Here are the 7 best Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes about the Dominion War.
While all Star Trek is great in its own way, more than a few fans (including yours truly) are always happy to declare Deep Space Nine the best show the franchise ever gave us. It took Star Trek in unexpected new directions, especially when the peace-loving Federation was suddenly thrown into the bloody conflict of the Dominion War. And in the spirit of all those fierce battles with the Jem’Hadar and the Founders, we put together the definitive list of war episodes for you to stream on Paramount Plus.
7. Valiant – Season 6 Episode 22
As a show, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine often used the Dominion War to subvert our expectations to heartbreaking results, especially in the episode “Valiant.” The plot of the episode involves Jake Sisko and Nog being rescued by a Starfleet vessel (the titular Valiant) that is crewed entirely by Red Squadron cadets conducting a private war against the Dominion after the captain died on a training cruise. Decades of television lead us to suspect that these plucky young faces will save the day against inexplicable odds, but as everything starts going wrong, this episode reminds us that war is hell in the bleakest possible ways.
6. Rock and Shoals – Season 6 Episode 2
“Rocks and Shoals” is one of Star Trek’s earlier Dominion War episodes, and it doesn’t always get enough credit for giving us an early glimpse of how this war would transform our favorite characters. When Sisko and the rest of the crew crash their stolen Jem’Hadar vessel onto an alien planet, they have no way of calling for help and must survive against injured Jem’Hadar who are similarly stranded. At one point, the helpful Starfleet officers try to come up with a plan to minimize Dominion casualties, which is when Sisko delivers the defining mantra of the war episodes: “Given the choice between them and us there is no choice!”
5. Sacrifice of Angels – Season 6 Episode 6
Some Star Trek fans didn’t like how the Prophets intervened in the Dominion War in “Sacrifice of Angels,” providing a convenient deus ex machina solution to the problem of a giant Dominion fleet coming through the wormhole now that the cloaked minefield has been defeated. However, we love that this episode tells you everything you need to know about Sisko and his crew as they head into the wormhole, fully expecting to fight–and die–against the hundreds of ships inside of it. In addition to some fun space battles, it’s a great character episode that also lays the groundwork for some of the terrible sacrifices Sisko will later make in service of the Prophets.
4. Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges – Season 7 Episode 16
While Star Trek: Discovery eventually ran the concept into the ground, Deep Space Nine and its Dominion War episodes introduced Section 31, a secret division of Starfleet that breaks the rules and makes the hard calls necessary to preserve the Federation. And in the wordily-titled “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges,” Section 31 gets involved yet again with Doctor Julian Bashir, hoping to use his invitation to a conference on Romulus to conduct secret spy shenanigans on the Romulan homeworld. What follows is a tour-de-force episode that tells us more about the seedier side of Starfleet while testing the nobility of Bashir, all while giving us beautiful shots of Romulus itself.
3. Call to Arms – Season 5 Episode 26
The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Call to Arms” is technically our first Dominion War episode, and it remains one of the best, showing a defiant Captain Sisko who refuses to yield any more ground to his foes from the Gamma Quadrant. When he decides to surround the wormhole with cloaked, self-replicated mines, the Dominion considers this an act of war, and the cold conflict between the two space empires suddenly turns blazing hot. And if you can ignore the silliness like Rom and Leeta having a Casablanca moment, this episode is full of killer character moments and capped off with one of Trek’s most ambitious space battle scenes.
2. In the Pale Moonlight – Season 6 Episode 19
One of the best things about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is that some of the best Dominion War episodes have nothing to do with epic space battles and giant explosions. The greatest example of this is “In the Pale Moonlight,” an episode that is effectively told in flashbacks as a haunted Sisko records a log describing his activities of the past few days. We see how desperate Sisko is to get the Romulans to join Starfleet in the war effort, and how his desperation leads him to team up with Garak as the smiling spy-turned-tailor drags them both into hell, one good intention at a time.
1. What You Leave Behind – Series Finale
As Star Trek fans know, Deep Space Nine was telling more interconnected stories than sister programs like The Next Generation and Voyager, and much of the Dominion War feels like one big movie stretched out over several episodes. The series finale “What You Leave Behind” is perhaps the best example: as great as this episode is on its own, the impact of its narrative (which shows both the Starfleet’s final battle with the Dominion and Sisko’s final battle with Gul Dukat) is more powerful because it is an epic conclusion to the episodes that came before it. The show and the war ended on the kind of mixture of bittersweet and heartfelt that DS9 does best, and this remains the best finale in Trek television history.