Published Jan 20, 2023
Captains Janeway and Sisko Overcome the Odds
Two of Starfleet's most esteemed leaders demonstrated how they achieved success in the shadow of overwhelming odds.
Starfleet’s mission of exploration reflects the value that the Federation places upon diplomacy and scientific discovery, but circumstances have not always adhered to these admirable ideals.
Two such situations arose in Star Trek: Voyager’s “Scorpion, Part I” and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s “Call to Arms,” when Species 8472 and the Dominion launched overwhelming attacks that tested the resolve of Captains Kathryn Janeway and Benjamin Sisko, respectively. First aired less than a month apart in 1997, these episodes presented two of Starfleet’s finest with ‘similarly unique’ conditions that the captains needed to deal with.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — The Journey
Let’s dive in and examine the parallels and contrasts that existed between Janeway and Sisko’s individual dilemmas, as well as how the heroic officers managed to overcome the dire odds.
The Fearsome Foes
To truly comprehend what Janeway and Sisko faced, we must understand their adversaries. Both cultures hailed from distant regions of unexplored territory, with Species 8472 arriving in the Delta Quadrant from fluidic space via a quantum singularity and the Dominion entering the Bajoran wormhole through its aperture in the Gamma Quadrant. The alien invaders each possessed advanced technology which made confronting them feel even more ominous. Species 8472 proved able to defeat the Borg, the most deadly threat the Federation had ever encountered, as easily as the Collective would assimilate a pre-warp planet. The Dominion built fleets of warships, crafted powerful weaponry, developed cloak-penetrating sensors, utilized long-range transporters, and bred armies of Jem’Hadar at an unimaginable pace.
As imposing as these foes were, the two powers acted largely out of fear. Janeway’s crew eventually learned that the Borg had trespassed in fluidic space and sought to assimilate Species 8472, a strategy which prompted Species 8472 to proceed to the Delta Quadrant in an effort to wipe out the Collective and all outsiders who they perceived could contaminate their home. Unlike the Borg’s hostile intentions in fluidic space, the Federation’s venture into the Gamma Quadrant rested upon the noble notions of exploration and outreach. However, the Dominion saw Starfleet and other Alpha Quadrant visitors as unstable elements that jeopardized the order they had established. As such, rather than hoping to eradicate the Federation, the Dominion desired to defeat it and assert control over its population and resources.
Bracing for Battle
Aware that Voyager was entering the heart of the Collective’s territory, Captain Janeway studied up on logs from captains who had gone toe-to-toe with the Borg and ordered her subordinates to ready themselves and their departments to resist the Collective. Having prepared her crew for the possibility of facing the Borg, Janeway received a surprise when she learned that her starship would need to stand against an even more enigmatic enemy. Hopes that Species 8472 could be an ally quickly faded after their attack on Harry Kim, and morale dimmed even further when the “Northwest Passage” through Borg space turned out to be brimming with bioships fresh out of the fluidic realm. Isolated in the Delta Quadrant, Janeway needed to find a way to navigate the situation without support from Starfleet.
On the other hand, Captain Sisko remained well-aware of the threat that awaited Deep Space 9. Since the Federation’s first official contact with the Dominion three years earlier, the two governments engaged in what could accurately be described as a cold war. From the destruction of the U.S.S. Odyssey to the Founders’ plan to destroy Bajor’s sun, tensions flared on numerous occasions. Sisko became the preeminent expert on the Dominion, so Starfleet consulted his logs and reports when it came time to prepare for an attack. Even the buildup to open hostilities afforded time for additional preparations, as it took weeks for the Dominion to bolster their forces with convoys from the Gamma Quadrant. While the Federation did not dispatch its own reinforcements for the conflict that occurred in “Call to Arms,” the station was part of a coordinated operation undertaken by the Federation-Klingon Alliance and supported by the U.S.S. Defiant and the Klingon vessel Rotarran.
Interestingly, the differences between Janeway and Sisko’s situations were mirrored in their opponents’ perspectives, as well. Species 8472’s run-in with the Collective was unexpected, and their subsequent invasion followed an erratic pattern of chaos and destruction. Voyager’s entry into the fray ranked as yet another unknown factor that Species 8472 needed to adapt to and confront. As for the Dominion, the Founders observed the Alpha Quadrant races that traveled through the Bajoran wormhole, gathering intelligence and even manipulating the Romulan Tal Shiar and Cardassian Obsidian Order into a devastating trap. With war approaching, the Dominion welcomed the Cardassian Union into the fold and signed nonaggression pacts with the Romulans, Miradorn, and Tholians.
Forming alliances served as a key commonality between Janeway and Sisko’s approaches to their situations and surely traced its origins back to their Federation values. Witnessing the brutal assaults that Species 8472 initiated on Borg vessels, Janeway took the bold step of reaching out to the Collective to fight this new foe together. Prior to “Call to Arms,” Sisko convinced Chancellor Gowron to put the recent Federation-Klingon War behind them and rejoin the Khitomer Accords to combat the Dominion. Strained relationships with the Borg and Klingon Empire needed to be set aside for the greater good.
