After season two ended with the rather impressive and scary reveal of the Dominion as antagonists for the series, it falls to an opening two parter for season three to further flesh out the threat from the Gamma Quadrant.
This is Star Trek, and even for a show set at a more or less stationary space station, it doesn’t mean there won’t be some exploration. For now, there’s mystery, and the most mysterious member of the regular cast may finally be getting some answers.
Now, to be fair, Odo is as much a mystery to himself as much as he is to anyone else, but there have been a few hints here and there that, whatever Odo is, he comes from the Gamma Quadrant. Now the crew has met some really formidable opposition: seemingly unstoppable soldiers, technology above and beyond anything Starfleet has, and an order to “stay out or else”. What little we know about the Dominion is they don’t really negotiate.
That said, this is still Star Trek. It is still a utopian society that believes in trying to find peaceful resolutions to problems. As such, that doesn’t mean they can’t at least try talking. That would mean first and foremost at least finding the mysterious beings known only as “the Founders,” an alien race that has never been seen even by other races within the Dominion. They might as well be a myth. Heck, that one Vorta in the previous episode, before her true colors were revealed, said they were a myth. How the hell can the Federation even begin to negotiate with someone when they can’t even say with complete certainty that the Founders even exist.
For one thing, Sisko has a new ship: the Defiant. It’s small, fast, and built entirely for war. No creature comforts, no families, just weapons and speed. Sisko has the prototype, built to fight the Borg, but the Dominion will do. And the ship has a cloaking device on board, a loaner from the Romulans and with a Romulan officer on board to operate it.
She’s not friendly. Starfleet’s new security officer is, but Odo isn’t quite happy with that.
So, we have a new ship that can maybe fly into Dominion space unseen. Who’s the crew? Sisko will obviously take along O’Brien, Dax, and Bashir. Kira is in for the Bajorans, and they want Odo to go. Odo, they figure, can give an interesting view of things as he sees things differently anyway.
Oh, and Quark is going. He doesn’t want to go. He really doesn’t want to go. But Sisko already talked to the Grand Negas, and Quark will go for that reason alone. The Ferengi’s connections due to past negotiations means he can maybe talk to people on the other side and find out where the Founders are or at least the Vorta.
Now, this is part one of two, so there has to be something going very wrong before the episode ends. Things start off well enough. The cloaking device works as long as they stay out of warp. Quark does get answers from the contact: the Dominion contacts them, usually without much warning. They can call the Vorta by sending a signal to a relay station somewhere in a nebula…and that nebula catches Odo’s eye for reasons he can’t explain.
Quark leaves to catch a ride home, but again, there needs to be a cliffhanger. So, that happens when the Jem’Hadar spot the ship cloaked and in warp. That happens near the relay station. O’Brien and Dax beamed down there just before the Jem’Hadar showed up and things went South. The Defiant does manage to destroy one of their small ships, but then there’s damage, the Jem’Hadar start boarding, Sisko and Bashir on are on the bridge, the Romulan is subdued, and Odo and Kira are on another part of the ship. Odo and KIra do manage to somehow escape on a shuttle craft, but they land on a planet in that nebula.
Where there’s a lake full of Odo’s people. One welcomes him home.
I could ask how they were able to do a face that looked a lot like Odo’s in his humanoid form, something that supposedly took him years to do, but obviously there’s a need to do things to make it as convenient as possible for the audience to know who they are if they didn’t, say, pop up with a brand new face of their own.
So, that was that. We didn’t really learn a whole lot more about the Dominion besides the fact they are still really scary in a fight. Granted, the Jem’Hadar aren’t indestructible individually, but collectively is another story, and the technology is bad enough by itself. These guys aren’t the Borg. They aren’t impersonal or mindless. They’re just tough.
Right now, that’s enough.