(written from a Production point of view)
Sisko, Jake, and O'Brien accidentally trigger an old Cardassian security system that believes the Occupation is still going on and the station has been taken in a Bajoran workers' rebellion.
In one of the station's ore processing units, O'Brien and Jake are deleting old Cardassian files from the computers as part of an effort to convert the facility into a deuterium refinery. Commander Sisko comes in to check on them.
In the course of their work, Jake asks for help with removing one of the old files, but when O'Brien attempts to help he triggers a security program. Since O'Brien lacks an appropriate Cardassian access code, the OPU is locked down and an alert about a worker revolt is transmitted to ops… much to the consternation of the Ops crew.
While beginning their effort to escape the OPU Sisko hears from Kira on his combadge, and she tries to beam them out of the OPU without success… since she also lacks the needed access code. From his security office, Odo then speaks up to the effect that he is also trying to get them out, but that it will take time.
Just then Quark walks into the security office, and offers his help. Much to Odo's surprise, Quark reveals in response that he has access codes for clearances one level higher than Odo does – and offers to make an "arrangement" for giving Odo the added level of clearance. Annoyed, Odo asks Quark to leave, but since Quark feels that the security office is the safest place on the station, he's determined to stay (and annoy Odo just by being there).
Still frustrated in their efforts to escape, Sisko announces to the computer that he is the leader of the "revolt" and that they surrender. With the reprieve they gain, they work out a stratagem by which Jake will climb up the ore chute and open a hatch to greater safety than they have in the main area of the OPU. Just then, another recording plays, announcing that the compartment will be filled with neurocine gas in three minutes if the all-clear is not sounded by station security forces. As the three minutes draws to a close, Jake is only then able to open the hatch, and the three of them climb above the gas.
However, the computer detects this escape and initiates a counter-insurgency program which locks down ops and the security office, and dampens combadge signals. The Ops crew is now trapped in the Ops center, as are Quark and Odo in the latter's office.
Meanwhile Commander Sisko, O'Brien, and Jake have discovered that their combadges don't work, and start trying to break out of an ore receiving area by using a cart as a battering ram against a hatch. They finally give up that approach and figure out a way to blow the hatch with raw uridium ore primed with electricity from a nearby light.
In Ops, Dax is trying to regain control of the main computer when her hands are burned by an intrusion countermeasure when a force field activates. This countermeasure also escalates the counter-insurgency program again, an action which a new recording says will result in neurocine being pumped into the station's habitat ring, killing everyone there.
Just then Garak steps into ops, having made his way through the station with his old but still-valid access codes. After Garak explains what he understands of the situation, the other senior staff decide to disable the station's life support system in order to forestall the release of the gas. Garak is emphatic that such a course of action is the only way to keep the inhabitants of the habitat ring from being poisoned. Shutting down life support will cause the station to run out of oxygen in about twelve hours, but this is much more preferable than the less-than-five minutes they have before the gas is released.
Major Kira overloads the life support console with her phaser… which escalates the counter-insurgency program once more. The recording that goes along with the event announces that in two hours the station will self-destruct, and the computer begins the countdown.
Since Dukat (the former commander of the station) is the only individual who can shut down the self-destruct, Garak tries to impersonate Dukat's codes and hack into the computer. To prevent the computer from scanning Garak's DNA to confirm his identity, Dax devises a new plan to disable the security sensors in Ops. However, before the plan can be put fully into action, an alarm is tripped and the counter-insurgency program escalates yet again – now to level four – which causes a maximum-intensity disruptor to appear in the Ops food replicator and start firing at high rates throughout ops. One unfortunate Starfleet officer is immediately annihilated.
A few minutes later Dukat himself transports unannounced into Ops and explains that his ship received a distress call, saying that Terok Nor was in the grip of a Bajoran rebellion. While he blathers on, the disruptor continues to fire around him, since it is programmed only to fire at non-Cardassians, except when Dukat pauses it to request a cup of red leaf tea from the replicator. Kira, still taking cover, demands that he do something, and Dukat says, all in good time… provided that he receive something in return. During his diatribe, he baits Garak into an argument. He requests that Kira follow him into Sisko's (formerly his) office, shutting down the disruptor almost as an afterthought.
