I think I remember seeing this one before when it was new and being minorly disappointed that a big space battle didn’t happen as it looked like it was going to.
Seeing it now…it’s still a little disappointing, but it works out well anyway.
So, yeah, the Dominion is streaming into the Alpha Quadrant, but not to attack the station or Bajor or the Federation or anything along those lines. No, they were invited by Gul Dukat. He’d just negotiated to bring the Cardassian Empire into the Dominion with himself as the new leader, something that makes him very proud and pompous and even explains some of his behavior in the previous episode where he’d urged Ziyal to return to Cardassia before the Dominion showed up. He knew this was coming.
Oh, and over in the prison in the Gamma Quadrant, all the Cardassian prisoners are released…except for Garek as a personal favor to Dukat. Dukat really hates that guy.
Of course, no one on the station knows that Bashir there is a Changeling impostor. The real Bashir is in the prison with Garek, Worf, the real Martok, a male and female Romulan, and a silent Breen. And that fake Bashir is present for a lot of important conversations, including the one between Sisko and Gowron when the Klingons pull out of Cardassian space and set up for a fight with the Dominion that everyone assumes is coming. There are a few Starfleet ships, and even the Romulans just show up to help out without any asking. See? Big space battle.
That’s all based on a lie. The real attack is something that faux Bashir is going to do to blow up the Bajoran sun, taking out the station, all the war ships, and Bajor too. The only way to stop that is for the prisoners to get back to the runabout that the Jem’Haddar for some reason left in orbit (I have no explanation for that) and get word back to the station so they know that the Bashir there isn’t the real Bashir.
That requires a bit of teamwork among the prisoners, even if the Romulans are mostly there for guard duty and the Breen, who again never speaks, simply proves the old Romulan adage “Never turn your back on a Breen” is still good advice. The only way out is for Garek and Worf to basically push themselves to their respective limits. Garek is the only one who can use Tain’s communicator to get the runabout’s transporter to beam everyone up.
Worf just needs to keep fighting the Jem’Haddar one-on-one in their idea of testing themselves against a theoretically worthy opponent. They’d been doing it with Martok, but he’s an older man. Worf is younger and stronger. Eventually, Worf will wear out too. He just needs to hang in there as long as he can, no matter how many days in a row he is summoned from his cell to fight. Oh, and on top of everything else, Garek is claustrophobic, so he can’t always concentrate enough to work.
Yeah, this is where I say I do remember this episode because of Worf and how well he does in the arena. He prevails more or less easily enough in the early rounds against younger and inexperienced Jem’Haddar. FInally, he gets his chance against their battle-hardened leader. The Jem’Haddar live to fight and nothing else. They have no other interests. Worf is battered, and these guys are no wimps.
However, it says something that even though Worf can’t win the fight, he also can’t give up. Even with both Martok and his Jem’Haddar opponent complimenting him and saying honor is satisfied, he won’t tag out and keeps standing up for more when he can barely do much of anything.
Leading to my favorite moment in the episode: the Jem’Haddar leader saying he can’t beat the Klingon, he can only kill him, and that is dissatisfying.
So…Worf just won the respect of the Jem’Haddar.
Not the Vorta in charge. He just orders a mass execution of both the Jem’Haddar and the Klingons. That would be about when Garek gets the transporter working and beams the surviving prisoners back to the runabout and then warns the station in time to stop a supernova using the Defiant hitting warp speed inside of the solar system just to get the tractor beam where it needed to in time.
But man, that was good, and the big battle never happened…probably because this is mid-season and bigger stuff is saved for the end.