Bill Mumy had a guest appearance for this episode. The Deep Space Nine folks had apparently tried getting him for a guest spot multiple times, but he always declined while he was on the similar-sounding Babylon 5. After that series ended, he declined another role that would have required a lot of prosthetic make-up, an obvious thing for anyone who knew what he did on B5. He finally accepted for a guest shot as a human, and he does a good job with the role.
Besides, I had nowhere else to insert that information.
Truthfully, for a series that’s set during a war, this one here is perhaps the first time in a while it actually felt like a war. Yeah, it’s not a bunch of cadets running a Defiant-class ship and overestimating their skills and abilities, but it is the first time in a while the war has been depicted in a way that shows loss in a manner other than side commentary between Sisko and other characters on the station. For the first time in a while, the main characters are not only on the front lines, but they aren’t sitting on the bridge of a starship while other ships explode all around them.
Instead, this time as the Defiant is doing a supply run for a group of Starfleet personnel under siege as they try to hold a valuable Dominion communications hub that they haven’t cracked the code for yet, it becomes a case where Sisko and the officers he has on-hand end up joining the guest characters to hold off yet another Jem’Hadar assault. The group had once numbered about 150 and is not down to under 50. Among their numbers are Mumy’s engineer, a frazzled commander doing the best she can, one guy who has clearly seen too much combat and is close to losing it, and the guy Nog decides is a real hero because he has a tube of Ketrecel White on a sling around his neck for every Jem’Hadar kill he’s had.
I realize this is a Trek way of depicting the practice some soldiers had of collecting ears or something off their kills, but that doesn’t make it much better just because it’s not severed part of the body.
Anyway, Sisko is fairly competent and experienced commander. Who does he have with him? He has a number of very skilled and experienced fighters. And, for all practical purposes, none of them are present. Kira stayed on the station. Odo did too, though I don’t know if I would characterize him as a fighter. Worf and veteran O’Brien had to leave on the Defiant. That means Sisko’s help is coming from Bashir, Ezri, and Nog, plus Quark.
Why is Quark here? This isn’t one of my usual rhetorical questions. He really doesn’t have a good in-universe reason to be there. For dramatic purposes, it makes sense. He’s there to try to point out the Ferengi way to Nog as Nog seems all-in on Starfleet, and someone has to clash with Sisko over Sisko’s instructions. Since the Dominion is blocking Starfleet censors, the best way to learn anything is to take advantage of Nog’s Ferengi hearing. Quark isn’t happy to see his nephew getting sent to the front lines, but that’s all Sisko has that he can actually use.
As for the others, Ezri has memories of past incarnations of Dax, something that she can use to both help Mumy’s character get the censors up and running enough to find the subspace mines that keep popping up and blowing someone to bits. That’s useful. Bashir’s big contribution beyond offering basic medical care is to play some Vic Fontaine songs before the battle starts to calm everyone’s nerves.
As for Nog, he loses a leg. Beyond that, plot armor for the main characters largely keeps them alive and well, and the guy with the Ketrecel tubes also manages not to die or get wounded before Worf and the Defiant returns with the long-promised replacements for the beleaguered survivors. Even Quark manages to get off a kill shot while defending Nog, and seeing Quark show genuine concern for the nephew he usually blows off as foolish, and that was even before the boy joined Starfleet, sure was a nice touch.
But for episodic television to actually show the war up close, the episode did a good job. There was enough character work with the guest stars to make it hurt when many of them were shot and presumably killed. It showed the characters being smart, enough to both find the hidden Houdini mines but also to move them to let the Jem’Hadar hit them instead and soften the guys up. And it showed the consequences to the war in a way beyond Sisko’s just reading names of a casualty report. Even the episode acknowledges the difference as Sisko mentions how he had gotten a little lazy about reading said names, but now that’s been to the front and actually fought with some of them, it forced him to resee the war that way. And true, Worf can mention the honor and glory of the fight, but that seems rather hollow to the people who were actually there.
To be fair, Worf is a Klingon, and the previous episode did something similar even if Kor’s off-screen death didn’t quite have the power of the violent demise of many of the characters at the end of this episode. But really, Sisko doesn’t care much for honor and glory after a lot of good people died for something that still hasn’t been cracked yet. Like with Quark’s Ferengi-based beliefs in what humans are like and how pointless the war is and how uncaring Sisko is, the aliens that talk of the war to Sisko just don’t see it the way he does.
That is to the show’s eternal credit.