As Worf arrives on temporary assignment to Deep Space Nine, the Klingons and the Federation come into conflict over the Dominion menace.
Plot Summary: General Martok arrives with a fleet of Klingon ships, causing chaos for Starfleet and for DS9 as the Klingons cause trouble on the Promenade, particularly Martok’s son Drex, who violently attacks Garak. The Klingons stop Kasidy Yates’ freighter from leaving the station, insisting that it must be inspected for hidden Founders. Sisko takes the Defiant to defend Bajoran space from Klingon intrusion, but Martok executes the Klingon who lets Yates through. Sisko summons Worf, who has been at a monastery and is considering leaving Starfleet following the destruction of the Enterprise. Worf fights with Drex to get Martok’s attention, but since Martok will not explain why the Klingons are there, Worf instead gets an old friend drunk and learns that the Klingons are planning to invade Cardassia, whose recent coup they believe to have been engineered by changelings. Sisko passes this information on to his senior staff, making sure Garak is there to measure him for a suit at the time. The Federation refuses to intervene in the preemptive strike because of the peace treaty with the Klingons, but Worf believes that this is only the beginning of Gowron’s plans to expand the Klingon Empire, using the Dominion as an excuse. While Garak alerts Dukat to the coming invasion, Wprf meets with Gowron, who invites Worf to prove his friendship by joining the invasion force. When both Worf and the Federation condemn the attack, the Klingons expel the Federation ambassador and break the Khitomer Accords, ending decades of peace. Shamed by his own people, Worf tries to resign from Starfleet and leave the region, but Sisko insists that he remain for the duration of the crisis.
Unfazed by rumors of changelings on Cardassia, Sisko contacts Dukat and offers to escort Cardassia’s new civilian government to safety if Dukat can get them off the planet. Leaving Kira in command of the station, Sisko then takes the Defiant to rendezvous with Dukat, encountering hostile Klingon vessels on the way. Both Sisko and Worf are distressed to have to engage the Klingons in a battle that damages the Defiant’s cloaking device. After they successfully rescue the Cardassians, they return to the station with Klingon ships in pursuit while Bashir tests the Cardassians to determine whether they are, in fact, Founders. The tests are negative, but Martok demands the surrender of the Cardassians nonetheless, since Gowron believes the Alpha Quadrant will be safer if Klingons control Cardassian space. The Klingons threaten to attack the station, but are unprepared for the fortifications installed to defend against a possible Dominion attack. Klingons manage to board the station, but Odo’s security forces are able to contain them, and as Starfleet reinforcements arrive, Sisko is able to persuade Martok that a war among the Federation, Klingons and Cardassians will leave the Alpha Quadrant far more vulnerable to a Dominion attack. Gowron agrees to turn his ships around, but warns Sisko that the Klingons will never forgive this betrayal. Worf still intends to leave Starfleet, but Sisko persuades him to stay, since the only way to recover from past griefs is to face them. The crew welcomes Worf warmly, but their relief is tempered by the news that the Klingons are refusing to give up the Cardassian colonies they have taken over, meaning that the conflict is far from over.
Analysis: I remember that when “The Way of the Warrior” first aired, I had grave concerns about Worf as a permanent character on Deep Space Nine. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Worf on The Next Generation, but I was afraid that his presence would take time away from DS9 regulars whom I adored, further cut into Odo’s role on the station since Eddington and Worf are both Starfleet-trained to do similar jobs, and amp up the macho factor of a series where that had never been a priority. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about; having Worf around freed up Odo and Eddington for different roles entirely, and the approach to gender roles and relationships on DS9 remains the most sophisticated of any of the Star Treks, far more so than Voyager‘s with its woman captain. I was annoyed at the time that Kira and Dax met Worf in the most stereotypically girly of ways, coming off the holodeck in Renfaire fantasy outfits, but there’s almost nothing that’s stereotypical beyond the very superficial trappings played up by the producers for what they’ve always believed is Star Trek’s core audience, namely young white men, despite the fact that many of the loudest voices in the fandom are neither white nor male and the demographics have been all over the place since the geezers demanded that Star Trek be brought back years after it was canceled. When it aired, DS9 was the only show on television that had two black men and two military-trained women, not just as the main characters, but in positions of power over everyone else on the show. It was the first time we really saw Roddenberry’s vision of a universe where race and gender were irrelevant not just in what the characters said but in who the characters were. If I was annoyed at one time by pandering to the dream demographics by having Dax and Kira in tight outfits and Worf and Sisko kicking butt with bat’leths, I’ve long ago realized that what made this show great was so much bigger than such petty things.
