Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Starship Down   Rewatch 
January 24, 2016 12:37 PM - Season 4, Episode 7 - Subscribe

In the grand tradition of "Balance of Terror" (TOS), a submarine movie IN SPAAAAAACE, and some of the crew learn some pretty important lessons about life... and each other.

From Memory Alpha (and some quotes transcribed from Amazon Prime streaming):

- This episode is an adaptation of classic submarine thrillers, such as the 1981 Wolfgang Petersen film Das Boot. Writer David Mack specifically told his writing partner, John J. Ordover, that he wanted to "sink the Defiant," having seen Das Boot the previous evening.

- The original concept for this episode had the Defiant plunging into a sea of an alien planet, with the crew attempting to escape before the ship's structural integrity field failed and the ship is crushed underwater. As David Mack summarizes the idea, "It was sort of The Poseidon Adventure, with the crew trapped and trying to get out before the ship runs out of power." This concept involved Odo diving into the water and seeping into the ship through a damaged part of the hull to lend assistance. Due to budgetary limits, however, this underwater concept was eliminated and the story was rewritten to have the Defiant sinking into a gas giant. Mack was extremely disappointed to lose the Odo rescue scene, as he felt it could have made for a tremendous shot; "We had an idea for a great visual with the water seeping through a cracked bulkhead and then this gold viscous fluid flowing with it, then Odo just stands up and reforms out of the water. We thought it would have been the coolest thing to ever come down the pike." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion). Star Trek: Voyager somewhat used the story idea in the episode "Thirty Days" where the Delta Flyer was sunk in water, albeit not damaged.

- As with the B-story of "Hippocratic Oath", the "engineering story" of "Starship Down" was created specifically to show Worf's attempts to integrate into the new environment of DS9. According to director Alexander Singer, "It was terribly important to the series that we make him more accessible as a character than he had been on TNG. This was a different view of Worf. Suddenly he had to deal with the psychology of Human behavior at a level to which he was unaccustomed."

- James Cromwell had previously appeared twice on TNG, playing Nayrok in "The Hunted" and Jaglom Shrek in "Birthright, Part I" and "Birthright, Part II". He went on to play Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact and in the pilot episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, "Broken Bow". He also appeared as the mirror universe version of Zefram Cochrane in ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly", though only in archive footage taken from First Contact. This is Cromwell's first and only appearance in DS9, and his last credited appearance in a Star Trek television series, since both of his appearances in Enterprise were uncredited.

- The A-story bears a close resemblance to that of TNG: "Disaster", in which the main characters were all seen dealing with various different situations aboard the stricken USS Enterprise-D, as happens on the Defiant in this episode.

"We sell these torpedoes to the Jem'Hadar."
"I thought you said you'd never sold substandard merchandise... It was supposed to explode on impact, wasn't it?"
"Maybe I should offer them a refund!"

- Hanok and Quark

"This can't happen! You can't die! You're the Emissary. There's still so much for you to do. I don't know if this is the right thing to do or not but I'm going to give you a stimulant. Captain... I know my beliefs make you uncomfortable around me sometimes and... maybe that's why you keep me at arm's length. But I don't care about that right now and I am going to pray because I don't know what else to do. I'm losing you and I can't let that happen. Jia'kaja tre'nu'tol'a rem...La'por i'lanu kos... I'nar tan'a'tali kos..."

- Kira, to Sisko
posted by Halloween Jack (14 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Aw, c'mon guys, it really was a pretty good episode. (One of the things that I liked about it is that Nana Visitor really sells the scene that I quoted above. I left out the part where she's getting increasingly desperate as Sisko's eyelids flutter while she's telling him this shaggy dog story about the three farmer brothers and the kava root as big as a house.) On the other hand, there's also the scene with Bashir and Dax trapped in the closet or whatever it is that was another "Jeez, Julian" scene. Bashir, coming on too hard? Oh the heck you say.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:20 AM on January 25, 2016

I wanted to hear more of the story about the three farmers. What happened to them in the city? Did they encounter a deceitful merchant or a pompous vedek? Were they cheated out of their kava root, or did they employ their rural prudence and common sense to get one over the townspeople? What led them to give away all their money? And what does this teach us about the wisdom of the prophets?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:17 PM on January 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

I always like it when Quark gets to save the day instead of just being comic relief.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:00 PM on January 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Aw, c'mon guys, it really was a pretty good episode.

Sorry, Halloween Jack, there was a lot of snow to deal with on Sunday.

Loved the Hanok & Quark scenes, definitely the highlight of the episode for me. (The Julian/Dax scene being the lowlight, of course.)

I appreciated the Kira & Sisko scenes too though. It's always nice when a show brings something more to a character-in-mortal-jeopardy story than just the suspense aspect, when we all know that the character isn't really in serious danger. Having Kira be conflicted about how to relate to Sisko as both her boss, friend, and religious icon elevated the scenes. I mean, imagine another character like Dax or Bashir in her place, and it's a much more boring sub-plot. (Jake could maybe make it a tearjerker, but, it would be hard to top the angst of The Visitor.)
posted by oh yeah! at 6:30 PM on January 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Actually Dax and Sisko could have made for an interesting episode too. They could have confronted some stuff from the Kurzon days, or gotten into how things have changed since Dax became Jadzia. But Kira and Sisko is less expected and it really works in its own way.

