While we get a chance to see Star Fleet’s version of the Navy it is rare to see the ground troops in action. Originally airing on November 18, 1998 we see just that in the episode The Siege of AR-558.
Station Log undetermined The Siege of AR-558
After an attempted supply run, the crew of the Defiant find Federation soldiers Trapped behind enemy lines and without hope. Now facing a demoralized platoon facing insurmountable odds they must decide whether to help or to flee.
After reviewing the casualties list, Sisko prepares the crew for their upcoming supply run to AR-558. With Quark on board at the behest of the Grand Negus, the Defiant heads out to the Chin’toka system only to come under fire almost immediately. Defeating the Jem’Hadar ship, the Defiant reaches AR-558. Sisko and a small away team, along with Quark, beam down to the planet only to find themselves once again in the line of fire.
After realizing the phaser fire is coming from Federation soldiers, Sisko is relieved when Lt Larkin orders her men to cease fire. Checking out the remainder of the garrison, Sisko is shocked to learn that they have been stranded for nearly five months without any contact with the allies. With only forty three remaining of the original contingency the moral is clearly low with the troops close to their breaking point.
Lt Larkin explains the situation to Sisko who informs the Lieutenant that they will probably be there for sometime longer. While Sisko inspects the garrison, Nog points out that one of the soldiers is wearing Ketracel white tubes around his neck indicating how many Jem’Hadar this one man has taken out. After treating their wounds, Bashir informs Sisko that the soldiers are in no shape mentally to continue fighting. Just as they are discussing the situation, an explosion goes off nearby. Sisko learns that the Jem’Hadar have setup mines in subspace, nicknamed ‘houdinis’ that randomly appear and there is nothing they can do about it. Not long after, Worf contacts Sisko and informs him that the Defiant is under attack. Sisko instructs the Klingon commander to take the Defiant away as he intends to remain on the planet and hold their position.
With Sisko now in command of the Garrison, he prepares the soldiers for the oncoming attack. Before long the Jem’Hadar warriors begin to flood in but they soon notice something strange about them, the warriors are not firing back. Sisko realizes that the Dominion is sending holograms in to determine their enemies position and numbers. Not long after, another Houdini explodes claiming another person. Sisko assigns Ezri on engineering duty with crewman Kellin in order to find a way to disable the mines.
Despite Quarks objections, Sisko orders Nog to join a scouting mission and use his enhanced hearing to help them find the nearby enemy troops. On patrol, Nog soon locates the enemy camp but, as they retreat to report their findings, the team is ambushed by Jem’Hadar guards. Larkin is quickly killed and Nog takes a blast to the leg causing him to collapse. Grabbing the Ferengi Ensign, Reese carries him back to camp where he tells them what happened. Knowing what is ahead of them Sisko is saddened to learn that Nog is going to loose his leg.
Visiting the young Ferengi, Sisko tells Nog that he did well under the circumstances and that he is proud of the Ensign. Nog assures Sisko that he will be fine but is soon interrupted by a small bit of good news, Ezri and Kellin have found a way to detect and expose the Houdini mines. Activating the sensors, the soldiers are shocked to find the mines all around them. Sisko realizes that he now has a weapon against the Jem’Hadar.
Planning the attack, the team are shocked when they hear a holo-recording of Vic Fontain over the loudspeakers. Julian indicates that he wanted to help with the moral before the oncoming attack. Not long after explosions go off where they planted the mines seconds before the remaining Jem’Hadar soldiers charge in. With an army of Jem’Hadar rushing in, Sisko orders the attack and the battle begins.
With the brutal onslaught taking out most of the Garrison, it isn’t long before the battle is over. Sisko is awakened by Reese who escorts the Captain through the battlefield. Sisko notes that they held their position, defending the communication array, but the costs were great.
With the Defiant back in orbit, Sisko and team return to the station leaving with the survivors of the Garrison. Back on the Station, Sisko reads the latest casualty report telling Kira that the 1730 dead are not just names, they were people.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
Star Trek has always been good at making sociopolitical statements on current events but has rarely ever really given a view of war and it’s atrocities. The Siege of AR-558 is not just a war story, but a statement on how brutal war can be. For many scifi series, especially Star Trek, was is regulated to the theatrical spaceship vs spaceship motif. Sure secondary characters die in these battles but in many ways these deaths seem less personal as they are typically caused by exploding bulk heads or terminals and not because of a one on one fight with a viscous enemy.
