(written from a Production point of view)
Trapped on an inhospitable world, Quark and Odo must work together to survive. Meanwhile, Nog returns to the station from Starfleet Academy.
There's a feeling of anticipation in Sisko's quarters as Jake makes final preparations for the move to his own quarters. Jake will be living with Nog who is due to spend his sophomore year on the station as part of his field studies, but Sisko discovers that the boys' quarters will be not next door but on the other side of the habitat ring. The old man reminisces, but Jake is all too eager to move out on his own.
Meanwhile, Quark enters Rom's quarters to find his brother anxiously awaiting Nog's return. Despite his own disapproval of Nog's attending Starfleet Academy, Quark has brought along several dozen bottles of root beer and is disgusted to see Rom at once gleefully drink one. The door chime rings and Rom grows excited, believing it might be his son, but instead it is Odo. The usual verbal sparring between Quark and Odo turns serious when Odo announces he has come to arrest Quark once and for all. Whatever has happened, it looks like Quark's shady dealings have finally caught up with him. Rom continues to drink his root beer as his brother is led away by Odo.
Alone with Odo aboard the runabout USS Rio Grande now, Quark grows increasingly bored and tries to find ways to pass the time, including him trying to get Odo to play fizzbin. While he is interested by Odo's reading a romance novel, Quark finds the constable unwilling to indulge him in a card game or tell him what has happened. All he knows for sure is that a Federation grand jury has indicted him for something big.
Back aboard Deep Space 9, Nog meets Captain Sisko in his office to take orders. A symbolic moment involving Sisko's baseball, which Nog catches, epitomizes the boy's transition into a model cadet. When Nog promises to "take care" of Jake and "keep him out of trouble", the captain sarcastically claims Nog inspires him with confidence. However, when Nog and Jake move into their quarters, it is clear things will not be quite the same. Nog seems to have become more disciplined, while Jake has been indulging himself focusing on his writing. They are still best friends, but if Nog's 22:00 "lights out" time and 04:30 workout are any indication, the boys will not see eye to eye on everything.
The utter lack of conversation and other stimuli has caused Quark's lobes to notice how annoyingly filled with sound the runabout is. In particular, he claims that Odo, who is eating soup, smacks his lips when he eats. There is also a strange buzzing sound, although Odo does not hear it. A few seconds pass before Quark determines to find what the sound is, and over Odo's impatience, he finds that it is an explosive underneath an access panel.
Things go from bad to worse when they try to beam the explosive off the ship, which causes it to explode and nearly destroy the ship. The Rio Grande limps to a nearby class L planet, where they have to crash-land because the life support systems have been virtually destroyed. On the way down, Quark mentions the bomb was planted by the Orion Syndicate, to Odo's surprise; it seems the lack of information about the charges against Quark was an attempt by Odo, who also knew nothing, to gain information. Both men lose consciousness during the violent crash.
Quark awakens to find their situation grim; the class L planet on which they have landed is freezing (although the weather is otherwise hospitable), the communications system and most supplies were destroyed in the crash, and the local plants appear poisonous. They do have a couple of ration packs, but as Odo points out, they now have a choice between starving to death and freezing to death.
On his first morning with Nog, Jake sleepily walks out of his bedroom to find his friend lifting weights. As usual, Jake passes on his own workout. Nog has found one of Jake's PADDs lying around with a story, "Past Prologue," on it, so Jake asks what he thought. However, Nog did not read for "content," but rather to correct grammar and spelling errors. While Nog's having made the corrections himself is "sacrilege" to Jake as a writer, Nog doesn't seem to care. He claims Jake needs some muscles.
Meanwhile, Quark has found a survival suit in the aft section of the Rio Grande, which he plans to wear ("finders keepers"), and a transceiver array, which they can use to send a distress call. As the communications system and signal booster have been destroyed, he uses his Ferengi brain to calculate that they will need to send the signal from somewhere with less atmosphere – namely, from the top of a nearby mountain.
The pair begin their trek out into the wilderness, conversing along the way. Quark believes Odo got what he wanted when his people made him a Solid, and while Odo denies it, in a way he seems to know this is true. On the other hand, were he still a Changeling, Odo could have flown to the top of the mountain already. Quark trips on a rock, prompting concern from Odo. While Odo's concern is clearly for Quark, he quickly changes it into concern for the transmitter. They agree to split the environmental jacket between them.
