Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Empok Nor   Rewatch 
June 23, 2016 6:32 AM - Season 5, Episode 24 - Subscribe

A salvage operation on an abandoned, booby-trapped Cardassian space station? One of the most dangerous agents of the Obsidian Order in your party? What could possibly go wrong?

This episode introduces the DS9-like station Empok Nor, which is revisited in two subsequent episodes, "The Magnificent Ferengi" and "Covenant".

This is the second of the two DS9 episodes written by Bryan Fuller, who (as mentioned previously) will be the showrunner of the new, still-untitled Star Trek series. Fuller also wrote or co-wrote twenty Voyager episodes.

More "Empok Nor" details from Memory Alpha:

- Hans Beimler's first draft of the teleplay for this episode did not feature any of the various exchanges between O'Brien and Garak. There were no mentions of Setlik III, and no sense of rivalry between the two. This draft was not popular with either the cast or crew. According to Andrew Robinson, "After I finished the first draft, I thought, 'Ugh.' I felt like the writers were intruding on Garak. I never could have done that first script. We were vacuums. There was nothing in my character. It made no sense." Similarly unimpressed was Ira Steven Behr; "I told Hans, 'This doesn't work. Not even close. There's no character, no meaning. It's just a series of events and none of it makes any sense.'" Beimler returned to the script and composed another draft, this time adding much more depth to the relationship between Garak and O'Brien, and also bringing O'Brien's background as a soldier into play. As Beimler himself acknowledges, "I thought it was there after I did the first draft, but there was no bottom to the story. The second draft got into the relationship with O'Brien and Garak, and that really gave it some substance and content."

- Although Andrew Robinson was a lot happier with the episode after Hans Beimler's rewrite, he still wasn't thrilled with the project; "It turned out okay, but it made me uneasy to do that character." Robinson's breakout performance had been as the Scorpio killer in the 1971 film Dirty Harry. For some years after that performance, Robinson had fought against being typecast as a psychopathic killer, and he was a little disappointed to see that now, 25 years later, he was presented with a Deep Space Nine script which depicted him as just such a psychopathic killer.

"Looking for me? Oh, that felt - good."

- Garak after killing a Cardassian soldier

"You look different. That's not the face of a tailor."
"I'm not a tailor. Not for the moment anyway."

- O'Brien and Garak

"Asking a Ferengi to play a Cardassian game is like asking a Klingon to chew with his mouth closed."

- Garak playing Kotra with Nog
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (4 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm mobile and can't comment more right now, but I had to pop in and admire how wonderful the suspense was done in this episode. It was truly spooky in a way many horror movies fail to reach.
posted by 2ht at 6:47 PM on June 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yeah, there's a real prowling-around-the-Nostromo feel to it. Redressing an already-existing set to stand in for a similar ship or structure has a long tradition in Trek--it's lots cheaper than designing and building a new one--and we've already seen DS9 get the treatment for flashback shows to the Terok Nor days, not to mention the mirror universe ones, but this is yet another effective use of the set; it was designed to evoke alien architecture, and putting most of it in shadow really works. It works very well with Garak slowly losing his shit, but still retaining his effectiveness.

I also liked the use of O'Brien's past in the first Cardassian war. (I've said this before, but if you haven't seen the TNG episode "The Wounded" (spoilers), you really should.) I don't think that Garak and O'Brien have been seen interacting much before this episode, and it may seem kind of weird and obnoxious for Garak to have needled O'Brien the way he was in the runabout, before he got exposed to the drug, but that's really in character for Garak--he'll sometimes sort of "test" people if he thinks there's a potential conflict between them, for example, some of his conversations with Bashir over lunch where he's talking about examples of Cardassian culture that are straight-up propaganda, or when he's pretending to Worf (in the runabout, right before they're captured by the Jem'Hadar) that he's interested in joining Starfleet; the last interaction he was shown having with Worf before that was when Worf caught him trying to hack the Defiant's fire control system and Worf kicked his ass. And Garak may not be wrong about O'Brien; as "The Wounded" shows, his feelings about Cardassians are... complicated, and in the meantime there was also "Tribunal" in which he was falsely accused and tortured by the Cardassians. Additionally, the accidental inclusion of the crewmember talking about "spoonheads" really worked, as it heightened Garak's already-magnified xenophobia and paranoia. (Per Memory Alpha, the dialogue wasn't meant to be audible, but was because of a mistake in recording the scene; Gene Roddenberry insisted that racism was a thing of the past among humanity, but TOS showed humans being racist on occasion--"Balance of Terror", Star Trek VI, some of McCoy's comments about Spock--and I don't think that it's unreasonable that individual humans might still harbor such feelings.) Plus, the one crewmember's fascination with collecting Cardassian military insignia, which was probably meant to evoke some people's attraction to Nazi memorabilia.

Also mentioned in Memory Alpha was a reference to the movie Blue Sunshine, which is worth at least a peek at if you can find it online. Its star, Zalman King, who went on to do a lot of softcore porn stuff, also did an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour written by Harlan Ellison and co-starring Walter Koenig.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:27 PM on June 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh hey, four never before seen crewmen are on this mission. I wonder which ones will die?

Turns out all of them. Should have expected that.

At the end, I thought Bashir was going to reveal that O'Brien had begun to be affected by the drug. When he told Nog they'd have to kill Garak, it seemed so un-Stafleety. But it makes sense that O'Brien went back to his combat training. We've been shown how capable he is several times. O'Brien's been a badass more times than Worf.
posted by riruro at 4:07 PM on June 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

This is a great episode, so brilliantly lit and shot, it really does look like another space station. The idea that they have left the Cardassians to guard it is cool, but the LSD style substance they they have coated the place with seems a bit crazy. Still, having said that, the idea that it turns Garak back into the killer we all feel he is is well cool. The way the episode develops is very horror-movie-ish, there is tension all through, and again the lighting works to highlight this.

As stated by OP/Halloween Jack, the interplay between Garak and O'Brien is great, it really ratchets up the tension.

The only thing with this episode is that, again as mentioned, it is obvious who is going to be killed.
posted by marienbad at 2:14 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

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