The breadcrumb trail begun in the second season ends here: the Dominion Invasion. Its events span the fifth and sixth seasons, from Sisko’s loss of Deep Space Nine during the season 5 finale to his recapture of the station seven episodes later. And it changes everything.
It changes everything about the characters. These episodes establish Weyoun as one of the oiliest villains in Trek history, placing him right up with his frenemy Gul Dukat as two of the most love-to-hate-y baddies in all of science fiction. They also give Dax a great opportunity to spread her wings as a leader, place Kira in the unenviable position as an official in the very same leadership structure that she’s trying to destroy, and show us an Odo who just doesn’t care about anything at all, until he does. Captain Sisko becomes a desk jockey. Jake Sisko becomes a war correspondent. Quark gets even more complicated. Rom and Leeta get married. Nog gets promoted. Put simply, the seven episodes of the Dominion Invasion change almost everything about the show.
And not just the show: from now through the end of the series, it will become increasingly difficult to review a single episode of Deep Space Nine by itself. The show has become a model for television programs that followed, eventually being seen as one of the first in a long line of so-called “prestige television” programs: heavily arc-based, eschewing purely episodic storytelling for longer-term narratives spread over multiple episodes or even seasons. This seven-episode arc—”Call to Arms,” “A Time to Stand,” “Rocks and Shoals,” “Sons and Daughters,” “Behind the Lines,” “Favor the Bold,” and “Sacrifice of Angels”—proved that narrative television that expected a viewer to have seen one episode before watching the next was viable; in a very real way, Stranger Things owes a lot to the Dominion Invasion.
It’s a turning point. The Dominion Invasion changes everything about television in our world, the characters of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in their world, and about the Alpha Quadrant in which they live.
The Dominion has arrived.
An Upside-Down Federation
Originally conceived as the opposite of the Federation, the Dominion is the dark reflections of our Star Trek heroes: while the Federation is bound together by shared values and a desire to better themselves, the Dominion is bound together by threats and extortion. While the Federation is egalitarian, with no race more valued than another, the Dominion enforces a strict racial hierarchy that places the Founders at the top. And while the Federation seeks peace and understanding with everyone, the Dominion seeks…well, dominion. Utter control over everything.
Some of the best villains in history have been dark reflections of the main character: the geniuses Moriarty and Sherlock, for instance. Saruman and Gandalf. Belloq and Indiana Jones. T’Challa and Killmonger. Dukat and Sisko. But with the Dominion, we get a dark reflection of the central core of Star Trek.
Why is this such a common thing to see in stories?
Well, if all story is an echo of God’s story, then that must mean that the dark echo is a part of His story, too. And, indeed, the Bible does warn us of an “adversary” and “accuser,” who lives to torment us in an attempt to tear down God’s glory.
It might seem cliched to compare God and Satan as an iconic hero/villain pair; but the contrasts are striking. While God lays down His glory to step into human history, Satan tries to take glory on himself that isn’t his. God creates and perfects and gives life; Satan tears down and destroys and deals death. God is a God of truth and love; Satan is the prince of lies and hate.
The war was declared before we were born, and its raging skirmishes affect everything about the world around us. Even worse, it seems like we’re losing.
Fighting A Reflection
Captain Sisko and the crew of Deep Space Nine are forced to abandon the station at the end of “Call to Arms,” and everything seems to go downhill from there; or, at best, two steps up and two steps down. They’re on a ticking clock, and things are not working as they should be.
In the meantime, the Dominion is waging quite a sophisticated war against the Federation; they’re occupying their territory, diminishing their morale, destroying their reinforcements. Dukat and Weyoun are lying, gaslighting, waging an abusive war on those who have been left behind on the station. Scores of reinforcements await on the other side of the wormhole. They hold all the cards.
And our enemy does the same thing; all around us are temptations to sin and scary things to fear. His every word to us is a lie, telling us we’re worthless, trying to convince us that he’s the hero and will make things better for us; while all the while aiming for our destruction. He tells us that God doesn’t love us. He shows us a false image of a perfect world we can attain by his hand. He tears down our support and reinforcements. He would see us face him—and lose to him—completely alone.
Prophet Ex Machina
Everything is lost. The Defiant hasn’t arrived in time to stop the minefield’s destruction. The saboteurs aboard Deep Space Nine aren’t quick enough, either. Dominion reinforcements are coming through. Sisko and his crew are alone. All is lost, so Sisko orders his one little ship into the wormhole.
It’s a bit remarkable to me that the Dominion storyline is so well received, considering a major plot point during its first real arc is resolved by a deus ex machina. A literal one, in fact; Sisko literally appeals to the Prophets, the gods of the Bajoran people; and even uses the word “miracle” to describe what he needs from them.
I think the reason this works within the Deep Space Nine storyline is that the Prophets have been established already, and their relationship with Bajor and Sisko has been detailed. We know how all of the pieces move, and they only move this once.
In a way, Sisko’s hope that “fortune favors the bold” is validated here: he boldly asks for a miracle, and is granted one.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
—Hebrews 4:14-16, ESV
Where in your life do you need a miracle? We all need a miracle to defeat our accuser. You may need a miracle to get through a crisis in one piece, or keep the faith in the face of overwhelming odds. Maybe you need miraculous strength to do something you know you’re called to do.
When Jesus came to Earth and died on the cross, He didn’t only do it so that you could have eternal life. He also suffered so that we could have confidence that He understands. We can boldly approach His throne and expect grace and mercy to flow from it. We can confidently go to Him and beg for a miraculous victory.
And, when He gives that victory, we don’t have to pay the penance, because Jesus already did; leaving behind a promise…that He would return.