Part one: Garak’s tailor shop blows up and Odo begins looking into who did it and why. Turns out the Romulans tried to kill Garak and that several former Obsidian Order colleagues of Enabaran Tain (see “The Wire”) have been killed. Odo and Garak head to see Tain, where they’re intercepted by a Romulan warbird. Tain takes them prisoner and explains that the Obsidian Order and the Romulan Tal Shiar (a similar organization we met in TNG) are working together to eradicate the Founders. Tain tried to kill Garak to eliminate any old loose ends — the mission will mean the end of Tain’s retirement — but Garak and Tain decide to work together again, putting Garak back in the fold and making Odo a prisoner.
Part two: Garak is tasked by Tain and Romulan Colonel Lovok (Leland Orser) to interrogate Odo using a device that won’t allow him to revert to his liquid form. Meanwhile, Sisko and Co. learn of Tain’s plan (after a fleet of 20 starships head through the wormhole) and try to get Starfleet to let them intervene, mostly to save Odo. Starfleet balks, but Sisko takes the Defiant to the Gamma Quadrant anyway. Meanwhile, Garak is basically killing Odo, who only breaks when he admits he still longs to be around other Changelings, despite what he knows about them (a fact Garak doesn’t tell Tain). At the Founders’ planet, Tain’s fleet begins an attack but learns quickly that the Dominion knew they were coming — and a fleet of 150 Jem’Hadar ships emerges and starts firing. Lovok is actually a Changeling who helped orchestrate the whole thing and lets Odo and Garak escape. The Defiant shows up just in the nick of time and pulls them off a runabout that’s under attack. Garak returns to his tailorship, but with a new quasi-friendship with Odo.
Why it’s important
This is the first time we see a Changeling impersonating a key Alpha Quadrant figure to destabilize the main powers there. It’s interesting that Lovok ominously tells Odo and Garak that his mission would effectively neutralize the Cardassians and the Romulans — leaving only the Klingons and the Federation as threats.
Lovok was actually wrong about the Romulans — who seem to be OK without the Tal Shiar — but he was right about the Cardassians. The loss of the Obsidian Order destabilizes the empire to the point where the civilian leaders take power by the start of season four. This leads the Klingons to think the Cardassian leaders are Changeling infiltrators, prompting the Klingon invasion of Cardassia. When the Federation opposes the invasion, the Klingons end the alliance with the Federation, leading to a brief war between the two former allies. Meanwhile, the Klingon attacks and the continuation of the Maquis threat wreaks so much havoc inside Cardassia that Gul Dukat leads the Empire in joining the Dominion in season five. And the subsequent Dominion attacks on Klingon targets within Cardassian space prompts the Klingons and the Federation to become BFFs again to fight the Dominion.
What doesn’t hold up
This two-parter is one of the highlights of DS9. But like “The Search” two-parter, there are a lot of logical issues — most of which are in part two.
1) It’s hard to believe that Tain and Co. wouldn’t have thought that the Founders had SOME sort of defenses for their planet. I know that Kira and Odo didn’t note any in “The Search”, but the Founders could have added them after their homeworld was discovered, or Tain should have considered the possibility that they did. And wasn’t it possible — and wouldn’t Tain have figured — that maybe Kira and Odo simply didn’t identify the defenses at the planet?
2) Part two also shows Sisko and Co. going rogue again (which we saw in “The Search”). Sisko heads to the Gamma Quadrant chiefly to save Odo, against Starfleet’s express orders. It’s cool that he’s loyal to his officers, but he very well could have prompted further Dominion attacks by his actions.
Now, Sisko’s stated rationale could have been smarter. Maybe, he could have made an argument about Odo’s potential importance to the Federation. Years later, Odo would help end the Dominion war earlier than it would have ended otherwise. Even at this point in the series, Sisko could have argued to Starfleet that keeping a loyal Changeling in the fold had value. Hell, Sisko could have simply told Starfleet he wanted to save Odo for the above reason — even if he really wanted to do it out of loyalty.
3) And, as is custom in Star Trek, the admiral who gave Sisko the order is WAY too cool with shrugging off what happened.
4) Finally, the Lovok Changeling who allowed Odo and Garak to leave doesn’t seem too worried about them after they’re on the runabout. If the Defiant hadn’t swooped in, the Jem’Hadar would have killed Odo (and Garak). So the whole business of “no Changeling has ever harmed another” is sort of flimsy. What would the folks in the water cooler in the Great Link have said to the Lovok Changeling had the Jem’Hadar killed Odo?
5) Oh, and whatever happened to the T’Rul, the Romulan sent to DS9 to watch the cloaking device on the Defiant in “The Search”? Her introduction is a big deal in those two episodes, and then, she’s gone.
Part two was written by Ronald D. Moore. As noted in our previous review, Moore’s contribution to DS9 are similar to much of the rebooted “Battlestar Galactica”, which Moore led. In other words, this is compelling drama with good character moments that often rely on flimsy logic.
I won’t say this very often, but the payoff and performances in this episode really are worth the logical goofiness. Garak and Tain have great chemistry — and this episode really cements Garak’s role as one of DS9’s most important characters. Beyond that, the episodes include some great Odo stuff AND part two has the great payoff of the best battle scenes Trek had done to that point. After this episode, the ship-to-ship battles on DS9 (and on Voyager, which had just premiered) really improved.
This two-parter is one of DS9’s absolute peaks and is incredibly noteworthy in the Trek tapestry. It’s a definite watch for DS9 fans.
Last point, I’m glad they brought back Starfleet security chief Michael Eddington (Kenneth Marshall). It was annoying that he went unseen after his big introduction in “The Search”, but he’s an important character going forward, as we’ll see.
Coming next week …
More Dominion intrigue as Starfleet shows how much they can’t handle Changeling infiltrators.