The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: Valiant

Whilst en route to Ferenginar, Jake and Nog’s runabout is attacked by the Dominion. Fortunately, rescue is at hand in the form of the Valiant, a Defiant-class starship crewed entirely by Starfleet cadets. Originally on a training mission, the Valiant was caught behind enemy lines, and, despite their relative inexperience, the cadets are committed to fighting to the Dominion. But is their intended mission an act of bravery, or sheer foolishness?

I was looking forward to this episode, and in retrospect, I’m not sure why. Any episode featuring teenage cadets was always going to have to ham it up to the eyeballs, and this one is no exception. In principle, this should be a story about the difference between free will and blindly following orders, about Nog’s commitment to duty and uniform, versus Jake’s common sense observer role. It should be a tale of how not every young hero can be Luke Skywalker – sometimes the Death Star doesn’t have a critical flaw, and everyone dies.

It should be all those things, but it isn’t, because the crew of the Valiant are just so unlikeable. The captain is a delusional frat boy with just enough charisma to hold together a crew, even as he pops pills in his ready room. His first officer is fanatically devoted to him; the chief engineer is struggling because she misses home, and everyone else is essentially an automaton who follows orders. When you don’t like any of them, it’s hard to feel anything except satisfaction at the cost of their hubris. In this episode, I am most certainly Jake – nonplussed by the mindless obedience of the crew, and quite keen not to die because no one else has realised that this mission is essentially impossible.

Minor observations

  • Red Squad was first introduced in Home Front/Paradise Lost, as an elite group of Starfleet cadets who got special treatment.
  • When all the humans are chanting “Red Squad! Red Squad!”, I love that there’s one Vulcan in the background who remains silent.
  • This is the first time we hear from a resident of the Moon about what it’s like to live there in the 24th century.
  • Once again, Quark’s feelings for Dax are mentioned. I was happier when we’d put all that behind us, instead of bringing it all back again now. Quark and Bashir should have moved on!
  • As a properly commissioned officer, Nog should have outranked everyone on the Valiant.

Summary – Valiant: “That’s right. All I care about is Jake Sisko and whether or not he’s going to be killed by a bunch of delusional fanatics looking for martyrdom!”

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