3.09: “Defiant”

I hadn’t rewatched this one in awhile, and now that I have, I’m really not sure why not — it was a pretty great watch, in my book. The pacing is great, with the episode just zipping along, and the actors, both regular and not, play off of each other in really cool ways.

Something I was particularly impressed by: there’s a lot of information that this episode gets across, and it mostly does so without being too talky — the closest thing to an exposition dump was Sisko and Odo briefing Dukat on Tom Riker and the theft of the Defiant, and even that was a pretty quick scene.

I feel like it’s kind of a shame they didn’t do more with Tom as a recurring character on Deep Space Nine, not least because he and Kira are really great to watch together. I thought maybe Frakes just wanted to do other things, since Next Generation had just ended the previous year (and Generations premiered literally a few days before this episode aired), but apparently he was interested in reprising the Tom role on DS9, even expressing some mild disappointment that they never returned to the character.

(I’m also not certain that sparing Tom execution was really that much of a mercy, given the Cardassian penal system. The fact that the last we ever hear of the character, he’s about to be sent to a Cardassian labor camp makes that ending a bit more grim than they may have been going for at the time.)

A dramatic Kira-Sisko conversation I’d like to have seen

Something I found striking is that, even as Sisko accepts that destroying the Defiant may be necessary, there’s no mention of the fact that, you know, his first officer and friend is on it? Nothing about trying to rescue her, or even get into contact. Moreover, both Sisko and Dukat discuss her “release” in the same breath as that of the Maquis members, as points of contention in negotiating a deal between Starfleet and the Cardassian government:

Dukat: I’d be happy to accept [Riker’s] surrender, but I doubt he’ll be willing to hand over his logs.
Sisko: He will if you agree to release Major Kira, the ship, and the Maquis over to the Federation.
Dukat: Impossible. I cannot allow a group of terrorists to just walk away after invading our territory and —
Sisko: Then you must decide which is important to you: your sense of Cardassian justice or the information contained in the Defiant‘s sensor logs.

My takeaway from that was that there was some suspicion that she was actively involved in helping Riker. Certainly from the Cardassian side of things, since Dukat makes no distinction between her and the rest of the “terrorists”, but possibly from the Federation, as well, since Sisko doesn’t attempt to correct him. Which, given that she was previously in the Resistance, and directly expressed sympathy for the Maquis to Sisko, is…perhaps not an unreasonable concern! Some discussion of that, especially between Sisko and Kira, would have been interesting.

Did someone say “Cardassian political drama”?

CARDASSIAN POLITICAL INTRIGUE, JUST HOOK IT TO MY VEINS!!!!! Good lord, I love Korinas, the Obsidian Order “observer”. (I also love that, once again, Dukat is in a situation to learn that he is nowhere near as important or well-informed as he thinks he is/wants to be. Any episode where that happens is one I am likely to enjoy.)

In this episode, the show is able to convey a ton of information about the state of affairs in the Cardassian government in only a few brief exchanges — sometimes without words at all; one of my favorite moments in the episode is when Dukat, confused and disturbed, says that the Obsidian Order is “explicitly forbidden from having military equipment of any kind”, and turns to Korinas for an explanation…only for her to grin at him and Sisko, turn, and walk away. I’m in awe of how much work that brief interaction does — what it tells us about the divisions within the Cardassian government, how powerful the Obsidian Order has become, and, perhaps most importantly, how confident they feel in that power.

Previous episodes have hinted at the reach (overreach, according to a growing movement within Cardassia) of the military and the Obsidian Order, as well as tensions between the Order and Central Command. This episode elaborates further on the state of Cardassian government, with Dukat explicitly telling Sisko that both the Order and the military are supposed to be accountable to a higher body — and this is, I believe, the first mention of the Detapa Council — but that in practice, there’s little to no oversight happening.

Two other things I found interesting:

  1. That Sisko went to Dukat first, rather than directly to Central Command. (Did Dukat think it was a “u up?” call when Sisko first contacted him and asked to talk with him? Almost certainly.)
  2. That, when Sisko suggested that there were decoy signals being sent out to draw ships away from the Orias system, Dukat immediately trusted his judgment and called off the Cardassian ships.

Over the next couple of seasons, the show spends more time playing Dukat and Kira off of each other, but, as I’ve mentioned previously, I really find Sisko and Dukat’s relationship at least as interesting as Kira and Dukat’s, so I’m always grateful for more interactions between them. The hints here that the two of them understand each other’s minds and motivations, and that, if they don’t trust each other, they at least trust that they have enough goals in common to work together, are just fascinating to me — especially coupled with the way Dukat nonetheless rebuffs Sisko’s attempt to connect over parenting challenges.

