Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 5 is just humming along, minding its own business and BAM! In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light come along and turn everything sideways. What did Season 5 ever do to deserve this insanity? This two-parter (which I will refer to as Internment Camp 371) comes out of nowhere with countless twists and turns, shaking up the status quo of DS9 for the rest of the series. Internment Camp 371 is one of my favorite two-parters in DS9 and I wanted to take some time to deep dive into the episodes. So let’s do this.
This is where I let you know that I’m going to spoil everything about this two-parter and other DS9 plot points. If you don’t want a 20+ year old show spoiled, you should probably avoid this article. Or if you want even more spoilers, check out my Star Trek DS9: The Complete Dominion War Guide.
First, some context: When Internment Camp 371 begins, we are about halfway through Season 5 of DS9 (episodes 14 and 15 to be exact). The Klingon/Cardassian war is still raging. Tensions with the Dominion are high. The Maquis continue to cause problems. And of course, the crew of DS9 have recently traveled back in time to hang out with Kirk and the original Enterprise crew. Just your usual fare. So when DS9 receives a Cardassian transmission from the Gamma Quadrant, you don’t necessarily think shit is about to hit the fan. But you would be wrong.
The Cardassian transmission turns out to be from none other than Enabran Tain, former leader of the Obsidian Order and mentor of Garak. Tain was believed to have died during the events of Improbably Cause/The Die is Cast (another fantastic two-parter), so his being alive comes as a surprise to most. Internment Camp 371 in many ways is a sequel to this two-parter and sends Garak and Worf on a mission to find Enabran Tain. But it isn’t long until the Dominion capture Garak and Worf and imprison them in the aforementioned Internment Camp 371. Antics ensue.
Internment Camp 371 has so many plot threads weaving in and out from one another that I hardly know where to begin. The two basic threads are the Internment Camp 371 characters plotting to escape and the DS9 crew prepping for a massive Dominion attack. One of the strengths of the two-parter is that despite our characters being literally a quadrant away, the effects of both stories are felt on one another. Let’s start with one of the best twists of the whole series.
A familiar face
When the Dominion capture Worf and Garak, they meet a few familiar faces in Internment Camp 371. The least shocking is Enabran Tain. We all suspected they would come across him. It was his signal after all. Another familiar face is the Klingon Martok. This is actually the first time the characters (and the audience) are meeting the real Martok, who is a bit more likable than his changeling counterpart. But it isn’t until Act 4 of In Purgatory’s Shadow that the greatest twist happens. Martok mentions that a friend has been released from isolation. And then…
Oh shit. Why oh shit? Because if this the real Bashir, than that means a changeling is on DS9. And oh shit, look at his uniform. He’s been here a while… Cue ominous looking changeling Bashir.
This reveal, amazing as it is, does provide some logical problems. Given the assertion that every appearance of Bashir in his new uniform has been a changeling, that means that the Bashir changeling has been very dedicated to remaining undercover. Specifically, the events of the episode Rapture, in which Bashir performs brain surgery on Sisko, requires the viewer to suspend their disbelief. You could make an argument that the surgery actually benefited the Dominion and that the changeling’s ultimate goal is more important. In reality, I imagine it was just an oversight by the writers. But it is one I am happy to look past, because the episode executes the twist so well.
Adding Bashir to the Internment Camp 371 dynamic makes perfect sense. He has always been a great foil to Garak and works well as Worf’s “healer”, as Martok suggests. It also immediately ups the stakes of the DS9 plot. Not only are they contending with an imminent invasion, they also have an infiltrator. It’s a truly great moment of DS9.
Dukat is Dukat
Back in the Alpha Quadrant, Dukat continues to mull about DS9. We get his usual interactions with Kira and Sisko. He’s the overprotective-of-Ziyal-overzealous-slime-ball we all love to hate.
So it should come as no shock that early on in By Inferno’s Light, Dukat betrays the entire Alpha Quadrant by having the Cardassians join the Dominion. You see, he isn’t here to fight the massive Dominion fleet. He’s escorting them to Cardassia. What a pal.
Dukat’s decision, at a personal level, is perfectly in character. We have always seen Dukat willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goal, even if that means selling out his entire race. Now he has what he always wanted: power. And he is too blinded by that power to see that he is merely a puppet of the Dominion, who surely have no intention of treating the Cardassian people as anything more than servants.
