The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: Empok Nor

Desperately in need of spare parts for DS9, Chief O’Brien leads a team to its sister station Empok Nor, also abandoned by the Cardassians. Not only is Empok Nor riddled with booby traps left behind by its former owners, but when O’Brien’s team come aboard, two Cardassian soldiers are awakened from stasis to dispatch the intruders.

Right from the start, it’s obvious where this episode is going. In so many other episodes, it’s felt like the main characters are the only officers even serving aboard DS9, so when four complete unknowns come along for the ride, you know that it’s so they can be killed off one by one. This is classic slasher horror, with characters exploring a darkened and dangerous environment only to get picked off one by one. If you like that sort of thing, then this is a decent stab at it – and whilst the choice of location might seem like an obvious attempt to save money, I actually find the idea of a sister station to DS9 to be quite delightful.

The episode also gives us a chance to explore both the characters of Garak and O’Brien. Whilst being under the influence of drugs means we can forgive and forget by next week, it’s true that this episode gives Garak free rein to explore his darker side. This is a man who was once one of the best assassins in the Obsidian Order, and yet over the past few years he’s been forced to be a tailor who goes on occasional adventures with his Starfleet buddies. There must be some level of exhilaration is reawakening those old skills.

Meanwhile, Chief O’Brien is the Starfleet parallel – once a field soldier in the Cardassian war, he has long since embraced the life of an engineer, fixing things instead of destroying them. Garak is clearly keen to engage with O’Brien’s darker side, but O’Brien left his past behind willingly – in fact, he defeats Garak by thinking like an engineer rather than a soldier. So often, O’Brien is just the everyman who has bad things happen to him, but this time it feels like there’s a bit more to his character and his actions.

Other points

  • Even if particular items can’t be replicated, can’t their constituent parts be obtained, plus an instruction manual? A plasma distribution manifold sounds like something you should be able to build, or replace with a Federation equivalent.
  • The spacesuit and phaser rifle from First Contact make an appearance here. In fact, the breathing sounds made by Garak when he is disarming the booby traps are very reminiscent of First Contact.

Summary – Empok Nor: Imagine if the Federation took over Empok Nor and had two old Cardassian stations.

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