Geez. I mean, I know that episodes where O’Brien endures some new hellish ordeal are a tradition, but y’all could’ve at least spaced ’em out over once a season, you know? “Whispers” was just a few weeks ago, and hell, I’d count “Armageddon Game” among them, too, seeing as not only is he in hiding and suffering from the effects of a bioweapon, but he’s dealing with all that alongside Julian Bashir.
The entire episode was apparently inspired by Dukat’s line in “The Maquis Part 2” about the Cardassian justice system, that “the verdict is always known before the trial begins, and it’s always the same”. Presumably, after deciding to do something with that, they then decided that, “Whispers” having been nearly half a season ago, they were due for another “put O’Brien through Some Shit” episode, so why not kill two birds with one stone? Thus, Franz Kafka Presents Star Trek was born.
Cardassian intrigue? Yes please!
Look, y’all know how I feel about Cardassian drama. (I am a fan.)
For a second time, we see the Central Command exploiting the situation with the Maquis for their own political gain, though alas, that thread of the Maquis storyline kind of peters out along with the Maquis storyline itself. Still, I appreciate that DS9 does make the attempt at doing more in the way of political intrigue — it ties in with the stronger sense of continuity from the show in general than in previous series, and the sense that things don’t happen in isolation.
This is the first time on DS9 that we actually see Cardassia Prime — really, the first time we’ve seen much of it in Star Trek, period; The Next Generation went there with the “Chain of Command” two-parter, but the Cardassia scenes in that episode take place entirely in a single room. (One whose design was definitely consistent with both Deep Space Nine’s interiors and those of this episode, as well, which I appreciate.)
It’s also in this episode that it’s established that Cardassians have the medical technology to, essentially, transform one person into another. TNG, again, occasionally had people undercover as other races, but with “Boone”, it’s established that the Cardassians can, in fact, replace an existing person, rather than simply making someone up. (Discovery establishes, with Voq/Ash Tyler, that Klingons were capable of this a century before, including the ability to alter memories; in “Second Skin”, the Cardassians claim to be able to implant another’s memories as well, though we never actually meet a character who’s had it done.)
It’s interesting that more isn’t made of this — the Cardassians can, theoretically, replace anyone. The agent they had for Boone appears to have not been great at blending in, seeing as everyone noticed him acting completely differently after he “returned”, at least, but it’s still a chilling thought. It’s an angle that the show plays with more later, once the changelings’ role in the Dominion is discovered, the notion that anyone could actually be a Dominion agent, but apart from this episode, there’s never really much dwelling on the possibility that anyone out there could potentially be a Cardassian agent, as well.
I actually like Odo in this one!
I’m gonna feel kinda weird complaining about Odo for awhile, even though my problem is pretty much entirely with the writers/showrunners, and it’s frankly down to Rene Auberjonois’s performance that I don’t dislike Odo a lot more.
(Between Auberjonois and Carol Spinney, this past Sunday was rough on my childhood memories, oof. May their memories be a blessing.)
Anyway. I really like that Odo’s past
as a collaborator is actually used for good in this episode. I also found his interjection during Keiko and Sisko’s scene kind of darkly hilarious — coming as it does while Sisko is trying to reassure her — and also poignant; Keiko has heard enough about Cardassians that she can’t be reassured, and Odo’s honest acknowledgment that there’s a good chance Miles is, indeed, being tortured, probably at least helps her to feel more like the situation is being taken seriously.
I also enjoyed Odo’s one-on-one with O’Brien in his cell. Hell, from Odo, that’s a relative pep talk. And O’Brien’s startled face when Odo mentions “innocent men, just like you” was a lovely touch. We haven’t really seen much one-on-one interaction between Odo and O’Brien before this, now that I think about it, but O’Brien clearly knows him well enough to be surprised, and perhaps even a little touched, that Odo would take him at his word when he says he’s innocent.
“You don’t know how many times Miles spoke to me about this.”
The scene with Keiko talking to Sisko and Odo back on the station was brutal — I actually thought that this episode’s use of Rosalind Chao is really great overall. Of course one of the interesting things about bringing O’Brien over to DS9 from TNG was that we get much more development for him, but I haven’t talked as much about how we get more development for Keiko, as well. She’s never really fleshed out the way that main characters are, or even the top tier of secondary characters, but she does get more time than on TNG, and a bit more to do.
The way the O’Briens’ marriage is written can frequently be a bit…odd, let’s say, with some of their conversations seeming really clunky or unnatural, but in general, I do feel like it’s better on DS9 than on TNG, which goes hand-in-hand with both of them getting more depth as characters. To be fair, a lot of that may also be the performances — Chao and Meaney are really solid together, and can bring an element of realism to the weaker writing for them.
- Keiko and Miles’s horniness for each other is something I generally just find really enjoyable? Like I said, their marriage isn’t always written particularly well, but those moments are totally believable and sweet.
- I feel like Dukat deserves an honorable mention, since he isn’t even in this episode and yet his horniness for Sisko is such that he talks about his Starfleet boyfriend to people in entirely different branches of the Cardassian government.
- Possibly I need an honorable mention too, since one of my first notes for this episode is that O’Brien’s blue shirt is rather flattering and does very nice things for his eyes.