Although the season 2 finale didn’t end in a cliffhanger, the season 3 opener begins with “Last time on Star Trek Deep Space Nine,” followed by clips, followed by “And now, the continuation.” (Note… not “the conclusion.”)
In Ops, Kira and the senior staff are debating how best to respond to a Jem’Hadar attack. Warning bleeps sound. A blunt-nosed, tightly-packed, no-nonsense Federation starship decloaks, and a cheerful Sisko apologizes for the surprise. (Welcome, NX-7207 Defiant, to the Star Trek family.)
In the wardroom (a big meeting room fitted with Federation viewscreens) Sisko explains the Defiant was originally developed to fight the Borg, and his mission is to contact the Founders, to prevent war if possible, and also to demonstrate the Federation intends to fight. He introduces the Romulan T’Rul (who is in charge of the cloaking device) and the Federation security officer Eddington.
Odo deduces that he’s been relieved as chief of security, and announces his intention to resign.
Jake notes with approval that his father has taken his African art collection out of storage on Earth and brought it with him to the station, which he now thinks of as home.
Kira tries to convince the brooding Odo he’s still needed “no matter what some idiot Starfleet admiral might think.”
Sisko pressures Quark into joining the mission, using his business contacts with the Dominion to put him in touch with the Founders.
Dax draws on Curzon’s memories to needle Sisko’s ambition to one day be an admiral, saying that Sisko is more of a hands-on person.
Our characters are still getting used to the Defiant’s bridge (where Bashir for some reason has a station) when Odo arrives at the last minute. Some comedy results from Odo having to bunk with the ever-complaining Quark, but Odo goes beyond his usual crabbiness and seems to be suffering, so that Quark shows some empathy (turning his back when the embarrassed Odo reverts into his natural liquid form for his usual rest period).
At warp in the Alpha Quadrant, a pair of Jem’Hadar warships seem to be attracted to the cloaked Defiant. T’Rul suggests they drop out of warp, and Sisko further orders the ship to cut power, which seems to work — the Jem’Hadar resume their course.
A Karemma merchant says he doubts the Founders even exist, but with Quark’s help, allows himself to be convinced to tell Sisko how to communicate with the Vorta, who command the Jem’Hadar.
The merchant calls up a map, in which Odo seems to become very interested. Quark says he’ll find his own way back to the station, and departs the Defiant.
In a great comic moment, Kira visits Sisko’s cabin and politely asks Sisko if she can speak freely. When he very subtly nods his assent, she immediately ramps her energy up to a 9 out of 10: “What the hell is wrong with Starfleet?” re: Odo’s demotion.
Dax and O’Brien beam over to the communications outpost, but our viewpoint is from a hand-held camera — a cinematic sign that they’re being watched. (Remember, the Jem’Hadar warriors use personal cloaking devices.)
When they’re cut off, and three Jem’Hadar ships enter the system, T’Rul suggests they continue their mission; Sisko reluctantly agrees, leaving Dax and O’Brien behind.
When Odo casually declines Sisko’s request for a conference, Kira goes to talk to him, playing the friendship card, which softens him up considerably. He says he feels drawn to the Omarion Nebula.
The Jem’Hadar attack. With so many series regulars off the bridge, T’Rul gives status reports. The writers are so determined to give Bashir something to do that they kill a random officer so that Bashir can take the helm during a shaky-camera battle sequence.
The Defiant is pummeled, Jem’Hadar warriors start beaming onto the ship, and the fists and disruptor bolts fly.
Kira wakes up in a shuttle piloted by Odo, who reports the Defiant was surrounded by Jem’Hadar warships; he doesn’t sound hopeful when Kira asks after Sisko and Bashir.
They find a rogue class M planet, with a huge sea that glows like Odo’s liquid form. Humanoid shapes emerge from the sea; they resemble Odo’s solid form, including the brushed-back hairstyle and smooth face. A changeling woman walks right up to Odo and says, “Welcome home.”
To be continued…
In an earlier episode, Odo said he copied the hairstyle of the Bajoran scientist assigned to study him, but that’s a pretty minor complaint for this episode that develops the power dynamics of the Dominion War storyline.