On a less consequential note, I cackled really hard at the moment when Korinas complimented Sisko, and then said “I only wish we had someone with such keen tactical instincts” while looking pointedly at Dukat. I can watch people dunking on Dukat forever, it’s wonderful.

A few other notes

  • Having recently had some conversations with my therapist around burnout, the fact that Starfleet Medical — or at least Bashir — considers it an important health issue was heartening. Good job, Star Trek!
  • That said, given that Kira isn’t actually Starfleet, it seems a bit odd that the reports to Starfleet would be her responsibility? That sounds like a Sisko problem, frankly.
  • Tom Riker pulling off his fake sideburns/beard to reveal that it was, in fact, a goatee was absolutely a highlight of the episode. Comedy gold. Thank you, Star Trek.
  • Pretty weirded out by the fact that Starfleet has a ship called the Gandhi. Naming a military vessel after a pacifist seems…in poor taste, at best.

Horniness rankings

  1. Dukat remains 100% horny for Sisko.
  2. Kira is 100% horny for “Will” Riker, and frankly based on their kiss I am not unconvinced that she’s horny for Tom, too.
  3. Tom is 100% horny for Kira.
  4. Dax is 100% horny for gossip.

6 thoughts on “3.09: “Defiant”

  1. I love this episode so much and I will have a much longer comment when I catch up to it that bores everyone to tears with comparisons to 1960s Cold War films, but on the starship Gandhi, two immediate thoughts:

    – They named a starship after someone/something that wasn’t American or European for like only the second time in Trek history ever, so yay. (Other example I can recall off the top of my head is the starship Tiananmen, mentioned briefly as part of Picard’s taskforce in TNG “Redemption”.)

    – It might be named after one of the other Gandhis. Perhaps Indira Gandhi, who imposed a 2-year “national emergency” in India from 1975-1977 that curtailed civil liberties and imposed mass press censorship while permitting numerous government atrocities against her political adversaries. Or perhaps her slightly less-known but also less controversial son Rajiv Gandhi.

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  2. I really love this episode – I thought it was groundbreaking in several areas, the twists worked well, the direction was tight, and it served up A+ political drama, Cardassian style. The only thing that would have made it better would have been Sisko insisting on bringing his personal tailor, Garak, along with him to Cardassia Prime so he could hate-flirt with Dukat and Corinas.

    This is such a great Dukat episode. Building off “The Maquis,” the writers do a great job combining Dukat and Sisko in scenes that feel authentic to the characters and work on a very human level. Dukat’s scene where he talks about his son and having to miss the birthday trip to the amusement center… the hand gesture with which he expresses how the story ends – as someone who doesn’t have children but who has had to spend many a holiday on an ops floor, man, I get it.
    (Side note – during the initial briefing to Dukat in the wardroom, he’s drinking from a decanter. Did he bring that with him himself or did they lay on a beverage spread for his visit?)

    In the spirit of the best Cold War nuclear thrillers, the scenes in the Cardassian ops center do a really effective job at creating and conveying tension even though fundamentally they’re just people looking at and talking at dots on a screen. I read that Fail-Safe, one of my favorite films, was a direct inspiration for these scenes, which is probably why they work so well for me.

    Frakes does a good job playing a different Riker, and the decision to have him link up with the Maquis makes sense. In addition to the reasons Kira points out – that he deeply needs to distinguish himself from Will Riker – he probably would have had his transporter accident around the time the Federation was in conflict with the Cardassians. So he didn’t experience any of the aftermath – he rejoins society right as the treaty is negotiated to turn Federation planets over to the Cardassians. (The other fun thing to think about is that maybe Will Riker has the same sympathies and attitudes, but he’s mature enough not to act on them.)

    I could babble on endlessly, but really, it’s the best. Only thing that would have made it better would have been Garak.

    Oh, and the scene where Dax and Kira gossip about Riker and Kira says “I’m involved with somebody,” I legit said out loud: “Huh? Who?” wondering if I’d missed an episode by mistake before remembering, oh, yeah, right, Bareil. It took me like 2 minutes to remember he existed.

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    1. It’s so good!!! I agree on pretty much everything, especially the fact that the only thing missing is Garak. He and Korinas definitely know each other and if they haven’t hateboned directly, they definitely have an ex or three in common.

      Oh, and the scene where Dax and Kira gossip about Riker and Kira says “I’m involved with somebody,” I legit said out loud: “Huh? Who?” wondering if I’d missed an episode by mistake before remembering, oh, yeah, right, Bareil. It took me like 2 minutes to remember he existed.

      LMAO right? I’m pretty sure Dax had also forgotten that he existed, in fairness to us.

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  3. HELLO I AM CATCHING UP ON YOUR POSTS

    And it is my very firm headcanon that Ro and Tom both survived the destruction of the Maquis/the Cardassian justice system, and now they both live on Bajor and may or may not occasionally hook up with Kira.

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