Deep Space Nine made it a point to change that aspect of Star Trek allowing the viewers to really get a front row view of just how raw war could be. While Next Gen did have some impactful fights featuring various members of the crew, including some truly hard hitting torture scenes, it hardly ever reached this level of reality in it’s seven seasons.
For Sisko, this was somewhat a personal mission. While he had to protect his crew, he knew he could not abandon the already exhausted members of the garrison stationed on AR-558. In a way, I almost felt that Sisko felt guilty for being assigned a relatively safe post and not seeing action on the front lines for himself. Some of the very war effort itself was plotted by Captain Sisko so, in a way, he felt guilty for the daily death toll. While he feels guilty for his relative safety, somehow the Captain keeps his grip on the idea that, no matter how bad it gets, eventually everything will return to normal. That somehow, when they get to the other-side of this war, things will turn out for the best. While it is clear that that dream is diminishing, it is the one thing that Sisko has that has kept him from completely losing his faith.
While Sisko dealt with his own guilt, we also got a chance to see the war from a fresh perspective as well. For Nog this was his first real chance to see battle. Sure, he had faced the Jem’Hadar on occasion but never to the level seen at AR-558. The Nog that left this particular battlefield was not the same Nog that entered and that in itself is a statement of how brutal war can be. In many cases, people who have seen war are no longer the same as something in them is numbed or simply goes missing thanks to the brutality and death that they witnessed. For Nog this is both figurative and literal as he not only left his innocence behind but also his leg. This marks the start of a very pivotal story arc for our young Ferengi officer, one that really allows this character some unexpected growth.
Another character that got a chance to grow was that of Ezri Dax. For Ezri, she faces both having and not having experience in war with her state as a Trill. While she knows what being in battle is like thanks her millennia of memories as Dax, Ezri herself has never seen combat in any real form. For the first time in her life she comes face to face with the battlefield only to witness a new friend killed before her eyes. While we don’t really see much of her dealing with the pain caused by this experience, it is a key point in Ezri’s life while on Deep Space Nine, and one that allows her to grow as a character of her own.
One interesting point made in this episode is the perspective of Quark. Sent by the Grand Nagus to report back on the front lines, Quark is the literal odd man out in the group. He is not a warrior, he is not a soldier, he is in fact the closest to an innocent by-standard as you can get. While watching the human soldiers, Quark observes that humans can be as bloody and violent as the worst of the Klingons. Telling his nephew of his experiences, Quark informs the young Ferengi that while Humans are kind and nice, take away their food and comfort and they can become some of the most viscous beings he has ever seen. This alone shows that, even though the future is a utopia in many ways, the fundamentals of humanity are always the same. We are a violent race, sometimes we just need a reason to show it.
Overall, this is one of the most iconic episodes of Deep Space Nine, certainly one to watch if you want to get a taste of what this series has to offer. Filled with introspective moments coupled with the harsh reality of war, this is the dark side of Star Trek, a side that had been hidden for far too long. That being said, even with the dark side exposed, it still manages to provide a glimmer of hope that things will turn out for the best in the end. That, is one of the reasons that Star Trek remains relevant to this very day.
Last year I got a chance to interview the actor who plays Reese, Patrick Kilpatrick. There we discussed this episode and his experience on Voyager as well. You can find the interview here if you are interested. Interestingly enough, actor Aron Eisenberg worked with Patrick once before on the set of Star Trek Voyager, both as Kazon warriors.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- Two rules of Acquisition are referenced in this one.
- #125 you cant make a deal if you’re dead
- #34 War is Good for Business
- The actor who played Kellin was none other than Bill Mumy of Lost in Space fame.
- We get yet another glimpse of Quarks paternal side as he not only worries about his nephew but also manages to prevent his death when a Jem’Hadar attacks the makeshift infirmary. While Quark may seem to be a bastard, sometimes he proves that much of that demeanor is only a facade.
- The necklace of Ketracel White containers Reese wears is a direct reference to the soldiers who collected souvenirs on the battlefields here on earth. Some of those souvenirs included Dog-tags and even body parts such as ears or fingers.
- We never see or hear from Reese again in the series but I am sure he found another enemy front to fight on.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Covenant
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Late To The Game 2/21/2020
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