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Battle of the Omarion Nebula

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Battle of the Omarion Nebula
Part of the Dominion cold war

Jem'Hadar attack ships destroy the Koranak

Jem'Hadar attack ships destroy the Koranak
Date: 2371
Location: Omarion Nebula, Gamma Quadrant
Result: Decisive Dominion victory
Fall of the Obsidian Order
Tal Shiar severely crippled
Obsidian Order
Tal Shiar
United Federation of Planets
Notable commanders
Enabran Tain Lovok (Changeling)
5 Romulan ships
15 Cardassian ships
1 Federation ship
150 Jem'Hadar ships
Casualties and losses
5 Romulan ships destroyed
15 Cardassian ships destroyed
Several personnel captured

The Battle of the Omarion Nebula was the first major armed engagement between forces of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants and the Dominion, as well as the only large-scale engagement to take place in the Gamma Quadrant. In the battle, a combined Obsidian Order and Tal Shiar fleet attempted to launch a preemptive strike on the Founders' homeworld in the Omarion Nebula, only to be ambushed and completely destroyed by the Jem'Hadar.

This disastrous defeat, sometimes likened to the Federation's defeat by the Borg at the Battle of Wolf 359, proved to have far-reaching consequences; the Cardassian Underground quickly seized power as the Obsidian Order crumbled, and the Dominion would soon step up their destabilization of the Alpha Quadrant powers that foreshadowed the Dominion War.

Prelude Edit

The year 2371 was an anxious time for the various powers of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, as the threat posed by the Dominion on the other side of the Bajoran wormhole loomed ever closer. The Jem'Hadar offensive of 2370, which had claimed amongst others the colony of New Bajor, the Federation starship USS Odyssey, and a subsequent encounter between the USS Defiant and the Founders, had revealed a ruthless, technologically advanced enemy determined to impose their version of order on the chaotic galaxy. Although a full-scale invasion did not follow the initial appearance of the Jem'Hadar as was feared, war seemed to be only a matter of time. (DS9: "The Jem'Hadar", "The Search, Part I", "The Search, Part II")

Immediately, the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire began preparations for a Dominion incursion, including the fortification of Deep Space 9 and the investigation of methods to combat Changeling infiltration. The Romulan Star Empire, ever cautious, loaned a cloaking device to the Federation (installed on the USS Defiant) in exchange for intelligence Starfleet gathered on the Dominion, but refused to send ships of their own to the Gamma Quadrant. The Cardassian Union, occupied by its own internal and external concerns, also remained relatively uninvolved. (DS9: "The Search, Part I", "Visionary")

Secret alliance Edit

Lovok and tain

Tain and the Lovok Changeling before the battle

At this time, the Cardassian Enabran Tain was living out his retirement on Arawath, as the only head of the Obsidian Order to survive long enough to do so. Frustrated by the Central Command's complacency in the face of the Dominion threat, and wearied by his three-year absence from power, Tain drafted a plan to destroy the Dominion in a single decisive move. To accomplish this, he contacted the Romulan Tal Shiar, and proposed a joint venture, executed independently of either organization's parent government. However, unknown to him, his counterpart in the Tal Shiar, Colonel Lovok, had been replaced by a Changeling. The Founders saw in Tain's plan their own opportunity, and did everything they could to carry it forward.

Through the Romulans, Tain had access to all the information gathered on the Dominion by Starfleet over the past several months. He learned of the Founders' control over the Jem'Hadar via their addiction to ketracel-white, and the location of their homeworld inside the Omarion Nebula. Tain concluded accurately that a massive attack directed towards the Founders' homeworld, eradicating the Founders and with them the supply of white, would cripple the Dominion irreparably.

In great secrecy, the Obsidian Order began building a fleet of Keldon-class warships in the Orias system, even though Cardassian law specifically prohibited the organization from operating military spacecraft of any kind. The fleet was equipped with cloaking devices provided by the Tal Shiar, which had been modified to avoid detection by Dominion scanners. Meanwhile, the Tal Shiar assembled its own force of several D'deridex-class warbirds. Both fleets were crewed by combat veterans of the two organizations. Numbering twenty ships altogether, their combined firepower would be sufficient to obliterate the crust of the Founders' homeworld in one hour, and the mantle in five.

