(written from a Production point of view)
During a supply run to AR-558, Sisko finds the defending Starfleet unit with over two thirds of the troops dead and the remaining soldiers' morale extremely low. When the Defiant comes under attack, Sisko, Bashir, Dax, Nog, and Quark choose to remain on the planet, which is about to come under attack by a much larger contingent of Jem'Hadar soldiers.
In Vic's lounge, Rom auditions for a "gig", singing "The Lady is a Tramp" – and not very well. Vic tries to let him down easy, reminding Rom that a singer would be a poor opening act for another singer. Dr. Bashir enters the lounge, and retrieves a recording Vic has made for him to give to the Starfleet soldiers on AR-558.
Meanwhile, Odo finds Captain Sisko in the wardroom, where Sisko is looking over the ever-growing list of casualties from the Dominion War. He mentions to Odo that at the start of the war, he tried to memorize the names of the fallen, as if to pay tribute to them, but as the list grew, the names seemed to blur together. Kira interrupts them over the comm to inform Sisko that the USS Defiant is ready.
Quark mopes in the mess hall of the Defiant, wondering why Grand Nagus Zek would want him to go on a "fact-finding mission" to the front lines of the war. Ezri tries to comfort him, believing the Nagus wants a Ferengi perspective of the war. Unfortunately, her efforts to cheer him up are in vain, and even more so as the Defiant shakes from Dominion fire. Ezri rushes to the bridge, but Quark follows after her, not wanting to be alone. He runs into Worf, who tells him that the Dominion is pushing hard to reclaim the Chin'toka system from Federation control.
Quark nervously enters the bridge behind Worf, just as the Defiant succeeds in destroying a Jem'Hadar fighter with quantum torpedoes. Sisko tells Miles O'Brien to keep an eye out for more enemy ships. Once the immediate threat is over, Quark's presence on the bridge becomes rather obvious, and he quickly excuses himself. Embarrassed, Nog assures Sisko that his uncle will not disrupt their work again.
When the Defiant reaches AR-558, Sisko relinquishes command to Worf and he, Ezri, Bashir, Quark, and Nog beam down to the planet's barren surface, armed with phaser rifles. Once there, they come under immediate phaser fire.
The phaser fire is Federation, and stops when the ranking Starfleet officer, Lieutenant Nadia Larkin, orders her men to hold their fire. One of them, Vargas, who believes they are all doomed, is a bit of a hothead and mistook Sisko's party for Jem'Hadar. Sisko is surprised at the state of the garrison: the troops have been stranded for five months (when regulations require forces to be rotated off the front line every ninety days), without reinforcements or supplies. Of the original one hundred fifty soldiers, only 43 are left. The other 107, including Captain Loomis and the First officer, Commander Parker, have been killed in action.
After seeing to the garrison's most serious injuries, Bashir pulls Sisko aside and warns that the soldiers' health, not to mention their morale, are both dangerously fragile. In the cave the Starfleet forces are defending, Larkin shows Sisko the object of all the fighting: a captured Dominion communication array which, if the engineers can figure out how it works, would allow the Federation to tap into enemy comm traffic all over the sector. As they talk, a muffled explosion is heard, and Larkin curses as another of her men is claimed by a "Houdini," Dominion anti-personnel mines that hide in subspace and appear at random. They have been trying to find a way to expose or eliminate them, without success. Reese, one of the most hardened soldiers, acerbically tells the others not to waste their breath explaining their situation to Sisko, who will be leaving the planet with his crew shortly.
When the Defiant is forced to leave while coming under attack by Jem'Hadar fighters, Sisko's conscience kicks in and he informs Worf that they intend to stay. As the commanding officer on the ground, Sisko now has only one order: hold.
Sisko orders Ezri to work with one of the few surviving engineers, Crewman Kellin, to find a way of unmasking the mines. Though she is no longer an engineer or science officer, Ezri has the benefit of her previous hosts' experience. She and Kellin quickly get to like each other.