Tension between Jake and Nog continues to mount. Nog comes home to find that, in the process of working on his story, Jake has left a mess in their quarters, and despite his claims of "working", Jake is playing computerized dom-jot to "clear his mind" so he can continue to write. Nog claims Jake wouldn't last a day at the academy, to which Jake retorts with a comparison of the Starfleet uniform to pajamas. Nog angrily declares that he's moving out.
After three days of hiking, Quark and Odo are feeling the strain. They've taken turns wearing the environmental suit, but between the hiking and the lack of beetles, Quark is about to collapse. Forcing his companion to push on, Odo assures him that they only have about six more hours to go. His opinion changes considerably when they reach the top of the hill they are climbing and find the mountain to be closer to six days away.
They push on, but Quark reveals that he is not a member of the Orion Syndicate, as they do not kill their own. Odo realizes Quark was a witness, not a defendant, in the case. From this he surmises that Quark tried and failed to get into the Syndicate, which amuses him; however, Quark points out that this means Odo has spent ten years trying to catch a nobody.
In the Replimat, Rom joins Sisko. As they discuss their sons' living together, each expresses his desire that his son would be more like the other's. As Sisko fondly remembers a time when the two were desperate to keep Jake and Nog away from each other, Rom reveals that he thought Nog might be a Changeling and, eight hours earlier, had drawn some blood to make sure. He pulls out the vial to check again that the blood hadn't turned back to the gelatinous changeling state. He also mentioned how Nog had put him "on report" for having an untidy toolkit. Rom and Sisko agree their sons could learn a lot from each other. They start planning a way to get Jake and Nog to reconcile.
As things become increasingly desperate, Quark wakes up after a night in the open to find that he can no longer hear out of his right ear. He claims that his body has begun to shut down due to excessive stress and lack of food. Odo declares his intent to push on, even if Quark is ready to give up, and Quark goes along if only because he does not want to be left alone to die. Their true feelings come out while they continue their journey, and they eventually stop to express their hatred for one another. They start fighting and fall down a slope in the heat of the moment, breaking Odo's leg in the process.
Forming a crude, makeshift splint for Odo's leg, Quark determines to carry him to the top of the mountain. Although Odo tells Quark not to be an idiot, he claims to be bringing the other man along not to save him but for food when Odo dies. The Ferengi continues to pull Odo using a travois, but eventually collapses, exhausted. Odo attempts to pull the transceiver himself while crawling on the ground. Quark, realizing that Odo is getting one up on him (and balking at the thought that his remains won't be sold if he dies on the mountain), picks himself up and pushes on.
Sisko surprises his son with a visit to inform Jake of some bad news: station "regulations" say that a single person cannot occupy double quarters, and unfortunately, there are no other quarters available. The solution, of course, is to get Jake a roommate, so Sisko calls Nog in. Overruling both boys' objections (as Jake's father and as Nog's commanding officer), Sisko makes them stay in the room together and leaves them alone. They both know how foolish they have been and attempt to reconcile. Jake suggests they go to the gym, Nog suggests dom-jot instead.
As Quark collapses amid a snowstorm, Odo has realized the Ferengi couldn't carry on and begun dragging himself upward. Before long he realizes it is an exercise in futility and records a log on his communicator:
- "Begin recording. Chief of security… log…final entry. It looks like Quark didn't make it… Can't say I'm surprised. You'll find his body further up the slope… No doubt he'd want you to vacuum-desiccate his remains and auction them off. Not that they're worth much. As for myself… Cremate me, stick my ashes in my bucket, shoot me through the wormhole. Might as well end up where I began. Or better yet…"
Odo is beamed off the surface by the USS Defiant as he speaks and rushed to sickbay by Doctor Bashir. It seems the ship was looking for Odo and Quark and picked up the signal from the transceiver. Worf and Dax inform him that they found Quark slumped over the emitter. Dax says that Quark saved both their lives, to Odo's dismay. The two of them end up in the Defiant's sickbay alongside one another, where they reassure each other that they meant their words of hatred earlier – their own way of apologizing and reassuring themselves that they are still friends, or at least adversaries.
"Well, I guess you're not as successful a businessman as you think you are."
"Which means you spent the last ten years of your life trying to catch a nobody – with little success, I might add. So you tell me, which one of us is the bigger failure?"
