Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Call to Arms   Rewatch 
June 30, 2016 6:01 AM - Season 5, Episode 26 - Subscribe

"These are the times that try men's souls." Sisko mines the entrance to the wormhole, provoking Gul Dukat to attack the station…and the Dominion War begins. Season finale.

Some season 6 spoilers in the Memory Alpha info below (and many more major spoilers if you click that link!):

- Sisko's insistence (under the influence of the Prophets) that Bajor not join the Federation in "Rapture" is finally explained in this episode. If they had signed the Federation treaty at that time, they would not have been in a position to sign a non-aggression pact with the Dominion, and Bajor would have been very likely to be the first world to fall.

- Ronald D. Moore commented that historical parallels brought up during the story discussions included the events depicted in the 1865 Leo Tolstoy novel War and Peace, the fall of the Philippines to Japan in 1942, and the evacuation of Dunkirk by the British army in 1940.

- The massive final shot for this episode proved to be exceptionally popular among viewers, who felt that it really set the stage for the upcoming season. The producers however, reacted differently. According to Ira Steven Behr, "What we'd written for that scene was, 'Lots of ships, two little ships coming to join them.' But what the effects people shot was, Lots of ships, two little ships coming, turning around, joining them, and then coming back together. It went much farther than we wanted. It told the audience that we were attacking now, like, 'Okay, we're marshaling our forces and here we are to join up,' which was never the idea. That changed the entire opening to Season 6. We'd already written the opening of the first show, and René said, 'Guys, this doesn't work, because the effects people have made the audience think that something a lot bigger has happened. We have to address that.' Anyway, we changed the opening of Season 6 to have all those ships we saw in "Call to Arms" battered and beaten and leaking plasma."

- The mass scene was also one of the last where physical studio models were used in scenes of this kind (the last one occurring in the follow-up episode "A Time to Stand") before complete transition to CGI for scenes of this kind.

- This is one of Ira Steven Behr's all-time favorite Deep Space Nine episodes. He sums the episode up as being simply about goodbyes, and he wanted to make sure that the audience understood this so that they would be ready for what was to come in season 6 ; "It was the big hint to the audience. I knew that we were going to do something very bold the following season, and I wanted to prepare people for it, because we were already thinking of having this multipart episode the next year that was going to turn the show around." Indeed, the episode contains four major farewell scenes: 1) Sisko's heartfelt farewell to the crew remaining on Deep Space 9, 2) Dax's romantic farewell to Worf, 3) Rom's rushed farewell to Leeta, and 4) Garak's gentle farewell to Ziyal.

- This episode is also a personal favorite of Ronald D. Moore, who ranks it as his favorite season finale of any Star Trek show, "The Best of Both Worlds" included.


"When I first took command of this post, all I wanted was to be somewhere else. Anywhere but here. But now, five years later, this station has become my home. And you all of you have become my family and leaving this station, leaving you, is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. But this war isn't over yet. I want you to know that, while we were keeping the Dominion occupied, a Starfleet/Klingon task force crossed the border into Cardassia and destroyed the Dominion shipyards on Torros III. Your sacrifices, our sacrifices, made this victory possible. But no victory can make this moment any easier for me and I promise, I will not rest until I stand with you again. Here. In this place. Where I belong."

- Benjamin Sisko, saying his goodbyes to Deep Space 9


"We should rendezvous with the Federation task force in 48 hours."
"And then what?"
"And then we make the Dominion sorry they ever set foot in the Alpha Quadrant."
"Cadet, you took the words right out of my mouth."

- Dax, Bashir, Nog, and Sisko


"I assume Captain Sisko removed or destroyed everything of value?"
"Not everything.""
"What is that?"
"A message from Sisko."
"I don't understand."
"He's letting me know... he'll be back."

- Weyoun and Dukat, in regards to the baseball Sisko left behind in his office
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
This episode is also a personal favorite of Ronald D. Moore, who ranks it as his favorite season finale of any Star Trek show, "The Best of Both Worlds" included.

I'd have to think hard about my actual favorite, but I'm certainly on board with the notion that A Call to Arms is better than The Best of Both Worlds. Part of that is structural: since DS9 is much more serialized than TNG, they had the latitude to both have proper setup to make this episode meaningful, and to actually shake up the status quo for a good long time. In TNG, the Dominion would've appeared maybe three times before now, and this would be a two- or three-part episode at best. Here? This was the primary arc of all of DS9, and that's big.

