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After diverting to the Federation hospital on Ajilon Prime looking for an interesting story, Jake believes himself to be a coward when repeated Klingon attacks awaken him to the reality of war and force him to abandon Dr. Bashir and run for cover.



Aboard a runabout, Doctor Bashir and Jake Sisko are on their way back to Deep Space 9, having attended a medical conference. Jake is planning to write a news article on Bashir, who is upset that his proposed theory (which consists of technobabble as far as Jake is concerned) was so controversial. As Bashir rants about the goings-on from the conference, Jake's mind begins to wander:

"I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about. If I don't find a way to get out of doing this article, my first writing assignment is going to be my last. Maybe if I write to the journal and explain… 'Dear editors, Thank you for the confidence you expressed in me by accepting my proposed profile of Doctor Bashir.'"

Arriving at an important impasse in his explanation, which involves a protein anomaly, Bashir confirms that Jake is still following him. Bashir resumes explaining as Jake's inner thoughts continue:

"Who cares about anomalies? People want stories about things they can relate to. Life and death. Good and evil. An outbreak of Cartalian fever would be just the thing. The brave doctor battles the deadly virus… Listen to me, I'm actually rooting for a plague."

A few seconds pass with Bashir talking and Jake continuing to daydream, but they are both brought back to reality when the runabout receives a distress call from a Federation colony on Ajilon Prime. Despite a recent cease fire, the Klingons have resumed their war with the Federation and attacked the colony. Though the colony has requested assistance, Bashir is reluctant to bring Jake along. Jake convinces the doctor to go anyway, and there is a hint that Bashir knows whatever they face on Ajilon Prime will make a better story than his lecture. Jake thinks to himself:

"'Surgery under fire'! Now we're talking."

Act One[]

Kira tries Quarktajino

"So much for Quarktajino."

As things are speeding up for Jake and Bashir, it is a slow day in Ops. Quark has just arrived with a beverage for Kira, and Dax, Odo, O'Brien and Worf are all there to see her reaction. The beverage is a decaffeinated raktajino (dubbed by Odo "Quarktajino"), which O'Brien asked him to prepare in the fear that Kira's caffeine consumption will cause his son to be born a caffeine addict. Unfortunately, the drink tastes horrible by both Kira and O'Brien's accounts. Captain Sisko then emerges from his office with the news about Jake and Bashir. The USS Farragut is on its way to Ajilon Prime with reinforcements and Bashir and Jake will leave as soon as backup has arrived. Although Dax tries to lighten the mood by telling the captain he will barely have enough time to go through Jake's things before he gets back to the station, Sisko is visibly worried about his son.

Jake and Bashir arrive at Ajilon Prime, where Bashir has second thoughts about taking Jake into the heat of battle. However, Jake is sure he can handle the experience, so they land the runabout and head for the front lines.

In the emergency room, Jake's enthusiasm about his story fades when he experiences the casualties of war firsthand. He is shaken by the wounded people he sees, but particularly disturbing is an ensign Jake finds in a doorway, unconscious and bleeding, who turns out to be dead. Another man enters yelling for help, as he has apparently been shot in the foot by a Klingon disruptor. Despite the man's story, Bashir finds the man's injury was caused by a Starfleet phaser… he shot himself in the foot as a way of avoiding having to fight. Disgusted, Bashir moves on to another patient as the young man, though he initially sticks to his story, breaks down as he tells of how his fellow officers ran and he was so scared of the Klingons that he actually shot himself, wishing he was dead. Jake sits in a corner to work on his story but finds it increasingly difficult to concentrate:

"Triage… the sorting of the wounded forces decisions that… I've gotta get a grip. Focus. Decisions that test what it means to be a doctor…"

Jake's writing is disturbed when a medic asks Jake for help in watching a wounded man. As Jake stands with the injured man, he reaches up and spreads his blood on Jake's shirt and Jake begins to realize what he's gotten himself into.