As part of this operation, the Tal Shiar carried out the assassinations of several former Obsidian Order operatives, including (unsuccessfully) Elim Garak. Apart from those directly involved in the operation, the only individuals who knew of Tain's plan were Garak and Odo, who had been captured and held aboard Tain's flagship while investigating the deaths of those operatives. (DS9: "Defiant", "Improbable Cause", "The Die is Cast")

Launch Edit

Cardassian and Romulan fleet

The joint Cardassian-Romulan fleet heads for the wormhole

In late-2371, the combined Cardassian-Romulan fleet left the Orias system and headed for the Bajoran wormhole. As they passed Deep Space 9, the ships decloaked and transmitted parallel messages to the Cardassian and Romulan governments. In the Cardassian message, Tain explained his motives as that of defending Cardassia, and advised the Cardassian fleet to be on alert for any Dominion reprisals. Both governments denied any knowledge of the mission, though despite the possibility of open war, they elected to wait and see whether or not Tain would succeed.

Starfleet also chose not to interfere with the attack, admitting that Tain's plan had a fair chance of success. Vice Admiral Toddman ordered the civilian evacuation of Deep Space 9 and sent a task force of nine starships to reinforce the Bajoran system. Meanwhile, Commander Benjamin Sisko disobeyed orders and took the Defiant into the Gamma Quadrant, in the hope of rescuing Odo and Garak. Onboard Lovok's Warbird, Garak was meanwhile torturing Odo, attempting to discern all he could about the Founders. (DS9: "The Die is Cast")

The battle Edit

Cardassian and Romulan fleet open fire

The fleet fires on the Founders' Homeworld

Founders Homeworld Attacked

The surface of the Founders' Homeworld is obliterated

As the fleet entered orbit of the Founders' homeworld, they found the planet completely undefended, the Founders in a liquid state on the surface – apparently, the newcomers had achieved the element of surprise. Tain confidently ordered the fleet to decloak and attack, with the words "so much for the Dominion; open fire." Thirty percent of the planet's crust was destroyed in the opening volley, but something was amiss: there was no change in the number of life-forms on the surface. The attackers soon realized that the Founders had already evacuated the planet, leaving behind only an automated transponder to send out false sensor readings. The entire operation had been a trap.

Mere moments later, a massive fleet of 150 Jem'Hadar attack ships emerged from the nebula, completely surrounding Tain's fleet. The Jem'Hadar's phased polaron beam weapons tore through the shields of the Cardassian and Romulan ships, just as they had the Odyssey less than a year before, inflicting heavy damage in a matter of minutes. Amidst the chaos, Lovok helped Odo and Garak escape, telling them, "No Changeling has ever harmed another." Garak tried to convince Tain to come with him, but Tain chose to remain on the bridge, remarking that he must have lost his touch over the years. Odo and Garak fled the warbird in the runabout USS Mekong, just before the Romulan vessel exploded. Although the runabout was immediately set upon by the Jem'Hadar and was itself on the verge of destruction, the USS Defiant finally arrived, destroying the runabout's pursuers and beaming both of the craft's occupants aboard.

Outgunned with no hope of retreat, the remnants of the Cardassian-Romulan fleet fought to their annihilation. As the Jem'Hadar ships continued to focus on the fleet, the Defiant fought its way out of the battle zone – in the process destroying at least five Jem'Hadar attack ships and disabling at least one – and escaped back to Deep Space 9. A few members of the fleet, including Tain, survived the battle and were detained at Internment Camp 371, until they were rescued by Garak and Lieutenant Commander Worf in 2373. Cardassian prisoners were released when Gul Dukat secretly agreed to an alliance with the Dominion. (DS9: "The Die is Cast", "By Inferno's Light")

Aftermath Edit

USS Defiant, The Die is Cast

The Defiant dodges Jem'Hadar fire

By any measure, the Battle of the Omarion Nebula was a catastrophe for the Romulan and Cardassian forces, resulting in destruction not seen since the Battle of Wolf 359; the Tal Shiar suffered a severe setback from which it would not recover for some time, and the Obsidian Order ceased to exist altogether. The Founders had identified both organizations as a definite threat due to their efficient and ruthless natures, and had exploited Tain's plan in order to wipe out both of them in a single stroke. Their victory had been so overwhelming that the Dominion had essentially eliminated two of the major powers in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants from challenging them in the short-term; after their losses, neither the Cardassians nor the Romulans would be very willing to wage war against the Dominion. (DS9: "The Die is Cast")

