My DS9 Rewatch Odyssey

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' started by ananta, Jan 5, 2021.

  1. ananta

    ananta Commander Red Shirt

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    I definitely agree, they had one heck of a writing staff. It’s not quite in place at this point, and won’t be until Ira Behr becomes bona fide showrunner and they inherit two of the best TNG writers, but on the plus side they have Peter Allan Fields—without him these first two seasons would have been missing virtually all the finest episodes. Whenever you saw his name in the credits you were guaranteed a well written and emotionally involving episode. I missed him a lot when he retired, although he would happily contribute another couple of classics in years to come.

    I noticed this myself! The TNG writers were generally hesitant to acknowledge TOS too much, and even when they did it was sometimes with a slight air of condescension (ie., the crew’s somewhat superior attitude to their predecessors, most notable in “Relics”, an otherwise great episode). DS9’s tributes were miles ahead in my book.

    I’d totally forgotten about Voq! If I recall he was outcast for being an albino as well. Which would seem to suggest that this Albino is, in fact, also a Klingon outcast. I never joined the dots before, but it makes sense and makes me even more curious about his history. It’s interesting that the episode doesn’t even give him a name: the Klingons refer to him as “Albino” alone, making it sound like a dehumanising insult.
     
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  2. Farscape One

    Farscape One Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    That's true, he was never given a name. Good idea that it is likely another way to simply insult him, which lends further credence to the speculation he is a Klingon.

    Good point about the writing staff and Fields' crucial episodes in season 1 and 2. But the right building blocks were there, and once Moore and Echevarria came along, it gelled so well.
     
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  3. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Are you suggesting the gul didn't even bother to tell anyone he was going to DS9? This isn't a situation where a ship exploded while the gul was on board, this is a case where the gul likely told someone he was going to the station and then was never seen again. Even in the present, if I just disappeared, my coworkers would notice within 48 hours.
     
  4. Farscape One

    Farscape One Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    He may have simply said to someone that he is going somewhere, classified, and left. It would not be unusual in Cardassian society for a high ranking officer like a Gul to go off on a secret mission. It likely happens more often than we think. He probably kept the specifics like where he was going and why vague so that in case he failed, he wouldn't lose his position or something.

    Hell, he could have simply said he was going on leave.
     
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  5. ananta

    ananta Commander Red Shirt

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    “The Maquis, Part I”

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    “Natima? Natima who...?”

    There’s a lot of hype about “shared universes” these days, with the Marvel movies been seen as trailblazers, when, in fact, there’s nothing new about the concept. Back in the 90’s Trek was somewhat pioneering in that regard. While, outside of DS9’s first season, there weren’t all that many direct crossovers, the Maquis storyline is an example of shared universe storytelling utilised well. The Maquis plot was introduced concurrently in TNG’s final season and here, in DS9’s second, as an indirect lead-in to the upcoming Voyager spin-off. While in some respects it almost seems like wasted effort given that Voyager largely ditched the Maquis plot by the end of its first episode, it did lead to some excellent episodes of DS9 down the line. I also love the fact that the seeds were first sown in TNG’s “Journey’s End”, develop tangibly in this two-parter, and are continued in “Tribunal” and TNG’s penultimate episode “Preeemptive Strike”. It was a nice little arc weaving between the two series, and the appearance on both shows of Admiral Nechayev and her Cardassian counterpart, Gul Evek, lends it a nice sense of continuity and cohesion.

    Anyway, this is a solid episode, if not without its flaws. DS9’s second season is something of an oddity in some respects. The season began with great ambition, full of newfound confidence and all guns blazing. The Circle trilogy was a great piece of storytelling, even if the ending wasn’t as strong as the buildup. Things seemed to take a back step after that, with a return to strictly episodic storytelling, albeit with a few mentions of the Dominion sprinkled here and there to create some intrigue. The episodes tended to be hit and miss, with some strong ones and quite a few weaker entries. It’s not until “The Maquis” that we get back to more ambitious storytelling focused on the larger picture, with implications that would stretch far beyond the end credits.

    The build up is excellent, with the explosive teaser providing a fantastic hook. The resultant chaos and conflict fuels the first section of the episode, as we learn that colonists along the newly established demilitarised zone may have had a hand in the Bok Nor’s destruction. Marc Alaimo makes a welcome return as Dukat, and he delivers a charismatic and nuanced performance, with his lively sparring with Sisko being a particular highlight.