Act Two[]

As Bashir lends his assistance, Jake has been recruited to help move the wounded. He continues to see many more injured patients but starts to deal with it better. During a break in the flow of wounded, Bashir and the doctors ask Jake for help in getting to the replicator.

Back at the station, Sisko speaks with Odo, who has just got out of the infirmary after injuring himself in attempting to apprehend two Yridians who were cheating at dabo at Quark's. In reflecting on how fragile his new "solid" form is, he realizes that Sisko is worried about Jake. Sisko recalls when Jake was younger how he vowed to protect his son no matter what, and now he's in the middle of a war zone a sector away and there is nothing he can do to protect him. Odo attempts to reassure the captain that Jake will be fine, but Sisko says that always worrying about your child comes with being a parent. Odo admits he doesn't think parenting is for him, to which Sisko tells him simply that it's his choice, but he won't know what's he's missing, as the joy of being a parent is worth every second of worry. Just then, Dax enters with bad news, the Farragut has been destroyed by Klingon forces near the Lembatta Cluster. Now with no other reinforcements coming, Sisko and Dax immediately leave for Ajilon Prime on the USS Defiant.

Bashir and Jake are sitting down to eat, with Jake appearing to handle the blood and gore around him quite well. However, when Bashir makes a macabre joke about "making an incision" into the food, Jake is quickly overcome with nausea and runs outside to vomit. Later, Jake and Bashir discuss the man who shot himself and Jake is shocked that such behavior is possible among trained Starfleet personnel. Bashir explains that while a Starfleet officer may go through psych tests and battle simulations, nothing really prepares a person for when they go into actual combat. When Bashir is called back to the wounded, Jake talks with another orderly (Kirby) who communicates the dire outlook they face, despite their being medical personnel.

"I wonder if Kirby knew that the whole time we were talking, all I could think about is how close the Klingons were. He didn't seem that worried. No one else seems to be losing sleep over it, so why is it the only thing I can think about? I've been on the station when it was under attack plenty of times, but somehow the danger never seemed as real as it does here. Maybe it's because I spent all day seeing firsthand what the Klingons are capable of… or maybe it's because for the first time in my life, my father's not here to protect me…"

Jake's reverie is interrupted with the sound of an explosion, signaling that the Klingons have resumed their attack. The attack has taken out the reactor and the cave stars losing power which if they don't get it back, they'll lose half the ward. Dr. Kalandra explains to the staff that it's going to be at least three hours before they can get the power back up. Jake suggests using portable generators, but Kalandra says they're using them to keep the shields up around the settlement. Bashir then realizes that the runabout, which is set down about 1 kilometer south, has more generators that can help the situation. Moving a generator is a two-man job, so Bashir and Jake make their way on foot to the runabout and begin to undergo artillery fire. Jake gets behind Bashir and then sees him disappear behind an explosion. Overcome with fear, he turns around and runs away.

Act Three[]

Jake runs over a hill and through a great deal of smoke, finally falling upon a dead Klingon. He sees that he is in a field of dead soldiers and runs away in fear. He gets over a ridge and is struck in the head with a phaser rifle by a wounded Starfleet soldier, Chief Burke. The soldier demands a hypospray and then explains that he is mortally wounded but repeatedly tells Jake that wants to die facing the sky. He tells Jake of how he was hurt in protecting a hopper's escape. Jake yearns to help him but the soldier, hearing his story of running away, points out that Jake is only trying to redeem his cowardice. Jake wants to get him to the hospital and suggests finding material to build a stretcher or carry him. Burke tells Jake that if he tries to carry him, his guts will just fall out. As the soldier dies painfully, Jake runs away again.

