of villainous and respecting.
While Ometiklan sure was good, Weyoun was even better.
The great contrast between the Federation and the Dominion, as well as the great characters and actors earn this episode a spot in the top ten for sure.