Jem'Hadar soldiers later beam down and attack, but something is wrong; they do not fire, and they seem to walk into the line of enemy volleys, ignorant of their casualties. Sisko orders his men to hold as he realizes the Dominion trickery. Almost immediately, the attackers vanish. The soldiers weren't real; they were holograms intended to assess the enemy strength without firing a shot, and they have just succeeded. Between that and the Houdinis, things are looking grim. Sisko has his hands full trying to shore up the morale of the tired soldiers. Aside, Quark explains to Nog that, for all their civilized ways, Humans can become just as savage as bloodthirsty Klingons, if they go too long without food, sleep, or creature comforts.
Sisko decides it is imperative that they discover the location of the Jem'Hadar encampment and assess their strength. He orders Nog (with his superior Ferengi hearing) to accompany Larkin and Reese on the scouting mission, a decision Quark objects strongly to. Sisko says that Nog is only doing his duty, and Quark retorts that Sisko wouldn't send Jake out there so casually. Sisko responds that his son is not a Starfleet officer, but this argument doesn't convince Quark.
Using his lobes, Nog successfully leads the scout team to the Jem'Hadar camp, where two columns of Jem'Hadar are preparing to attack. Hearing the sounds of a patrol, Nog signals for them to withdraw, but as they are returning to camp, they are ambushed by Jem'Hadar. Larkin is killed, and Nog's left leg takes a direct strike below the knee.
Meanwhile, Dax successfully modifies a tricorder to cut through the jamming signals, enough to scan the whole compound. Kellin excitedly takes it and states the next step: recalibrating it to find the mines in subspace. When Dax suggests to cross-link its optronic and isodyne relays, Kellin is further impressed and briefly asks about her experience with nine lifetimes of memories to sort through. Dax relates that she remembers battles from past hosts. He reassures her she'll be fine when the time comes.
Reese runs back to camp carrying the injured Nog, and Quark is stricken to see his nephew wounded. Reese gives credit to Nog for making it as far as they did. When Captain Sisko tries to check on Nog, Quark reveals that he is going to lose his leg.
Later, Doctor Bashir is able to successfully remove Nog's leg to prevent further injury, but whether it can be regenerated is unclear; he needs to visit a Starfleet Medical facility.
Quark takes out his fury on Sisko, accusing him of regarding Nog as expendable "cannon fodder." Sisko, equally furious and getting fed up with Quark, retaliates by saying that he cares deeply about the lives of every person under his command, including Nog.
The captain goes to visit Nog in his hospital bed. Nog begins to apologize for falling into the ambush, but Sisko says he has accomplished his mission, and Sisko is very proud of him. He glances at Nog's wound, and Nog reassures him that it doesn't hurt. Then, Nog's confident facade cracks a little bit, and asks Sisko to reassure him that the communications array, for which so many people have died, is really worth it. Sisko says he hopes to God it is.
There is some good news for the officers as Ezri and Kellin find a way to reveal the Houdinis' locations. Once it is put into effect, hundreds of the dreaded killers pop out throughout the defenders' positions. But instead of disarming them, Sisko says he plans to use them against the Jem'Hadar. Based on Reese and Nog's report, the Starfleet forces are hopelessly outnumbered, unless they find a way to even the odds. The irony of the situation is not lost on Ezri: a few hours earlier, the Houdinis were an inhuman weapon, the kind only the Dominion would use; now, with their position so desperate, "they seem a whole lot friendlier."
Reese reports that the Jem'Hadar will need to approach the Federation camp through a narrow ravine, so that is where the mines are placed. Once this is done, Sisko and his crew take position behind the barricades, phasers ready. Trying to relieve some of the tension, Bashir plays Vic's recording of "I'll Be Seeing You" over the sound system. Quark, the only civilian, stays by Nog's side in the makeshift infirmary, doing his best to keep his nephew comfortable.
In the distance, they hear muffled explosions as the Jem'Hadar trip the mines – and then nothing. In the tense silence that follows, Vargas nervously wonders whether the Jem'Hadar have all been killed, or else decided to retreat. But then the Jem'Hadar come charging towards the barricades, yelling war cries. Sisko yells for the Starfleet forces to open fire.
