Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Valiant   Rewatch 
September 15, 2016 4:26 AM - Season 6, Episode 22 - Subscribe

A lone Starfleet ship, cut off from all allies, faces impossible odds in the midst of war. Nothing to worry about, you say? Welllll…

We're Memory Alpha, and we can do anything! MEMORY ALPHA! MEMORY ALPHA! MEMORY ALPHA!

- In Moore's original draft of the script, the USS Valiant is discovered by Jake and Kira. The plot was predominantly the same, but as Moore explains, "It didn't work because you couldn't believe that Kira wouldn't kick every one of their asses and take back the ship single-handedly. It occurred to us that if we put Nog in there we'd have a character who could buy into what Red Squad was doing. And Jake was a character who could stand back from it. That worked a lot better."

- This episode is a favorite of Aron Eisenberg's, who sees it was critical in the development of the character of Nog; "Nog's dilemma in the episode was, 'Should I do the right thing? Or should I grab the opportunity to do what I've always wanted?' which is to become an officer. When a Ferengi sees what he wants, he doesn't let anything get in his way. He has all these rules for obtaining money, and that's the center of his life. Nothing really deters him from that goal. Nothing clouds that vision. A Ferengi won't allow it. So I applied that same mentality, those same philosophical ideas to Nog's desire to be a Starfleet officer. After he joined Starfleet, I turned all that attention to the one goal of succeeding in Starfleet and not failing, not letting anything deter him from that goal. So I started to play Nog as very, very straight-laced, a perfect military guy. In "Valiant", somebody was offering Nog a chance to be an officer and he could justify it, even if those justifications weren't correct, as Jake pointed out. He wasn't going to listen to anybody except for his captain. That's what made that show so powerful for me – the fact that Nog realizes when it's almost too late that he's made a horrible, horrible mistake. I thought it was great that the writers let him make the wrong decision. But then he was man enough to admit it too. And in the end scene, he gives back his prized possession, the Red Squad pin, which symbolizes what he wanted so badly. I think Nog grew tremendously in this show."

- Red Squad was introduced in the fourth season two-parter "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost", where David Drew Gallagher also appeared as Riley Shepard.

- In modern naval protocol, Nog, a commissioned officer, would have immediately outranked the entire crew of the Valiant, all of whom were cadets. However, writer Ronald D. Moore has stated that he based the premise on an 18th and 19th century naval tradition that an acting captain can only be removed from command by a flag officer.


"You all probably know who my father is. Benjamin Sisko. So you know I'm not exaggerating when I say that he's considered to be one of the best combat officers in the fleet. And I'm telling you right now that even with the entire crew of the Defiant with him, my father would never try to pull off something like this. And if he can't do it, it can't be done."
"We're Red Squad and we can do anything!"

- Jake Sisko and Tim Watters


"You don't understand because you've never put on one of these uniforms. You don't know anything about sacrifice or honor or duty or any of the things that make up a soldier's life! I'm part of something larger than myself. All you care about is you."
"That's right. All I care about is Jake Sisko and whether or not he's going to be killed by a bunch of delusional fanatics looking for martyrdom!"

- Nog and Jake Sisko


"We let ourselves blindly follow Captain Watters, and he led us over a cliff."
"That's not true. Captain Watters was a great man."
"Dorian, he got everyone killed."
"If he failed, it's because we failed him."
"Put that in your story, too. Let people read it and decide for themselves. He may have been a hero. He may even have been a great man. But in the end, he was a bad captain."

- Nog, Dorian Collins and Jake Sisko, about Tim Watters
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (11 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is another one where the setup for the episode made it hard to enjoy. They let a squad of cadets train on an incredibly powerful, high-tech Defiant class warship? If they had been on the outdated starship mentioned in the episode I could have bought that.

The acting was iffy. Nog was good, Jake was acceptable. Cirroc grew a lot as an actor throughout the series. The woman playing Dorian was okay. Everyone else felt like they were cast offs from a Nickelodeon show.

I was glad to see them get their comeuppance. (Sure, they didn't deserve to die, but I was glad that they didn't destroy the ship and get out unscathed.) It was a little convenient that the escape pod Jake and Nog took was the only one that survived.

The quotes above from Aron Eisenberg really explain what Nog was thinking throughout the episode. I just wish the episode had conveyed that a little better, because he seemingly bought into the pitch without a second thought.

Nog doing some engineering thing to the ship because that's the way O'Brien did it was perfect. Well, O'Brien probably doesn't even understand why it works the way it does. He's much more of a duct tape and kick it engineer than a real technical guy like La Forge. (I wouldn't mind a show following a young O'Brien fighting in the Cardassian War, set up like a naval war series. )
posted by 2ht at 6:29 AM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is another one where the setup for the episode made it hard to enjoy. They let a squad of cadets train on an incredibly powerful, high-tech Defiant class warship?