And from a galactic standpoint, Dukat’s decision literally changes everything. The Dominion now have a sizeable foothold in the Alpha Quadrant. The Cardassians immediately become an antagonist. The Klingons and the Maquis, both bothersome enemies of the Cardassians, no longer stand a chance. This forces the Federation and Klingons to set aside their hostilities and re-sign the Khitomer Accords. Even so, the Federation moves one step closer to war with the Dominion.
The crux of Internment Camp 371 is the secret message from Enabran Tain. It’s the whole reason Garak and Worf end up in the Gamma Quadrant. But upon finding a nearly dead Tain, we get one more reveal. Enabran Tain is Garak’s father.
Okay, so maybe it isn’t that dramatic. The reveal itself comes near the end of In Purgatory’s Shadow and feels slightly tacked on. The story itself wouldn’t have changed much if it was left out, but it does provide some background insight into Garak’s motivation. Tain isn’t just a mentor, he is his father.
While the twist matters little to the plot, it is a truly crushing moment. Garak expresses seemingly unconditional love and loyalty to Tain, whereas Tain sees Garak as a mistake and liability. Garak can be a surprisingly sympathetic character and never is that more true in this scene. He has risked everything and Tain hardly acknowledges his efforts. Garak does get one brief moment of Tain as a father, recounting a childhood story of Garak, telling him he was proud of him. It is bittersweet.
Tain’s death appears to give Garak some closure, the same finality that finishing a book gives the reader. But Garak didn’t get what he truly wanted, which seems to fit his character well. It’s an unexpected twist for the viewer (and Bashir) and adds some emotional depth to the episode.
Worf is Legend
Look, everything mentioned above is top-notch Star Trek DS9. I love all the different plot threads in this two-parter. But my favorite story, easily, is Worf’s battles with the Jem’Hadar. It’s fairly inconsequential to the greater events happening in the two-parter but it’s an amazing character moment for Worf.
The Jem’Hadar are warriors. Arguably honorable ones at that. They live to fight. “Victory is life” and all that jazz. In Internment Camp 371, they fight prisoners inside some sort of light… ring… thing. I don’t know, it’s a little corny, but it works.
When the Dominion capture Worf, he essentially becomes fresh meat in their barbaric combat. The Jem’Hadar have already seen all they needed against Martok. They have broken him and are looking for a new warrior. And Worf is happy to step up to the challenge.
As a side note: Martok is a breath of fresh air in the Klingon world. Worf has been described as the idealistic Klingon, clinging to honor and tradition when many Klingons don’t. But Martok also fills that idealistic role. Often we see Klingons detest Worf and despise what he stands for. Martok, on the other hand, is enamored by Worf’s fighting spirit. As Worf defeats more and more Jem’Hadar, Martok tells of the songs that will be sung in his honor. A bond of mutual respect forms quickly and it is refreshing to see Worf finally get some appreciation from other Klingons.
Undeniably, the best moment of Internment Camp 371 is Worf’s battle with Ikat’ika. After surviving wave after wave of Jem’Hadar, Worf must finally face their leader. It’s like a boss battle in a video game. Can the battle weary Worf overcome his injuries to defeat Ikat’ika?
Well, no. Much of what we see of the battle with Ikat’ika is Worf getting smacked down. Worf has been physically dominated, but refuses to yield. Ikat’ika demands Worf yield. “You have proven your worth,” Ikat’ika says. Deyos, the Vorta, demands Ikat’ika kill Worf. Even Martok encourages Worf to yield, saying “honor has been satisfied.” But Worf, as determined as he is stubborn, refuses to yield. It’s a very Rocky moment.
And then the greatest line, as satisfying as it is unexpected. “I yield,” Ikat’ika says, “I cannot defeat this Klingon. All I can do is kill him, and that no longer holds my interest.” Ikat’ika realizes he has lost. He is unable to break Worf. And from one warrior to another, Worf has gained Ikat’ika’s respect. Ikat’ika knows killing Worf is no true victory. He chooses defeat over a hallow win.
Unfortunately for Ikat’ika, Deyos quickly executes him as Worf and crew escape. Oh well.
Internment Camp 371 really has everything you would ever need in an episode of DS9 (except Odo). This two-parter played a more definitive role in the series than any other mid-season combo I can think of. Even after writing a short novel about the episodes, I feel like I didn’t give certain aspects their fair share (claustrophobic Garak, for example). In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light just has so much going on, it’s hard to talk about everything. I love every second of it.