“The Way of the Warrior”: DS9’s Turning Point
Though it’s hard to believe, “The Way of the Warrior” is now twenty-six years old and originally wasn’t even supposed to happen. Late in the third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the show’s producers wanted to end the season on a cliffhanger (which later became a later fourth season two-parter – “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost”), but Paramount said no. As a result, the third season had ended with no clear direction of where the series would go from then on. What do you do? Let’s make a spectacular double-length episode that brings in Worf!
I recall watching this two-parter not when it first aired (on 2 October 1995), but rather on a recorded VHS tape my mother had made for me. When I got the tape, I was most excited about the dazzling special effects that Visual Effects Supervisor Dan Curry and his DS9 team (Curry worked on both Voyager and Deep Space Nine at the same time) were able to pull off, using CGI. I watched and re-watched those VFX scenes, to the point I ruined the VHS tape.
The battle with the Defiant and the Klingon Birds-of-Prey rescuing Dukat and the Detapa Council was beautifully made and is amazing. It was amazing back in 1995, and it’s still impressive, even in 2021. The bigger space battle, with many Klingon ships attacking Deep Space 9, is massive. The explosions blow me away every time! A bit of trivia: until “Sacrifice of Angels” later on the series, this episode had the biggest space battle scene in the television side of Star Trek.
The introduction of one of The Next Generation’s most popular characters, Worf, into Deep Space Nine was an obvious attempt to boost DS9’s numbers of viewers and bring more publicity to the show. At the time, I thought adding him was pretty cool, but I didn’t really fully appreciate Deep Space Nine – like so many fans did – until after the series ended its run in 1999. I appreciate now more than ever that the show did take a bold risk by adding Worf to the overall story. This addition not only added layer upon layer of Klingon culture, but also Worf’s decision to not join the Klingon Empire to fight the Cardassians gave him serious consequences for the first time ever in Star Trek, despite having a reprimand on his record for killing Duras during the TNG episode “Reunion”.
So much attention has been paid to Worf and the visual effects, let’s now talk about the performances. For the first time, we meet General Martok, played by J.G. Hertzler, who had previously been in Star Trek, as the ill-fated captain of the Saratoga in DS9’s pilot, “Emissary”. In “The Way of the Warrior”, Hertzler has a lot of meat to play in his first of more than twenty appearances as the character of Martok, and it shows. The other characters who take center stage – such as Sisko, Dax, Dukat, and Garak – are just as brilliant as ever. The scene with Quark and Garak discussing and pondering their futures in the Federation, which was created because the episode was running a few minutes short, is a rare scene for the two characters, and actors Armin Shimerman and Andrew Robinson play it beautifully.
Overall, the episode is quite literally a turning point for Deep Space Nine. It literally brings a bang, in bringing in Worf and the visual effects.
If ViacomCBS ever decide to remaster Deep Space Nine in HD, this installment (along with DS9’s pilot “Emissary” and the show’s finale, “What You Leave Behind”) is an episode I would pick to be on a sampler Blu-ray disc that would be similar to one which was released when The Next Generation was remastered in 2012-14. Why would I choose this episode to be included in a DS9-in-HD sampler disc? Not only because it reintroduces Worf, but also because the visual effects – properly re-rendered – would drive me to purchase a copy of such a sampler disc, should one be made.
Ultimately, “The Way of the Warrior” is one of my favorite Star Trek episodes of all time; if I had a top-ten episode list of the best Deep Space Nine episodes, this one would definitely be in my top five.
Wes Huntington has been a Star Trek fan since he was born, thanks to his parents (both of whom are still very much alive and are big Trek fans themselves). He lives in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area, with his wife and cat. He is also a co-host of the Twin Cities Trekkies podcast, which launched in February 2021 and talks about all things Star Trek. You can find Twin Cities Trekkies via Facebook, Instagram, or anchor.fm/twincitiestrekkies.