The other thing about is simply that the Dominion are similar to the Borg thematically, but more compelling than them. Both factions are dark mirrors of the Federation: they explore space with the intention of incorporating whatever they find into their own structure and power base, as intact as possible. The difference is that the Borg are overpowered in such a way that victories over them call for deus ex machina or excessive technobabble - I knew the conclusion to TBoBW would call for something like that, and so it did. It was also inevitable for both First Contact and Voyager to nerf them, because as presented, they shouldn't lose to single ships of Starfleet's technological capability. Ever.

The Dominion is slightly more advanced and powerful than the Federation, but they're not a cosmic horror. You can kill a Founder with a phaser if you can track them down. Their ships blow up when enough phasers are applied. Their troops are elite, but they can be fought in hand-to-hand combat or tricked or the like. Their industrial base is bigger and better, but - as seen here - can be dismantled.

That means that victories over the Dominion can come from politics or tactics or other more satisfying means. When I first saw A Call to Arms, I was expecting sweeping, epic space battles to follow, political intrigue and so on, and I was not disappointed.

Even better, they have personalities and internal squabbles and whatnot, so they're even fun to watch when they're winning. (Hugh, Locutus and Seven of Nine were interesting in the context of 'lone Borg explains their perspective to non-Borg,' but that's a different deal entirely.)

Anyway... yeah. Fun episode. I mean, 'self replicating mines' are total bullshit, but I was willing to give them that one because it was better than yet another 'destroy or permanently close off the Celestial Temple' discussion.

Anyway, we changed the opening of Season 6 to have all those ships we saw in "Call to Arms" battered and beaten and leaking plasma."

It's good they rolled with that, because that entire bit was great too.
posted by mordax at 10:23 AM on June 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


That baseball, man. Over the course of the series it symbolized a lot of things, telling us so much about who Sisko was and how he was feeling. It's got its own Memory Alpha page, and actually deserves one.

Mordax, to me the Dominion and the Borg were scary in very different ways. The Dominion were cruel and oppressive, and kind of twisted and sadistic. If you got in the way, they enjoyed making you suffer. The Borg (pre-Borg queen) were more like a disease, or Romero's zombies. I think the very thing that made them hard to write (and was apparently the reason they brought in the Queen) was what made them so eerie: they weren't characters, they were an unstoppable, uncaring, corrupting force. In their early appearances, visiting their ship was like being inside a giant ant colony... with the added creepiness that at any moment they might assimilate you so you became one of the drones. The Borg Queen was a compelling character, but to me she's also kind of a shark-jumping moment for the Borg. They became something else after that, something I found less frightening. But with the Dominion, the more we found out about the Female Changeling and Weyoun and everybody else, the more nuanced and fascinating their evil empire became.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:41 PM on June 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


That baseball, man. Over the course of the series it symbolized a lot of things, telling us so much about who Sisko was and how he was feeling. It's got its own Memory Alpha page, and actually deserves one.

Hahaha. That's awesome, thanks.

Mordax, to me the Dominion and the Borg were scary in very different ways.

Mm. That's sort of what I was trying to get at. The Dominion are explicitly the equal and opposite number of the Federation as framed by DS9:
The Dominion was conceived as "a sort of unifying anti-Federation in a way, just to give it a completely different character," said Robert Hewitt Wolfe. Indeed, the group was intended to be similar in structure to the Federation but with very different ideologies.
The Borg may or may not have been intended that way, but they scan that way to me.

Like, almost all antagonistic powers in Star Trek are a single race and culture: the Klingon Empire is just, as far as we can see, a bunch of Klingons who are probably lucky their ships don't blow up from spilled blood and/or bloodwine. The Romulan Star Empire is (until stupid Nemesis), just composed of Romulans - and even the Remans are an offshoot/mutation of them, rather than an allied or subjugated alien race. The Cardassians are unusual in that we see them *behaving* like an empire, oppressing the Bajorans, but we don't see Bajorans intermixing with them - there are very few Bajoran/Cardassian halfbreeds like Ziyal, and there's no cultural overlap that I can recall.

The Borg take in everybody, like the Federation. It's just that the Federation does it via consent and fair play, while the Borg just force everyone to literally share their single point of view and agenda. Dark mirror and all that.

So, to me, both DS9 and TNG centered some of their very best, most acclaimed stories around fighting their twisted reflections, which makes sense. But those reflections went totally different places, which is fascinating to me.

The Dominion are nuanced and complicated, and allow for a wide range of stories. You can talk to them, negotiate, spy, even ally with them sometimes. The Borg are creepy and effective, but they only really lend themselves to a narrow range of encounters: Borg stories should generally be horror stories. (The fact Voyager needed to retcon them so heavily is interesting too, suggesting nobody really thought they'd be back, and certainly not as a major recurring threat.)