    In spite of the winning team-up of past and present station commanders, the pace decidedly slips in the episode’s mid-section. When I first watched as a teenager, I found this a somewhat dull and talky episode—and, to be fair, it is a talkathon. Part of the problem, as was often the case with 90’s Trek, is budgetary constraints. Whereas nowadays we could start the episode on one of the DMZ colonies and actually SEE the conflict firsthand and how it affects the colonists, that’s not an option here. The episode has to be more or less confined to existing sets, and even the establishing shot of the DMZ colony is a stock matte shot dating back to the third season of TNG. It’s also unfortunate that, at this point in the show, most space battles have to be depicted using cheap-looking graphics of moving insignias—which is hardly enough to set the pulse racing.

    So, the episode’s primary weakness is that it can’t show us what’s happening in the DMZ—it can only TELL us, and holy Prophets, there’s a whole lot of telling here. That’s not a problem when you have actors like Avery Brooks and Marc Alaimo firing on all cylinders. But a big misstep in this two-parter is the miscasting of Bernie Casey; an example of what can happen when the producers cast a big(gish) name when, in fact, a lesser known actor could have brought much more to the part. Casey is fine in his first scene, which nicely establishes his friendship with Ben, but the rest of the episode his performance is decidedly ‘off’. For whatever reason he seems uncomfortable in the part and his line delivery is exceptionally flat and stilted. That’s unfortunate because he doesn’t do a great job of selling the colonists’ plight to the viewer, and the only colonists that we do see are basically three people in a room, two of which are non-speaking extras. At this point, it’s hard to feel emotionally invested in the Maquis, even if we might have a passing sympathy for their plight (which, admittedly, is, to a degree, self-chosen).

    Unlike the Circle trilogy, which featured real and personal stakes for our characters, I feel there’s lack of emotional involvement in this episode. Sisko is understandably concerned, and there’s some nice tension and conflict between the crew (Odo and Kira’s disagreement over policing the station is particularly good), but the stakes never really feel particularly personal or urgent. It’s a largely abstract story about things supposedly happening off-screen, and here I don’t really feel for the colonists’ plight one way or another.

    The cliffhanger twist, revealing Hudson as part the Maquis, is hardly a surprise and didn’t generate much of a response from me other than “meh”. There’s also a sub-plot featuring Quark and the Vulcan Sakonna which reasonably diverting, if a little padded. Again, the revelation that she’s part of the Maquis and looking to buy weapons is no great shock given that we’d already seen her conferring with the guy who sabotaged the Bok Nor.

    It might sound like I’m coming down hard on this one, but in spite of some reservations, it’s still overall a compelling episode and an important juncture in the show’s ongoing narrative. Rating: 7
     
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  6. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    If he really didn't tell anyone where he was going then he was stupid enough that he deserved to be vaporized and forgotten.
     
  7. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Vice Admiral Admiral

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    If I remember correctly, "Profit and Loss" was the first DS9 episode I watched all the way through. Back when it was first on Sky, I was the youngest of three and the only geek in the family, so had to contend with watching whatever my parents of siblings wanted over what I wanted to watch.

    But after watching that one I was hooked.
     
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  8. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I was wondering whether you'd touch on Casey's performance. He appeared in an episode of Babylon Five as well, and while I can imagine there may be roles where his apparent acting style may be an asset, I can't say it did much for me in either of his appearances.

    Just imagine if Kenneth Marshall(?), who played Eddington, had been cast as Hudson.
     
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  9. Farscape One

    Farscape One Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I think Bernie Casey's performance might be one of those odd and rare instances where it suffers from filming out of order. As you pointed out, his scene with Sisko in the beginning seems the most relaxed. I wonder if that's because it was filmed last, or near last. I think he improves in the second part.

    This storyline definitely crossed over well into both other shows, and DS9 got the most mileage out of it. Oddly enough, I think this was inevitable, and not because DS9 had, possibly arguably, the better writing staff.

    It's because of their proximity to the DMZ. On the Voyager, whether they solve their differences in an episode or in 3 years, it had to be resolved or the ship simply couldn't function well. Plus, the fight was on the other side of the galaxy, so their priority was getting home, not bickering about an area of space they are trying to get back to.

    I always did wonder this... if the Maquis never got as many high ranking Starfleet officers (Hudson, Eddington, Chakotay after he resigned) to help them out, would they have gotten to be the menace they became? And if not, could they actually have survived the Dominion War because they just were not a big enough problem?
     
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  10. kkt

    kkt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Or Garak could have used a story closer to the truth. He could say Toran shot at the students from behind a packing container and missed, and one of the students shot back and vaporized him. Self defense. Pity about the sensors, but that's what happened. No, constable, I don't know where Natima and the students went, they didn't share their plans with anyone, least of all me.
     