Dozens of Jem'Hadar go down under phaser fire, but dozens more jump over the barricades and the battle becomes a desperate melee. Vargas and Kellin are killed. Quark, alone in the infirmary, is the only person available to defend it, and he is forced to kill an enemy soldier with his phaser in defense of Nog. Sisko is knocked out. The last thing he sees is a Jem'Hadar soldier standing over him with a disruptor. When he awakens, Reese is standing over him, asking if he is alive. Sisko gets up and looks around. Many of the officers he knew are now dead, and there are few soldiers left, but as he puts it, "We held."
The Defiant returns to AR-558 along with the USS Veracruz, which will pick up the survivors and transport the injured officers as well as Nog and Bashir to Starbase 371. Worf tells Sisko that they achieved a great victory, however Sisko can only think of what this victory cost. A fresh batch of officers start beaming down from the Veracruz. Reese notes that the newcomers are young, to which Sisko responds that they'll grow up fast.
Back aboard DS9, the next casualty list comes in. When Sisko asks how many, Kira replies the number is 1,730, including those lost on AR-558. Kira states that it's "…a lot of names" but Sisko, feeling the weight of his recent experiences, tells her that behind every name is a person and it's important not to forget them or the sacrifice they've made.
"You know, pally? Some times being a hologram can be a real pain in the asymmetric photons."
- - Vic Fontaine
"Remember the 34th rule of acquisition: War is good for business."
"Only from a distance! The closer you get to the front lines, the less profitable it gets."
- - Ezri Dax and Quark
"Welcome to paradise, captain."
- - Larkin sarcastically remarking about the situation.
"Sir, what are your orders?"
"There's only one order, lieutenant. We hold."
- - Larkin and Benjamin Sisko
"Let me tell you something about Hew-mons, nephew. They're a wonderful, friendly people – as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts… deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers… put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time… and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people will become as nasty and violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon. You don't believe me? Look at those faces, look at their eyes…"
- - Quark
"Well, haven't you got anything to say?"
"I feel sorry for the Jem'Hadar."
- - Quark and Nog
"I'm sorry captain, but I'm an engineer, not a magician."
- - Kellin (See also: I'm a doctor, not a...)
"Captain… the kid did all right."
- - Reese, after bringing a wounded Nog back to camp.
"How is he?"
"It's a little late for you to care about that, isn't it?"
"He's going to lose his leg! …Does that answer your question?"
- - Benjamin Sisko and Quark
"The communications array… it's worth it, right?"
"I hope to God it is."
- - Nog and Benjamin Sisko
"Those were our orders, sir."
- - Benjamin Sisko and Reese, after the battle.
"This was a great victory. Worthy of story and song."
"It cost enough."
- - Worf and Sisko
"Not for long."
- - Reese and Sisko as the relief troops arrive.