I think it's just sort of interesting to think about them side by side for that reason, and maybe wonder how much of that is due to the serial nature of DS9 vs. the episodic nature of TNG, or whether it was different writers, stuff they'd learned, executive interference?

*shrugs*

I may not be explaining this train of thought very well. And I suppose if anyone besides the two of were talking, this would be derail territory... heh.
posted by mordax at 7:18 PM on June 30, 2016


The Borg Queen was a compelling character, but to me she's also kind of a shark-jumping moment for the Borg.

Oh, and to drag this further: I completely agree with this, and it's part of why I was unhappy with the Borg in the end. The franchise was ultimately unwilling to really commit to the premise in the long term. Much as I like Alice Krige's performance, First Contact would've been more fun without attempting to humanize the Borg.
posted by mordax at 7:35 PM on June 30, 2016


The Borg Queen makes sense if they had been more clear that she was just an evolution of Locutus, that her real purpose was to turn Data, who'd been instrumental in the cube's defeat in "The Best of Both Worlds", and that she hadn't existed during that episode (contra to the retcon in STFC). The episode with Data and Lore combining with the "renegade" Borg in "Descent" could have been tied into that effort as well. Going forward, they could have introduced the idea into Voyager that Seven was a Manchurian Candidate-type sleeper who didn't even know herself what her ultimate purpose was, and have that fact gradually discovered and turned against the Collective, instead of their simply being jobbed as they were repeatedly.

Anyway, the Dominion is quite a bit different as there's always clearly been a hierarchy, with the Founders, the Vorta, the Jem'Hadar, and then everyone else, and the Vorta and Jem'Hadar are both heavily genetically engineered from their original forms. One of the ideas that came from the creation of the Dominion was that, in the words of Robert Hewitt Wolfe, they were "the Carrot-and-Stick Empire", and were pretty solicitous of their members' wants and needs... as long as those member states did exactly what the Founders wanted. If they didn't, then the Jem'Hadar rolled in with the stick. (In the first season episode, "Captive Pursuit", you have a not-Predator hunter race chasing after "Tosk", who doesn't need to eat and can cloak; Wolfe and others speculated that the Tosk was also the creation of the Dominion, specifically created for the hunter client race.) You see that sort of solicitude from Weyoun toward the Cardassians and even Bajor... as long as they toe the line.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:11 PM on June 30, 2016


The fact Voyager needed to retcon them so heavily is interesting too, suggesting nobody really thought they'd be back, and certainly not as a major recurring threat.

Maybe nobody on the TNG writing staff. Come the time of Voyager... well, they WERE lost in the Borg's home quadrant. I don't know if UPN just insisted that the Borg be brought in for the ratings factor—I may have read that somewhere—but, short of sending Voyager beyond the galaxy or deep into the Beta Quadrant (where they'd eventually run afoul of Klingons and/or Romulans, which the network might not have wanted to retread), the Borg were probably inevitable on that show…and, after the network DID demand Seven, going all-in on the Borg was probably also inevitable.

Wolfe and others speculated that the Tosk was also the creation of the Dominion, specifically created for the hunter client race.

My headcanon is that Tosk's species is some kind of prototype/knockoff/failed-mutant version of the Jem'Hadar.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:55 AM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


This show really is amazing in how it was able to build up all these intricate story lines and characters over the course of multiple seasons, and then delivers satisfying conclusions to them all. It's quite pleasant as a contrast to the new Doctor Who, which I just caught up on watching. During the Steven Moffat era in particular, it tends to shoehorn in multi-season arcs by tacking on unrelated scenes to various episodes. Then almost without fail it builds up to some inane, anticlimactic finish that no one really understands.

DS9 the plots never felt forced or irrelevant. It was always a natural progression.

And the payout of having all of these unique characters really starts here. The way Weyoun worships Odo despite living half a step away from being enemies. The tenuous political alliance between the Dominion, Cardassia, and Bajor. Dukat's driving need to retake DS9, and his loathing of Kira. (Or loving of Kira, however you look at it.) The baseball. Even Quark with his smuggling in Cardassian food is so perfectly in character you can't help but nod and smile about it.

