(written from a Production point of view)
Scavenging an abandoned Cardassian space station identical to DS9 for equipment, O'Brien's team discovers that the station may not be completely abandoned.
Kira, Dax, and Worf enter Quark's to find it strangely empty – and the reason soon becomes apparent. No one is able to hear themselves think over the horrible noise resulting from Chief O'Brien and Nog doing some conduit repairs. The repairs are heavy and O'Brien soon realizes that he will need an entirely new plasma distribution manifold. Unfortunately, the manifolds are of Cardassian manufacture and cannot be replicated due to a beta-matrix compositor. A team is assembled to scavenge manifolds from the abandoned station of Empok Nor, which is identical in design to Deep Space 9. Because it is standard for Cardassians to plant booby traps whenever they abandon an area, Captain Sisko recruits an outside resource to join the mission as the minesweeper: Elim Garak. The rest of the crew comprises O'Brien, Nog and four other Starfleet crewmembers: Pechetti, Boq'ta, Stolzoff, and Amaro.
In the runabout traveling to the station, Nog and Garak play the Cardassian board-game Kotra. Garak scolds Nog for playing too defensively, he explains that this is an un-Cardassian style, and that the game is about bold maneuvers and sweeping attacks. While en route to the station, Garak brings up O'Brien's past as a soldier in the Federation-Cardassian War, specifically his tour of duty on Setlik III which O'Brien is hesitant to discuss. They soon arrive at Empok Nor. After Garak disarms the airlock booby trap and restores emergency power to the station, O'Brien quickly dispatches his teams for the salvage operation. Nevertheless, tension slowly begins to build when two Cardassians left on the abandoned station wake up in their stasis tubes as emergency power is restored.
A little while after, Garak and Boq'ta find the stasis tubes in the infirmary – two are empty, and one contains the skeleton of a Cardassian who died approximately one year before. The stasis tubes are partly filled with an unknown blue biogenic substance. Boq'ta picks up a regimental badge, which Garak quickly recognizes as the Third Battalion of the First Order. He then alarms the crewman that the other tubes have opened recently.
Regarding the discovery, Garak contacts the O'Brien team to have him come down to the infirmary. Nog goes back to the runabout to get a flux coupler, however, he instead witnesses it detached from the airlock, adrift in space and then exploding.
The group concludes that the former occupants of the cells are loose on the station with unfriendly intentions. Pechetti grimly announces that the regimental badge motto is "Death To All". When a dampening field hindering subspace communication is suddenly activated, they understand that their new priority is to contact DS9 for evacuation. It is decided to use the deflector grid to send a series of covariant pulses. For efficiency, they split again into three teams. The first team, composed of Stolzoff and Pechetti, is ordered to the habitat ring to bring the microfusion generator back online. Boq'ta and Amaro are to realign the magnetic flow field, and O'Brien will activate a signal generator in cargo bay 4 with Garak and Nog.
In the cargo bay, Garak suspects something else is going on, for the lengths the Cardassians went to for an abandoned station don't make sense to him. As he and O'Brien talk, however, Nog sneaks around on guard, and doesn't see the Cardassian lurking in the shadows. He's ready to make a move on Nog when O'Brien calls him back. Meanwhile, Pechetti and Stolzoff are working on the Promenade when they hear a door close upstairs. The turbolift descends, and they stand ready with their phaser rifles when the doors open, but no one is there. Soon, though, they're distracted and are both killed. When O'Brien arrives on the death scene, he realizes they had the time to do a pretty complete job.
O'Brien needs to finish Pechetti's job and then get back to the cargo bay. He orders Boq'ta and Amaro to reconfigure the pulse generator in Auxiliary Control. Boq'ta is very reluctant to split up, so O'Brien convinces him by having Garak go with him. Garak, however, announces he intends to go after the Cardassians. O'Brien agrees, since he seems confidant, and stands Amaro down from holding his rifle on Garak. Garak strangely prods O'Brien a bit more about being a soldier, insisting on inviting the "hero of Setlik III" (O'Brien) to join his fight. O'Brien sends him off. Boq'ta then feels all right to split up now, since Garak is now going after the Cardassians.
Garak, at a computer terminal, finds he cannot access it. He senses someone close, and keeps pretending to access it. Hiding in the broken stasis chamber, he succeeds in disabling a Cardassian, though he oddly says to himself it felt good. After running an analysis on the body, he learns that the soldier had been given a massive dose of a psychotropic drug. Garak opines that it appears to be a failed experiment to enhance Cardassians' xenophobic tendencies, turning already-fanatical soldiers into unstable killing machines. He informs O'Brien of his discovery, but his strange behavior causes O'Brien to observe that Garak doesn't have the face of a tailor anymore. Garak leaves to go after the other Cardassian.
Garak goes on with his task and finds the other Cardassian stalking Boq'ta and Amaro, but is unable to prevent the death of Boq'ta when Amaro's back is turned. Amaro sees Garak kill him and is relieved, however, Garak finally loses control and succumbs to the effects of the psychotropic drug. Garak stabs Amaro with a flux coupler.