"They're not just names, it's important we remember that. We have to remember…"
- - Benjamin Sisko
Story and script
- This episode is loosely based on the Battle of Guadalcanal which was fought by the Allies and the Empire of Japan from August 1942 to February 1943. The battle is generally considered to be a turning point of World War II in the Pacific, as due to its geographical position, the island of Guadalcanal had huge strategic significance. David Weddle's father had fought with the United States Marine Corps during the battle, and according to Weddle, "Those men and women stopped something incredibly evil, and when they came back, there was no talk about post-traumatic stress syndrome or therapy groups. They won, but it changed their whole lives. Ira and Hans really tried to capture the essence of that." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Although episodes such as "Rejoined", "Far Beyond the Stars", "Inquisition", "In the Pale Moonlight", and "Shadows and Symbols" generated a great deal of controversy amongst fans, according to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, "The Siege of AR-558" generated more backstage controversy than any other Deep Space Nine show. According to Ira Steven Behr, "a lot of people didn't want us to do the episode, and a lot of people were unhappy it was being developed. But I felt that we needed to do it. War sucks. War is intolerable. War is painful, and good people die. You win, but you still lose. And we needed to show that as uncompromisingly as possible. War isn't just exploding ships and special effects." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- The writers specifically chose Nog, Ezri, Quark, and Bashir as the central characters for this episode because they had the least fighting experience. Characters like Kira, Worf, and O'Brien were purposely left out of the fighting, as they all had combat experience and knew how to handle themselves in such a situation. The writers, however, were more keen on seeing the reactions of people who didn't know how to handle themselves. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- The characters of Reese and Kellin were seen by the writers as extremely important from a thematic point of view; as Behr explains of Reese, "This guy was wearing ketracel-white tubes around his neck, which was about as grisly as we could get on Star Trek. His way of getting through this ordeal was to depend on his knife. At the end of the show we had him throw the knife down. Maybe he doesn't need the crutch anymore, but he's pretty far gone. I think he's going to need some twenty-fourth-century reconditioning. I knew Kellin would provide me with the alternative to Reese. The hard-as-nails guy who gives up his humanity lives, but Kellin, the decent guy, dies. War is very cruel." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Several of the soldiers' names are borrowed from the 1962 Don Siegel film Hell Is for Heroes, a favorite film of several of the writers. Reese for example is named after the Steve McQueen character and Larkin after the Harry Guardino character). (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Bill Mumy observed that the creative staff was exhausted during the shooting of this episode. "The [production] crew on DS9, by the time I was there, were kind of running on fumes," he said. "There was a lot of hours on that show." (What We Left Behind)
- Director Winrich Kolbe had fought in the Vietnam War, and he allowed his knowledge of combat to influence his direction of the episode; "The images you see are trenches of churned-up dirt. The battleground always looked like there was absolutely nothing there that anyone could ever want. Yet people were blowing each other to smithereens over this land. I wanted AR-558 to be that type of battleground, a totally nondescript piece of real estate that didn't deserve one drop of blood to be shed for it. It shouldn't say anything to the eye or the mind except that we were there because somebody had decided to put a relay station on this rock." Kolbe goes on to say, "We wanted the siege scene in "AR-558" to convey the psychological impact, and not come across like a shoot-em-up. What I remember from Vietnam is sitting in a ditch somewhere and waiting. It's the waiting that drives you nuts. You know they're coming. You can hear them. You can feel them. When you have to wait, your mind plays tricks on you, and you hear things and you see things, like Vargas, who's about to explode. Once the battle starts, your adrenaline kicks in and you have an objective. But when you have to wait, time just slows down to a crawl." Kolbe felt that the battle for AR-558 had a great deal of similarity with the 1968 Battle of Khe Sanh, a battle which was won by the Americans, but the strategic significance of which is still debated to this day. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Max Grodenchik recalled filming the teaser, where Rom auditions by singing for Vic: "I remember Rom auditioning for Vic Fontaine in the very beginning of 'Siege of AR-358'. I got to sing with a live piano. God bless that piano player, he was great. Usually the hot shower’s my only accompaniment, so this was a real treat for me. Rom sings his audition song, but Vic says something like, 'Sorry, two singers on the same bill is a one-way ticket to deadsville'. Then Bashir enters as Rom, dejected, leaves. And on his way out Rom says to Bashir, thinking Bashir’s come in to audition as well, Rom says, 'He’s not hiring'. ["The Siege of AR-558" is] an extremely serious episode in which Nog loses a leg in battle. I think the writers wanted the scene there so that the episode would have at least one lighter moment. I don’t think that little scene made the heaviness of what was to come any easier to take, but boy, I really got a kick out of them wanting me to sing. 