In the office, he offers to shut down the counter-insurgency program, but only in exchange for being allowed to place a Cardassian garrison on the station. Kira immediately refuses those terms, but Dukat asks whether she's really willing to sacrifice the lives of all 2,000 people aboard the station. Kira retorts that she would rather destroy the station than hand it back to the Cardassians.
With thirty minutes left on the countdown, Dukat struts out of the office and prepares to transport back to his ship, leaving them to think it over and promising to return – say, when they have about five minutes left. However, as soon as Dukat signals his ship to beam him back, he trips a subroutine in the counter-insurgency program, left in case the commander of Terok Nor attempts to flee the station in the event of a revolt. A message from Dukat's former commanding officer informs him that all his access codes have been rescinded and the countdown can no longer be halted. After castigating Dukat for his "cowardice," the computer tells him to "try to die like a Cardassian."
Dukat, twiddling his thumbs nervously, is, for once, lost for words.
Now that he is in the same boat as the rest of them, Dukat tries repeatedly to deactivate the self-destruct, only for the computer to refuse to accept his access codes. Garak starts to laugh, touching off a brief spat between them, before Kira silences them both and tells Dukat to explain the self-destruct process. Dukat says that once the countdown reaches zero, the computer will deactivate the main reactor's stabilizers, triggering a catastrophic overload. Dax asks whether the reactor can be shut down before the countdown is completed; Dukat theorizes that the reactor's laser fusion initiator could be manually disengaged – but only from inside the reactor room. Dax counters that the initiator could be disengaged from a control junction on Level 34, but Bashir points out that with Dukat's access codes rescinded, no one, Cardassian or otherwise, can get past the force fields sealing off Ops. Dax further points out that even if they could disable those fields, they don't have time to disable every single field between Ops and Level 34, and they need a way to shut all of them down simultaneously.
Back in the ore receiving bay, Sisko and O'Brien successfully blow the hatch which opens to the rest of the station. They try to make their way to ops, but find themselves blocked by force fields.
In ops, a plan is worked out to overload the power supplied to the force fields, and it works, also resulting in the restoration of communications (though the force field affecting the security office turns out to be on a different power system which hasn't been overloaded). Kira immediately explains to Commander Sisko the need to disable the reactor's initiator. He orders the rest of the senior staff to begin evacuating the station while he and O'Brien attempt to shut down the reactor. Sisko tells Jake to head for landing pad C, but Jake refuses, opting instead to help his father and O'Brien save the station.
Odo and Quark, still trapped in his office, finally hear Kira inform them communications are back and the force fields are down. Odo, however, finds his is still in place, and supposes the Cardassians didn't fully trust their security officer (himself) at the time, putting his force field on a different system. Quark, frustrated, attributes this to Odo's integrity, which will get them killed. Previously, Odo had flattered Quark by saying that he was the most devious Ferengi he had ever met.
With only six minutes left until the fusion reactor overloads, Commander Sisko and O'Brien discover that the main corridors leading to the reactor control junction are blocked by debris from the power overload, so they decide to direct the reactor's energy against the station's shields instead, and attempt to go through a burning maintenance conduit in order to reach a suitable control junction. Commander Sisko orders his son to stay behind in the main corridor.
O'Brien passes out, but Sisko makes it all the way to the control junction and starts to implement the plan he worked out with O'Brien. While the commander is busy rearranging data rods, Jake disobeys his father's orders in order to pull O'Brien out of the maintenance corridor, which saves O'Brien's life. Sisko gets the last of the data rods replaced at the last instant.
On the Promenade, the doors to Odo's office finally open, and he looks back to see Quark browsing through the files at his desk. Among these files, Quark is outraged to find Odo's assessment of him as a self-important con artist who is not as clever as he thinks he is. Then as they walk off together, Odo admits that he was just trying to be nice when he praised Quark's duplicity, because he thought they were both about to die. When challenged, Odo recites a list of Ferengi he considers more devious than Quark, starting with the Grand Nagus and even including Rom.
"Well. If you'd like a level seven, I'm sure we can make some kind of arrangement."
"Leave me alone, Quark."