The destruction of the Obsidian Order also had more far-reaching consequences, which in time the Founders would also exploit to their advantage. Without the constant presence of the Order ensuring loyalty amongst the population, the Cardassian Underground was finally able to topple the Central Command and restore power to the civilian Detapa Council. This, in turn, led to the Klingon-Cardassian War and the Federation-Klingon War of 2372-2373. These conflicts weakened the Alpha and Beta Quadrants as a whole and nearly destroyed the Federation-Klingon alliance, the last remaining bulwark against the Dominion. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior", "Broken Link")

The humiliation and damage suffered by the Cardassians as a result of their war with the Klingons ultimately led them to their alliance with the Dominion, sowing the seeds for the most devastating conflict in modern history, the Dominion War. (DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow", "By Inferno's Light")

Appendices Edit

Background information Edit

When the staff writers of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine came up with the idea that third season installment "Defiant" would establish a military buildup which the Obsidian Order was involved in and which was so mysterious that even Cardassia's Central Command had no intel on it, the writers likewise had no idea it would lead to a battle later the same season. "We had a vague idea of a first strike," clarified René Echevarria, "but I don't think we knew more than that." It wasn't until the writers were plotting the story for subsequent third season episode "Improbable Cause" that they realized they could make the military escalation be in preparation for a preemptive attack by not only the Obsidian Order but also the Tal Shiar against the Dominion. However, even at this point, the actual battle itself wasn't planned; in fact, the Cardassians were to have been halted in their plans to combat the Dominion, due to Garak essentially blackmailing Tain. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 226) "When Tain heard that, he thought his attack would lose the element of surprise, so he canceled the mission," Echevarria explained. (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 95) It was Michael Piller, in one of his last suggestions for the series, who encouraged the DS9 writers to "go fight the Dominion" in a second part of the narrative begun with "Improbable Cause", an episode thereafter entitled "The Die is Cast". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 226)

Thus, when the writers began to craft the story for "The Die is Cast", the prospect of a monumental space battle loomed. Although the creative team decided to invent a machine that could prevent a Changeling from shape-shifting, the violent engagement remained conceptually viable to the writers, as opposed to having the enemies of the Dominion rid the Founders' homeworld with the machines. Reasons why the writers still found the conflict acceptable for inclusion in the episode were that the machine was a prototype which the assailants had only one copy of and that the plans to the device were lost in the fray, also obliterating the fleet. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, pp. 232 & 233)

The writers felt it was important to put a lot of effort into showing the battle in "The Die is Cast". "We had set up all of this stuff about the invasion, the attack and all of those things in the first episode," remembered Ronald D. Moore, "and when we got to the production meeting, we emphasized that we were really going to do a big space battle here and wanted to see it and have it blow our socks off. We didn't want to go cheap on this one." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 95) Moore elaborated, "We knew it had better pay off. I thought, 'Wow, this could be cool, because we're telling the audience that there's an invasion fleet that's going to do this massive thing.' So we wanted as many warbirds as we could see, and a lot of Jem'Hadar ships, and we wanted the Defiant to be in the middle of them all." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 234) Moore concluded, "The visual effects guys kind of blanched a little bit, but they went for it." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 95)

Because depicting the opticals-heavy event was very expensive, Gary Hutzel was assigned to ensure the battle didn't make "The Die is Cast" go over budget. Recalling an inexpensive method he consequently employed, Hutzel said, "I shot transparencies of the Cardassian and Romulan ships on light boxes, and we 'flew' those in the background. We kept the camera in constant motion so the audience wouldn't concentrate on them." On the other hand, the visual effects workers did imagine a particularly sophisticated shot. "We wanted the scene to say that Sisko is really turning it on," reflected Hutzel, "so we designed the shot to have the Defiant fly right through a Jem'Hadar ship." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 234)

The Battle of the Omarion Nebula was considered a ground-breaking conflict by DS9's VFX artists, due to the extremely high quantity of ships portrayed in the incident. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 234) Ultimately, Ron Moore was also happy with the sequence, remarking, "It's one of the best space battles we've ever done." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 95)

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