- In the sequence where the Defiant crew beams to the surface of AR-558, director Kolbe wanted the actors to crouch behind cover, intending them to materialize in that position. Nicole de Boer raised the point that "nobody ever beams in crouched down". Despite Kolbe's desire to shoot the scene as he had planned, de Boer maintained her position, and suggested the production office be contacted. The office subsequently confirmed the precedent, and Kolbe adapted the shot accordingly. (Star Trek Monthly issue 64)
- Of the music in this episode, associate producer Terri Potts explains, "We wanted to mix the battle sounds under the music, so I went to Rick Berman and told him what we wanted to do. He said, 'Okay, but make it sad.' Paul wrote the music without looking at any footage. It wasn't about hitting any story points in particular, it was about creating a mood." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- The song which Bashir plays while awaiting the Jem'Hadar attack is "I'll Be Seeing You", written in 1938 by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal, and which became one of the most popular songs during the Second World War. The song would go on to have great significance in the episode "It's Only a Paper Moon", which deals with Nog's convalescence, and which also features a scene from just before the final battle on AR-558 not seen in this episode, where Nog asks Bashir what the name of the song is.
- On the music of the episode, Paul Baillargeon commented "It's a sixteen-bar melodic phrase. I just got up on a Saturday morning, sat down at the piano, and in ten minutes it was done". Ira Behr enjoyed Baillargeon's score, commenting "We thought the music was brilliant. Rather than trying to get everybody's blood boiling with martial music, they went against it with melancholy music". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Music from the episode was included in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Collection released in 2013 by La-La Land Records.
- Ira Behr was extremely happy with the way the episode ultimately turned out. He was especially pleased with how the Starfleet personnel come to use the weapons of the enemy which they had previously condemned as vile; "We were very passionate about this episode. These horrible Houdini mines, these vicious mines – suddenly we're using them. The whole idea of 'God is on our side' in war is such a strange concept, but it's used all the time. Nobody is clean in war." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- The scene where Quark describes to Nog what happens when Humans' creature comforts are taken away is one of Armin Shimerman's favorite scenes he has ever performed on the show; "The finest moment for Quark was the episode "The Siege of AR-558". They were beautiful comments, and I was honored to make them." (Crew Dossier: Quark, DS9 Season 6 DVD, Special Features) Behr calls Quark "the moral consciousness" of the episode. According to Shimerman, "I'm very proud of this episode. Star Trek is a franchise about people who, for the most part, belong to the Federation, and it's usually the Humans that the show centers on. But in this episode, they allowed me to express an 'other-than-Federation' point of view. I got to do something that was Spock-like, in the sense that Spock, as an outsider, could comment about Humanity." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Nog loses his leg in this episode, thus setting up a future arc for the character. His recovery is depicted in "It's Only a Paper Moon". According to Ronald D. Moore, in the original story, Nog was to lose both his legs, but Rick Berman argued for a less severe loss, which is why Nog lost only one leg.  Nevertheless, Aron Eisenberg is a big fan of this episode and the effect it had on the character; "Nog had been a gung-ho soldier who thought nothing could happen to him. He wanted to be Starfleet, and be the best because only the best could become captain. So no matter what he saw, no matter how many people he saw die, he was like a train that just kept going. Then he got hit. I played him as if he were in shock, but the first thought that would come into his head is, 'Oh my God, I could die.'" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- In Star Trek 101, Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block list "The Siege of AR-558" as being one of the "Ten Essential Episodes" from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
- Karen Stoddard-Hayes wrote that "The Siege of AR-558 was: "a gritty study of the daily stresses of battle." (The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works and Wonders, p. 1256)
- AR-558 itself takes its name from the production number of the episode.
- Bill Mumy, who played Kellin, was one of multiple Babylon 5 regulars who appeared in Deep Space Nine. Mumy, a friend of Ira Steven Behr, had always wanted to appear on the show, but held out until he was allowed to play a Human (he had repeatedly been asked to appear as an alien). His Babylon 5 co-star Patricia Tallman also appears in this episode, as a stunt double for Annette Helde. As a child actor, Mumy portrayed Will Robinson on the TV series Lost in Space, which ran during approximately the same years as TOS.  Behr took the time out of his busy schedule to go down to the set to see the scene in which Kellin dies, even though Behr didn't usually get to visit the set. He later humorously attributed the fact he had done so on this occasion to his friendship with Mumy. (What We Left Behind) After filming the scene in which Kellin is killed, an amused Behr announced to the cast and crew on a megaphone that "Star Trek just killed Will Robinson!"  Noted Mumy, "I had some very, very interesting, and very memorable experiences on that show [….] It was a cool little death scene." (What We Left Behind)
- The Chin'toka system was captured by the Federation Alliance in the First Battle of Chin'toka, as seen in the episode "Tears of the Prophets".
