Nor the Battle to the Strong #StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch (Season 5, Episode 4) Jake Sisko, cub reporter, tests his belief in courage under fire

Rewatching ST:DS9

On an assignment to write a profile on Bashir, budding writer Jake tags along to a medical conference, and nothing really surprising happens.

Their casual, character-based banter is not interrupted by a distress call from a colony in desperate need of medical assistance, and no side-quest, custom-tailored to appeal to the people who happen to be on the runabout, takes a turn for the worse just before the opening credits roll. Because all that would be too formulaic.

Okay, who am I kidding.

Jake, excited by the chance to write a story with the headline “Surgery Under Fire,” encourages Bashir to answer the call to adventure, but the cub reporter is shaken by a chaotic scene of medics and nurses triaging the wounded. A limping Federation ensign insists that he was shot in the foot by a Klingon, but Bashir quickly diagnoses it as a phaser wound, evidently self-inflicted.

Jake, with blood on his clothes, tries to organize his observations. After he’s befriended by a young civilian orderly named Kirby, we see a brief montage, including an unsettling trip to the morgue. Though Jake seems to be holding it together, when Bashir makes a surgery-related joke over a meal, Jake starts to throw up.

Later, he asks Bashir about the ensign who shot himself in the foot, still trying to work out how a trained Starfleet officer could act so shamefully. Bashir assures Jake that there are plenty of less-violent ways to test a person’s character.

Meanwhile on DS9, Odo tells Sisko about his difficulty adjusting to his new life as a “solid,” and Sisko shares his worries over Jake.

Back in the budget-friendly caves, a few talky scenes emphasize how the medical staff is hoping for reinforcements and the ground forces are just barely holding off Klingon ground assault forces. In a voice-over Jake tells us that every other time he’s face danger, his father has been right there with him.

When Bashir decides he has to get a portable generator from the runabout, one he’ll need help carrying, Jake offers to go with him.

The next scene, featuring a lot of closeups on Jake’s face, has Jake disoriented by explosions; instead of following Bashir from cover to cover, he retreats in a panic, sees Bashir is hit, panics even more, runs into a field of dead bodies, panics still more, and finds himself in a pit with a badly wounded Federation soldier.

When Jake learns this soldier stayed behind so the rest of his team could escape, Jake, sounding somewhat like the ensign who shot himself, confesses that he’s in the foxhole alone because he ran, and announces that he must have been meant to run, so that he could save this man’s life.

The soldier is unconvinced by Jake’s attempt to make sense of the chaos: “Sorry kid, life doesn’t work like that. (Dies horribly.)”

Back on DS9, Dax shares the vivid memory of a past host who sat up for weeks with a sick child, and encourages Sisko to keep himself busy to keep his mind off his worries.

Kirby is overjoyed that Jake is safe, but Jake is sullen. Likewise, Bashir is gushing with relief and guilt, and Jake burns with shame because Bashir has apparently not told anyone that Jake ran away scared.

The foot-injury ensign mistakes Jake’s sullen confusion for empathy, which in a way it is. He chatters on about his post-Starfleet career and says “I just wish I had aimed that phaser a little higher.”

In a break room, the medical staff uses gallows humor to deal with the stress, but Jake is annoyed. After he snaps  at Kirby (who was trying to include him by play-fighting), he has a full-on freakout. Bashir manages to calm him down, but Jake is still focused on his inner struggle.

Some time later, Jake awakens to chaos; the Klingons have infiltrated the medical complex. In the commotion, Jake hides under a table, wildly shooting over his head with a phaser rifle.

When Jake opens his eyes, his father is there.

Jake’s shooting had apparently collapsed a tunnel, sealing the entrance, and buying the medical team enough time to evacuate the patients.

Bashir calls Jake a hero, but Jake is just stunned.

Later, we see Sisko reading as Jake’s voiceover narrates the ending of his article, which apparently tells the full story of his own panic.

Sisko praises Jake for having the courage to face the truth by writing about it: “I’m proud of you, son.”

This episode saved a lot of money by shooting things from Jake’s perspective. Characters talk about short-range combat vehicles called “hoppers,” we hear in dialogue that the runabout was destroyed, and we see just a handful of Klingon soldiers pushing through a cave entrance.

The camera spends a lot of time focused on Jake’s face as he reacts to events the production team only suggested, so overall this episode feels a bit like a filmed stage play.

The show’s writers obviously love doing stories about writing. I liked writing about it better than I liked rewatching it.

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