I saw this in reruns a few years ago, and I remember thinking it was a good mix of action and character stuff. I'm surprised that the people behind the show were down on it.

I'd have to see it again, but I remembered the Dax and Bashir stuff as more of a comment on how things had changed between them than it was Bashir hitting on her again. They'd become real friends by this point, and they could laugh about the awkward flirting he used to do.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:44 AM on January 26, 2016

Yeah, Bashir wasn't hitting on her, I think my reaction was more "jeez, Julian" because at that point it hardly needed saying.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:53 AM on January 26, 2016

Who said he was hitting on her? I disliked those scenes because it felt like revisionist history on the writers' part to claim that his creepy stalkerish behavior in previous seasons was actually a mutual flirtation.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:36 AM on January 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

I disliked those scenes because it felt like revisionist history on the writers' part to claim that his creepy stalkerish behavior in previous seasons was actually a mutual flirtation.

See, thing is, the people who write this show get to say what the characters were feeling. If they say the attraction was somewhat mutual, well, it was. Finding out how she felt doesn't seem revisionist to me at all. It's not like she was angrily rejecting him back then, she was kind of smirky about the whole thing.

And honestly, I think this was an interesting development and it was good to just put it out there and be done with it. Jadzia had liked Bashir and thought he was cute, but she thought he was kind of a dopey, pushy kid and his flirting was clumsy and funny. She had quite a few lifetimes of experience on him and she tends to see the best in everybody, so that totally makes sense for her. (This is a woman who thinks Quark is endearing. She's got a little crush on Morn, even. Compared to them, young Bashir was a real sweetheart.) Maybe he could have had a chance with her if he'd played things differently, but he was just too green and he blew it. At this point in the series they're past all that and they can admit what was going on and laugh about it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:00 PM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

See, thing is, the people who write this show get to say what the characters were feeling. If they say the attraction was somewhat mutual, well, it was.

Writers are not infallible gods though, they can be blinded by their own biases. And the writers from one season/episode can do things completely at odds with previous continuity, not every ret-con is seamless. Look at the train wreck that Sleepy Hollow turned into after the first season, or smooth operator Spock in The Cloud Minders - writers screw up their own shows/characters all the time, just because something is canon doesn't make it right or believable.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:20 PM on January 26, 2016

Writers are not infallible gods though

I'm definitely not saying they are, and I've gotten pissed off at shows when it felt like the characters were acting wildly out of character or a new staff was clumsily trying to retcon something from the early days. But as a general rule, I think the writers of a show know the characters better than I do. If I love a character and then the character up and does something I despise, unless that action feels like a total violation of everything I know about the character I generally have to shrug and accept that that character has a darker side than I knew. (BSG was big on that. Every few episodes I'd have to say, Is this good person being shitty because they're desperate, because they're not as good as I thought, or because the writers are sacrificing consistency for shock value?)

I wouldn't call this much of a retcon. Is there anything in Jadzia's early reactions to Bashir's flirting that really contradicts what she says here? She was always shooting him down in a very playful way. She certainly didn't seem to be as annoyed by his pick-up attempts as a lot of fans were!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:40 PM on January 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

No, the Jadzia/Bashir scenes still seemed like a ret-con to me. Especially when compared to the terrific O'Brien/Bashir drunken singing scene -- if the writers can let them become friends without trying to re-write the past to have O'Brien say he really found Bashir secretly endearing, they should have found a way to do the same for Dax.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:39 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Watching this episode right now, and ew yuck the creeper vibes are coming STRONG off Julian. Heck no at all.

On the other hand, this episode really underscores for me how Nana Visitor is the best damn actor on this series.
posted by duffell at 6:24 PM on January 3, 2019

Memory Alpha notes the use of CGI in this episode:
This episode was one of the first Star Trek episodes to use extensive CGI. The Defiant, the Jem'Hadar fighter, the atmospheric probe and the clouds were all created in a computer by VisionArt Design & Animation artists Daniel Kramer, Carl Hooper, Pete Shinners, Rob Bredow, and Ben Hawkins.
It's really evident in the opening shot. The pan across the ships, with the system's star in the backgroud! I haven't seen anything like that in Star Trek up to this point, and it's really quite something. They were showing off, in a good way.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:15 PM on March 7

Okay, yes, the submarine movie in space main plot was pretty much by the numbers, but what raised this episode above mediocrity was the character stuff. Agree the highlight was Quark and Hanok, followed by Kira and Sisko. Worf learning how to be a good commander was, again, kind of boilerplate, but we needed those beats and they were well done. And Julian and Dax were…there. But overall, I liked this one a lot more than I thought I would when I saw what they were doing.

A side note: the Defiant apparently has a little lunch nook at the back of the bridge. Really?
posted by Naberius at 9:33 PM on May 17

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