While Sisko and Li lead covert resistance against a Bajoran force on Deep Space Nine, Kira and Dax attempt to reveal the source of the Circle’s power.
Plot Summary: As Bajoran military forces approach Deep Space Nine, Sisko evacuates the Federation civilians and goes into hiding with his officers, who sabotage the sensors so they can’t be found. Since Kira believes that the Chamber of Ministers must be informed of the Cardassian plot to arm the Circle and overthrow Bajor’s legitimate government, Li Nalas tells her where to find an old Bajoran raider vessel hidden on one of the planet’s moons. She and Dax find the technologically backward ship and fly it to Bajor, where they are attacked by sophisticated new ships that force them to crash. Li also convinces most of the Bajorans trying to flee the station that they must stay and defend their home, since the ships are overcrowded from Quark’s having “sold” seats on the escape ships. The refugees get away before the Bajoran forces, led by General Krim and Colonel Day, arrive at the seemingly abandoned station. Day is exultant but Krim warns that the damaged security system may be hiding Starfleet officers whom he can’t believe would have left without a fight. Jaro warns Krim not to allow Li Nalas to come to any harm. Sisko lures Day into a holosuite and warns him that the Cardassians are arming the Circle, but a skeptical Day refuses to tell Krim anything except that there are Federation liars still on the station. Bashir lures Day to a cargo bay so that Li Nalas can force Krim to listen to him. On Bajor, Bareil sends members of his religious order to rescue Dax and a wounded Kira, who are brought to the monastery and dressed as Vedeks so that they can enter the Chamber of Ministers safely. Jaro orders Kira’s arrest, but not before she presents Odo’s evidence that the Cardassians are arming his movement. Realizing the costs if Kira is right, Winn demands an investigation of the evidence. Jaro’s coup ends, and Krim, learning that the Bajoran provisional government has prevailed, tells Sisko that the Federation should retake the station while the general goes home in disgrace. Still suspecting a plot, Day aims a phaser at Sisko, but it is Li Nalas who steps in the line of fire and is killed. Kira mourns him as a hero and Sisko tells O’Brien that he will always remember Li’s acts of courage.
Analysis: I’ve always thought of “The Siege” as the weakest of the three episodes that comprise the second-season opener for Deep Space Nine, but upon rewatching, that’s not really fair. It’s slow-moving and claustrophobic compared to the others, but that’s necessary to tell the story, whose events must seem to creep along interminably to the officers hidden on the station eating terrible combat rations and fearing that the security net will be restored, allowing them to be smoked out. The dialogue isn’t as clever as that of “The Circle,” which may be why it seems like so much time passes during what should be a thrilling the Bajoran raider fight and the cat-and-mouse chase in the station’s corridors, but there’s more deliberate wit and the major Bajoran guest characters (Li, Krim, Day) are nicely rounded out in just a few lines of dialogue each. It’s lovely watching Li Nalas come into his own, though a bummer that he gets the predictable martyr’s death instead of shouldering the hopes and beliefs of his people, becoming a hero not in the quick military sense but through the force of his personality and his willingness to put himself out there because it’s the right thing to do. Yet again we get a glimpse of what a powerful public speaker he might become, when he persuades the Bajorans not to flee the station and when he talks Krim into waiting out the crisis in the Chamber of Ministers. As for Krim himself, whom we’ve met only once before, we see that his honor and his wish to support what’s best for Bajor go much deeper than his ego – he’s the direct opposite of Jaro and Winn in that regard. It’s hard to tell whether Day is personally ambitious or merely paranoid about the Federation’s presence; we see him authoritarian in a military uniform, but for all we know he was Kohn-Ma a few months ago believing he was doing what was right to protect his planet.
Kira – a greater hero than Li Nalas, as Sisko points out to her – finishes a fantastic trilogy by saving Bajor, risking her life yet again so she can bring the evidence with a Gul’s thumbprint to the Chamber of Ministers. We haven’t seen her and Dax in charge of anything so important together since the series pilot, when the two of them were running the station while Sisko was in the wormhole talking to the Prophets, and it’s a pleasure to see them outside the more traditional roles of communicator and healer which are the top positions for female regulars on the original Star Trek and The Next Generation, even if Dax credits a male former host for her scientific know-how. Though Sisko had insisted that Kira take O’Brien as her shuttle pilot when she rescued Li Nalas, she does her own flying here, with Dax shooting down their pursuers despite the absence of a phaser lock. At times the writers to be working too hard to find things for the other major characters to do, leading to some rather forced humor; I’ll buy that Dax is fed up with having to creep through caves with dog-sized spiders and that no one wants to eat O’Brien’s packaged nutrition bars, but Quark’s convincing hapless Bajorans to buy seats on escape transports isn’t particularly funny and makes the average Bajoran look even sillier than Quark (whom we’re shown dragging his latinum through the station with him instead of hiding it in one of his many smuggler’s holds). Okay, so it’s fun seeing Odo turn into a wall and a trip wire, but surely the longtime station residents have more to contribute during a crisis that could bring the Cardassians back and destroy life as they know it. What happened to the Bashir who couldn’t wait for adventure on the frontier?
Though the immediate crisis is averted, the ending is entirely unresolved. We shall never learn Jaro’s fate and we’re left uncertain precisely how Winn balances her personal ambitions with what she perceives as the good of Bajor; clearly at this point she’s unwilling to risk a Cardassian return even if it benefits her privately (Opaka, after all, remained Kai throughout the Occupation). We don’t know as the militia pulls back what Starfleet will have to say about Sisko’s handling of the evacuation of the station and his own refusal to leave, nor whether Kira will be disciplined yet again for breaking minor rules in favor of a greater good. Coming at the end of the five-episode arc that began with the extraordinary “Duet,” “The Siege” looks less like a conclusion than the start of a season-long arc about the future of Bajor and the Federation. For better or worse, it isn’t, and the Bajoran arc will end up requiring a pan-galactic war covering years of the show’s run for significant change in the planet’s relationship with the Federation – not to mention with the Cardassians. I was frustrated by the second season when it first aired for failing to follow up on this superlative opening trilogy, but I’m not sorry now that we get two episodes about Odo’s background, an exploration of Dax’s history with the Klingons, the two-parter about the Maquis that fits in with developments in Picard’s mission and will set the stage for Voyager, and the earliest mentions of the Dominion in the Star Trek universe. The tapestry becomes more interesting as it becomes more complicated, and the far-off resolutions that much more satisfying.