Act Four[]

Aboard the Defiant, Sisko is in engineering busy tweaking the replicator pattern buffers. As she steps out a Jefferies tube, Dax sees his feelings of helplessness and tells a story of what Audrid went through when her daughter was came down with Rugalan fever. The girl, Neema, was in a hospital for two weeks and Audrid spent the time reading her all seventeen volumes of Caster's Down the River Light, even though she knew Neema couldn't hear her. It was simply so Audrid had something to do. Luckily, Neema pulled through (although she later didn't talk to her mother for eight years starting at age 21) and Sisko is glad the story had a happy ending. For now, however, he leaves Dax to the replicators and decides to work on the sonic showers.

Jake wanders back into the cave and Kirby is relieved to see him again as everyone thought he was dead. Kirby explains that Bashir is injured with plasma burns and the runabout was destroyed by enemy fire, but Bashir somehow managed to make it back with the generator himself. Despite Jake's attempts to avoid it, Kirby gets him to go see Bashir. Bashir is relieved to see Jake and apologizes profusely and begins to berate himself for risking Jake's life by bringing him into a war zone. Jake angrily brushes off the apology and tells him it's OK, and Bashir is startled by his anger:

"I couldn't stand hearing him apologize to me like that. Not after what I'd done to him."

Kirby enters, unaware of Bashir's guilt over bringing Jake or Jake's guilt over leaving Bashir, to examine Jake's wound. Later, Jake once again tries to resume his story but can't concentrate on it:

"I keep turning it over in my head. The shelling. Losing sight of Bashir. Running. And I keep trying to make sense of it all. To justify what I did. But when it comes down to it, there's only one explanation: I'm a coward. Part of me wishes Bashir had seen me run away and told everyone the truth. They deserve to know what I am. To know they can't count on me. That if the Klingons attack, I'll run and hide, just like I did before."

Jake resumes his orderly duties and delivers food to the soldier who shot himself in the foot. The man explains his disappointment in himself and claims that despite his lack of fear and good scores in Academy battle simulations, the real thing is entirely different. Jake now realizes what the man has gone through, and they bond over their similar experience. Jake suggests that the man may not get court martialled and may yet have a future in Starfleet, but the soldier says he does not belong in Starfleet anymore and wishes he'd aimed the phaser "a little higher."

As Jake rejoins the fellow medical personnel in the break room, their macabre jokes about which way they'd prefer to die drive him to frustration. He begins to shout about the stupidity of the war and yells that in ten years nobody will ever remember the events they are all going through. Bashir intervenes and takes Jake for a walk.

Bashir tries to get Jake to open up about his miserable behavior but Jake resists. Bashir leaves the door open for discussion but Jake refuses and brushes him off. After Bashir leaves, Jake sinks to the ground and begins to cry.

Act Five[]

Ajilon Prime Klingons

The Klingons attack

Explosions rock Jake awake. He runs to the rest of the people and the head surgeon explains that they are evacuating the cave and they must move quickly and orderly if they are to survive. As most people evacuate, Jake is hiding under a table. The explosions frighten him away from the room he is in and Starfleet infantry personnel give him cover as two Klingons appear in the cave. Jake is soon pinned down by disruptor fire under a table when he grabs a nearby phaser rifle and starts firing blindly around the room. The room begins to collapse upon the Klingons and Jake as he screams in fear.

Bashir wakens Jake and points out that his father has arrived. They explain that the cease-fire has been reinstated and the Klingons have pulled out of the system. Jake's actions created a cave-in that gave the rest of the personnel time to evacuate and that he is a hero.

"More than anything, I wanted to believe what he was saying. But the truth is, I was just as scared in the hospital as I'd been when we went for the generator. So scared that all I could think about was doing whatever it took to stay alive. Once that meant running away and once it meant picking up a phaser. The Battle of Ajilon Prime will probably be remembered as a pointless skirmish but I'll always remember it as something more, as a place I learned that the line between courage and cowardice is a lot thinner than most people believe."

Jake gives a copy of his story to Bashir and also to his father. As Sisko reads what Jake has written, he comments that Jake's feelings are those that all who have been in battle feel, whether or not they want to admit it. He says Jake is courageous to write about it and tells him he is proud of him.