- - Quark and Odo
"You know, I never knew how much this man's voice annoyed me."
- - Commander Sisko, to Chief O'Brien while a recording of Dukat blathers in the background
"You have five seconds to enter correct access code."
"I don't know, but I better stop it!"
- - Cardassian computer, Jake Sisko and Miles O'Brien
"You know, I've been here nearly three years and I was just finally starting to think of this place as home."
"Your home was built by Cardassians, doctor. Don't ever forget that."
"Well, there's not much chance of that, is there?"
- - Bashir and Kira
"Ironic, isn't it? The only place in the galaxy that still recognizes my access code is a Bajoran space station."
- - Garak
"I should've listened to my father. He always warned me this was going to happen."
"What, that you'd spend your final hours in jail? I could've told you that."
- - Quark and Odo
"Quark, I've met a lot of Ferengis in my time, and the truth is, while some of them have been more wealthy, I've never met one more devious."
"Would I lie?"
"I guess not. Thank you, Odo. That means a lot to me. Now, can I have the phaser back?"
- - Odo and Quark
"Why go to so much trouble to keep people out of the security office?"
"It's not to keep people out, it's to keep me in. I suppose, during the Occupation, the Cardassians considered their security chief a security risk."
"And I know why."
"Oh, do you?"
"It's because they knew you were an honorable man. The kind of person who would do the right thing regardless of the circumstances. And now your integrity… is going to get us both killed. I hope you're happy."
- - Quark and Odo
"Where's Commander Sisko? I trust he wasn't vaporized, while asking for one of those raktajinos he's so fond of?"
- - Dukat
"Garak, groveling in a corner. That alone makes my trip worthwhile."
- - Dukat
"(signals his ship) Dukat, one to transport. Energize… (nothing happens) Energize!"
"Dukat, if you are seeing this recording, it means you tried to abandon your post while the station's self-destruct sequence was engaged. That will not be permitted."
"This is outrageous!"
"You have lost control of Terok Nor, disgracing yourself and Cardassia. Your attempt to escape is no doubt a final act of cowardice. All fail-safes have been eliminated, your personal access codes have been rescinded. The destruct sequence can no longer be halted. All you can do now is contemplate the depth of your disgrace… and try to die like a Cardassian."
- - Dukat and Legate Kell (on recording)
"I thought your father told you to stay out of there!"
"If you don't tell him, I won't."
- - O'Brien and Jake
Story and script
- This episode had an extremely difficult gestation. According to Ira Steven Behr, "It was one of those back-breaking, horrible, horrible experiences," although he does acknowledge that "it was terrific at the end." The original pitch by Mike Krohn was intended as a bottle show, and while the basic man-against-machine element of the plot was fine, the problem, according to Ronald D. Moore, was in trying to find a way "to make the jeopardy intriguing, to find the inner story." By the time of production, virtually every writer on the staff had had a go at the script, but every single draft was rejected by Michael Piller. According to Behr, Piller called him at 8:00am on a Monday morning to tell him, "I hate to say this Ira, but I'm not buying any of it – it's not working." In the end, after much work, the staff finally got together a script which Piller approved, and the episode was green-lit, but even then, there were more problems. According to Behr, "The writing process turned out as painful and disgusting as we thought it would be." However, he does acknowledge that "in the end, it turned out solid, with some nice twists and some great stuff for Garak and Dukat, and the paired up teams." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Behr commented on Dukat being more of a villain than he was previously in "The Maquis, Part I" and "The Maquis, Part II", "We were making him a little too friendly and we definitely did not want to do that. I don't want him to become the friendly neighborhood Cardassian". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p 87)
- The belt which Odo wore for the first six episodes of this season disappears in this episode. Rene Auberjonois had originally asked for the belt because he liked the look of the belt which costume designer Robert Blackman had designed for the mirror universe Odo's all-black outfit in "Crossover". However, on the beige costume, Auberjonois felt that the belt looked "Buck Rogers-y" and asked if he could remove it. Kira finally notices the difference in "Crossfire". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- David Livingston commented "Cool episode. And poor Reza had no prep time". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p 86)
- Bo Yeon Kim commented: "There's always that one episode where everything just "clicks" for you, the one that makes you realize when you're helplessly in love with a show. This was that episode for me with DS9. It had a wonderful balance of action and comedy, vaguely disguised as a bottle show (for which I have a great affinity), through which somehow every character was given an opportunity to shine. It also brilliantly utilized the space station and its notorious history as a Cardassian station, creating (quite literally) a ticking time bomb". 
