(written from a Production point of view)
Fleeing a Jem'Hadar attack aboard a runabout, Jake and Nog are rescued by a Defiant-class ship crewed by over-eager Red Squad cadets who are biting off more than they can chew.
In the bar, Quark is grousing about the backup in his drink orders because of a replicator malfunction. He says his maintenance request has been put off by Chief O'Brien, who is already overworked and shorthanded since Nog has been sent on a diplomatic errand to Ferenginar. But Quark is flustered when Jadzia Dax offers to repair his replicator, as repayment for some repair work that Nog did for her the week before. He insists that such a job is "beneath" her, and Odo, listening, wryly observes that the Ferengi has some tender feelings for the Trill.
Nog and Jake are departing Starbase 257 in the runabout Shenandoah, to deliver an official message from the Federation Council to Grand Nagus Zek. Even if Nog won't say anything about its contents, Jake suspects it is about something big, maybe even an alliance. Their discussion is cut short when they encounter a wing of six Jem'Hadar fighters on their way to attack the base. Even though they weren't the original objective, one fighter breaks formation and comes after them.
Nog makes an emergency warp jump, despite Jake's warnings that their course is taking them further into Cardassian territory. When Nog drops to impulse speed to engage the Jem'Hadar ship in real space, the runabout takes a heavy beating from its weapons, but then they are miraculously saved by a ship they first believe to be the USS Defiant, but which turns out to be a ship of the same class, the USS Valiant.
While the Defiant-class ship engages the enemy fighter, the two friends are beamed aboard and are surprised to be greeted by "Chief" Dorian Collins – a young woman in the uniform of a cadet, but wearing a chief's rank insignia. Taken to the bridge, they see that the entire crew is composed of cadets from Red Squad, the elite cadre within Starfleet Academy that Nog so fervently wanted to join two years earlier. (DS9: "Homefront", "Paradise Lost") "Captain" Tim Watters, the ship's CO, explains that he was given a battlefield commission by the previous captain, Ramirez, and he has promoted other cadets as needed to fill vacant positions. Watters orders Chief Collins to take Jake to sickbay to see to some minor burns he has suffered. When the ship's first officer, "Commander" Karen Farris, reports that the warp drive is still functioning below warp three, Nog volunteers a suggestion, and Watters is happy to accept the advice of a trained engineer.
Cutting between sickbay and Captain Watters's ready room, Chief Collins and Watters explain their unique situation to Jake and Nog, respectively: the Valiant departed on a shakedown cruise eight months ago, crewed by seven regular officers and thirty-five cadets, on a three-month training mission to circumnavigate the Federation. Although such cruises are standard for senior cadets, Jake notes that it is unusual for them to be entrusted with a state-of-the-art warship, or for such a large group of cadets to be given a mission of such complexity. Collins proudly explains that they are Red Squad, and considered anything but usual. However, the ship was caught behind enemy lines when the war broke out. In a battle with a Cardassian warship, in which all the senior officers were killed or mortally wounded, Captain Ramirez gave Watters command of the ship.
When the war broke out, Starfleet Command (apparently unaware that command of the ship had passed to a cadet) transmitted new orders to the Valiant to collect technical data on a new Dominion battleship being deployed in their sector. Since they were ordered to maintain radio silence, the ship had been cut from the rest of Starfleet since the outbreak of the war. Undaunted, the young captain is determined to carry on the Valiant's mission. Nog is awestruck, and Watters offers him a post as chief engineering officer. Even Nog is a little hesitant to take on such a responsibility, but Watters tells him that the undermanned ship needs him.
Chief Collins takes Jake to the mess hall, where he draws more than a few stares from the rest of the thirty three-man crew (being the only civilian on board). They converse amiably, and Collins starts to tell him about her hometown on Luna. She appears to be getting upset during the conversation, and excuses herself saying she's on duty.
In engineering, Nog makes some modifications that Farris objects are unsafe, but Watters is willing to try anything, and the ship succeeds in getting to warp 4.
Watters comes to sickbay and, despite Collins's disapproval, grabs some pills from a cabinet and swallows them. He notices she's been crying, and she admits that she has been feeling a little homesick.
The next thing Jake knows, he has been summoned to the ready room for an "interrogation" by Watters and Farris. They remind him of the extreme urgency of their mission, and say that his presence is upsetting the delicate morale of their shipmates. They dismiss Jake, and Watters tells Farris to keep a close eye on him. Before she is dismissed, Farris remarks that Watters spent another double shift on the bridge, and she is concerned that he is not getting enough sleep. Watters assures her that he is fine – before swallowing another handful of pills after she has left.