  11. Bad Thoughts

    Bad Thoughts Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It might be more relaxed because all they have to sell in that scene is the friendship, something which is well written. The other scenes require a combination of exposition and deception that do not automatically follow from the first scene.

    The script for this episode was written by James Crocker. His work always seems to miss the mark, IMO. I don't know if I should be surprised that no one seemed to regret his firing at the end of season two.
     
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  12. ananta

    ananta Commander Red Shirt

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    Still on the topic of Gul Toran haha...I still can’t believe a murdered (or even “missing”) Gul wouldn’t cause a major crisis, and that he wouldn’t be traced to DS9. In “The Maquis” the Cardassians go into full “military alert” when Dukat goes missing (even though they decide to throw him under the bus). I wonder if Toran’s death might have been a last-minute change to the script, and something the writers didn’t have time to properly consider. It would have been appropriate if it had been mentioned in “The Maquis, Part I” when Starfleet orders a complete review of all station security protocols. Given how Starfleet are angling to get rid of Odo, the death of Toran would have added considerable fuel to the fire.
     
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  13. ananta

    ananta Commander Red Shirt

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    Filming out of sequence must be a challenge to any actor. My feeling is that Trek’s dialogue is quite different to the more “naturalistic” dialogue on present day-set TV shows. I often hear the actors describe Trek dialogue as more “theatrical”. If an actor isn’t entirely comfortable with it, it can come across as stilted, which is pretty much how I’d describe Casey’s performance. Or it was just a bad performance, I dunno! It kind of robbed the Sisko/Hudson relationship of its resonance for me, which is a shame.

    It does seem odd to me that Voyager went to such considerable effort to set up the Maquis crew-split, only to brush it under the carpet by the end of the pilot. Although, you’re right, the fact they are thrown across the galaxy and no longer in the vicinity of the DMZ conflict does render the conflict somewhat moot. I think Voyager suffered a lot of executive meddling. The producers wanted TNG 2.0 and that meant compromising on the very things that made Voyager’s premise unique.
     
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  14. ananta

    ananta Commander Red Shirt

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    “The Maquis, Part II”

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    In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the Maquis lurk tonight...

    Unusually for Star Trek, this is a rare instance where the second instalment of a two-parter is stronger than the first. I think the credit goes to Ira Steven Behr who not only takes over the writing duties, but also uses it as something of a mission statement for his upcoming stewardship of the series.

    The brilliant scene between Sisko, Nechayev and Kira at the start of act one contains one of the series’ oft-quoted lines, “It’s easy to be a saint in paradise.” On one hand, I think that’s a simplification and not necessarily true (from what I’ve seen, affluence certainly doesn’t confer saintliness, and along with it often comes increasing narcissism, dissatisfaction and what some call “affluenza”). But this is, nevertheless, one of the most important lines in the entire series, because it reveals how DS9, under Behr’s tenure, would explore the human condition by deconstructing that “paradise”, or at least revealing its cracks. This was, and perhaps still is, heresy to some—but, for me, it’s what makes DS9 the most human-feeling Trek series since TOS, warts and all. This was radical stuff for the time, given that TNG featured virtually infallible heroes and a Federation that was generally beyond reproach. It’s no wonder that DS9 was considered the black sheep of the Trek family.

    I still have some reservations about the overall execution of the Maquis storyline here, and I don’t consider this one of DS9’s classic two-parters. The Maquis/Cardassian conflict is abstract in nature: we don’t see it, except for snatches, and by and large it all unfolds via words, and more words. I also don’t really get much of a feel for the DMZ colonists’ plight here, nor why they’re determined to risk a bloody galactic war rather than simply hop over to another planet, of which there would seem to be no shortage. Season one’s “Progress” did a superb job making us (or, at least, me) feel for Mullibok’s plight; we got into the mind and heart of that character and understood why he was holding out and why he had a psychological attachment to his haven on the moon. Even though Kira arguably made the correct decision, it was a painful one because we had sympathy for the man she was evicting. We don’t get into the minds and hearts of the colonists here. The few that we do see feel like plot devices rather than actual characters.

    Again, this two-parter’s biggest mistake was making Cal Hudson the face of the Maquis. I found Bernie Casey a little better here than in the first part, but it’s still not a great performance—although, to be fair, the character isn’t particularly well-written either. He doesn’t at any point behave like a Starfleet officer. He behaves like an absolutist; an extremist who never takes a second to consider Sisko’s position and his pleas. We’re told that these guys are best of friends, but we never see even a hint of that here. While there’s some potentially strong material here, and the symbol of Hudson’s uniform is used well throughout, it falls fairly flat, and I never really feel for Sisko’s loss...I guess because Hudson seems like a bit of a dick, and it’s a case of “you’re better off without him, Ben.”