O'Brien finishes his task and tries to contact the others through his combadge but gets no response. He finds Amaro just in time, sitting on the floor bleeding for him to say Garak stabbed him and then dies. Nog gets nervous as O'Brien immediately goes on guard. He realizes Garak is under the influence of the drug. Since Garak knows their objective of contacting DS9, O'Brien doesn't see a choice other than going after him, killing him if that's what it takes.
Insane, Garak turns his attention towards the only other remaining members of the salvage party: O'Brien and Nog. He comes across a Kotra board in the station commander's office and, also finding a combadge, signals for O'Brien. He reflects over to O'Brien on the relevance of Kotra's aggressive play style to their current predicament. A cat-and-mouse (or Kotra) game follows. O'Brien sneaks into the commander's office while Nog enters Ops. However, O'Brien is soon trapped in the office and Garak jumps on Nog, grabbing the cadet's phaser rifle and capturing him. He tells O'Brien he'll have to come get Nog from him.
O'Brien tries to find a way out of the office, but then the door opens, allowing him into Ops. Garak taunts him over the communicator, excited by the "game" while O'Brien tries to reason with him. Garak continues to push O'Brien on his experience on Setlik III, saying he enjoyed killing Cardassians and wants to recapture that feeling. O'Brien finally proposes a hand-to-hand duel, and Garak readily agrees.
O'Brien makes his way through the Promenade, finding his crew's bodies hanging from the second level. He soon finds Garak holding Nog with a rifle, and they both disarm in a tense situation. O'Brien also puts down his tricorder. They begin fighting, and Garak is winning and taunting him. Garak is partly blinded by the drug, but the chief incapacitates him using a simple trap (a tricorder-phaser bomb). O'Brien finds that it did not kill Garak.
Later, in the infirmary on DS9, Garak's system has been purged of the drug. Garak expresses extreme regret for his actions and asks O'Brien to personally apologize on his behalf to Amaro's wife. O'Brien agrees, then says that there will have to be an inquest, but O'Brien will make sure that the board knows Garak wasn't responsible for his actions.
"Welcome to Empok Nor."
"Thanks for having us…'"
"Take whatever you need… my house is your house."
- - Garak and O'Brien
"He asked me to get a coil spanner for him, I just turned my back for a second."
"That's a shame. And the worst part of it is, this isn't a coil spanner." (stabs Amaro) "It's a flux coupler."
- - Amaro and Garak
"If he thinks he can neutralize the Cardassians, let him try. He'll be doing us all a favor."
"That's the spirit!"
- - O'Brien and Garak
"Looking for me? Oh, that felt – good."
- - Garak, after killing a Cardassian soldier
"Asking a Ferengi to play a Cardassian game is like asking a Klingon to chew with his mouth closed."
- - Garak, playing kotra with Nog
"You look different. That's not the face of a tailor."
"I'm not a tailor. Not for the moment anyway."
- - O'Brien and Garak
"Maybe it's true. Maybe you're not a soldier anymore."
"You're right. I'm an engineer."
- - Garak and O'Brien, right before O'Brien remote detonates his tricorder-phaser bomb
"Julian tells me the blast broke a couple of your ribs."
"Well, it could have been worse. If I'd been any closer to that phaser, it would have killed me."
"Well, don't take this the wrong way, but… that was the plan."
- - O'Brien and Garak, discussing the aftermath of the bomb
Story and script
- In Bryan Fuller's original pitch for this episode, the story involved Worf and Garak. They are in a runabout and come across a derelict ship adrift. They board it, and it turns out to be a vessel which belonged to the Obsidian Order. It is littered with bodies, and as they attempt to work out what happened, Garak turns on Worf and sets out to kill him. Fuller compared this idea to the 1978 film Blue Sunshine. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Hans Beimler's first draft of the teleplay for this episode did not feature any of the various exchanges between O'Brien and Garak. There were no mentions of Setlik III, and no sense of rivalry between the two. This draft was not popular with either the cast or crew. According to Andrew Robinson, "After I finished the first draft, I thought, 'Ugh.' I felt like the writers were intruding on Garak. I never could have done that first script. We were vacuums. There was nothing in my character. It made no sense." Similarly unimpressed was Ira Steven Behr; "I told Hans, 'This doesn't work. Not even close. There's no character, no meaning. It's just a series of events and none of it makes any sense.'" Beimler returned to the script and composed another draft, this time adding much more depth to the relationship between Garak and O'Brien, and also bringing O'Brien's background as a soldier into play. As Beimler himself acknowledges, "I thought it was there after I did the first draft, but there was no bottom to the story. The second draft got into the relationship with O'Brien and Garak, and that really gave it some substance and content." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Although Andrew Robinson was a lot happier with the episode after Hans Beimler's rewrite, he still wasn't thrilled with the project; "It turned out okay, but it made me uneasy to do that character." Robinson's breakout performance had been as the Scorpio killer in the 1971 film Dirty Harry. For some years after that performance, Robinson had fought against being typecast as a psychopathic killer, and he was a little disappointed to see that now, 25 years later, he was presented with a Deep Space Nine script which depicted him as just such a psychopathic killer. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- According to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, this episode was quite controversial amongst the producers because of a racial slur made by a member of Starfleet, something with which Gene Roddenberry would have been aghast. When Amaro is talking about Stolzoff, he comments that he wants to kill the "spoon head" who killed her. According to René Echevarria, this line hadn't been scripted and hadn't been approved by the producers. This was because it was considered background dialogue, which isn't written into the script. All background dialogue is created on the ADR looping stage after the episode has been shot and it isn't approved by either Ira Steven Behr or Rick Berman. Usually, this is because such dialogue is barely audible, if audible at all. In this particular case however, the line could clearly be heard. The term 'spoonhead' had been introduced in "Things Past", but there it was spoken by a member of the Bajoran Resistance, a slightly different matter. As Echevarria explains, "here was a Starfleet officer basically making a racist slur, without it being commented on or corrected." One of Roddenberry's most important maxims was that there was no racism in Starfleet, so the worry was that this line was going against one of the basic principles of Star Trek. However, when Ira Behr and Rick Berman did finally hear the line, they chose to leave it in, as they felt it illustrated the pressure of the situation, and was appropriate given the circumstances. As Echevarria says, "it was racist. But it was also very real." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
Continuity and trivia
- The type of suit worn by Garak in this episode was designed for Star Trek: First Contact, and made several later appearances in Star Trek: Voyager. In addition, the new type 3 phaser rifle, also designed for First Contact, made its only appearance on Deep Space Nine in this episode.
- Sisko, Odo, Worf, Dax, Quark, and Kira only appear in the teaser. Additionally, Bashir only appears during the last scene.
- With its focus on the lower ranked members of the away team, this episode bears some resemblance to the TNG episode "Lower Decks".
- Garak's conduct during the episode would stick with Nog – a few months later, after the outbreak of open warfare, the two would be sent out to find food and water on the unknown planet where their stolen Jem'Hadar fighter had crashed. As they walked, Nog made absolutely sure to stay behind the Cardassian, or at worst side-by-side. When Garak caught on to this and confronted him about it, correctly assuming it was related to the previous "unfortunate business" between them, Nog insisted that he would never turn his back on him again – to which an impressed Garak responded that "there may be hope for you yet". (DS9: "Rocks and Shoals")
- Several items from this episode were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay, including a Cardassian Terok Nor soldier metal badge  and a Cardassian cryo computer. 
- In the novel Station Rage by Diane Carey, published eighteen months before this episode aired, Odo and Miles O'Brien accidentally discover a room of Cardassian soldiers in stasis, and Elim Garak later awakens them.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 5.12, 29 September 1997
- As part of the UK VHS collection Star Trek - Greatest Battles: 15 November 1998
- As part of the DS9 Season 5 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Odo
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Commander Worf
- Terry Farrell as Lt. Commander Dax
- Colm Meaney as Chief O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Alexander Siddig as Doctor Bashir
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira
- Andrew J. Robinson as Garak
- Aron Eisenberg as Nog
- Tom Hodges as Pechetti
- Andy Milder as Boq'ta
- Marjean Holden as Stolzoff
- Jeffrey King as Amaro
- Cathy DeBuono as M'Pella
- Christopher Doyle as a Cardassian soldier
- David B. Levinson as Broik
- Tom Morga as a Cardassian soldier
- Mark Allen Shepherd as Morn
- Chester E. Tripp III (stunt actor)
[[[accusation]]; airlock; Amaro's wife; Barrica encampment; beta-matrix compositor; biogenic compound; "bloody"; booby trap; bypass displacer; Cardassians; Cardassian vole; Cardassian High Command; Cardie; category; coil spanner; covariant pulse; credo; dampening field; Danube-class (runabout); deflector grid; DNA; docking clamp; Dukat; emblems; Empok Nor; engineering; EPS matrix converter; Federation; Federation-Cardassian War; Ferengi; field coils; fighter pilots; First Order; flux coupler; heart; holosuite; hyper spanner; infirmary; inquest; insignia; Klingon restaurant; kotra; microfusion reactor; month; motto; nervous system; optronic coupler; pattern scrambler; phase decompiler; phase discriminator; plasma distribution manifold; plasma recoiler; polarity maximizer; Promenade; pulse generator; psychotropic drug; pylon; Quark's; regimental badge; ribs; Rom; root beer; runabout; salvage team; Setlik III; signal generator; smoke signals; SOS; sparring partner; spoon head; Starfleet Academy; stasis tube; strangulation; subspace transceiver; telegraph; Third Battalion; Til'amin froth; tissue sample; tricorder; Trivas system; war record; wish list; workshop; xenophobic
- "Empok Nor" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Empok Nor" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Empok Nor" at Wikipedia
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