Still smarting, Jake runs into Nog, and is surprised to see that he has now joined the crew, with a brevet rank of lieutenant commander. Nog is stung when Jake echoes his own earlier doubts about whether he is ready to be chief engineer of a starship. Before they can argue further, red alert is sounded and they run to the bridge.
The Valiant has located the objective of its mission. While hovering outside its sensor range, the ship launches a class 3 probe to gather the intelligence needed, and shadows the ship for several hours. Between an over-zealous crew and an almost inhuman dynamic, the mission finally comes to a successful end.
In the mess hall, Watters announces that their mission is a success: they have gathered the required intelligence without being detected, and they are now free to return to Federation space. But Watters says that their scans indicate a major design flaw in the Jem'Hadar battleship – its antimatter containment unit is composed of viterium, ordinarily resilient, but unstable when exposed to delta radiation. A direct hit with a specially-modified quantum torpedo should be able to destroy the entire ship. Nog immediately sees a problem: the modified torpedo will need to have its guidance system all but removed, which means the Valiant will need to fire at extreme close range and remain there while the torpedo is guided in manually. Captain Watters says it may be dangerous, but it is better that they take the risk than have "some other ship, with some other crew" be asked to take it later.
Having had enough, Jake Sisko attempts to appeal to the common sense of the crew and convince them to leave the area with the new information. He says that his father has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best combat commanders in the fleet and not even he would attempt this mission with a single ship (even were that ship the Defiant with a full crew complement). Watters dismisses his objections, deciding that the reward outweighs the risk and that they are Red Squad and they can do anything. The crew begin cheering.
Alone in engineering, Jake tries to talk some sense into Nog while he is modifying the torpedo. The Jem'Hadar battleship they are going up against is twice as large as a Galaxy-class starship, with three times the armament, yet Watters wants to try and combat it with a single escort vessel. Nog says that the captain knows what he's doing, something Jake would understand if he was an officer and not just a reporter. Angrily, Jake tells Nog about Watters's addiction to cordafin stimulants, but Nog refuses to listen. Jake says that Watters is going to get them all killed, and Nog orders Jake, "get out!"
Watters happens to be monitoring their conversation from his ready room, and summons help right as Jake said that Collins told him of Watters' drug-taking. As soon as Jake leaves engineering, he is apprehended by two cadets with phasers and thrown in the brig.
The Valiant prepares for its mission: the sickbay crew is drilled, and Collins issues phaser rifles to the security teams in case they have to repel boarders (or perhaps even board the vessel themselves). Watters addresses all hands with an inspirational speech, reminding them to keep their minds on their duty. The ship accelerates to warp 6.
When the Jem'Hadar warship spots the Valiant, it drops out of warp and turns to face them. There is a moment of nervousness, as the bridge crew starts to fully appreciate what they are up against. Watters remains undaunted, and orders the helm to take the ship on a head-to-head attack run at close range to avoid its weapons. The Jem'Hadar open fire, and Valiant begins to take damage.
The torpedoes are launched, and Farris guides them to the battleship's perceived weak spot. The torpedoes score a direct hit, and the bridge crew cheers as there is an explosion of flame, and the battleship begins to founder... before emerging intact from the fireball. Taken aback, Watters asks if the torpedoes missed, and Farris says no, they scored a direct hit – except their tactic simply "didn't work." All of a sudden, the reality of their situation settles onto the bridge; the normally arrogant and overzealous Red Squad is replaced by a group of very frightened youths, trapped deep in enemy space and massively outgunned at close range by an invulnerable enemy ship five times the size of their escort.
The battleship begins hammering the Valiant with its own torpedoes. Watters starts to order evasive maneuvers, when a console explodes and kills him. The Valiant loses main power, propulsion, weapons, and shields. Farris starts to repeat the evasion order, before more explosions kill her and the rest of the bridge crew, except Nog and Collins. Collins asks Nog for orders, since he is now ranking officer, saying their phaser banks are still partially functional, but after a moment's pause, Nog knows the battle's outcome is now a foregone conclusion. After he triggers the evacuation alert, Nog grabs Collins' hand and leads her off the bridge.
Only four pods are launched from the Valiant; two are shot down by the battleship, and one is caught in the explosion as the Valiant is destroyed. The listing, rupturing hull of the Valiant hides from the battleship's view the one pod that gets away, carrying Nog, Jake, and Collins.
In a nearby sector of space, the Defiant is searching for Nog and Jake's missing runabout, when Major Kira picks up the pod's transponder signal, identifying it with the Valiant. Worf warns that the Valiant officially went missing eight months ago, and it may be a Dominion trap. Sisko says they have to check it out anyway.