- This is the first episode where we see Dukat express a desire for Kira, something that would return many times in the future, perhaps seen at its most forceful in the fourth season episode "Return to Grace" and the sixth season episode "A Time to Stand". In this episode however, his attempt to impress her is treated humorously, something which displeased Nana Visitor. According to Visitor, "I would have liked my character to make the point that only a few years earlier, Dukat's wanting me would have meant that he could have had me, and I wouldn't have been able to do a thing about it. So it shouldn't have been seen as a 'cute' moment. It was actually a horrifying moment, one that would make Kira feel disgust and panic. To Kira, Dukat is Hitler. She's not ever going to get over that. She can never forgive him, and that is important to me. Kira may have started to see Cardassians as individuals, but she will always hate Dukat." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion) In subsequent episodes, Dukat's longing for Kira would take on a much less humorous tone.
- This episode builds upon the antagonism between Gul Dukat and Garak which was first hinted at in the second season episode "Cardassians". It would next be seen in the fourth season episode "The Way of the Warrior".
- "Civil Defense" resembles the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Worst Case Scenario". In both episodes the crew trigger a computer program which they are unable to shut down and which proves life-threatening. However, in "Worst Case Scenario", the program was a holographic simulation that became a threat to the crew primarily due to an accident. In "Civil Defense", however, the program had been placed there specifically to threaten the crew. Coincidentally, in both episodes the programs' creators are Cardassian (Although in "Scenario" Seska merely adapted a pre-existing program rather than creating one of her own).
- This episode was the first to mention Quark's cousin, Gaila. Josh Pais plays the character in the episodes "Business as Usual" (Season 5) and "The Magnificent Ferengi" (Season 6).
- This is the second time in the series that a hidden device or program on Deep Space 9 causes mayhem on the station; the first time was the aphasia device planted by Dekon Elig in DS9: "Babel".
- Referenced Rules of Acquisition: #75 ("Home is where the heart is, but the stars are made of latinum")
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.4, 27 March 1995
- As part of the DS9 Season 3 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Constable Odo
- Siddig El Fadil as Doctor Julian Bashir
- Terry Farrell as Lieutenant Jadzia Dax
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys
- Ivy Borg as Rita Tannenbaum
- Judi Durand as Deep Space 9 computer voice
- Bill Hagy as Markalian
- Sue Henley as command officer
- Randy James as Lieutenant Jones
- Mary Mascari as Bajoran woman
- Robin Morselli as Bajoran officer
- Unknown actor as command officer
Stand-ins and photo doubles
access code; Bajor; Bajorans; bar; baseball; burn; Cardassia; Cardassian; Celsius; command pathway; con artist; control junction; counter-insurgency program; cousin; DaiMon; dampening field; Defiant, USS; Demilitarized Zone; deuterium; DNA; door; Dukat's father; Federation; Ferengi; Frin; fusion reactor; Gaila; Gaila's moon; garrison; Grand Nagus; habitat ring; heart; hour; infirmary; interrogative subroutine; Keldar; landing pad; laser fusion initiator; latinum; main fusion reactor; maintenance conduit; medkit; meter; Milky Way Galaxy; neurocine gas; neutralization emitter; Occupation of Bajor; operations center; oxygen; paranoia; patriotism; plasma conduit; plasma fire; power supply grid; Promenade; purification (chemistry); Quark's; racquetball; raktajino; ram; reaction stabilizer; red leaf tea; replicator; riot; Rules of Acquisition; runabout; security clearance; security protocol; self-destruct; short-sightedness; star; stirrup; suffocation; surrender; temperature; ton; Tye; uncle; uridium; Zek
- "Civil Defense" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Civil Defense" at Wikipedia
- "Civil Defense" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
| Previous episode:|
| Star Trek: Deep Space Nine|
| Next episode:|