the story: The crew attempts to alleviate the stress a unit of deployed Starfleet officers have been experiencing.
what it's all about: To be perfectly frank, I never found "The Siege of AR-558" to be as fantastic as other fans tend to consider it. But I will defer to the common perception, because it at least acknowledges something positive. I'm much more loathe to do so with episodes that are considered bad, when they really aren't.
"War is hell." That's the basic plot of the episode. Deep Space Nine had already done this with such episodes as "The Ship," "Nor the Battle to the Strong," and "Rocks and Shoals," all of which I would probably prefer over "AR-558," which I think fans like because it's so unrelentingly grim, and for whatever reason that's what fans preferred at that time, which ended up resulting in Battlestar Galactica, a show so unrelentingly grim the most compromised character in it (Baltar) was actually its most interesting.
Anyway, so it's also worth noting that one of my least favorite episodes of the franchise is Voyager's "Memorial," which repeats the "war is hell" theme with no discernible distinguishing features. What "AR-558" ultimately has going for it is Nog. Nog had just had a memorable b-story in "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River," so clearly the producers had been planning to do something notable with him, really for the first time since having him decide to join Starfleet in the third season. Since that time, much like Jake he had just sort of been there for the ride. He was a recurring character, not even one fans will automatically think of in the whole host of recurring characters in the series, more like just another of those Ferengi who were always trying to change the tone. When he turned his back on traditional Ferengi values, his father Rom did the same soon after, somewhat dulling the impact of the arc. So it was high time to finally separate Nog from the pack, once and for all.
And so he gets his leg blown off. More on this in "It's Only a Paper Moon," by the way. "AR-588" is really the origin story of a much better episode, a backstory, if you will. It even explains how and why he becomes obsessed with Vic Fontaine (again, more on that in "It's Only a Paper Moon").
- franchise - Reiterates the classic Star Trek refrain of "war is hell."
- series - Also follows in a Deep Space Nine tradition of same.
- character - Explains what happened to Nog, in the interests of a later episode.
- essential - Pulls back the curtain on what the series had sort of skirted around for much of the war.
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)
Max Grodenchik (Rom)
James Darren (Vic Fontaine)