    Interestingly, I think TNG did a better job of making the Maquis more sympathetic in “Journey’s End” and “Preemptive Strike”. I find it hard to relate to them here. They seem far too quick to jump to violence, which is quite a stretch given that a number of them are former Starfleeters. I mean, what happens to those prime Starfleet values of negotiation and peaceful solutions—do they just instantly go out the window as soon as they hit a bump?

    That said, what I like about this storyline is that there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s an ambiguous and muddled situation, and, outside of Sisko and our crew, who earnestly want to avoid violence and war, no one is entirely a hero or a villain here. Marc Alaimo continues to impress as Dukat, and it’s fun watching him team up with Sisko and co and at times almost seem like a good guy. His greatest scene is undoubtedly during his interrogation at the hands of the Maquis. Rather than being remotely apprehensive, he smugly goads his interrogators with barely concealed contempt, completely belittling the wannabe-terrorists.

    One of the things this second part does better than the first is that rather than simply reacting to external events, the crew recover their sense of agency and drive the plot by taking decisive action. The pace is tighter and Ira Behr’s characteristically breezy, witty dialogue makes for some truly enjoyable scenes. I was a little underwhelmed by the Quark/Sakonna sub-plot in the first part, as it seemed to bring out Quark’s less endearing character points: namely his sleazy objectification of feeemales, and his tendency to let greed override moral scruples. Fortunately, Behr does something quite special with him in this episode; something that would happen quite often in future episodes. While keeping him true to his Ferengi conditioning and personality, Quark delivers some incisive political commentary, explaining why war is a bad thing (in terms of profit, of course). It’s fun watching him outwit a Vulcan with logic, and an indication that his character can serve as much more than simple comic relief.

    It’s nice to have some actual action in the finale, even if Hudson escapes with no real comeuppance. It’s a testament to how unlikeable I ended up finding the character that I was actually rooting for him to be brought down a peg or two. The loss of his friendship clearly hits Sisko hard, but Hudson doesn’t seem to care one little bit. He behaves like a man radicalised, and utterly unable to consider things from any broader perspective, which is a rather terrifying (and sadly not uncommon) human trait. Originally Ira Behr wanted Hudson killed off in the finale, which would have felt more satisfying dramatically, although Michael Piller nixed this idea.

    The conclusion is...well, inconclusive. Nothing feels like a decisive victory and the seeds of future troubles have been well and truly sown. This definitely feels like a transition episode for DS9, and one that foreshadows the morally grey themes relating to Starfleet, duty and war that would follow. Rating: 8
     
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  15. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think we're supposed to infer that the problems that come to a head here had been building for some time, though I'm not sure that's really supported by the timeline. In other words, it's not so much that Hudson is radicalized as that he's been on a slow burn for who knows how long.

    Given I never really sympathized with Mullibok, you can imagine how I feel about the Maquis. :p

    Trivia Note: IIRC, the actor who plays the Cardassian legate also played Klingon Ambassador Kamarag in TVH and TUC.
     
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  16. Farscape One

    Farscape One Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    He did. His name is John Schuck. He was also Draal on BABYLON 5.

    I forgot to mention how much I love your captions with the pictures. They alwsys amuse me.

    This was indeed a turning point for DS9, one of many. Sisko had a lot of great lines here, among them the "Saints on paradise" one and another that's one of my favorites... "I won't kill a good man for defending his home."

    I think the reason why Ben took the whole Maquis situation so personal with Eddington can really be traced back to this episode.

    He was betrayed a lot by people who ended up Maquis... Hudson, Eddington, Kasidy. No wonder he had a bit of a vendetta against them. Though to be fair, he didn't go fully after them until after they became an intolerable threat.

    This definitely was better than the first part.
     
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  17. Bad Thoughts

    Bad Thoughts Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Couple of notes on the Maquis episodes:
    • I think that Kira had a speech, not as quotable than Saints in Paradise, that I still think was quite strong: " I lived with them for twenty six years before the liberation came. Every Bajoran lived with them in constant fear. I know what those colonists are going through. " It speaks a lot to the experience of oppression as a guiding force in decision making.
    • The Voyager section of 50 Year Mission starts with Ira complaining that his episode got saddled with extra names, because the producers wanted to stop him from having any creator claim on Voyager.
     