This was definitely meant to be another episode showcasing that there was something rotten at the core of Starfleet. The crew of the Valiant are practically child soldiers, and I took the whole thing as another symptom of the ailment that made Section 31 seem like a good idea. (Whether that's a good thing or not feels like an exercise for each given fan.)

The quotes above from Aron Eisenberg really explain what Nog was thinking throughout the episode. I just wish the episode had conveyed that a little better, because he seemingly bought into the pitch without a second thought.

Agreed. I'm delighted by Aron Eisenberg's take on Nog, and would've loved to have him and Jake talk about that at some point. Even if not this episode, actually - just Jake wondering, 'whatever happened to the Nog who gets into scrapes?' or something. It certainly casts some other stories in a new light for me too.

I hadn't really thought about it in much detail, and figured Nog was so gung ho both because he was actually good at this job, and because leaving Ferengi culture in such a major way likely meant he couldn't go back - see how Liquidator Brunt treats nonconformist Ferengi, assume Brunt is the norm in their bureacracy. (It seems like those things were still probably true, but I like Eisenberg's insight much more.)

Red Squad was introduced in the fourth season two-parter "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost", where David Drew Gallagher also appeared as Riley Shepard.

Huh. That's a weird note. IIRC, they first appeared in TNG's The First Duty, with an air date almost four years sooner. (Also written by Ronald D. Moore.) That one stuck out for me because of the whole Tom Paris connection later on.
posted by mordax at 9:08 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Went looking and see that they weren't called that by name in the TNG episode. Hm. My mistake.
posted by mordax at 9:12 AM on September 15, 2016


Yeah, the Nick Locarno squad did seem to be a precursor to Red Squad, if not in canonical fact then in the writers' thoughts.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:20 AM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is another one where the setup for the episode made it hard to enjoy. They let a squad of cadets train on an incredibly powerful, high-tech Defiant class warship?

The Tor.com recap pointed out that they wrote it as Defiant-class so that they could use the existing Defiant sets rather than having to build something new. Understandable production decision, but, creatively iffy.

This was definitely meant to be another episode showcasing that there was something rotten at the core of Starfleet. The crew of the Valiant are practically child soldiers, and I took the whole thing as another symptom of the ailment that made Section 31 seem like a good idea. (Whether that's a good thing or not feels like an exercise for each given fan.)

Yeah, for me it is a little past the bounds of what feels like Star Trek, a bit too Section-31-y for comfort. But I did like the Nog & Jake aspects of it, and I thought all the cadet actors were descent, so I didn't mind it too much.

The Quark/Jadzia thing and Odo's teasing seemed out of nowhere. Or, rather, knowing that they're building up to killing her off, it seemed like a cheap ploy to lay pipe for when Quark's reaction to her death, which, bleh. He can't just be sad because she was a friend and loyal customer? But, that's a rant for a future thread.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:43 PM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I can actually accept that the cadets would have been on a Defiant-class vessel, because we don't really know how many there are; there might be a bunch. Remember that the ship was designed in response to the Borg threat, following Wolf 359, in which thirty-nine starships were destroyed in a matter of minutes by a single Borg cube. The idea was to have smaller, more heavily-armed-and-armored ships that required less crew and therefore could be built and crewed in greater numbers than larger, less-nimble capital ships and swarm the Borg cubes. In a way, they're scaled-up versions of the PT boats of WWII, which were even smaller and more lightly-crewed, and commanded by junior officers, most notably Lieutenant (junior grade) John F. Kennedy. It would especially make sense in the Dominion War, given the enemy's dependence on fighters that had earlier destroyed the Galaxy-class Odyssey by swarming it. (Something that I hadn't known before is that the Defiant started out as a concept drawing for a Maquis fighter.) They probably were also quick and relatively easy to build, since the Terran Resistance in the Mirror Universe was able to put one together using Terok Nor as a drydock.

As far as using teenage cadets as child soldiers... that's something that's always bugged me a bit, in the sense of Alexander Rozhenko joining the Klingon Defense Force at age eight sort of way, or for that matter Wesley Crusher taking the helm of the E-D, or even Chekov being an officer at seventeen in the reboot. (Nog gets a bit of a break because, like Alexander, he's another species (well, Alexander is 1/4 human, but anyway) that may simply mature faster--he seems younger because he's so short, but the first time we meet him, in the pilot, he's breaking and entering on the Promenade.) One of the subtle ironies of the Federation's ban on genetic augmentation is that a lot of people, or at least the ones that we see in the different series, seem really supercompetent, to the point where they can quickly and successfully operate alien technology on first use; consider that almost all of the computer consoles on the station are in Cardassian. (Unless everyone's wearing contact lenses that have built-in visual versions of universal translators...) The Federation is Lake Wobegon: all the children are above-average. That having been said, the whole point of the episode is that the kids aren't alright. It reminds me very much of the movie Taps, a really good and sadly-forgotten movie with Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn, Tom Cruise, and George C. Scott, about a military academy (high school and younger--although I'm not sure just how much younger--not one of the official service academies) whose students decide to defy orders to close it and precipitate an armed standoff. (Who thought it was a good idea to give children and teenagers live ammo wasn't clear; I'm assuming that a real military prep school wouldn't have large quantities of ammo on hand.) It ends about as well as you'd think.

