A mission for supplies ends up as a Cat and Mouse game as Chief O’Brien and team must find a way to survive in the episode that originally aired on May 19, 1997. This is Empok Nor.
Station Log Stardate 50901.7 Empok Nor
As Chief O’Brien discovers he needs parts to repair the the station, he and a team strike out to visit an abandoned Cardassian space station known as Empok Nor. However, it seems that the abandoned station may not be as abandoned as they believed.
Quarks Bar is having an off day due to the noisy repairs being done by Chief O’Brien and Nog. Soon O’Brien realizes that he is missing a key component and determines he must find a Cardassian produced Plasma distribution Manifold. Sisko grants permission to O’Brien to send a team to Empok Nor in order to find the parts they need with one stipulation, they have to bring along Garak.
Heading to the abandoned space station with Nog, Garak and a group of engineers in tow, O’Brien begins to determine his plan of attack. Soon, they arrive and Garak boards to activate the station. However, unknown to him, he inadvertently activates the cryogenic sleeping chambers of Cardassian soldiers.
Unaware of the danger, O’Brien sends his team out to find the parts they need for Deep Space Nine. As they explore, Garak comes into contact with a strange biogenic compound and soon discovers the empty stasis tubes, one of which is damaged and contains the skeletal remains of a Cardassian soldier. Garak notes that the other two empty tubes have been recently activated. Contacting O’Brien, Garak requests the Chief engineers presence. Things get more complicated, however, when Nog discovers that their runabout has been destroyed, leaving them all stranded on the station.
Now aware that they are not alone on the station, O’Brien and team determine they need to contact DS9 even though the station is now covered by a dampening field. Planning to use the deflector grid to send ‘smoke signals’ the team splits up to complete their tasks. Garak soon becomes adamant that there is something more going on, as there is no reason for Third Battalion soldiers to be left aboard an abandoned space station.
Before long, members of the away team are attacked resulting in the deaths of two of the team members. Now with their numbers dwindled, O’Brien tries to keep the remaining crew members confident that they will make it off the station alive. Garak soon informs the others that he plans to take out the two Cardassian soldiers and begins to complain about a slight headache. Before leaving, Garak insinuates that O’Brien may want to get revenge and join him in ‘killing a few Cardies’.
With the team split up once again, Garak soon finds himself face to face with one of the soldiers. He easily takes the soldier out and finds that it felt ‘good’. Meanwhile, Nog asks O’Brien about his experience on Setlik III. Deemed a hero, O’Brien avoids the topic when Garak arrives with the fallen soldiers badge. Garak informs the two that the Cardassian soldiers appear to have been infected with a substance that increases the xenophobic tendencies of Cardassian Soldiers. O’Brien comments that Garak looks different, that he doesn’t ‘look’ like a tailor any longer, to which Garak replies that he isn’t one and leaves to track down the second Soldier.
Soon the remaining crew members come face to face with another Cardassian Soldier. The Soldier manages to kill another of the crew and the other is saved by Garak. Garak, however, stabs the remaining Federation engineer and disappears into the hallways. O’Brien soon comes across his dying engineer only to discover that Garak is responsible. O’Brien and Nog go on the hunt realizing that their Cardassian friend has been compromised by the psychotropic drug and is now hunting them as well.
A game of cat and mouse begins with Garak teasing the remaining two crewmen on his whereabouts. Separating them, Garak attacks Nog and takes the young Ferengi hostage. Soon O’Brien begins playing Garak’s new game in an attempt to save the Starfleet Cadet. Garak accuses O’Brien of being a savage killer, referencing the events of Setlik III. Garak is sure that the Chief enjoyed killing the Cardassians in the battle. Soon they both agree to meet on the Promenade without weapons where O’Brien finds that Garak has strung up the bodies of his dead crew-mates.
Miles finds Garak standing over Nog with a phaser rifle demanding that the Chief puts his weapon down. O’Brien complies, Placing his gear on the ground, and soon gets into a fist fight with the Cardassian Tailor. Just as it looks like he is loosing, O’Brien activates his phaser via his communicator and knocks Garak unconscious.
Returning to the station, Bashir clears the compound from Garak’s system. Garak apologies for his actions knowing that he will have to face an inquiry about the events that took place. O’Brien assures his friend that he will make sure everyone knows Garak was not responsible for his actions.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
It has been some time since O’Brien’s deep hatred for the Cardassians has been addressed. This has been a huge part of the Chief’s personality since the first appearance of the Cardassians in The Wounded. During that episode, O’Brien exhibits a xenophobia that even surprises Counselor Troi but, like most revelations in STNG, that reaction is quickly forgotten. While touched on in the episode The Wounded, we don’t really get the full scope of how badly the Battle of Setlik III affected O’Brien until his time on DS9. While details still remain sparing at best, it seems that O’Brien was forced to do things to save himself and his fellow crewman that not only damaged him emotionally, but caused him to develop a form of PTSD that would haunt him for years to come. Much like Kirk and his issues with Klingons, O’Brien makes it clear that he does not hate all Cardassians, however his battle experience has caused him to give pause when dealing with them.
Enter Garak. In the past five seasons we have come to know Garak as not only a simple Tailor but as much more. Here is a man who was part of a vast spy network and could in fact still be part of that network. He has killed and has been the target of many assassination attempts, yet despite all of this, he has relegated himself to become a tailor aboard the Federation controlled DS9. Through this time we have discovered that he has come to resent his exile from his homeworld and, due to this, finds himself alone and frustrated most of the time. It is no surprise, when infected by a psychotropic compound, that Garak first strikes out against the Cardassian soldiers and then his own ‘friends’. In many ways, this is keeping to Garak’s loneliness. He not only hates his fellow Cardassians for exiling him from his own planet, but he views the Federation as nothing more than a sugar coated pathogen that will eventually take over the universe. It is through this compound that we finally see the deeper more visceral version of Garak, a Garak with no filters, intent on killing everything and everyone, no matter the cost.
Finally, we have Nog. While we haven’t seen much of him since his return to the station, this was a great use of this character, giving him a deeper connection to O’Brien and also showing just how far this young Ferengi has come. In terms of character development, Nog has had one of the most profound changes from being the trouble-making young Ferengi we first met in the pilot episode. Gone are the days of his pranking Jake or trying to make a shady deal on the side, Nog has certainly come in to his own and, actor Aron Eisenberg really nails the role hands down. This is not the last we will see of the stalwart Ferengi, as his story has much more to come.
Story wise, this episode really dives into racism and xenophobia in a way that shows the damage it can do from both sides of the divide. For the Cardassians involved, they are exposed to a nerve agent that causes them to go to the extreme, but for the Federation members, we are shown that, even though the Federation is believed to be a tolerant group, racism is still a factor that they have to deal with. With comments toward the Cardassians such as ‘Spoon head’ and ‘Cardie’, it seems the Federation is cracking a little as it comes face to face with a threat that might eventually destroy the foundation Star Fleet was built on. It seems the Dominion threat may leave some lasting damage, even if they end up defeated.
Overall, this is a great stand alone story that really pushes the characters to their limits. Unfortunately, it is also a classic case of killing of freshly introduced side characters in order to grow the featured ones. I guess engineers are the new Red Shirts? Oh, wait… I guess some things never change.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- I really like how, in order to differentiate between DS9 and Empok Nor, the producers simply tilted the latter station at an odd angle. It is literally the same model but man it looks so much different when at a new perspective.
- The events of this episode will be referenced again. Nog will not forget what has transpired here.
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Late To The Game 1/08/2022 (Originally published 11/29/2019)
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