Memorable quotes[]

"The removal of caffeine from beverages has plagued bartenders and restaurateurs for centuries! You can't expect me to cure it overnight."
"I'm not paying for that! I want to get her off caffeine, not poison her."
"So much for Quarktajino."

- Quark, O'Brien, and Odo

"It's not up to you to tell Kira what to do."
"She is carrying his child. He should have some say."
"As the lessee he does have certain rights. (explaining) Back home, pregnancy is considered a rental."

- Dax, Worf, Quark, and both Kira and Dax together

"You've been a Changeling longer than you have been a solid."
"Solid. I wonder why my people use that term. Humanoid bodies are so fragile..."
"Yes, they are. And there are a lot of ways you can get hurt."

- Sisko and Odo

"Try not to worry, Captain. It won't do you or Jake any good."
"Can't help it. It comes with the territory."
"But Jake is 18 years old. Does your father still worry about you?"
"Oh, all the time."
"Ah… I never realized how stressful it is to be a parent. I have to say, I don't think it's for me."
"That's your choice, but you don't know what you're missing."

- Odo and Sisko

"His first day?"
"Pass the salt."

- Nurse, Kirby, and Bolian orderly, in response to Jake's weak stomach

"There are many situations in life which test a person's character. Thankfully, most of them don't involve death and destruction."

- Bashir

"Sorry, kid. Life doesn't work like that..."

- Burke's dying words to Jake

"Anyone who's been in battle would recognize himself in this. Most of us wouldn't care to admit it. It takes courage to look inside yourself, and even more courage to write it for other people to see. I'm proud of you, son."

- Sisko, to Jake

Background information[]

Story and script[]

  • The working title of this episode was "Portrait of a Life". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion - A Series Guide and Script Library)
  • The original idea of this episode was that Jake, who has been established as an aspiring writer, would have experiences similar to those of Ernest Hemingway during World War I. There were also a number of homages to other outside influences included for example, the scene with Jake and Burke in the trench bears a striking resemblance to a scene in the 1930 Lewis Milestone film All Quiet on the Western Front. The story is also partly based on the 1895 Stephen Crane novel The Red Badge of Courage.
  • In the original draft of the teleplay, the story was set in a Cardassian hospital on a planet under siege by the Klingons. Both Jake and Bashir would have come into conflict with the Cardassian women running the hospital due to their belief that males are relatively inferior in the science and medical domains, as had been previously established in the episode "Destiny". The primary reason this particular story was abandoned was budgetary. As the producers had discovered while shooting "Apocalypse Rising", using a large number of alien extras was both time consuming and expensive, and as they were trying to save money for the upcoming "Trials and Tribble-ations", it was decided that another make-up/costume intensive show was not the way to go. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. ?)
  • Also in the original draft, there was no Burke character; rather, writer René Echevarria had Jake fall into a foxhole with a Klingon. The Klingon was blind, after being wounded in the battle and he decides to use Jake to help himself survive. They remain together in the foxhole for several days and they grudgingly come to respect and understand one another. Eventually, however, Jake reveals the truth about how he ended up in the hole, that he was running away from the battle and that he abandoned Bashir, and the Klingon flings him out because he doesn't want to die with a coward. Echevarria was particularly happy with this aspect of the story, and he was not happy when Ira Steven Behr told him to change it to involve a Starfleet officer rather than a Klingon warrior. This caused a serious conflict between the two men, but in the end, Behr was able to convince Echevarria that the scene needed to go. His reasoning was that at the end of the episode, the Klingons are depicted as blood-thirsty and savage, but we have just spent half the episode getting to like one. Behr felt this was a contradiction and it took away from the impact of the episode. After the episode was finished, Echevarria admitted that Behr had been correct to demand the change. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. ?)
  • Following on from episodes such as "The Maquis, Part II", "Past Tense, Part I", "Past Tense, Part II", "Paradise Lost" and "For the Cause", Ira Steven Behr sees this episode as another important landmark in creating the darker Star Trek ideology of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. According to Behr, ""Nor the Battle to the Strong" was another one of those episodes that attempted to move the production farther afield from The Next Generation's clean, Teflon image. Just getting down into the mud and the horror of death." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. ?) This recalls comments made by Hans Beimler regarding the episode "The Ship", where he points out that in a show like Star Trek, viewers often forget that the people being killed are 'real' people. One of Beimler's goals with that episode had been to illustrate to viewers that people are dying, that war has consequences. The writers would return to the notion of the horror of war in the seventh season episode "The Siege of AR-558", and to the notion of real people giving their lives in the sixth season episode "In the Pale Moonlight".