The pod is rescued, though Sisko grimly informs Jake that no others were found in the area. Dr. Bashir treats their injuries, and Jake goes to comfort a somber Nog in sickbay. Nog asks if Jake plans to write about the incident. When Jake says he probably will, Nog asks him to write that the Valiant was a good ship, with a good crew, whose only mistake was blindly following Captain Watters as he led them "over a cliff." From her sickbed, Collins objects, saying that Watters was a great man, and if the mission failed, it was the crew that ultimately failed him. Nog tells Jake to include both opinions, and let people decide for themselves. Nog himself, however, has reached his own judgment: gently taking Collins' hands in his own, he returns his Red Squad insignia, telling her that while Watters might have been a great man, he was a bad captain.
"If we keep going in this direction, we'll run into Cardassia Prime. And that won't be any fun at all."
- - Jake Sisko
"You're in love!"
- - Odo, realizing Quark has feelings for Jadzia Dax
"This is the captain. We are about to engage the enemy. For eight months, I've told you to stay focused on one thing. Your duty. But now, I want you to step back from your duty. Take a look around. And I don't mean look at the walls. I want you to look at this moment in your life. Take it in. Appreciate the fact that you are on this ship, with this group of people, at this point in history. But understand one thing above all else. This moment will never come again. Hold on to it. Savor it for as long as you can. You're Starfleet, you're Red Squad, and you're the best. Now, let's get that battleship and we can all go home. Captain out."
- - Tim Watters, to the crew of the Valiant
"You all probably know who my father is. Benjamin Sisko. So you know I'm not exaggerating when I say that he's considered to be one of the best combat officers in the fleet. And I'm telling you right now that even with the entire crew of the Defiant with him, my father would never try to pull off something like this. And if he can't do it, it can't be done."
"We're Red Squad and we can do anything!"
- - Jake Sisko and Tim Watters
"You don't understand because you've never put on one of these uniforms. You don't know anything about sacrifice or honor or duty or any of the things that make up a soldier's life! I'm part of something larger than myself. All you care about is you."
"That's right. All I care about is Jake Sisko and whether or not he's going to be killed by a bunch of delusional fanatics looking for martyrdom!"
- - Nog and Jake Sisko
"We let ourselves blindly follow Captain Watters, and he led us over a cliff."
"That's not true. Captain Watters was a great man."
"Dorian, he got everyone killed."
"If he failed, it's because we failed him."
"Put that in your story, too. Let people read it and decide for themselves. He may have been a hero. He may even have been a great man. But in the end, he was a bad captain."
- - Nog, Dorian Collins and Jake Sisko, about Tim Watters
Story and scriptEdit
- This episode originated in a discussion between Ronald D. Moore and Ira Steven Behr about "a ship that's been behind the lines since the beginning of the war, with a crew that has gotten rowdier and more ragged and embittered – a wild-eyed bunch of crazies that have been lost and out of contact for a long time." Moore then suggested that the crew be composed entirely of cadets, and Behr suggested that they use Red Squad. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- In Moore's original draft of the script, the USS Valiant is discovered by Jake and Kira. The plot was predominantly the same, but as Moore explains, "It didn't work because you couldn't believe that Kira wouldn't kick every one of their asses and take back the ship single-handedly. It occurred to us that if we put Nog in there we'd have a character who could buy into what Red Squad was doing. And Jake was a character who could stand back from it. That worked a lot better." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Ronald D. Moore had originally wanted to name the Defiant, "Valiant", after the SS Valiant from TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before". Due to the development of Star Trek: Voyager however (which was happening at the same time as the development of the design of the Defiant) he was forbidden to use any name beginning with the letter V. While he relented and settled for the name of the ship from TOS: "The Tholian Web" (the USS Defiant), he was finally able to reuse the Valiant name here. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- This episode is a favorite of Aron Eisenberg's, who sees it was critical in the development of the character of Nog; "Nog's dilemma in the episode was, 'Should I do the right thing? Or should I grab the opportunity to do what I've always wanted?' which is to become an officer. When a Ferengi sees what he wants, he doesn't let anything get in his way. He has all these rules for obtaining money, and that's the center of his life. Nothing really deters him from that goal. Nothing clouds that vision. A Ferengi won't allow it. So I applied that same mentality, those same philosophical ideas to Nog's desire to be a Starfleet officer. After he joined Starfleet, I turned all that attention to the one goal of succeeding in Starfleet and not failing, not letting anything deter him from that goal. So I started to play Nog as very, very straight-laced, a perfect military guy. In "Valiant", somebody was offering Nog a chance to be an officer and he could justify it, even if those justifications weren't correct, as Jake pointed out. He wasn't going to listen to anybody except for his captain. That's what made that show so powerful for me – the fact that Nog realizes when it's almost too late that he's made a horrible, horrible mistake. I thought it was great that the writers let him make the wrong decision. But then he was man enough to admit it too. And in the end scene, he gives back his prized possession, the Red Squad pin, which symbolizes what he wanted so badly. I think Nog grew tremendously in this show." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Red Squad was introduced in the fourth season two-parter "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost", where David Drew Gallagher also appeared as Riley Shepard.
