Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Nor the Battle to the Strong   Rewatch 
April 13, 2016 10:11 AM - Season 5, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Jake learns for whom the bell tolls.

All trivia and quotes from the Memory Alpha page on the episode.


"He's 18 years old. Does your father still worry about you?"

"All the time!"
- Odo and Sisko

"There are many situations in life which test a person's character. Thankfully, most of them don't involve death and destruction."
- Bashir


* The working title of this episode was "Portrait of a Life". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion - A Series Guide and Script Library)

* The original idea of this episode was that Jake, who has been established as an aspiring writer, would have experiences similar to those of Ernest Hemingway during World War I. There were also a number of homages to other outside influences included; for example, the scene with Jake and Burke in the trench bears a striking resemblance to a scene in the 1930 Lewis Milestone film All Quiet on the Western Front. The story is also partly based on the 1895 Stephen Crane novel The Red Badge of Courage.

* In the original draft of the teleplay, the story was set in a Cardassian hospital on a planet under siege by the Klingons. Both Jake and Bashir would have come into conflict with the Cardassian women running the hospital due to their belief that males are relatively inferior in the science and medical domains, as had been previously established in the episode "Destiny". The primary reason this particular story was abandoned was budgetary. As the producers had discovered while shooting "Apocalypse Rising", using a large number of alien extras was both time consuming and expensive, and as they were trying to save money for the upcoming "Trials and Tribble-ations", it was decided that another make-up/costume intensive show was not the way to go. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

* Also in the original draft, there was no Burke character, rather writer René Echevarria had Jake fall into a foxhole with a Klingon. The Klingon was blind, after being wounded in the battle and he decides to use Jake to help himself survive. They remain together in the foxhole for several days and they grudgingly come to respect and understand one another. Eventually however, Jake reveals the truth about how he ended up in the hole, that he was running away from the battle and that he abandoned Bashir, and the Klingon flings him out because he doesn't want to die with a coward. Echevarria was particularly happy with this aspect of the story, and he was not happy when Ira Steven Behr told him to change it to involve a Starfleet officer rather than a Klingon warrior. This caused a serious conflict between the two men, but in the end, Behr was able to convince Echevarria that the scene needed to go. His reasoning was that at the end of the episode, the Klingons are depicted as blood-thirsty and savage, but we have just spent half the episode getting to like one. Behr felt this was a contradiction and it took away from the impact of the episode. After the episode was finished, Echevarria admitted that Behr had been correct to demand the change. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

* Following on from episodes such as "The Maquis, Part II", "Past Tense, Part I", "Past Tense, Part II", "Paradise Lost" and "For the Cause", Ira Steven Behr sees this episode as another important landmark in creating the darker Star Trek ideology of Deep Space Nine. According to Behr, ""Nor the Battle to the Strong" was another one of those episodes that attempted to move the production farther afield from The Next Generation's clean, Teflon image. Just getting down into the mud and the horror of death." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion) This recalls comments made by Hans Beimler regarding the episode "The Ship", where he points out that in a show like Star Trek, viewers often forget that the people being killed are 'real' people. One of Beimler's goals with that episode had been to illustrate to viewers that people are dying, that war has consequences. The writers would return to the notion of the horror of war in the seventh season episode "The Siege of AR-558", and to the notion of real people giving their lives in the sixth season episode "In the Pale Moonlight".

* After principal photography wrapped, director Kim Friedman found herself with an episode running three minutes short, and as such writer René Echevarria had to create a new scene. This new scene is the second scene with Jake and the soldier who shoots himself in the foot. Ironically, after the scene had been written and shot, both Echevarria and Friedman came to feel it was the most thematically important scene in the entire episode. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

* Although Alexander Siddig enjoyed this episode, he was disappointed that nothing came of the relationship between Bashir and Jake. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

* Siddig elaborated "I really like the relationship with Jake. There's potential for a terrific relationship there. He needs an older brother and Bashir is perfect for that". ("Time for a Changeling", Dreamwatch magazine, issue 36)
posted by Slothrop (11 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's a nice little Bashir-Jake scene at the end of the season (which I won't describe because spoilers) that, as I watched it last night, carried not just echoes from this episode but, I think, deliberate echoes. As in, the scene was written and acted with this episode, and its impacts on the characters, in mind.