  • After principal photography wrapped, director Kim Friedman found herself with an episode running three minutes short, and as such writer René Echevarria had to create a new scene. This new scene is the second scene with Jake and the soldier who shoots himself in the foot. Ironically, after the scene had been written and shot, both Echevarria and Friedman came to feel it was the most thematically important scene in the entire episode. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. ?)


  • Although Alexander Siddig enjoyed this episode, he was disappointed that nothing came of the relationship between Bashir and Jake. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. ?)
  • Siddig elaborated "I really like the relationship with Jake. There's potential for a terrific relationship there. He needs an older brother and Bashir is perfect for that". ("Time for a Changeling", Dreamwatch magazine, issue 36)


  • The title for this episode comes from the Bible and appears in the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 9, Verse 11: "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."
  • While talking to Jake, Burke mentions an officer in his platoon named Brice. Brice R. Parker is the name of the story writer for this episode.
  • The hospital is called the Decker Memorial Hospital in Star Trek: Starship Creator.
  • When Jake returns to the field hospital, he is informed by Kirby that Dr. Bashir somehow carried the generator from the runabout back by himself. This could be an early hint at Dr. Bashir's enhanced strength as a result of his genetic enhancement.

Video and DVD releases[]

Links and references[]


Also starring[]

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Uncredited co-stars[]

Stunt doubles[]


47; 2355; 2360; addict; Ajilon Prime; amino acid; amino acid sequence; Ajilon Prime, Battle of; aortal graft; Archanis sector; artillery; asteroid; bat'leth; battle simulation; bedroom; blood plasma; Bolian; Brice; caffeine; Cartalian fever; Caster; CO; corpse; counterattack; court martial; cutter; dabo; Danube-class (runabout); Dax, Audrid; Dax, Tobin; decaffeination (aka decaffeinated); decapitation; decoupler; Defiant, USS; disruptor; disruptor blast; disulfide; Down the River Light; editor; excavator; expert; Farragut, USS; Federation; Federation-Cardassian War; Federation-Klingon War; Ferengi; Ferenginar; fiction; Gamma Quadrant; Ganalda IV; gravimetric scanner; hemisphere; Hendriks; heresy; hopper; inaprovaline; joint; journalist; Kalandra; kidney; kilometer; Klingons; Klingon Empire; knee; lease; Lembatta Cluster; magnesite; Markalian; marketing; mining expedition; Neema; neural scan; O'Brien, Keiko; O'Brien, Molly; observation; OR nurse; Pajal; panel discussion; pattern buffer; peptide bond; phaser burn; phaser rifle; plasma burn; platoon; poison; portable generator; prion; protein; psych test; quantum dynamics; quantum level; quantum resonance effects; "Quarktajino"; Raifi; raktajino; Raymond; relief team; replicator system; Resource; retreat; rock face; Rugalan fever; runabout; Rutledge, USS; saline; science officer; severed; Sisko, Joseph; sleep; slit; soup; sonic shower relay (sonic shower); squad; Starfleet Academy; Starfleet lieutenant; stretcher; surgical table; Tananda Bay; Tarkalean condor; Tecumseh, USS; thigh; throat; Thursday; transport scrambler; triage; visiting hours; volume; ward; year; Yridian; Yridian cheaters

External links[]

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 5
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