I really liked how the episode set up and executed the premise, generally. I would have liked a little of Riley Shepard, the one recurring Red Squad character, maybe questioning orders on the basis that he'd already been part of an operation that had an extremely dubious basis, to put it mildly. I liked how Watters, the acting captain, while charismatic in a generic teen-adventure movie way, always seemed tightly wound underneath the surface, and Farris suitably obnoxious as the XO. (The Memory Alpha article on Watters dovetails neatly with my headcanon that he may not have been telling the truth, or the whole truth, WRT how he took command; it does seem odd that he couldn't get the ship back to Federation space.) And I really liked Dorian Collins; the actress reminds me a lot of a number of young women who have enlisted and served in the armed forces during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars--they've just got that look.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:45 PM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


As far as using teenage cadets as child soldiers... that's something that's always bugged me a bit [...] Nog gets a bit of a break because, like Alexander, he's another species (well, Alexander is 1/4 human, but anyway) that may simply mature faster [...] One of the subtle ironies of the Federation's ban on genetic augmentation is that a lot of people, or at least the ones that we see in the different series, seem really supercompetent

In terms of how plausible this story is, I accept all of these justifications. What bugs me about this episode is not so much its plausibility but the notion that the writers thought the concept of cadets commanding a warship would be a good idea. I understand the urge to revisit Red Squad, but they were already established as such a disreputable and unlikable bunch. I for one experienced not a single moment of sympathy with any of them, from the beginning. That hurts the episode's impact overall IMO.

And even if it hadn't been Red Squad, but Some Other Cadet Squad, the whole "kids aren't alright" notion seems too self-evident, at least considering that this is the Biggest and Baddest Interstellar War Yet and all. I've surmised that much of the popularity of Trek (particularly TOS and TNG) comes from the audience's desire to watch experienced people doing complex jobs competently. (Pretty sure there's a term for this, but it escapes me right now.) This story is pretty much the opposite of that. Now, kudos to them for taking a risk—as has been mentioned, the concept is definitely in keeping with the overall DS9 philosophy—and they chose well having Jake and Nog be our regulars, and I value the episode as a bit of world-building, but…I dunno, I always just have this inner sneer whenever I watch it. Maybe I just have a hang-up.

Also, w/r/t plausibility: there was a Vulcan among the Valiant's crew. IIRC he is the only one who doesn't chant "RED SQUAD!" in that Hitler Youthy fashion. Seems like either a missed opportunity for the writers to include some preexisting dissension in the ranks, or an error. (Not like Vulcans are ALways logical and dispassionate—we'll meet a deranged one in Season 7—but just to have that extra in that scene invites lots of questions.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:39 AM on September 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think the word you're looking for is "competence porn," Cheeses of Brazil. (Been reading along with all of these. I think this is the first time I've had something constructive to add!)
posted by Alterscape at 12:45 PM on September 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Competence porn" is a good term, and I think that this episode teases us with that for a bit, as the kids rush around getting everything ready for their big hero moment... but it all goes to hell within about a minute, and the bridge officers are all standing there looking dumbfounded because they didn't think that they'd need a Plan B.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:40 PM on September 16, 2016


>> This was definitely meant to be another episode showcasing that there was something rotten at the core of Starfleet. The crew of the Valiant are practically child soldiers, and I took the whole thing as another symptom of the ailment that made Section 31 seem like a good idea. (Whether that's a good thing or not feels like an exercise for each given fan.)

> Yeah, for me it is a little past the bounds of what feels like Star Trek, a bit too Section-31-y for comfort.


I think what is happening is that there is a faction within Starfleet that wants the service to fully militarize. They see the most practical way to make that happen is to begin teaching the cadets to see Starfleet that way. Red Squad is the pilot program they eventually want to roll out academy-wide. That Red Squad still exists suggests this faction is larger than Adm. Leyton's group.

I haven't seen the most recent movie, but I understand that same thing is a major part of it.
posted by riruro at 8:48 AM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Between TNG and DS9, you more or less get the impression that Starfleet outside of what's under the direct command of Sisko or Picard is a dysfunctional mess. The Academy seems to only produce flyboy hotshots who can barely see a ship without steering it directly into a wall, the other captains we meet are almost all trying to pull some dipshit Sergeant Cowboy act, and you're lucky if a random admiral is merely a pointless bureaucrat instead of actively committing war crimes or one that's been turned into a mindless thrall under the control of malevolent aliens.

It's a miracle the whole thing didn't collapse under the weight of having to actually fight a war considering how ineffective and weird 99% of Starfleet personnel are when we meet them.
posted by Copronymus at 12:50 AM on July 3, 2018


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