- - Odo and Quark
"We're going to clean every day?"
"No, just the odd and even ones."
- - Jake and Nog
"This whole runabout is alive with annoying little noises."
- - Quark
"All we have to do is haul this transmitter to higher ground, more altitude less atmosphere. Go high enough and we just might get a signal out."
"How much higher do we have to go?"
"Carry the seven, take the square root, times pi… I'd say ah… (points to a VERY high peak) that high."
- - Quark and Odo
"What's that over there?"
"Its just another stone."
"I can't believe it. I've been walking for three days and I haven't seen a single beetle. I could really go for a beetle right now, any kind of beetle, just as long as it had a little meat on it."
"There are no beetles, Quark."
"A nice slug would do."
"There are no slugs either. No slugs, no beetles, no worms, no snails… nothing but rocks and trees and we can't eat any of it!"
- - Quark and Odo
"I hate this transmitter, I hate this mountain, and most of all, I hate the Orion Syndicate for stranding us here."
"I think we both know who's really to blame."
"Don't try and blame this on me, Constable. It was your job to get me to Inferna Prime safely."
"Well, you never told me the Orion Syndicate was after you."
"You never asked."
"If I had, would you have told me the truth, or would you have lied…like you…lie about… everything?"
"Have I ever told you how much I hate that smug, superior attitude of yours?"
"Have I ever told you how much I hate your endless lying, your pathetic greed, your idiotic little schemes?"
"Well, I hate…"
"What do you hate?"
"Well, that's fine with me… 'cause I hate you, too. You're nothing but a petty thief!"
"You're an arrogant prude."
- - Quark and Odo, letting out all their hate
"Don't you get it? I'm not trying to save you. I'm taking you along as emergency rations. If you die, I'm gonna eat you."
"Waste not, want not."
- - Quark and Odo
"Now, I know the two of you are very different people, but you're still friends, and somehow, some way, you'll make this work."
"I don't know…"
"Neither do I."
"Well I do. (to Nog) And I'm your captain. (to Jake) And your father. And what I say goes. Good day, gentlemen."
- - Sisko, Nog and Jake
"You're trying to embarrass me, aren't you? You're trying to shame me into carrying that thing the rest of the way on my own! Well, it's not gonna work! You oughta just embrace the inevitable and die with dignity, that's what I'm gonna do! I'm just gonna lie here and die!!!"
- - Quark breaks down while Odo tries to push the transmitter up the mountain with a broken leg
"If it wasn't for his signal, we never would have found you. Looks like he saved both your lives."
"I was afraid you were going to say that."
- - Dax and Odo, about Quark
"Odo? Odo? Are you awake?"
"I am now."
- - Quark and Odo
"You remember back there, when I told you I hated you, and you told me you hated me?"
"I just wanted you to know… I meant every word of it."
"So did I."
- - Quark and Odo, in the Defiant sickbay
Story and script
- Before this episode was even written, actors Rene Auberjonois and Armin Shimerman, who played Odo and Quark respectively, were eager to learn more about the motivations behind their characters' relationship. As such, Shimerman pre-empted this episode by stating, "Rene Auberjonois and I would like to learn their reasons for liking and hating each other, so we need to see them together for an entire episode. What will be the result of that scenario? Are they going to reach an understanding? And will their relationship improve or worsen?" (Star Trek: Communicator issue 101, p. 51)
- The origin of this episode is to be found in Ira Steven Behr's love for the 1949 Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot; Behr had always wanted to do an episode with Odo in the role of Vladimir and Quark in the role of Estragon. The problem Behr had was with the story. The play has no discernible plot at all; it is simply about two characters sitting around waiting for something undefined and something which never arrives, and they spend most of the play insulting one another. According to Behr, the only plot he could come up with for a Deep Space Nine episode was having Odo and Quark waiting somewhere for Sisko to bring them a runabout, but they've no idea why or how long they've been there. Behr never got around to doing the episode, but when the writing staff decided to do a story about Odo and Quark getting into mortal danger somewhere off the station, he revived his Godot idea, and he and Robert Hewitt Wolfe used it as their template for "The Ascent". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- A major motivator for this episode was to deal with Odo's new status as a solid. According to Robert Hewitt Wolfe, "we wanted to do an episode emphasizing Odo's Human frailty, showing the effects on him of not being able to shape-shift. But we didn't want him to be fighting bad guys because we'd done stuff like that already. We wanted to have him going somewhere that would have been easy for Odo to get to if he could morph. So we put him and Quark up against the elements and had them climb a mountain." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- The outdoor scenes for this episode were filmed on Mt. Whitney, a 14,500' mountain in central California. The crew stayed in Lone Pine. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 401), Makeup Man: From Rocky to Star Trek The Amazing Creations of Hollywood's Michael Westmore page 244)
