The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: Starship Down

When a trade meeting with the Karemma is ambushed by the Jem’Hadar, the Defiant must dive into the atmosphere of a gas giant. Whilst the outside pressures threaten to crush the ship, the crew must pull together to evade and destroy two Jem’Hadar warships.

Starship Down is a bit of an odd one. It feels like it should be a tense submarine battle type episode, taking its cue from the latter stages of The Wrath of Khan. But actually, it doesn’t quite work out that way – there’s no real jeopardy as we know the main characters will all make it through. Instead, it seems to be an excuse for some character set pieces, with the senior crew scattered all over the ship. Again, however, this doesn’t quite work out – rather than developing the characters, most of these exchanges just retread old ground, and by the end you’re rather glad that it’s all over and done with.

Character pairings

  • Kira is tasked with keeping Sisko awake in case he slips into a coma after sustaining injuries when the ship is attacked. After telling him a Bajoran fairy tale, she begins to articulate the difficulties of having a religious icon as your boss, and how this has kept them from becoming friends. Whilst this is a valid point and an interesting thing to explore, I feel like it’s essentially come up in two episodes so far, and whilst it’s made to be a big deal in those two episodes, the rest of the time it’s just not important. If Kira and Sisko aren’t particularly close friends, it could easily be because, outside of a professional context, they just don’t have that much in common. I’ve never really felt that Sisko is deliberately keeping Kira at arm’s length.
  • The episode begins with Worf complaining that the Defiant crew’s response times aren’t fast enough, and later on O’Brien berates him for being too harsh and strict with the engineering non-coms. This feels like yet another in a long line of examples of the well-trodden “Worf is inflexible, learns he gets better results when he’s a bit more flexible” route.
  • Dax and Bashir get trapped in a turbolift and must huddle together for warmth. Having not been a creepy pervert since season one, Bashir undoes some of his good work by telling Dax that he often used to fantasise about just such a situation. Dax rightfully points out that he would have done better to get to know her instead of coming on so strong, but Bashir just ends up feeling smug because Dax clearly ‘enjoyed the attention’. For the last time, relentlessly pursuing a woman who clearly isn’t interested isn’t a good thing, guys.
  • Quark is stuck in the mess hall with the Hanok, the Karemma representative. Having been caught cheating the Karemma, Quark must try to salvage the deal, which involves a lot of tiresome arguing and the usual blaming of Rom.

Other points

  • Sisko seems to have some magical narrative powers in this episode. I guess I can accept his assessment that he believes the Defiant can handle being in the gas giant’s atmosphere – after all, he was in charge of building the ship, so presumably he knows its specs. However, there’s no real in-universe reason for him to say that Jem’Hadar ship is “closer than you think”, and then be right about that.
  • If Ha’mara is an important festival held to celebrate the anniversary of the Emissary’s arrival, how come Dax has never heard of it before? It’s been three years since the Emissary arrived.
  • Why is the Federation trading for commodities such as Karemman fleece? Federation members can replicate everything they need – the only things worth trading for are manpower and ideas. Trade for a handful of fleeces so you can program the replicator, and then be done with it.
  • Sisko’s only social gambit is to invite people to baseball games.

Summary – Starship Down: Tries to be both a submarine suspense and a character piece, and doesn’t quite achieve either.

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