- This episode acts as culmination of sorts to the exploration of the real horrors of war, as seen in the fifth season episodes "The Ship" and "Nor the Battle to the Strong". Both of those episodes deal with the very real consequences of war, acknowledging the real men and women behind the list of names, and they both emphasize the sense of loss inherent in war. "The Siege of AR-558" does likewise, but in perhaps an even darker vein than the two previous episodes. Another episode with this theme is the sixth season episode "In the Pale Moonlight", where Sisko also finds himself troubled by casualty reports.
- Reese's necklace of ketracel-white tubes taken from dead Jem'Hadar is similar to the necklace of Cardassian neckbones worn by the Klingon soldier Leskit in "Soldiers of the Empire".
- Aron Eisenberg (Nog), Patrick Kilpatrick (Reese), and director Winrich Kolbe had previously worked together in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Initiations", in which Eisenberg and Kilpatrick played Kazons.
- Referenced Rules of Acquisition: #34 ("War is good for business") and #125 ("You can't make a deal if you're dead")
- Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) does not appear in this episode. Rene Auberjonois (Odo) appears only in the first scene, while Nana Visitor (Kira) appears only in the final scene.
- This episode has one of the longest teasers, coming in at seven minutes.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 7.4, 24 May 1999
- As part of the DS9 Season 7 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Constable Odo
- Nicole de Boer as Counselor Ezri Dax
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Commander Worf
- Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Alexander Siddig as Doctor Julian Bashir
- Nana Visitor as Colonel Kira Nerys
- Raymond Cruz as Vargas
- Patrick Kilpatrick as Reese
- Aron Eisenberg as Nog
- Annette Helde as Nadia Larkin
- Max Grodénchik as Rom
Special guest stars
- Bobby Burns
- George Colucci
- Brian Hite
- Dan Magee as operations lieutenant
- Tom Morga as a Jem'Hadar
- Denney Pierce as a Human Starfleet officer
- Laurence Rosenthal as a Jem'Hadar
- Chuck Shanks as an Human operations lieutenant
- Chester E. Tripp III as a Jem'Hadar
- Brian J. Williams as a Human Starfleet officer
- Unknown performers as
- Patricia Tallman as stunt double for Annette Helde
- Nancy Thurston as stunt double for Aron Eisenberg
adrenaline; amputation; anti-personnel mine; AR-558; asometric photon; barricade; Bashir 62; biosynthetic limb; chestnut; Chin'toka system; coil spanner; column; comedian; communication array; communications bunker; Dax, Curzon; Dax, Jadzia; Dax, Tobin; Dax, Torias; Defiant, USS; Dominion; Dominion War; duonetic coupler; evasive maneuvers (aka evasive action); fact-finding mission; Federation; femur; Ferengi; Ferengi Alliance; fever; frequency discriminator; God; Grand Nagus; heart; hologram; holosuite; hospital; "Houdinis"; "I'll Be Seeing You"; isodyne relay; isolinear rod; Jem'Hadar; Jem'Hadar fighter; ketracel-white; kilometer; "Lady is a Tramp, The"; latinum; Loomis; mail order; McGreevey; meter; microdyne coupler; motor nerve; music; necklace; numinol tetraminothen; "Old Man"; opening act; optronic relay; Parker; phase amplifier; phaser rifle; power pack; raktajino; ravine; replicator; Rules of Acquisition; showbiz; Sisko, Jake; sonic shower; Starbase 371; Starfleet Regulations; staring; stomach; subspace; subspace mine; supply run; surrender; tricorder; USO; Veracruz, USS; vole; Zek
- "The Siege of AR-558" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Siege of AR-558" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Siege of AR-558" at Wikipedia
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