Both captains dealt with extremely complex diplomatic realities and faced uneasy choices, but with vastly different results. Siding with the Borg left no room to find a peaceful situation with Species 8472. Conversely, given the Collective’s desire to assimilate humanity, fostering trust with the Borg always appeared to be an unlikely outcome for Janeway. Having already signed the Khitomer Accords and been allies once before, the Klingon Empire and Federation rapidly warmed to the notion of fighting side-by-side. While Janeway hunted for any ally she could locate, Sisko pushed the Bajorans to sign a nonaggression pact with the Dominion as a means of protecting Bajor from the brewing war.
Another vital divergence centered upon the goals for the two alliances. The Voyager-Borg tandem had always been designed to be a temporary truce limited to the interactions between one Federation vessel and the Collective. Once Voyager was beyond Borg space, the facade would have been over. Sisko’s overture to the Klingons aimed to reestablish their longstanding ties and continue to foster a culture of trust between these two powers. In fact, the concept of trust was perhaps the starkest contrast between the captains’ situations. Janeway mistrusted the Borg and Species 8472 (and rightly so), whereas Sisko felt optimistic toward a renewed relationship with the Klingons and showed faith in the Bajorans. Janeway was surrounded by enemies, while Sisko could concentrate solely on the Dominion.
Relying on input from senior officers is integral to any Starfleet captain’s success. Janeway and Sisko frequently demonstrated this trait and crafted a strong bond with their closest associates. In particular, Chakotay’s background as a Maquis and Kira’s rebellious nature posed serious challenges in the early stages of Janeway and Sisko’s commands, yet the captains worked through these issues and forged friendships with their first officers. Of course, that does not mean that events always unfolded smoothly...
After pitching her plan to recruit the Borg, Janeway listened to Chakotay’s concerns and noted his objection to her course of action. Chakotay wished for Voyager to retreat from Borg space and attempt to find a different route to Earth, but he nevertheless vowed to stand by his captain. Back in the Alpha Quadrant, Sisko consulted with Starfleet Command and knew of their intention to launch a secret attack on a Dominion shipyard while Deep Space 9 distracted the enemy fleet, but the captain was not at liberty to discuss the offensive with Kira or the rest of his staff. Kira and Worf voiced their worries, yet they followed Sisko’s lead anyway.
Unfortunately for Chakotay, Janeway was wounded in one of Species 8472’s attacks. As Voyager’s acting captain, Chakotay dealt with hostility from the Borg, who wanted to alter their arrangement and demanded that the Federation starship reverse course. Chakotay ultimately went against Janeway’s wishes and ended the alliance, which angered the captain upon her return to duty. As for Kira, Bajor’s nonaggression pact with the Dominion led her to protest Sisko and the Federation’s use of Deep Space 9 as a hub to combat the Founders’ forces. However, this statement was a mere formality as the Bajoran first officer willingly participated in the defense of the station.
Making Their Move
When it came time to take action, Janeway and the Borg raced against time to prevent Species 8472 from wiping out the Collective and waging war on the quadrant. Willing to alter the balance of power in the region, Janeway collaborated with the Borg to launch nanoprobe warheads in order to combat Species 8472 in “Scorpion, Part II.” Sisko’s team also dealt with a time crunch and innovative tech, working to stall the Dominion assault so that the Defiant could deploy a field of self-replicating mines to block the Founders from sending more vessels through the wormhole. Unlike Janeway, Sisko struggled to maintain the status quo in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants from the prospect of Dominion rule.
In the face of all of these challenges, Janeway and Sisko managed to accomplish their goals in terms of what they set out to do in the “Scorpion” two-parter and “Call to Arms.” Although they would briefly bump into Species 8472 in the future, Voyager’s crew utilized the nanoprobe warheads as a deterrent to send the invaders back into fluidic space. Ironically, the primary source of ongoing danger for the remainder of their mission would come from their former allies, the Borg. While Sisko stalled the Dominion long enough to establish the minefield and give the Federation-Klingon task force time to attack a Dominion shipyard, the Second Battle of Deep Space 9 turned out to merely be the beginning of a prolonged war against the might of the Founders.
Reviewing the Results
Achieving success in the shadow of such overwhelming odds shines as a testament to the leadership skills possessed by Captains Janeway and Sisko. Regardless of the parallels embedded in their ordeals, the captains found their own unique ways to navigate two vastly different dilemmas. United by their Federation values, well-tuned moral compasses, and an unbreakable dedication to protecting their crews, Janeway and Sisko weathered their respective storms and demonstrated the fortitude that had earned them their captaincies.
Star Trek: Voyager - The Journey
This article was originally published on January 28, 2022.
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer and consultant who has contributed articles to StarTrek.com, Star Trek Explorer, and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and StarWars.com. Jay can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.