I love that Star Trek so often succeeds at this kind of thematic/emotional continuity when so many franchises don't even attempt it. Part of what makes DS9's sixth season so badass is that they're really starting to cash in on all those investments.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:47 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

ST:Homage to M.A.S.H*

This is another great episode, and the whole idea of centering it around Jake works so well because he is so different from his father, and non-Starfleet. His confusion when they first arrive at the field hospital where everyone is rushing around, people are in pain and crying out, and he just doesn't know what to do, is pretty much how most of us would be in that situation. The later scene when they are joking about the best way to die ("Your head could still be alive: your headless corpse could be the last thing you see" - such a dark and funny line, so far from anything else in Trek) and Jake gets angry is beautiful, his whole attitude and the feeling of everything whirling around him and there is nothing he can do about it come across.

Bashir is excellent in this one, rambling on at the start with Jake only half listening, flying the shuttle, getting stuck in at the hospital (back in season one he would have hit on the good looking lady doctor; now he is a different person, thankfully), going to the shuttle to get the generator, and his concern for the welfare of Jake when Jake makes it back.

The scenes in the foxhole with the soldier are great, the horror of war right before his eyes, and all his idealism being destroyed right there as he and we watch the soldier die. Perfect.

And then, at the end, he "pops his cherry" and kills two Klingons by burying them under the rubble, trying to save his own life, after all his idealism is gone and all he can do is think of himself as a coward.

And to round it all off, he show his dad what he wrote, and Ben Sisko comments that "it would be familer to any soldier who has been in battle" which is mindblowing for a Trek series to do - bookends things nicely.

One really cool thing with this episode was the way the hospital scenes were shot, with so much going on, it is almost chaos, but a sort of organised chaos. It had an immediacy to it, it felt like you were there, with it all going on around you, which I felt worked really well.

* Futurama has the best MASH parody with the iHawk robo doctor with the maudlin/irreverant switch.
posted by marienbad at 2:10 PM on April 13, 2016 [7 favorites]

CheesesOfBrazil: this is season five, have you travelled in time?
posted by marienbad at 2:10 PM on April 13, 2016

No no, I just have a different quantum signature, from my native parallel universe.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:39 PM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

This episode gets its greatness from all of the wonderful little scenes in it; there's not even that much of a plot (basically, young man finds out by accident that Space War is Hell), but all of those moments work together. A couple that I'd forgotten about were Sisko's reminiscing about looking in on Jake as a child--that would have been years before Wolf 359--and later, Dax's corresponding memories of nursing a sick child as one of her previous hosts. (Dax is usually so agreeable and cheerful that it's very easy to forget the weight of all those previous lifetimes, and I think that that's probably why she's so agreeable, to counter that weight.) Also, the fact that we get to see two enlisted Starfleet personnel for maybe the first time since TOS (and the last time until Enterprise brought in the Mobile Infantry Colonial Marines MACOs), and even though their appearances are brief (and they're not even named), they still make a huge impact on Jake. And, of course, Jake, who in so many ways is the anti-Wesley; you get the feeling that Wesley Crusher would have been geeking along with Bashir in the runabout scene, then come up with something that involved reversing the polarity on the flibbertigibbet field generators to keep them all in a shield bubble until the Defiant arrived. And the gallows humor of the hospital staff, and Jake flipping out at them. Great stuff, all of it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:32 PM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

I find the contrast between "The Last Ship" and this episode so profound. They spent forever killing off Muniz in that episode, and it just left me feeling grumpy at all the blatant manipulation. But this episode works so well -- terrific supporting cast, and everything plays off Jake to perfection.

Definitely could have done with out the whole decaf-at-Quark's sequence though, I suppose we're supposed to find O'Brien's micro-managing of Kira funny because, hey, look how awful the Ferengi are, har-har, but, blech. With the ongoing war on women's reproductive rights, I just can't take that plotline as harmless comic relief.

Phenomenal episode otherwise though.
posted by oh yeah! at 9:10 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is admittedly based on some rather old memories at this point... but I remember thinking that there was a lot of stuff in this one that felt un-Starfleet to me, like this seemed a little too much like a story about the US Military and these people weren't acting like Federation officers.