- The new Starfleet Cadet uniforms are introduced.
- The Jem'Hadar battleship was next seen in "The Dogs of War", and also featured prominently in the Battle of Cardassia, as seen in the series finale, "What You Leave Behind".
- While Nog was brevetted to a lieutenant commander, he appears to be wearing a lieutenant junior grade insignia during his time on the Valiant.
- The LCARS computer displays on the Valiant are seen in reverse order, with the main screen on top and the shorter portion on the bottom.
- This episode marked the final appearance of the runabout USS Shenandoah.
- In modern naval protocol, Nog, a commissioned officer, would have immediately outranked the entire crew of the Valiant, all of whom were cadets. However, writer Ronald D. Moore has stated that he based the premise on an 18th and 19th century naval tradition that an acting captain can only be removed from command by a flag officer. 
- In the opening battle sequence aboard the runabout, several camera moves (in particular the sweep where the camera banks sharply to reflect the motion of the runabout) inadvertently disclose the fact that the forward windows have been removed to make filming the scene possible; in the most visible example, a sizable hole can be seen in the center of the piloting console, where the ceiling support strut between the windows usually was.
- Colm Meaney (Miles O'Brien) does not appear in this episode, although he is mentioned by Quark, Jadzia Dax and Nog.
- Several costumes and props from this episode were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay, including Grace Bustos' costume. 
- This episode is comparable to episodes such as TNG: "Lower Decks" and VOY: "Good Shepherd" in the way that it features an officer (Nog) in contact (during a tense situation) with a group of lower ranking members of Starfleet and because it depicts an onscreen story that follows below command level ranks and shows much of the story from their perspective as was achieved in "Lower Decks". It is worth noting that Ronald D. Moore also wrote TNG: "The First Duty" which focused on Nova Squadron and therefore this could be a reason for the similarities.
- This episode also bears a strong resemblance to the film Star Trek. Both feature a crew that is largely made up of cadets and eventually forced to take command of the ship after the senior staff is killed or captured. Also, in both cases, a young energetic and arrogant cadet becomes commanding officer and orders the ship on a high risk mission against an enemy ship that is much larger and far outguns the Starfleet ship. Of course, in the case of Star Trek the crew succeeds in its mission and returns home safely and the cadet in command doesn't succumb to his own arrogance.
Video and DVD releasesEdit
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 6.11, 2 November 1998
- As part of the DS9 Season 6 DVD collection
Links and referencesEdit
Also starring Edit
- Rene Auberjonois as Odo
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Commander Worf
- Terry Farrell as Lieutenant Commander Dax
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Alexander Siddig as Doctor Bashir
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira
- Aron Eisenberg as Nog
- Paul Popowich as Tim Watters
- Courtney Peldon as Karen Farris
- David Drew Gallagher as Riley Aldrin Shepard
- Ashley Brianne McDonogh as Dorian Collins
- Chris Beanes as a Valiant cadet 
- Lukas Behnken as a Valiant cadet
- Tate Bradford as a Valiant cadet
- Grace Bustos as a Valiant cadet
- Art Chudabala as a Valiant cadet 
- Nao Hosaka as a Valiant cadet
- Charlie Price as a Valiant cadet 
- Mark Allen Shepherd as Morn
- Adam Shoshan as a Valiant cadet 
- Simon Stotler as Trill Valiant cadet
- Shannon Watson as male Vulcan Valiant cadet
- Unknown actress as female Vulcan Valiant cadet
- Leslie Hoffman as stunt double for Ashley Brianne McDonogh
- Dennis Madalone as stunt double for Paul Popowich
- Nancy Thurston as stunt double for Courtney Peldon
"all hands"; antimatter storage system; auxiliary power; battle stations; Cardassia; Cardassians; Cardassian battle cruiser; commanding officer; cordafin; damage report; Defiant-class; Defiant, USS; delta radiation; deuterium injector; Earth; editor; engineer; evasive maneuvers; Federation; Federation Council; Federation News Service; Ferengi; Ferenginar; flux moderator; Grand Nagus; impulse control system; interview; Jem'Hadar battleship; Kepla sector; lunar schooner; lung; mechanic; meter; plasma intercooler; Quark's; radio silence; raktajino; Ramirez; Red Squad; repairman; Republic, USS; Rom; runabout; Sea of Clouds; Sector 22757; Shenandoah, USS; silken sunrise; silven surprise; Sisko, Joseph; Starbase 257; Starfleet Academy; stimulant; strafing; tourist; Tycho City; Valiant, USS; warp core assembly; Zek
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"Profit and Lace"