- Normally, Armin Shimerman has no problems with the Quark prosthetics, but shooting on this particular location proved different. When they arrived for the first day of shooting, the pressure inside the Quark head became too much for Shimerman and he nearly passed out. At first, there were fears that the entire episode may have to be pulled, but the on-set medic had actually prepared for altitude reactions and was able to ensure that Shimerman could shoot. According to Shimerman, "the medic's the hero of that episode." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 401))
- Odo's inquiry as to how it could be so cold when the sun is shining was added on-set because of the excellent weather during production. Although it was supposed to be freezing cold on-camera, in reality, temperatures went as high as 65 °F/18 °C, making shooting extremely uncomfortable for both Armin Shimerman and Rene Auberjonois. To make it look colder than it actually was, director of photography Kris Krosskove used a very wide lens and a filter to give the film an "icy" look. In the evenings he used a neutralizing filter to tone down the orange-ness of the setting sun, while for the telecine transfer, Krosskove told the lab to keep the color spectrum towards blue to enhance the frigid tone he wanted. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- Rene Auberjonois enjoyed the location filming, commenting "that was fun because it meant at night afterwards we'd all have dinner together and hang out together, which doesn't usually happen". (Section 31 Hidden File 02, DS9 Season 5 DVD)
- Rene Auberjonois commented "That was great for us to really get to work together, because Armin and I are very dear friends". (Section 31 Hidden File 02, DS9 Season 5 DVD)
- This is the final episode to regularly feature the original DS9-style uniforms originally created for the series that were introduced in the premiere episode, "Emissary". From the next episode "Rapture" onward, the DS9-style uniforms are replaced by the new uniforms that were introduced in Star Trek: First Contact. However, they would continue to be used for the duration of Star Trek: Voyager, due to the Voyager crew being stranded in the Delta Quadrant. The old DS9 uniforms were seen on Deep Space Nine three times more: in "In Purgatory's Shadow" and "By Inferno's Light" (worn by Bashir, captured before the uniform change) and in the flashback scenes of "What You Leave Behind".
- Quark offers to teach Odo to play Fizzbin. This card game was invented by James T. Kirk in 2268 in TOS: "A Piece of the Action".
- Jake's story that Nog proofreads in this episode shares the same title as the series' second episode, "Past Prologue".
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 5.5, 7 April 1997
- 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
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Alexander Siddig as Doctor Bashir
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira
2363; 2367; 2372; ability; arrest; backpack; Bajor; Bajoran; Bajoran wormhole; boot; brooch; businessman; cadet barracks; carry; class L (unnamed); cliché; cloak; club; comm system; Constable; cremation; customs inspector; customs inspection; dabo girl; Danube-class; deafness; deck; Deep Space 9 levels; Defiant, USS; Divine Treasury; domjot; even number; fascism; Federation Grand Jury; Ferengi; Ferengi Commerce Authority; field study; "finders, keepers"; first edition; fizzbin; foot; grammar; gym; hand; heart; heaven; holosuite; Inferna Prime; IV drip; latinum; lightning; "lights out"; long range scanner; lungs; "make love"; mechanical engineering; membership fee; Morn; navigational array; odd number; orange juice; Orion; Orion Syndicate; pi; pigsty; plot; poison; poly-nutrient solution; preposition; punctuation; Quark's; ration pack; Replimat; rhythm; Rio Grande, USS; roommate; root beer; runabout; shoulder; signal booster; skin; snail juice; sonic shower; sophomore; space; spelling; square root; Starbase 137; Starfleet Academy; station regulation; survival suit; suspect; temperature; throat; thunder; transporter buffer; travois; Vorian pterodactyl; vacuum-desiccation; Vulcan Love Slave; wood
- "The Ascent" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Ascent" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Ascent" at Wikipedia
- "The Ascent" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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