As a season opener, this is one of the finest Star Trek has ever offered, better paced and more dramatic than either the Bajoran arc that opened the second season or the Dominion story that opened the third. The character work isn’t as deep, but in retrospect I guess Worf and his angst has to be introduced all over again in case there’s a DS9 audience that didn’t stick with TNG, particularly Generations and the fate of Picard’s ship. It’s obvious in that film that Worf and Troi are no longer a couple, and, at the end of the final season, that Worf is once again questioning his loyalty to Starfleet versus his human and Klingon families. I was a little (okay, a lot) tired of all the Klingon stuff by the end of that series, but they do offer sustained conflict that doesn’t revolve around spatial anomalies or technobabble, which is a good thing for the franchise as a whole, and they offer potential new sources of stories involving the Bajorans, Cardassians, and Dominion as well, though I’m mystified how the Klingons think they’re going to keep any of their enemies down primarily with bat’leths and daggers. Sisko and Worf make entertaining doppelgangers – they have wonderful gravelly voices, they scowl better than anyone else in the universe, they’ve both suffered painful, alienating personal losses, yet their approaches to dealing with Starfleet members and aliens alike is quite different and although Worf jumps high into the command structure – I think he’s behind only Kira and Dax on the station and behind only Sisko on the Defiant – command is never his priority or his strength. Sisko is clearly still reveling in his promotion and it’s lovely to see his relationship with Kasidy Yates progressing, though there’s something creepy about their interactions here (all season I kept expecting her to turn out to be a shapeshifter, since she doesn’t manage to have that dinner with Sisko; her real secret turned out to be even more interesting).
Unfortunately Kira and Odo don’t get a lot to do even in such a long episode, not being experts on Klingons. Apart from the line about how strange she feels saving Cardassia, Kira has few memorable moments; while I like that idea of her and O’Brien in charge of the station while the kids are away, we don’t get to see them interact much, and although I keep complaining about the whole crew flying off all the time, for once I wished she was on the Defiant so we could be reminded that she’s as good a strategist as Worf. Strategy may be what Worf’s supposed to be for, but we must hear the word “honor” twenty times, and it reminds me how very bored I was of what had become the Klingon cliches by the end of The Next Generation, how relieved I was when Worf and Troi got together because it gave him something else to talk about. Since Dax is an expert on Klingon culture, it’s only too predictable that they’ll be discussing Klingon battles and singing battle songs before too long (and that she’ll be his dream girl). Worf coming in as an outsider serves as a reminder that the disparate personalities of DS9 now work as close friends, even family, sharing dinner parties as well as work problems, and it’s hard to see how Worf is going to fit in with someone like Quark, who’s at his best explaining to Odo that everyone on his Ferengi ship thought he was a good critic, then getting hysterical listening to Odo read the note about how Rom had “borrowed” his disruptor parts. Bashir and Odo have a nice moment too, reflecting on whether Odo’s death at the hands of a warrior would be a good subject for a Klingon opera. And the station’s other perpetual outsider, Garak – who claims he learned Klingon doing alterations – gets invited to serve as the ultimate insider, then to make contact with his old enemy Dukat, whose mocking comments about how Garak will be stuck making women’s dresses without an Obsidian Order fail to dampen Garak’s exultation at knowing something Dukat doesn’t.
Deep Space Nine always ran the risk of stagnation, since it’s set on a space station and doesn’t have a new world to explore each week. “The Way of the Warrior” demonstrates that the producers intend to keep things lively, right from the new opening credits crowded with new ships, new names, and new jazzed-up music and improved hairdos (or lack thereof) for much of the cast. It’s also becoming apparent that the large guest cast is here to stay, which is great for story arcs – since it’s apparent that Bajor isn’t going to be the only one, it’s all to the good that there’s a wider view of the quadrant and the universe – but larger casts mean juggling the main characters so that they don’t always get as much to do, meaning less of an emphasis on character development. Then again, sustained conflict with more than one enemy means that paranoia and tension will be better sustained, particularly with the possibility that anyone, anywhere may be a Founder instead of who he or she seems. And if I’m ambivalent about the station turning into the Death Star at battle stations, I also know that we will never see it happen all that often.