It's not that I think Starfleet people are saints, or that war couldn't make some of them really bitter or even crazy. I'm not asking to go back to the attitudes of Encounter at Farpoint when they were all noble and bland like space Boy Scouts! But the soldier guy down in the trench expressed attitudes about combat and courage that did sound more like a Klingon (which is what he was written to be), or some soldier in a movie about the Vietnam war. If he talked like that around Picard, or just about any of the Starfleet people we've ever met, I think he'd be promptly relieved of duty and ordered to begin sessions with the ship's counselor. (Yes, I know they're desperate for soldiers. But by Starfleet standards this guy seems dangerously angry, like they wouldn't trust him to carry a phaser.)

The Memory Alpha summary describes Bashir's "disgusted" reaction to the one guy shooting himself in the foot, and that's how I remember it. I also remember thinking that reaction didn't really seem right for him. Bashir is a soldier as well as a doctor, but he is a Starfleet medical officer first. Faced with somebody who was so frightened of combat that he shot himself in the foot, I think Bashir's first reaction would be pity, not disgust.

Normally I think this show does a fine job of showing us the cracks in the Starfleet facade. But this was the one episode when I thought, "These aren't Federation people who've seen too much. These are people who didn't grow up in Gene Roddenberry's universe."
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:58 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

But the soldier guy down in the trench expressed attitudes about combat and courage that did sound more like a Klingon (which is what he was written to be), or some soldier in a movie about the Vietnam war. If he talked like that around Picard, or just about any of the Starfleet people we've ever met, I think he'd be promptly relieved of duty and ordered to begin sessions with the ship's counselor. (Yes, I know they're desperate for soldiers. But by Starfleet standards this guy seems dangerously angry, like they wouldn't trust him to carry a phaser.)

Well, in fairness, he was dying, and he knew it. DS9 liked to explore what comes through the cracks in the Federation/Starfleet veneer, and I think that dude's behavior feels franchise-appropriate in that light.

Regarding Bashir, yeah, even if you factor in him being abnormally frazzled (and we saw that he was when he snapped at Jake), the disgust thing felt kind of strong. Maybe he's not yet fully over his Gee-Whiz Frontier Medicine Adventure Boy phase?

The TNG and even TOS eras had their "military machismo" moments. But I do agree that this episode lays on the militarism a bit more thickly than Roddenberry might have approved of. Maybe the writers felt that to water it down with any amount of Beige Trek could hurt the sense of urgency and oppressiveness that the episode was going for.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:50 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hitler: For a change in these re-watch threads, I'm going to have to disagree with you. Maybe you should rewatch it and see what you think, as maybe you are not getting the full picture from memory. As CheesesOfBrazil mentions, the soldier is dying and in a lot of pain, and knows he is going to die. He asks if Jake has seen a crashed hopper and when Jake says no he tells him it means his platoon got away, that the Klingons had them pinned down, and they couldn't transport out. Jake realises the guy stayed behind to get the others off, that he is probably now going to die to save the others in his platoon, compared to his running when the bombs started landing around him and Bashir. Jake says he will save him, but the guy says there's nothing he can do to help him. Jake then confesses to leaving the doctor, to what happened, and the guy says "the doctor you left him? and you think bringing me back is going to make everything all right? Sorry kid, life doesn't work like that." And then he dies, with blood coming out of his mouth.

I think even Picard was realist enough to know that war changes people, and would understand that after seeing action against bloodthirsty Klingons someone would talk like that, especially after pretty much giving their life for their comrades. Too often in Trek, there is this background war stuff (the cardassian war is a case in point) and the true horror of it is never put on screen. This episode did that.

With the Bashir thing, I think maybe it was because the guy was screaming and then it turned out to be self-inflicted, and they have so many other casualties coming in that he sees it as a waste of his time when others needs are greater. I agree it maybe went too far, and Bashir should have had a bit more pity, especially as I am not sure Bashir has ever seen combat at all.

In summary: I disagree slightly with Hitler.
posted by marienbad at 7:40 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm not in a great position to see the series again (I don't have the DVDs or Netflix, for starters) so I'm not so much a re-watcher as a re-rememberer. Sometimes I spout off based on what seems like a very vivid memory of an episode, only to then learn I was a bit off. In this case it's not impossible I'd change my opinion if I saw the episode now, but my reaction was strong at the time and that feeling has lingered.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:41 PM on April 15, 2016

Metafilter: I disagree slightly with Hitler
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:02 PM on February 23

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