Well, if the first three episodes of the season told a single storyline, then we can see part one as the introduction, part two the bridge between that and the conclusion with the various vital plot elements moved into position, and part three being the action-packed solution to everything that went down.
But that’s not quite right.
Oh, there’s some action in this episode, but the thing to remember is the invaders are the Bajorans, and Sisko doesn’t want to get on their bad side. None of his people do. And as much as the Bajorans may be coming armed, that doesn’t mean Sisko wants to hurt any of them. As such, after an evacuation of all nonessential personnel and civilians (O’Brien’s wife was not happy), everyone still on the station gets a plan in place, and fortunately, it looks like the Bajorans already on Deep Space Nine are inclined to help Sisko out. That mostly means Li Nalas and Kira.
Wait, I just found out Li Nalas was also Tony in West Side Story. We’ve already had the unbilled Frank Langella and the very much billed Louise Fletcher, so am I missing any other noteworthy guest stars?
Oh, Steven Weber appears as a Bajoran officer. Let’s move on then…
Anyway, Sisko gives the standard “Anyone who wants to leave, can” speech to his people, but no one does. I liked it when Babylon 5 pulled that trope and actually had one guy take off a headset and leave, but that’s neither here nor there. The only unwilling helper still on the station is Quark because, in an effort to make money selling seats on the runabouts for refugees fleeing the station, he didn’t notice Rom had sold Quark’s own seat. But the way that family works, I am sure Quark was actually proud of his brother’s acumen for once.
Anyway, the plan is actually pretty simple: the only way to keep Langella’s Minister Jaro from taking over Bajor is to bring proof he’s been (unknowingly) buying weapons from the Cardassians in an effort for those weird-necked guys to take the place over again. Beaming down isn’t an option. All the runabouts are gone. The only thing left to do is go to one of Bajor’s moons, find a long-abandoned fighter the Resistance left there during the war, and fly the evidence to the Bajoran Council directly. Kira can find and fly the ship, and Dax can go along for assistance.
In the meantime, everyone else will stay behind, stay hidden as much as possible, try to reason with the Bajorans, maybe take a few out nonlethally, and wait for Kira to get through. There is a phaser fight at one point, but much of that involves shooting to keep the Bajorans down and not to hit any of them. Beyond that, it’s mostly Odo providing cover while everyone else hides in the vents, bucking up Li Nalas’s ego a bit so he can be the war hero everyone needs him to be, and pull off simple traps here and there like when Sisko tricks Weber’s Colonel and a couple others into walking into one of Quark’s holosuites and capturing them there, sending the Colonel back with information about the Cardassians that the Colonel does not share with his commanding officer because the Colonel’s that kind of jerk.
Now, the plan does work with a little help from Vedek Barell, but I must say, the biggest development here is Dax, for once, showed some personality. She’s openly skeptical about the ship Kira finds, and Kira has to guide her partner through using busted up old tech to fly to Bajor. She’s also scared of spiders apparently. Sarcastic, skeptical, and a little playful when Barell gets her a fake nose to go with a Vedek disguise, we actually got to see Dax do something more than be the serene mentor to Sisko.
Please, do more of that, Deep Space Nine!
In the end, Weber’s Colonel, embarrassed and reprimanded for not giving his CO the information about the Cardassians, takes a shot at Sisko. Nalas takes the shot for the lead actor, dying a hero in the eyes of Sisko and, for that matter, the rest of Bajor. The real man, the one who got lucky and needed a confidence boost, he can stay hidden while the legend grows. That sort of thing will only do the relationship between the Federation and Bajor more good in the long run.