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  18. Farscape One

    Farscape One Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Ira has a point. It's why we got Tom Paris instead of Nick Locarno. Royalties, credit, etc.
     
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  19. ananta

    ananta Commander Red Shirt

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    I didn’t recognise him! I did recognise that beneath the Xepolite trader’s heavy prosthetics was Michael Bell, who played Groppler Zorn in TNG’s “Encounter at Farpoint” and Li Nalas’ fellow prisoner in “The Homecoming”.

    I also vividly remember an interview with Armin Shimmerman where he said that Avery Brooks and Rene Auberjonois had a MASSIVE argument in a scene set in the brig, and he had to almost physically come between them. I can’t remember where I saw or read that interview? Anyone? Or did I imagine it! I wondered if it happened during the filming of this episode, which featured a scene between all three set in the brig. Apparently both Avery and Rene were renowned for their tempers.
     
  20. ananta

    ananta Commander Red Shirt

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    “The Wire”

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    Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies.

    “The Wire” is a strong episode, possibly one of the strongest of the season. It’s a simple story, but well crafted, allowing for some excellent characterisation and tantalising insight into the shady past of one Elim Garak, in his largest role in the series yet.

    If I have one criticism it’s that I get very much get the impression that the writers were trying to catch lightning in a bottle again and come up with “Duet 2.0”. To be fair, if you’re going to do what’s essentially a bottle show (barring a quick trip to Cardassia), you may as we well aim high, and they don’t come much higher than “Duet”. The reason I don’t consider “The Wire” quite the classic that some do is that it doesn’t have a fraction of “Duet”’s emotional power. But, then, it may be unfair to compare when the bar was set so very high. That was a heart-crushing tale dealing with issues of prejudice, genocide and the crippling guilt of being a party to such evil and doing nothing to stop it. This is a much more low-key episode dealing with less intense, emotive themes, but it’s still a well-crafted and beautifully performed tale.

    It’s something of a slow-build story which allows for Alexander Siddig’s strongest showing so far as Bashir. How much this character has grown from the insufferably arrogant, skirt-chasing brat he was at the start of season one! Here we see him as a caring friend and a dedicated, passionate professional willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to help his patient.

    The real star of the show, however, is Andrew Robinson, who excels in the part, delivering an incredibly full range of emotion as his character is put through a tremendous ordeal.

    Garak is a very unusual Star Trek character. As with Dukat, I love the character, but that doesn’t mean I like him as a person. Both characters tend to have a lot of apologists; people who dismiss their actions as irrelevant simply because they like the characters. I mean, let’s face it, both can be superficially charming as hell. But there’s no getting away from the fact they were basically Nazis and I wouldn’t be surprised if both were sociopaths—because, frankly, to be a Nazi you’d have to be a sociopath, or else you’d end up a broken, sobbing wretch like Marritza.

    Based on his likely past actions, Garak is almost certainly capable of monstrous crimes, even though that past is only ever alluded to—which is actually part of the beauty of the way the character is written. It’s a perfect example of DS9’s shades of grey storytelling; a show which features both heroes and villains in its cast, and neither is entirely good or entirely bad, because good and bad is a spectrum rather than absolutes. In DS9 a hero can often fuck up and a villain can sometimes do the right thing.

    Garak’s webs of lies make for fascinating viewing the first time you see this episode, because it seems that at last we’re getting to the very root of the character. But it virtually all turns out to be an elaborate distortion of the truth. Even in the midst of great pain, he’s still lying to Bashir because that’s part of who he is, and he won’t ever let anyone see who or what is truly there...because the truth is not that pretty. It’s quite fascinating seeing him appearing to open up and confide in Bashir when he’s really just playing him all along.

    This episode is particularly notable for the introduction of the Obsidian Order and Paul Dooley as its former head, Enabran Tain. He’s marvellous, too; disarming and almost grandfatherly, yet full of unspoken menace. His offer of Tarkalian tea to Bashir (“that’s what I always drink...”) is a fantastic oh shit moment and genuinely creepy. While on one hand, the scene doesn’t seem to quite go anywhere, it serves as important setup for excellent storylines to come (the third season’s stunning “Improbable Cause”/“The Die is Cast”, a true high point of the series). Overall, “The Wire” is a solid, accomplished character piece, which tantalisingly dances around the mystery of Garak’s origins. It doesn’t actually reveal a whole lot, but what it does reveal has great importance down the line. Like a lot of DS9, it’s twisted, morally ambiguous and thought-provoking stuff. Rating: 8
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2021 at 5:16 PM