Whenever you ask a DS9 fan where to start, the answer is rarely from the beginning.
The first seasons of the show were good, sometimes great. The foundations were laid for a darker show than the flagship adventures of the Enterprise We had Federation turncoats in the Maquis; an uneasy peace between Bajor and their former oppressors in Cardassia; there was politics and religion crossing over on all fronts and from the end of season two we had the Dominion lurking on the far side of the wormhole teasing their incoming takeover of Federation Space.
It was a packed show with a lot of threads running. And then Paramount made a decision. They wanted more Klingons. They hired Michael Dorn to carry Worf over from the Enterprise to DS9. Decisions made above the producers heads forced them to change course, push their planned Dominion story to the back burner and focus on something new. But after a chaotic season that had many challenges behind the scenes, no one got angry and threw a shoe. They saw an opportunity and they ran with it.
What was supposed to be the season opener became a (very good!) mid-season episode and Ira Behr and Robert Wolfe sat down and wrote something new. Without knowing it at the time, that something new would be the episode that many considered to be the second beginning of Deep Space Nine.
Often called a second pilot, or new beginning, Way of the Warrior is the episode near everyone recommends a new fan to start from. As the first episode under Behr’s reign as the man in charge the fourth season built on several of the ideas and themes laid out within the third season. The framework of what DS9 was and what it can do had already been laid out, but it hadn’t quite met it’s potential yet. Even though it did utilise the shows history, and wasn’t an entirely clean start, Way of the Warrior would set a new template for the red headed step child of the Trek franchise and as all eyes were on the launch of Voyager – Star Trek’s new flagship exploration show – DS9 found itself in a new groove.
As Sisko prepares his station and his crew for the inevitable Dominion attack, we’re introduced to General Martok as he requests his fleet – his ENTIRE fleet – stop by for some R&R. Knowing the Klingons are up to something as they scowl around the station intimidating Quark and beating up the local tailor, Garak, Sisko knows that they won’t spill their secrets with any outsiders and not even Odo can crack their wall of silence. He needs a Klingon to help figure it out, and lucky for him… Starfleet has one in their ranks.
A familiar face to audiences, Worf had spent seven seasons and – at that point – one feature film with The Next Generation; a wholly different show from DS9. Yet Worf fit the show like a glove. He was a complex character with a troublesome past. An honourable and decorated officer, but one that had reached the limit of what he could do in the Next Gen world and was destined to be Chekoved into being support staff until retirement.
As much as DS9 had to adapt to him, he adapted to Deep Space Nine and one of the biggest successes of the show was bringing this familer character and presenting him with a new cast of characters to integrate with; characters that were less polite and in many ways more of a challenge. In one conversation with Odo you could see Worf was thrown in the deep end. No one was going to react to his moody by putting the kettle on. He had to take a scolding, make a decision and live life the DS9 way. And it worked.
In the same vein, so did the Klingons. Life in the Bajor sector was already complicated. Sisko was challenged on all sides. But the Klingons joining in didn’t just delay the Dominion story, it helped emphasise just how much damage they would – and had done – to the status quo. People were scared. The Klingons were scared. They just drew blades where the Federation sat on hopes and rainbows; camping out in Quarks and hoping it all blows over.
Adding to the depth of DS9 would be something that played out over many seasons, resulting in the Klingons being so integrated by the end that you can’t imagine the final episode without Martok by Sisko’s side. In this one episode though it balanced out that depth rather nicely in re-introducing you to the show.
The Way of The Warrior had a bit of everything. All of the shows characters had matured and grown from their cardboard cut out form of the actual pilot episode. The show’s history had formed a strong, but not too overwhelming, The action was by far the best that Star Trek had seen at the time and instead of jumping straight to it, the drawn out build made it all the more satisfying. And of course, the introduction of Worf and Avery Brooks sudden comfort in the role felt like the show had found a piece that was missing.
It may not ave been an official pilot, but this was one of the finest hours of Star Treks history.
This article was originally published in it’s full form in SFCQ2 Comms Discover More Edition published January 2019. Members can read the full review by logging into Comms or by downloading their latest copy. If you’re not a member and want to read more or enjoy more of our membership benefits, you can enlist today for free!