Jake Sisko is a character that I sometimes suspect the writers didn’t know what to do with all that much. By that, I mean he only seems to appear sporadically, and rarely does he appear for more than a scene or two. He might get a subplot, and usually it’s with Nog. He’s not a bad character. He just has the least to do with anything going on in the various stories set on the station and the ongoing plot behind it while still having the actor’s name listed in the credits. I don’t know if that was due to Cirroc Lofton’s age or anything, but it’s just my basic impression of the character.,
And then there’s this episode, one that shows what exactly Jake brings to the table by giving him a good showcase for once without bringing in Tony Todd to play an older Jake.
The premise is simple: Jake, training to become a writer, followed Dr. Bashir to a medical conference to do a profile on the man. Returning on a runabout, Jake is a bit disappointed at how dull everything was when a distress signal comes in from a distant colony. The ceasefire with the Klingons ended, and the colony there is under attack. The hospital there needs help, Jake figures that would be exciting enough, and it doesn’t take much to convince Bashir to go over and help. They’ll be there for a couple days while waiting for a Federation starship to come by and offer some real relief.
And that, as Jake learns, may be the biggest mistake he’s ever made in his young life. He’ll get a good story out of it, namely his own thoughts on what he went through, and his father will express pride in his son when he himself finally reads it, but one thing is quite clear: Jake did not know what he was getting himself into.
Me, I wondered why what genius thought to combine Star Trek with M*A*S*H*. That’s basically what this episode is. It doesn’t sugarcoat the war or the way the Klingons fight. It just goes all out and shatters all of Jake’s ideas on bravery and warfare. He’s scared for once, and this despite the fact he knows he’s been in danger before. He even remarks on that. The station has been attacked more than once, and Jake has always been more or less fine. Was it because his father was always nearby? Or is it because he’s on the front lines here, where a young Starfleet ensign will shoot himself in the foot to get away from it all, but Bashir and the other doctors are too good at their jobs to not pick up on it.
It’s a mission where Jake will overhear the gallows humor from the other doctors and finally lose it.
It’s a mission where Jake will learn that Klingons will attack a hospital, even the patients, all in the name of honor or glory or whatever.
It’s a mission where Jake will see a lot of Federation and Klingon corpses on the ground after a battle.
It’s a mission where Jake will find a dying man and not take it very well despite his best efforts to get the guy to the medical center.
It’s a mission where Jake will run away while under bombardment, abandoning Bashir at a key moment. Bashir will live, and oddly enough, he’ll blame himself for even going there and not Jake for running.
But it’s also a mission where Jake, even if he’s doing so in blind fear, saves the day with some accidental phaser blasts bring down a rock ceiling long enough to knock out some Klingons and give everyone else a chance to escape the carnage before the ceasefire resumes.
As a meditation on bravery, it’s a good episode. StarTrek is often far too idealistic to let something like this happen all that often, and it shows. Sure, there are scenes at the station where Sisko will do anything he can think of to distract himself from how worried he is for Jake, but ultimately, this is Jake Sisko learning something about war that he didn’t know, particularly how ugly and frightening it is, and how courage may be all a matter of luck and perspective.