Self replicating mines - in the ST universe this is actually one of the more realistic, scarier concepts. We can materialize food out of thin air and transport humans instantly through space. Why not self replicating mines? It might have been nice if they gave us a little more techno-babble about them (i.e., they convert subspace energy into matter or some BS), and they raise all sorts of questions about why we haven't seen that technology used in the past, but they're far from the least plausible thing we've seen.
posted by 2ht at 10:55 AM on July 1, 2016


Self replicating mines - in the ST universe this is actually one of the more realistic, scarier concepts

This is what I thought. Transporters and Replicators always struck me as monstrously weaponizable tech. Like a darker show would have probably explored that. IE any troops, ships, etc without shields for a second would be subject to instant horrifying transporter death.
posted by French Fry at 11:09 AM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wasn't really paying attention to where the mines were being put - but did they say they were in the wormhole? Wouldn't that be a danger to the wormhole aliens? Or did they just mean they're placed around the end(s?) of the wormhole? Are Dukat & Weyoun & their ships/crews cut off from the Gamma Quadrant now, or does this just create delays & possible casualties?
posted by oh yeah! at 1:02 PM on July 1, 2016


The mines are said to be deployed "at the mouth" of the wormhole (on the Alpha Quadrant side). And yes, we are told that GQ reinforcements cannot pass into the AQ as a result, which I infer to mean "even if they could somehow brute-force a huge fleet through, the losses would be so catastrophic that the Founders won't okay trying."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:08 PM on July 1, 2016


Transporters and Replicators always struck me as monstrously weaponizable tech. Like a darker show would have probably explored that.

It's been explored. "Civil Defense" had the replicator in Ops on DS9 programmed to create a disruptor capable of vaporizing people across the room in the case of a hostile takeover of the station; "Dark Frontier" had Voyager destroying Borg ships by directly beaming photon torpedoes aboard. (They had to disable their shields first, which usually prevent this sort of tactic.) Disrupting transporter beams can also be used to kill people, as we saw in "The Darkness and the Light".
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:45 PM on July 1, 2016


Transporters and Replicators always struck me as monstrously weaponizable tech.

Calling it now: Bryan Fuller is gonna SHOW some serious transporter monstrosities in the new series.

And ya know, Rom is sort of a mad genius Nazi scientist in this, coming up with an Easy-Bake WMD right off the top of his head. After the war, it would have been amusing to see some consequences of that (but of course that was never gonna happen because of [something I won't describe due to spoilers]). DS9 Season 8 Episode 4: Rom's War Crimes Trial, with Quark for the defense, and, oh, let's say Picard for the prosecution. Judge Odo presiding.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:22 PM on July 2, 2016


I have no idea what to expect from Fuller. On the one hand he wrote some of Voyager's darkest episodes and he's certainly gone very dark in some of his shows since then. On the other hand he said something about how he felt the various modern Trek shows lost some of the fun of the original series, which sounds like he's leaning toward a lighter tone. All I ask is that it's good and feels like legit Trek. (Ideally it will be set in the "prime" universe and we'll get a few quickie, meta jokes making fun of NuTrek.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:11 PM on July 2, 2016


Ideally it will be set in the "prime" universe and we'll get a few quickie, meta jokes making fun of NuTrek.

I would also accept lengthy, talky in-character discourses not-so-subtly eviscerating NuTrek.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:36 AM on July 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would accept a series set in oh lets say the generation after NuTrek, to both explain away its worst qualities and give a platform to complain about how the federation used to operate.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:15 AM on July 4, 2016


This is another great episode, and having Wayoun and Dukat with Damar dragging his knuckles along behind them is ace. I love how Damar looks at Dukat when Wayoun gives an order and Wayoun calls him out on it - sets the tone for how fractious and delicate the alliance is in future episodes.

The Discussion between Wayoun and Sisko is excellent, and then after, how Sisko analyses it and he knows then that the mining is going ahead, he is set on a course of action no matter what the consequences.

Other cool stuff:

Garak's goodbye speech to Ziyal is amazing.

The wedding and Rom's speech after, about Leeta leaving.

The "calm before the storm" bit with Jake giving out med kits and Garak and Odo's chat.

The actual battle.

Dukat's "You, me, the Major, together again," speech to Odo and Kira.

Beuatifully filmed and edited, the whole thing is such a great end of season episode, it made me want to binge watch season 6!
posted by marienbad at 1:29 PM on July 20, 2016


That baseball, man. Over the course of the series it symbolized a lot of things, telling us so much about who Sisko was and how he was feeling. It's got its own Memory Alpha page, and actually deserves one.

If he'd put a bomb in his baseball, he coulda saved us all a lot of trouble.

Also, FWIW, I would watch the shit out of a Star Trek show set in the newsroom of the Federation News Service.
posted by duffell at 7:48 PM on April 25


The self-replicating mines made me imagine a grey goo scenario with them spreading throughout the quadrant. Seemed very apt that Rom invented the concept.
posted by joeyh at 5:32 PM on June 14


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